Land O’ Lakes

News: Commentary
by Rodney Pelletier  •  •  July 22, 2021   

The destruction of US Catholic education

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Catholic theologians and educators gathered in a Wisconsin resort town during the week of July 23, 1967, to discuss how they could modernize Catholic universities. 

Notre Dame University president Fr. Theodore Hesburgh

Their final document was informally named the Land O' Lakes Statement after the town where these influential priests and laymen held the meeting. It was signed by 26 heads of U.S. Catholic colleges and universities, one of whom was Notre Dame University president Fr. Theodore Hesburgh.

The document ultimately called for Catholic universities to "have a true autonomy and academic freedom in the face of authority of whatever kind, lay or clerical, external to the academic community itself."

It would be the first effort whereby Catholic institutes of higher learning would trade in their Catholic identity to better compete with secular universities.

Looking at what has happened to Notre Dame and the Jesuit schools, it's easy to see they're straying further away from Catholicism more and more each year.

Discussing the study of theology, the 1967 document declared: "The theological faculty must engage directly in exploring the depths of Christian tradition and the total religious heritage of the world in order to come to the best possible intellectual understanding of religion and revelation, of man in all his varied relationships to God."

The document makes another troubling statement about how the "university should carry on a continual examination of all aspects and all activities of the Church and should objectively evaluate them."

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Since then, it's not uncommon that people who have 12 years of primary education in Catholic schools go on to get a four-year degree in a prestigious Catholic university and come out less Catholic than when they went in.

Pope John Paul II addressed the problem of Catholic universities abandoning their Catholic roots in his 1990 document on Catholic education.

He reminds the heads of Catholic universities that "a specific part of a Catholic University's task is to promote dialogue between faith and reason, so that it can be seen more profoundly how faith and reason bear harmonious witness to the unity of all truth."

The large Catholic universities have been slipping further away from the Catholic ideal of the salvation of souls as their first principle.

"A Catholic University, as Catholic, informs and carries out its research, teaching, and all other activities with Catholic ideals, principles and attitudes," the pontiff notes.

He concludes with the reason for preserving a Catholic focus in education: "Every Catholic University is to maintain communion with the universal Church and the Holy See," he asserts, to "contribute to the Church's work of evangelization."

Despite John Paul II's admonitions, the large Catholic universities have been slipping further away from the Catholic ideal of the salvation of souls as their first principle. Some schools even promote concepts that directly oppose Church teaching.

Learn more by watching The Download—Land O' Lakes.

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