.- Discussing the 20th anniversary of âEx Corde Ecclesiae,â John Garvey, the new president of the Catholic University of America, says the apostolic constitution invites Catholic higher education to be great âin a Catholic way,â focused on the example of Christ.
"Ex Corde Ecclesiae," issued by Pope John Paul II in 1990, marked its anniversary on August 15, the Feast of the Assumption.
CNA, in a Monday e-mail interview with Garvey, noted the anniversary of the apostolic constitution and asked about its implementation in the United States. Particularly noted was the document's statement that it is "the person and message of Christ which gives the Institution its distinctive character."
Garvey mentioned several ways Catholic colleges and universities can better foster this distinctive character.
âCatholic colleges and universities rest on a different philosophical foundation than many of their secular counterparts,â he explained. âThey hope and believe that the 'search for truth' in which academics are engaged really has a point -- that Christ is the way, the life, and the truth.
âPhilosophy and theology, science and law, psychology and literature, are not just games in which one move is as good as any other. The Incarnation, in which God was made man, tells us something profound about the value and purpose of human life.â
Catholic colleges and universities should concern themselves with forming character as well as forming minds, the CUA president noted.
âCollege students, and even graduate students, mature as young adults during their time in school. Part of our responsibility is to teach them to live good lives,â he continued. âIn this, the person and message of Christ are the paramount example.â
Garvey said Catholic institutions of higher education should provide students and the entire university community âfrequent opportunitiesâ for Mass, the sacraments and prayer.
âThe message of the gospel will not take root if we neglect the soil in which it should grow,â he commented.
Asked about the implementation of âEx Corde Ecclesiaeâ in the United States, he said the U.S. bishopsâ publication in June 2000 of their norms for implementation was the most important step.
The âgreatest successâ of âEx Corde Ecclesiae,â in Garveyâs view, has been its ability to focus the attention of everyone in Catholic higher education on their task.
However, he underscored, the recruitment of Catholic professors is something Catholic academia needs to âtake seriously.â
âI believe it is essential to the intellectual life of a university that there should be ferment, discussion, and disagreement,â he explained, saying it is âhealthyâ to include faculty who do not share Catholic beliefs. âBut the university cannot be Catholic in its intellectual life unless it includes enough faculty whose teaching and research promote the Catholic intellectual tradition.â
The Catholic University of America has done âa great dealâ to implement the apostolic constitution, Garvey reported. He also noted that the institution is the national university of the Catholic Church and was given its charter by Pope Leo XIII.
According to Garvey, the Catholic identity of the school is discussed in the hiring of faculty, while a candidateâs willingness to ârespect and contribute to our missionâ is a consideration in granting tenure.
âOur Office of Campus Ministry helps students follow Christ and live the values of the Gospel within the context of the Catholic faith,â he added.
In his view, âEx Corde Ecclesiaeâ and the bishopsâ norms are not âan effort on the part of the Church to recover some golden age of Catholic higher education.â
âThere was never a time -- at least not in the past two centuries -- when Catholic colleges and universities were great and distinctively Catholic institutions of learning,â he continued, characterizing Catholic higher education in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as relatively attractive.
âThere was little graduate instruction before the founding of The Catholic University of America in 1887,â he told CNA.
âIn the latter half of the twentieth century, when universities like Georgetown, Boston College, Notre Dame, Fordham, St. John's, and others formed aspirations of greatness, faculties did not give enough thought to how American Catholic schools might be great in a Catholic way. This is the invitation that Ex Corde Ecclesiae sets before us.â