Denver, Colo., Apr 3, 2018 / 15:02 pm
On Monday, Villanova University won the NCAA basketball tournament for the second time in three years. The University of Notre Dame won the women’s tournament on Easter Sunday, beating Mississippi State with a last-second 3-pointer from junior Arike Ogunbowale, who had beaten Connecticut with a last-second shot just two days earlier.
Ogunbowale was a heavily recruited college prospect, but she chose Notre Dame after attending a Catholic high school, because she wanted to grow in faith.
From many corners, though, as these Catholic colleges celebrate their victories, I’ve been hearing a familiar criticism: that Villanova and Notre Dame, like many schools, aren’t “really” Catholic colleges - that they’re “CINO” - Catholic in Name Only.
The CINO label usually gets applied to Catholic colleges, hospitals, schools, and other institutions which seem to have wavered in fidelity and enthusiasm for the fullness of truth, or to have rejected directly some tenets of the faith.
Of course, with a few notable exceptions, many Catholic colleges in the United States seem to jettison their Catholicity whenever it’s inconvenient, or to choose only those parts of being Catholic that appeal to donors, students, and faculty. Their administrators seem often to be afraid of alienating anyone who thinks doctrine old-fashioned or intolerant, or, perhaps, to think those things themselves.
It is a scandal when Catholic colleges compromise the faith to appeal to the elite tastemakers of secular academia, or when chronically dissenting campus ministry programs and theology departments are more likely to alienate students from faith than to form them as disciples. It’s discouraging when “serious” universities seem to be embarrassed by serious Catholicism. It’s tempting to simply write them off.
But the CINO label isn’t helping the problem. In part because it isn’t true. And in part because it lets college administrators off the hook.
In a juridic sense, a Catholic university is Catholic because it is recognized as such by an appropriate ecclesiastical authority, and, as such, it is accountable to the mission and norms for Catholic universities outlined in John Paul II’s Ex corde ecclesiae. Being a mediocre Catholic university, or a dissenting Catholic university, doesn’t change the thing itself: in a juridic sense, a university is Catholic because the Church says it is, even if, by failure to live up to its mission, or to observe those norms, it is a failing Catholic university.