The Purposes of American Catholic Higher Education: Changes and Challenges



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The Purposes of American Catholic Higher Education: Changes and Challenges
©2001 Patricia Hutchison

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ABSTRACT

This paper will examine the purposes of American Catholic higher education from the founding of Georgetown College in 1789, to the present when 235 Catholic colleges and universities enroll more than 705,000 students. The paper will situate the beginnings of Catholic higher education within the larger context of American higher education, demonstrating similarities and differences in nature and purpose. After briefly comparing and contrasting the founding purposes, the paper will concentrate on the changing purposes of Catholic higher education and the challenges confronting these institutions. Events which precipitated major shifts in purpose will receive special attention. Although an array of dynamic and colorful personalities influenced each of these events, it would be impossible to do justice to each of their stories. Therefore, major events, rather than individuals, will be highlighted.



Outline

I. Introduction

II. American Higher Education in Colonial Times

III. The Beginnings of American Catholic Higher Education: 1789 - 1850

IV. Structural and Curricular Differences

V. The Beginnings of The Intellectual Tradition

VI. Reorganization, Unification, and the Emergence of the Women's College : 1890 - 1955

VII. A Continuing Quest for Identity, Meaning and Purpose: American Catholic Higher Education from 1955 to 1985

VIII. Ex Corde Ecclesiae: Opportunities and Challenges

IX. Summary

X. Conclusion

I. Introduction

An article appearing in the May 28, 2001, issue of America magazine predicted the "impending death of Catholic higher education" (Nilson, 2001, p. 10). One cannot readily dismiss the concerns of the article's author, a theology professor at a leading midwestern Catholic university and vice president of the Catholic Theological Society of America. At the heart of his concerns are issues related to Catholic identity and purpose, academic freedom, and institutional control. As compelling as these issues are, they are not new for American Catholic higher education. Nor are they totally unique to Catholic higher education. What may distinguish Catholic institutions from others is the fact that, despite questions and conflicts, few have relinquished their distinctively Catholic identity. Even as some predict the demise of Catholic higher education, the institutions constitute approximately one-third of all church-related institutions and enroll approximately 5% of all postsecondary students.

This paper will examine the purposes of American Catholic higher education, from the foundation of Georgetown College in 1789, to the present when 235 Catholic colleges and universities enroll more than 705,000 students. The paper will situate the beginnings of Catholic higher education within the larger context of American higher education, demonstrating the similarities and differences in nature and purpose. After briefly comparing and contrasting the founding purposes, the paper will concentrate on the changing purposes of Catholic higher education and the challenges confronting these institutions. Events which precipitated major shifts in purpose will receive special attention. Although an array of dynamic and colorful personalities influenced each of these events, it would be impossible to do justice to each of their stories. Therefore, major events, rather than individuals, will be highlighted.

II. American Higher Education in Colonial Times

The early English settlers considered the establishment of a college necessary for producing a cultured population and ensuring religious survival. With strong denominational ties, the earliest colleges aimed to safeguard the religious heritage that many colonists had left England to preserve. Educating clergy and protecting and spreading the faith were major goals of the first colleges. In addition to their religious purposes, Rudolph cites five reasons for establishing colonial colleges: (1) fostering unity; (2) combating ignorance and barbarism; (3) developing an informed citizenry; (4) supporting pursuits useful for the conduct of temporal affairs; and (5) training teachers (Rudolph, 1968, p. 13). The proliferation of colleges in colonial times reflected both a provincial sense of rivalry and a sectarian spirit of missionary zeal (Rudolph, 1968, p. 5 1). Fifteen of the 17 colleges already established when Georgetown appeared in 1789 had denominational roots. The University of Pennsylvania and the University of Georgia, both founded as nonsectarian, bore the influence of the churches: Episcopalian and Presbyterian, and for Georgia, Baptist as well (Power, 195 8, p. 12).

Although some historians suggest that the desire to influence social and political life may have outweighed the religious motives of the colleges' founders (Power, 1958, p. 13), the fact remains that 175 of the 182 colleges founded before the Civil War were church related. The beginnings of land grant colleges in 1863 marked the first significant departure from church related institutions and the historical shift from private to public education (Hesburgh, 1979, p. 19). Despite the growth of public education, however, it is estimated that there were nearly 1,000 church-related colleges and universities in 1900 (Haynes, 2001).

III. The Beginnings of American Catholic Higher Education

Some historians trace the roots of the first American Catholic college to the educational and missionary efforts of Jesuit Father Andrew White in St. Mary's City, MD in 1634. The idea for a Catholic college may have existed during this era of Harvard's founding. However, Catholics had neither the social nor the financial capital to support a college before the Revolution. In fact, Roman Catholicism was illegal in most colonies in the early days (Power, 1958, p. 26). Only when Catholics had achieved a critical mass through immigration could they give serious thought to higher education.

According to Gleason (1967), the early development of Catholic higher education lagged behind others chronologically, but once begun, followed the same general pattern as that of other colleges. In their founding years, Catholic colleges aimed to keep the faith alive and spread it. While there was a remote connection to the intellectual life, the three basic purposes of the first Catholic colleges were: (1) preparing boys for the priesthood; (2) creating centers for missionary activity; (3) and cultivating in boys and young men the moral virtues (Power, 1958, p. 34). Within 20 years after Georgetown's founding, St. Mary's in Baltimore (1799), Mt. St. Mary's in Emmitsburg (1808) and St. Louis College in Missouri (1818) had opened. The exact nature of these first Catholic colleges is rather obscure. Georgetown was founded as a college but resembled a high school. St. Mary's in Baltimore actually began as a minor seminary but admitted college students in 1803 due to the inadequate seminary enrollment. Initiated as a diocesan institution, St. Louis failed to assemble a faculty and closed in 1826, to reopen under Jesuit administration in 1829. Despite the prominence which Georgetown enjoys today, St. Mary's and Mt. St. Mary's were probably more collegiate in the early days than was Georgetown ( Power,1958, p. 44).

Even though American bishops recognized and encouraged the growth of colleges, it was religious congregations who founded and staffed most of the institutions. Georgetown and St. Louis became the first of many colleges which would bear the influence of Jesuits. Historians suggest that the Jesuit influence may have been the strongest and most lasting on American Catholic higher education (Power, 1958, p.55 and Gleason, 1995, p.5 ). By 1850, forty-two Catholic colleges had been founded. The 25% survival rate was actually 5% higher than that of other colleges. Among the colleges founded before 1850 were several of the best known in the nation: e.g. Ford ham (1841), Notre Dame (1842), and Villanova (1842).



IV. Structural and Curricular Differences

Although the founding purpose of Catholic colleges was the same as that of the earliest American colleges, there were essential differences in structure and curriculum. While other American colleges followed the English model which separated secondary and collegiate work, the Catholic college adhered to the French and German models which combined secondary school and college. Strongly Jesuit, this model promoted the basic purpose of Catholic higher education. It provided a preparation for priestly formation which was completed, not in a college, but in a seminary (Power, 1958, p. 35). While the curricula of most early colleges resembled an elementary or high school course of studies more than a 21' century college, other institutions separated high school from college long before Catholic colleges made this transition.

Both the curriculum of the Catholic college (once it moved beyond the preparatory level) and that of other colleges, combined medieval arts and sciences with renaissance literature and a heavy emphasis on Latin and Greek classics and Scholasticism. By 1734, the American college was including among its course offerings philosophy, math, surveying and navigation (Rudolph, 1968, p. 29). Before Georgetown opened in 1789, the typical American college already espoused the practical sciences and was moving away from the English university model. The Catholic college, on the other hand, officially clung to a classical and Scholastic curriculum. Genuine curricular revision in Catholic colleges was not initiated until the beginning of the 20' century. Nonetheless, English studies had a place in some Catholic colleges and it was hoped that knowledge would lead to something useful (Power, 1958, p. 57-59).

V. The Beginnings of the Intellectual Tradition

American colleges retained a religious orientation and attendance at religious services was required until the middle of the 19' century. However, there was a growing spirit of religious tolerance and religious indifference on college campuses by the beginning of the 19' century. While still claiming a religious purpose, many American colleges had begun to move away from their denominational roots (Rudolph, 1968). By 1850, Catholics, while still a minority and sometimes persecuted, were less threatened by sectarian differences. In response to a climate of greater religious tolerance, Catholic colleges began to place less emphasis on the defense of faith and more emphasis on educational quality (Power, 1958, p. 48). John Henry Newman's Idea of a University, published in 1852, provided the rationale for this major shift in purpose. According to Newman, first rector of the Catholic University of Ireland, the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake was the legitimate aim of education. In Newman's view, all knowledge was connected. The role of the university was to create an intellectual culture in which inquiry was welcomed and nurtured. No discipline, in Newman's ideal, was inappropriate to the university curriculum. While not signaling an abandonment of religious purpose, this type thinking marked a major shift in purpose for American Catholic higher education. It should be noted, however, that this shift in thinking did not precipitate a change in curriculum or structure (Power, 1958, p.47).

Research and the Founding of the Catholic University of America

Before 1880, American Catholic colleges had virtually rejected the need for research, believing that research was opposed to religious faith. In the last decades of the 19' century, it became apparent that the threat of emerging ideas in science, philosophy and biblical studies, rather than denominational differences, posed the greatest challenge to Catholicism (Gleason, 1995, p. 7). After extended debate, the Catholic University of America was founded in 1889 to serve as a national center for scholarship, teaching, research and the integration of faith and science. From the outset, political turmoil and conflict overshadowed the university. Although not the only cause of division, one significant source of conflict related to the tension within the church over the issues of Americanism and modernism.

Americanism, one of the emerging strains of intellectual thought at this time, suggested that the church should accept the best of modem thinking, integrate it with traditional belief, and use the newly constructed belief system for the church's evangelical mission. Often associated with Americanism, modernism attempted to examine philosophy, theology and biblical exegesis in light of modem thought and research (Gleason, 1995, p. 13). Some of the more liberal thinkers of the day had hoped that the Catholic University would become a scholarly forum to foster dialogue around the intellectual and cultural dimensions of the modem world. As it turned out, the Church condemned Americanism and modernism and silenced faculty members who attempted to integrate modem thought with traditional church teaching. These actions negatively impacted the growth and stability of the Catholic University and closed off dialogue between faith and culture for many years (Gleason, 1995, p. 12).

On the other hand, the rejection of Americanism and modernism galvanized American Catholic higher education around a new unifying purpose: the promotion of Neoscholasticism and the formulation of an American Catholic culture as an antidote to modernism (Gleason, 1995, p. 17). The philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas became the official philosophy of American Catholic higher education. The Catholic University dedicated a School of Philosophy to St. Thomas in 1895. Like nineteenth century Enlightenment thinking and Scottish common sense reasoning, Thomism embraced reason and an objective moral order in nature. Although criticized for its lack of historical awareness and receptivity to contemporary thought, Neo-Thomism. offered salvation from the erosion of spiritual, intellectual and human values (Reher, 1989, p. 114-115). While Catholic intellectual life undoubtedly suffered during this era there was a unity of purpose in Catholic colleges not present at other church-related institutions (Marsden, 1994, p. 275).



VI.Reorganization, Unification and the Emergence of the Women's College

During the first half of the 20th century a number of events occurred which influenced the purpose of American Catholic higher education. The Jesuits, who dominated the educational arena, were largely responsible for the intellectual isolationism and lack of unity of purpose which characterized American Catholic higher education in the early 1900's (Fogarty, Grant,&Donnelly, 1995, p. 317 and Gleason, 1995, p. 41). The Jesuits preserved a 15' century model which combined secondary and collegiate education. The Jesuit model rejected the idea of electives, claiming that a classical education was the only path to excellence. However, several events in the 1890's and early 1900's led to a rethinking of the Jesuit position. In 1892, Harvard refused to admit Boston College students without examinations to its law school. The same year the National Education Association approved a standard four-year high school curriculum In 1913, the North Central Association accrediting agency listed Notre Dame as the only Catholic college among its approved institutions, and the American Medical Association accorded a satisfactory ranking only to St. Louis Medical School. Although changes occurred only gradually, by 1917 the Jesuits were leading efforts for standardization and accreditation. Catholic colleges and universities could rightfully claim the pursuit and delivery of excellence as a major purpose for their existence (Gleason, 1995).

This period was also characterized by a move for internal cooperation and dialogue, with the Catholic University of America leading efforts toward organizational unity. In 1900, the American Association of Catholic Colleges was formed and within four years became a permanent department within the newly formed Catholic Educational Association. The early activities of the col1egiate division focused on the already mentioned standardization and accreditation issues. This focus, while greatly needed, was not without its own problems. Some critics contended that the move within Catholic colleges and universities away from a Scholastic classical education to a more practical education and an elective system reflected the chaos and materialistic commercialism of the modem world (Gleason, 1967, p. 45).

By 1926, the Association of Catholic Colleges had turned its attention to the threat of secularism, partly due to the perceived loss of coherence within the core curriculum. In 1927, to counter this perceived threat, the Association called for a revitalization of philosophy as the means to reinforce Catholic religious identity (Gleason, 1995, p. 139). By 1929, Catholic colleges embraced a common belief that their purpose was to prepare Catholics to integrate their faith with the challenges of secular society. During the decade of the 30's, a belief in the existence of a distinctive Catholic culture and a Catholic world view shifted the purpose of the Catholic college to imparting to students the Catholic culture (Gleason, 1967, p. 48). At this time, religious studies were not integrated into the curriculum. Spiritual formation was promoted through prayer, devotions, and moral discipline. However, by 1940, the study of theology, once considered appropriate only for those preparing for ordination to the priesthood, emerged as an essential part of the core curriculum of the Catholic college (Fogarty, Grant & Donnelly, 1996, p. 321).

During this period, there was even a movement to discourage Catholics from attending other colleges (Gleason, 1995, p. 144). The rationale behind such thinking, although never fully accepted, emphasized the belief that Catholicism was not only a matter of doctrine and religious observance, but also a way of life. The purpose of the Catholic college was to foster this way of life (Gleason, 1995, p. 145). One of the means of achieving this end was an unsuccessful effort to develop a consensus on a Catholic liberal arts curriculum (Gleason, 1995, p. 189).

As the 19th century drew to a close, a new and significant chapter in the history of the Catholic college was unfolding - the establishment of women's colleges. By 1916, women's colleges comprised one-third of all Catholic colleges and universities. Founded by religious congregations, most grew out of the academies of these congregations. While each has a unique founding story, it appears that the common purpose for the founding of Catholic women's colleges at the turn of the century was a desire to respond to the directive of the Third Plenary Council of 1884 which called for the establishment of Catholic elementary schools and the sound preparation of teachers to staff these schools (Power, 1958, p. 196).

If the purposes of Catholic higher education seemed clear in the first half of the 20th century, the colleges were dealt a major challenge in 1955 with the publication of historian John Tracy Ellis's comprehensive critique of American Catholic intellectual life. Coinciding with a time of unprecedented growth in college enrollments due in part to the G.I. Bill and in part to a growing desire for higher education among an upwardly mobile Catholic population, Ellis's essay criticized Catholic colleges and universities for failing to make a recognizable contribution to American intellectual life (Shelley, 1995). According to Ellis, there were too many colleges with too little cooperation and too little focus on scholarly research (O'Brien, 1994, p. 46). Although the intellectual strength of the Catholic college had been challenged previously, Ellis's critique led to an unprecedented focus on excellence. Once again the purpose of American Catholic higher education was under scrutiny.

VII. A Continuing Quest for Identity: American Catholic Higher Education from 1960 to 1985

The 1960's ushered in an era of questioning and challenge which has impacted individuals, society and institutions. The list of issues and causes was endless: e.g. civil rights, the Vietnam war, women's rights, and the rights of students. Underlying the issues were fundamental questions about human, political and academic freedom. All of these issues and questions played out dramatically on college campuses across the nation. In some ways, higher education became a barometer for the changes and challenges within society. The Catholic campus was not immune to the upheaval. In addition to the challenges faced by society in generaL the Catholic college faced a unique set of challenges: the implications of the Second Vatican Council; the decline in religious presence within the faculty, administration, and boards of colleges and universities; and challenges to academic freedom.

The Second Vatican Council which extended from October 1962 to December 1965 was a significant moment in the life of the Catholic Church and Catholic higher education. Of special significance to Catholic higher education were the Council's deliberations and decrees related to religious freedom, the role of the laity, and ecumenism. The Council decentered the church, proclaiming that the church's life was meant to be within, and not apart from, the life of the entire human family (O'Brien, 1994, p. 28). Such an understanding of Church and what it meant to be Catholic replaced the vision of a Catholic counter-culture with the vision of a Catholic community within and in dialogue with all cultures. The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modem World, one of the most read of the Council documents, became the "magna carta" for Catholic higher education, encouraging a study of human sciences, inter-religious dialogue, service to society, and respect for all cultures (O'Brien, 1994, p. 49). In the years following the Council, both the Church and Catholic colleges and universities gained a public voice, no longer in judgement of, but in respectful conversation with a secular and pluralistic world (O'Brien, 1994, p. 27). The relationship between the Church and Catholic colleges and universities shifted from a juridical context to a collegial community characterized by trust, mutual exchange, and genuine dialogue (Gannon, 1987, p. 13).

Somewhat surprisingly in the midst of such openness, the 1960's were also a time in which the Church censored theologians and banned speakers from Catholic colleges. The issues which provoked censorship ranged from freedom of conscience to liturgical reform to sexual morality and decision-making. Each issue involved a complex web of human emotions and conflicts between Church and academy. However, in the more open climate of the Second Vatican Council and in an American culture characterized by freedom of expression and freedom to dissent, colleges and universities embraced academic freedom as an important and necessary aspect of higher education. After intense dialogue, theologians at the Catholic University and other colleges were reinstated. In 1969, the American bishops published flexible guidelines for permissible dissent (O'Brien, 1994, p. 54). Notre Dame University organized a faculty symposium on academic freedom. For the first time in the history of American Catholic higher education, academic freedom became a central issue (Gleason, 1995).

During this same era, the convergence of a number of factors resulted in the formation of lay boards of trustees in most Catholic colleges and universities. From a theological point of view, the Second Vatican Council's promotion of the role of the laity encouraged many religious congregations to share governance and administration of their institutions. At the same time, the decrease in the numbers of religious and priests made a change in governance a practical necessity. Furthermore, as federal aid became available to institutions which were not pervasively sectarian, colleges recognized the need to ensure that there was neither the reality nor a perception of inappropriate control by the church or by religious congregations. Jesuit Father Paul Reinert, President of St. Louis University and Holy Cross Father Theodore Hesburgh, President of the University of Notre Dame, led what was a surprisingly smooth transition to lay boards. As envisioned by Reinert and Hesburgh, the governance change was designed as a new partnership between lay and religious, with religious sponsors remaining as significant participants in administration and policy formation (Gleason, 1995, p. 115). For the most part, the transition was made without the loss of Catholic identity. While some authors equate the transition to lay boards with secularization, most suggest that the move to lay governance created a need for Catholic colleges and universities to become more intentional and specific about an identity and purpose that many had taken for granted for too long (Henwig, 2000, p. 34). Only a few institutions, notably Webster University of St. Louis, MO, and Manhattanville College in New York, actually relinquished Catholic identity at this time (O'Brien, 1994, p. 59).

In the wake of Vatican II, a number of priests and religious left religious life. In addition, many of those who remained questioned the purpose of institutional ministries and opted for more direct forms of service, choosing involvement in works related to civil rights, peace, and poverty. Among Jesuits, there was a 38% decline in personnel in the 25 years after the Second Vatican Council (Gleason, 1995, p. 319). The movement away from service in Catholic colleges and universities by many priests and religious affected morale within the institutions and increased confusion about identity and purpose.

In the midst of the turmoil, the common theme within Catholic higher education became a renewed quest for meaning and identity. Whereas some institutions had been accused of being "too Catholic" in the 50's, the charge in the 60's was that the institutions were not Catholic enough (Hassenger, 1967, p. 328). Writing in 1967, Gleason suggested that a radically new question challenged the Catholic college and university: What was the institution's reason for being? Such a question startled the Catholic academic community. Despite concerns about quality, there had never before been a doubt about the basic reason for being of American Catholic higher education (Gleason, 1967, p. 52-53). During this era, critics from within and without, claimed that a Catholic university was a contradiction in terms (Gleason, 1995, p. 3 10). Gleason (1995) characterized the identity issue as an enduring problem rather than a crisis. He described the problem as ideological, stemming from a "lack of consensus as to the substantive content of the ensemble of religious beliefs, moral commitments and academic assumptions that supposedly constitute Catholic identity and a consequent inability to specify what that identity entails for the practical functioning of Catholic colleges and universities" (p. 320).

Not surprisingly, the years between 1967 and the present have been a time of unprecedented writing on the identity and purpose of Catholic higher education. Between 1967 and 1972, the International Federation of Catholic Universities held a series of meetings in Colombia, Manila, Paris and Land 0' Lakes, WI. The goal of these meetings was to prepare for the development of a statement on the nature of the Catholic university. The meetings culminated in the publication of The Catholic University in the Modem World in 1973. The most important of these meetings for American universities and the document which significantly impacted the final publication, was the Land 0' Lakes formulation in 1967. Gleason (1995) described the Land 0' Lakes statement as a "symbolic manifesto" which marked a new era in Catholic higher education (p. 317). The document proclaimed the American Catholic college and university's identity as an academic and scholarly institution committed to the pursuit of truth. At the same time, the statement affirmed that "the Catholic university must be an institution, a community of learners or a community of scholars, in which Catholicism is perceptively present and effectively operative" (in Gallin, 1992, p. 7).

In 1976, the College and University Department of the National Catholic Education Association issued a position paper describing their view of relations between American Catholic colleges and universities and the Church. The National Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement on Catholic higher education and the pastoral mission of the Church in 1980. Pope John Paul II issued various statements and personally addressed the presidents of Catholic colleges and universities in 1979. While each of these documents had a specific focus, several common elements were evident: the role of the university in facilitating an encounter between faith and reason; the importance of providing students a foundation in their Catholic theological heritage; the encouragement of teaching and research which would support human development and address issues related to peace and justice; and a consistently articulated desire to maintain a healthy balance between academy and Church, free from inappropriate restraint and control (GaUin, 1992).

VIII. Ex Corde Ecclesiae (From the Heart of the Church)

Although some credit Ex Corde Ecelesiae, the pontifical document on Catholic Higher Education, drafted, revised, and discussed from 1985 to the present, with igniting within Catholic colleges a virtual identity crisis, many (e.g. Gleason, 1992; Galfin, 1992; Curran, 1997; and Langan, 2000) view the focus on identity as a natural outgrowth of the institution's ongoing search for meaning and purpose. As should be obvious from the previous pages, the conversation about identity was underway long before the first draft of Ex Corde Ecclesiae appeared in 1985. Since the publication of the first draft, there have been at least 15 documents recording official dialogue and numerous articles commenting on the document in its various stages. Finally accepted by American bishops in 1999, Ex Corde is actually a very affirmative document aligning the Catholic college and university with the mission of the Church, encouraging ongoing dialogue between faith and culture, and emphasizing the role of the university in furthering this dialogue. The document stresses institutional autonomy and academic freedom. Reflecting the language of the Land 0' Lakes statement, the document challenges the Catholic university to be "both a community of scholars representing various branches of human knowledge and an academic institution in which Catholicism is vitally present and operative" (in Gavin, 1992, p. 418). Ex Corde urges formation of students in excellence, promotion of love of learning, and development of an ethical and religious sense. It encourages both faculty and students to uphold the dignity of all people and to assume responsibility for the poor, the suffering and the oppressed. Why then has the document been such a source of controversy and why do some see it as the death knell for Catholic colleges and universities?

The problem lies not in Ex Corde Ecclesiae, but rather in the interpretation of an issue associated with the document from the beginning: the need for local bishops to exercise some oversight over the teaching of Catholic theology. The issue is specifically related to the interpretation of canon law. The 1917 Code of Canon Law did not address colleges and universities. However, the revised Code of 1983 defined the relationship between local bishops and colleges and universities. While most of the canons do not refer to American Catholic colleges and universities, Canon 812 states that those who teach theology must have a mandate from the local bishop. The regulation refers only to fun time Catholic professors who teach Catholic theology. Over the past dozen or so years the issue has been the source of intense debate. Some feel that this issue compromises academic freedom and opens the academy to accusations of being pervasively sectarian. Others feel that there is little danger of inappropriate entanglement because Catholic colleges do not enter into formal covenants with the Church and, with the exception of Catholic University, receive no financial support from the Church (Gallin, 1992, p. 175 - 187). Still the debate continues. Moreover, the debate raises critical questions about what it means for American colleges and universities to be Catholic and how these institutions are connected with the Church.

The history of American Catholic higher education reveals not one, but many purposes. Although begun some 150 years after the foundation of Harvard, the first American Catholic colleges shared the same founding purpose: the preparation of clergy, the inculcation of moral virtues, and the defense and spread of the faith. This purpose guided American Catholic higher education for the first 60 years. By 1850, less threatened by denominational rivalries and inspired and challenged by Newman's Idea of a University, American Catholic colleges and universities embraced a new purpose: the pursuit of educational quality. Some 30 years later, Catholic institutions recognized and defined yet another purpose: research and the integration of faith and science. This understanding was, however, soon displaced by the wholehearted adoption of Thomistic; philosophy and the promotion of an American Catholic culture to counter Americanism and modernism. Strengthened by efforts to develop a strong core curriculum around both philosophy and eventually Catholic theology, this purpose remained central to American Catholic education throughout the first half of the twentieth century.

In 1955, the clarity of purpose was shattered by a sharp criticism of the Catholic college's failure to contribute to American intellectual life. As a renewed focus on academic excellence was beginning to emerge, the upheaval of the 60's brought new challenges to all campuses. For the first time in its history, American Catholic higher education grappled with the meaning of academic freedom. More significantly, Catholic colleges and universities were forced to rethink not only their purpose but also their reason for being. The question was no longer how the institutions might be Catholic, but rather whether the institutions could be Catholic. And so the debate continues to the present with a focus on two basic questions: "What does it mean to be a university or college, and what does it mean for that institution to be Catholic ?" (Gallin, 1992, p. 1). According to Curran (1997, p. 90), the issue of Catholic identity involves a consideration of three related questions: Is it possible for Catholic colleges and universities to be Catholic today? Do Catholic colleges and universities have the right to exist, given priorities and parameters within the Church, society, and the institutions themselves? What does Catholic identity mean for a higher education and what means should be taken to insure this identity? Many see the resolution of these questions as essential for the future of Catholic higher education.

IX. Conclusion

Over the last 15 years, at least half of the issues of the journal of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities have focused on questions of identity and purpose. And yet questions of identity are not exclusively a Catholic concern, nor are they unique to the 2 1 century. Rudolph (1968) has suggested that even in the early days, a broad spectrum of differences existed in relation to religious identity. Amherst and Williams for example, had informal denominational ties but a strong religious commitment (p. 68). Today, there remain approximately 700 church-related colleges and universities in the United States. The Lilly Foundation currently funds two major initiatives, the Lilly Fellows Program in Humanities and the Arts and the Rhodes Consultation on the Future of the Church-related College. Both initiatives address the desire of these institutions to preserve their distinctively religious identity while pursuing academic excellence. What then makes an institution religious and, more specifically for this paper, what makes an institution Catholic?

Approximately 12% of Catholic undergraduate students are currently enrolled in Catholic colleges and universities. The remaining 88% are dispersed among public and other private schools ( A Hellwig, personal communication, December 6, 2001). Catholic students average 60% on Catholic campuses, with a range from 12 to 90% (Hellwig, 2000, p. 35). These statistics suggest that attendance at a Catholic college or university is not perceived as an essential part of Catholicism-L Nor does a majority Catholic enrolment seem to make a college Catholic. However, concerns about the need for a "critical mass" of persons committed to the religious denomination is one of the reasons why historians and theologians persistently ask whether Catholic colleges and universities are in danger of repeating the history of other church-related institutions which relinquished church affiliation, removed religion as a core element in the academy, and embraced secularism. The historians and theologians who raise the questions most persistently come to vastly different conclusions (O'Brien, 1994, p. 97).

As part of the attempt to determine whether colleges and universities which currently consider themselves church-related are actually moving toward secularization, many taxonomies have been developed. Janosik (2000) reviewed the major classification systems: Pattillo and Mackenzie in 1966; Pace in 1972; Orsy in 1987; Cunninggim in 1988; and Sandin in 1990. In addition, Janosik developed his own classification based on key components of Ex Corde Ecclesiae. Each of these taxonomies identifies a range of positions from overtly religious and often evangelical to nominally connected and practically secular. An analysis of Catholic colleges and universities would probably place the Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio, Christendom College in Virginia, and Ave Maria College in Michigan on the extreme "overtly religious and evangelical" end of the spectrum. Although not comprehensive, the literature reviewed for this paper, would place only Webster and Manhattanville on the totally secular end of the continuum. The vast majority of Catholic colleges and universities lie somewhere in the middle. At least three recent authors (Benne, 2001; Murphy, 1991; &O'Brien, 1994) locate most Catholic colleges healthily in the middle.

In a case study examining Holy Cross College in Worcester, MA, O'Brien (1994) concluded that Holy Cross is unequivocally Catholic, despite the omission of the phrase "Catholic college" from a 1991 revision of the mission statement. In support of his claim, O'Brien points to the college's strong theology department, distinctive and integrated liberal arts core curriculum, effective and viable campus ministry program, and religious presence in key leadership roles within the institution. According to O'Brien, there is strong evidence that Holy Cross carries out the commitment in its mission statement to enable "all who wish to do so to encounter the intellectual heritage of Catholicism, to form an active worshiping community and to become actively engaged in the life and work of the church". While not identifying Holy Cross as a "confessional school, O'Brien asserts that Holy Cross remains intentionally and distinctively Catholic (p. 122-140).

Benne (200 1) analyzed the effects of the secularization process within American church related colleges, the underlying causes of secularization, and the characteristics which define schools at various places on the continuum between totally religious and completely secularized. He then scrutinized six American colleges and universities, including the University of Notre Dame, in light of this analysis. While persons within Notre Dame welcome diversity, Benne found that a critical mass at all levels of the institution remain actively Catholic or unreservedly supportive of the Catholic tradition. As proof of an unusually strong religious ethos within the campus, Benne points to the exceptionally supportive residential life program. Within a large campus, single-sex dorms house between 100 and 300 students. Within each residence an actively involved adult, usually a priest or religious, provides a strong pastoral presence. Benne also cites Notre Dame's distinguished theology department, institutes, centers and endowed professorships as evidence of a strong Catholic identity and purpose. Although Benne does not position Notre Dame on the extreme orthodox end of the spectrum, he concludes his review by asserting that "there is little doubt that the richness and momentum of its genuine Catholic ethos will carry [Notre Dame] into the future" (p. 174).

In a study focusing on value sharing, Murphy (199 1) examined five very different Catholic colleges and universities: DePaul University, a large, midwestern urban institution; Santa Clara University, a medium-size west coast institution; Barry University in Miami, FL; Trinity College, a small urban college in Burlington, VT; and St. Mary of the Woods College, a small rural women's college in Terre Haute, IN. From his study, Murphy concluded that values shared in each institution are strong and well-anchored in the Catholic tradition and also deeply marked by the charisms of the sponsoring congregations of the institutions. Murphy also offered the interesting observation that Catholic colleges may be one of very few places where Catholics may converse and differ about key values and where women can assume leadership roles (p. 197).

Strong testimonies in support of the Catholic identity of seven colleges and universities are hardly proof that the prediction of "impending death" with which this paper began, is in fact, exaggerated. However, such testimonies together with history might suggest that, despite questions, conflicts, changes and challenges, American Catholic colleges and universities will retain a distinctive and authentic Catholic identity and purpose.


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