The Cardinal Newman Society (CNS) has released a new report, “A Mandate for Fidelity,” concerning the mandatum (a bishop’s mandate) that’s required to teach theology in a Catholic institution of higher education.
The mandatum was specified by the 1990 Apostolic Constitution on Catholic Universities, Ex corde Ecclesiae, and as implemented in the United States, requires a theology professor to request mandatum from the local bishop where the theologian teaches. The professor commits, in writing, “to teach authentic Catholic doctrine and to refrain from putting forth as Catholic teaching anything contrary to the Church’s Magisterium.”
Canon 812 of the Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law also requires theologians to possess a mandatum:
Those who teach theological disciplines in any institutes of higher studies whatsoever must have a mandate from the competent ecclesiastical authority.
In addition, Canon 810 describes the responsibility of academic administrators at Catholic institutions of higher education in this regard:
It is the responsibility of the authority who is competent in accord with the statutes to provide for the appointment of teachers to Catholic universities who, besides their scientific and pedagogical suitability, are also outstanding in their integrity of doctrine and probity of life; when those requisite qualities are lacking they are to be removed from their positions in accord with the procedure set forth in the statutes.
The Motley Monk thinks the CNS report is especially worth reading for two reasons.
The first reason concerns the number of administrators and professors in the nation’s Catholic universities and colleges who have not taken the mandatum seriously.
The CNS report draws attention to a 2011 survey of U.S. Catholic university and college academic administrators indicating that:
- 42% of respondents said their institutions have neither a department nor a chair of Catholic theology as required by Ex corde Ecclesiae
- 7%+ responded that Catholic theology isn’t taught in their institutions.
Of the remaining 51% of respondents who said their institutions have a department or chair of Catholic theology:
- 36% said they didn’t know whether their Theology professors have received the mandatum;
- 10% reported some but not all of their theologians have received the mandatum; and,
- 6% said no professors have received a mandatum.
The “dirty little secret” is that more than two decades after the publication of Ex corde Ecclesiae, nearly 50% of the nation’s Catholic universities and colleges don’t have a department or chair of Catholic theology.
The second reason for reading the CNS report concerns how, during those 2+ decades, many administrators and professors have “privatized” the mandatum, making it a private matter between the bishop and theologian. And, apparently, bishops in whose dioceses Catholic universities and colleges are located aren’t very much interested in pushing the issue.
This conduct has evidently been brought to and caught the attention of Pope Benedict XVI, who in a May 5, 2012 ad limina address to a group of American bishops, expressed his concern that “much remains to be done” toward the renewal of Catholic identity in U.S. Catholic colleges and universities. The Pope highlighted, in particular, “such areas as compliance with the mandate laid down in Canon 812 for those who teach theological disciplines.” He then cited “the confusion created by instances of apparent dissidence between some representatives of Catholic institutions and the Church’s pastoral leadership.”
So, then, what does Canon 812 require?
Responding to a CNS inquiry, the Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura (the Vatican’s Supreme Court), Cardinal Raymond Burke, pointed to Pope Benedict XVI’s description of the mandatum as “a tangible expression of ecclesial communion and solidarity.” Asserting that the mandatum is a public not private matter, Cardinal Burke said:
It’s tangible in the sense that it’s a public declaration, in writing, on the part of the ecclesiastical authority that a theologian is teaching in communion with the Church, and people have a right to know that so that if you, for instance, are at a Catholic university or parents are sending their children to the Catholic university, they know that the professors who are teaching theological disciplines at the university are teaching in communion with the Church. They are assured in that by the public declaration of the diocesan bishop.
Cardinal Burke added: “The fact that I teach in accord with the Magisterium is a public factor. That’s not some private, secret thing between myself and the Lord” (italics added).
Should only theology professors with the mandatum be employed at a Catholic university or college?
Cardinal Burke responded “Yes,” adding:
…[T]he Catholic university will want that all its teachers of theology or the theological disciplines have a mandate and will not, of course, retain the professor in teaching Catholic theology or the theological disciplines who does not have a mandate, because to do so would be to call into question the whole raison d’etre of the university. If a Catholic university doesn’t distinguish itself for its care, that those who are teaching theology and the other theological disciplines are doing so in communion with the Magisterium, what reason does it have to exist?
The Motley Monk concurs with Cardinal Burke’s assessment.
Academic administrators at the nation’s Catholic universities and colleges should take the mandatum seriously, if only because it provides a tangible—public—recognition of an institution’s fidelity to the Church and its teaching, which constitutes the essential identity of Catholic higher education.
If those academic administrators are not willing to require a mandatum as a condition for employment as well as tenure and promotion in rank for those who teach theology and theological disciplines, they should—at a minimum—make public to students and their parents those professors who teach theology or theological disciplines and are in communion with the Church.
Unfortunately, Cardinal Burke has no ordinary jurisdiction in the matter as he is not the Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education. However, his opinion as the Church’s highest ranking juridical official after the Pope does carry great moral weight and should influence the thinking of the diocesan bishops in whose territory Catholic universities and colleges are located. They can and should require those who teach theology or theological disciplines to possess a mandatum.
To read the CNS report, click on the following link:
To read Ex corde Ecclesiae, click on the following link:
To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, click on the following link: