The “spirit of adolescent progressivism” and the commencement season at the nation’s Catholic universities and colleges…


It’s commencement season in U.S. Catholic higher education, that time of year when administrators of the so-called “independent” Catholic universities and colleges can take advantage of the annual opportunity to “thumb their noses” at the Church and Her teaching.

The truth be told, those administrators don’t actually thumb their noses. Instead, they invite speakers with pedigrees aligning them with the “progressive forces of worldliness,” to quote Pope Francis. The speakers then do the thumbing for the administrators, as they sit on the dais and applaud.

Consider this year’s commencement speaker at Villanova University, Dr. Jill Biden.

The wife of Vice President Joe Biden, Dr. Biden is being honored for her work as an educator, supporter of military families and veterans, and breast cancer prevention. So far, so good! Dr. Biden also earned an M.A. in English at Villanova. Even better yet!

However, the University’s announcement of Dr. Biden’s invitation didn’t mention her support for abortion, for the proliferation and use of artificial forms of birth control (some of which are abortafacients), and for so-called “homosexual marriage.” Check it all out at

Administrators at Villanova likely would reply to critics that Dr. Biden’s invitation evidences their unwavering, personal commitment to “the tradition of Catholic higher education [that] has always placed a priority on the integration of the pursuit of intellectual excellence and ethical conversions essential for the integration of knowledge and faith.” Furthermore, those administrators likely would assert that this invitation demonstrates their commitment to “the sacredness of individual conscience [that] must find a secure place in the discourse with a Catholic, Augustinian university.”

In her speech, even if Dr. Biden wasn’t to mention any of her personal beliefs that are contrary to Church teaching, it will be eminently clear to everyone in the audience what those beliefs are. After all, that’s why administrators of the independent Catholic universities and colleges exercise such great care and oversight when inviting commencement speakers. In this case, Dr. Jill Biden will clarify for graduates the administrators’ loyalty to those cherished Catholic and Augustinian values as well as what those values should mean for graduates in the existential practice of their lives as they commence forth into the world beyond Villanova.

Yes, indeed. “Ethical conversions” and “the sacredness of individual conscience”—cherished institutional values.

Especially at a Catholic university, should it not be asked: “Ethical conversions to what ?” and “Individual conscience guided by what ?” And, especially at an Augustinian university, should it not also be asked: “Supported by what truth ?”

During a daily homily as Pope Francis was describing the Maccabean persectuion, he noted how when the people of God live in a foreign and alien culture, they oftentimes prefer to distance themselves from the Lord in favor of worldly proposals. These proposals, he said, are the root of evil. This preference then leads the people of God to abandon their sacred traditions as they negotiate their loyalty to God. This is “apostasy—a form of “adultery” the Pope said—that transpires as the people of God negotiate the essence of their being: loyalty to the Lord. This attitude of adolescent progressivism, he said, is the attitude “is a fruit of the devil who makes his way forward with the spirit of secular worldliness.”

Just two weeks ago, the University’s pro-life group, Villanovans for Life, celebrated its 40th anniversary. This student organization has evidenced a legacy of unwavering loyalty to Catholic and Augustinian values rooted in Church teaching. In contrast, the invitation to Dr. Jill Biden evidences the spirit of adolescent progressivism, as the University—like so many other independent Catholic institutions—seeks to be part of the secular world and promotes  its spirit.



To read the article, click on the following link:

To read the text of Pope Francis’ comments about adolescent progressivism, click on the following link:

The Motley Monk’s daily blog, Omnibus, click on the following link:

More to explorer


  1. It continues as such because those with leverage ( financial donors) continue to support these universities and those with voices remain silent.
    Liberalism is progressive and it will continue to transform these universities away from Catholicism until the name of the university is the only evidence of a once noble past. As alumni, we can help turn the tide and reclaim Catholicism for our universities.

  2. Why not?

    Most of the newly-minted graduates had their minds bleached for four years. [sigh]

  3. Well, as I prepare to attend the Villanova commencement exercises, I want to share the following:

    1) As you note, Villanova cherishes the inviolability of conscience.

    2) It has invited a pro-abortion public figure to speak at commencement and receive an honorary degree

    3) Villanova contractually obligates all faculty to attend the commencement exercises.

    4) I, and many Villanova faculty, am adamantly pro-life, as should be every faculty member at any genuinely Catholic university.

    So, er, question to President Fr. Peter, OSA: Where’s my freedom of conscience? I’m pretty sure I’ve just been asked to violate it.

  4. Doctor Butler,

    Thank you for your contribution to this forum.
    One wonders whether faculty members and administrators at Villanova would swear the Oath of Fidelity to the Magisterium which is presently being administered to faculty and administrators at the Franciscan University of Steubenville)? The Oath is as follows:
    I, _____________N., with firm faith believe and profess each and everything that is contained in the Symbol of faith, namely:
    I believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen. I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation, he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
    With firm faith, I also believe everything contained in the word of God, whether written or handed down in Tradition, which the Church, either by a solemn judgment or by the ordinary and universal Magisterium, sets forth to be believed as divinely revealed.
    I also firmly accept and hold each and everything definitively proposed by the Church regarding teaching on faith and morals.
    Moreover, I adhere with religious submission of will and intellect to the teachings which either the Roman Pontiff or the College of Bishops enunciate when they exercise their authentic Magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim these teachings by a definitive act.
    I, __________________N., in assuming the office of ………, promise that in my words and in my actions I shall always preserve communion with the Catholic Church.
    With great care and fidelity I shall carry out the duties incumbent on me toward the Church, both universal and particular, in which, according to the provisions of the law, I have been called to exercise my service.
    In fulfilling the charge entrusted to me in the name of the Church, I shall hold fast to the deposit of faith in its entirety; I shall faithfully hand it on and explain it, and I shall avoid any teachings contrary to it.
    I shall follow and foster the common discipline of the entire Church and I shall maintain the observance of all ecclesiastical laws, especially those contained in the Code of Canon Law.
    With Christian obedience I shall follow what the Bishops, as authentic doctors and teachers of the faith, declare, or what they, as those who govern the Church, establish. I shall also faithfully assist the diocesan Bishops, so that the apostolic activity, exercised in the name and by mandate of the Church, may be carried out in communion with the Church.
    So help me God, and God’s Holy Gospels on which I place my hand.


  5. I guess the pope and I are just on different wave lengths. When I think of Judas the Hammer Maccabee I certainly do Not think of weakly going along with the world!

  6. Villanova University’s fund raising campaign seeks to raise $600 million dollars……a link to its campaign video is below.
    Noticeably absent from the video is any reference to Jesus Christ, the university’s Catholic mission, or a Catholic collegiate tradition.
    The following introductory statement precedes the video:
    “Experience everything Villanova has to offer in a fast-paced video that highlights Villanova’s gorgeous campus, nationally-ranked colleges, exciting athletics, our commitment to service and, of course, our amazing students. At Homecoming 2013, the University will launch a historic capital campaign to propel Villanova into the national spotlight. Join us as we Ignite Change For the Greater Great and celebrate the Villanova community!”

  7. Ignite HOPE and CHANGE? Didn’t we do that in 2008 and 2012? It is a good thing that the ACLU hasn’t forced Villanova to remove the crosses atop the church. Somebody might be offended.

  8. I am sure, Slainte, that a dozen, perhaps as many as two dozen faculty at Villanova could swear that oath, myself included. For the rest, well, they would be too busy working to dissolve the confidence in faith and reason of their students to be bothered believing anything themselves.

    Villanova as a whole is a more faithful Catholic university than most — and, alas, I shudder to think what it would be like to teach at those that are less faithful!

  9. Professor Butler—thank you for your witness on behalf of Villanova. My communication to Father Donohue regarding this disgraceful decision went unanswered…..and so too shall any requests by VU for money be handled in kind. Perhaps, and your comment suggests, VU has long been traveling the road most commonly travelled, turn left on progressive street until
    you fall off the cliff, but it went unnoticed by many alumni until now. I thanked Father Donohue for the brutal revelation. I wonder though was there not a twinge of irony as Jill Biden was given her honorary degree knowing that she and her husband advocated for the ACA with its pernicious redefinition of freedom of religion to freedom of worship.

  10. Thomas Butler, I wasn’t able to locate your name among Villanova University faculty; probably just an error on my part. In which of the colleges are you a member of faculty and what is your area of expertise?

  11. I think it is eminently fair for any donor, especially one donating a significant sum of money to any Catholic university, to make his/her donation contingent upon the university adopting and implementing (among its faculty and administrators) the Oath of Fidelity to the Magisterium in a form substantially similar to that which is administered to faculty and administrators at the Franciscan University of Steubenville.
    If donors joined together across Catholic academia in making this Oath a universal requirement for employment in Catholic universities, your efforts in defense of the faith would resonate profoundly with university administrations.
    This is a simple but significant first step in the right direction to restore Catholicism to Catholic academia.

  12. #1. Where is the bishop?

    #2. Where is the Jesuit Superior?

    #3. Why hasn’t Pope Francis suppressed the Jesuits yet? If Nixon could go to China…

  13. “Thomas Butler” is an anagram intended to protect the innocent.

    If alumni were vocal on this, I’m reasonably confident the President would listen — after all, we are tuition driven. But, on average, they are not; Villanova, on average, tends to recruit students who are lukewarm in their Catholicism, and so I am not hopeful that the sort of critical mass that would gain a hearing could be mustered. I’ll pray for it, though!

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: