Catholic or Consequences: Feds increasingly tell Catholic Entities to Be Authentically Catholic or Lose Religious Exemptions

From  The Cardinal Newman Society (CNS) Blog comes this news release:

Earlier today, January 11, 2011, the federal government continued its assault on the religious liberty of Catholic institutions when the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that Manhattan College could not prevent faculty from unionizing on the basis that it is a religious institution.   Despite acknowledging that the College is recognized as Catholic by the New York Archdiocese, the NLRB reviewed College statements and course content, finding “that the purpose of the College is secular and not the ‘propagation of a religious faith’.”

We have a very important moral tale here.

By way of a disclaimer I want to say that I know nothing of Manhattan College in New York and thus I do not direct my remarks specifically to the College. It may well be that the judges in this case was unfair.  But, generally speaking,  it’s pretty bad when Caesar (i.e. the State) has to tell a Catholic College it’s not Catholic.  This of course is really more the role of a bishop, but it would seem that the bishops have largely avoided making such declarations. In this case a government agency gave the college the “come to Jesus” talk.

Another example  – Again I am not sure if the “non-Catholic” assessment was fair to this college or not, since I know nothing of it. I am more aware of the situation of another Catholic college in the US, (not in DC), which had a similar problem years ago. The accrediting agency did its five year evaluation of this certain Catholic college and returned the verdict that while the academics were adequate, the Catholic identity advertised by the college was a sham. They gave only a provisional accreditation and required the “Catholic” college to do a self study about how to make it’s Catholic identity a true fact  or to be prepared to drop claims to being Catholic. The college in question was, at the time, on Playboy’s top ten list of “party” schools. Drugs, alcohol and sexually transmitted diseases were epidemic. Jello-wrestling and R Rated movies were common in the Student Union. Just about every year students were killed in drunk driving incidents near the campus. The moral life of most students was, thus, in the sewer and campus ministry was ineffective at best. The theology department was also riddled with dissent.  Sadly, it took a secular accreditation agency to blow the whistle and demand reform.

Yet another example – About seven  years ago a Catholic Charities Agency California was informed by a California judge that they would have to provide contraceptives in their medical benefits plan for employees. He refused to accept a claim of religious exemption and ruled that there was nothing “Catholic” about this agency of Catholic Charities since they took primarily government money and gave it to the poor. Further, none of their literature mentioned Jesus Christ or sought to promote the Catholic Faith. Hence, they were secular,  not Catholic,  and thus had no claim to religious exemptions. Here too, I cannot say if the Judge was fair since I have no direct knowledge of Catholic Charities in the particular diocese in question.

It is of course possible to see these matters only in terms of religious liberty. But I want to suggest to you that we have some serious reflection as a Church to make. Perhaps a couple of Biblical examples will set the stage.

1. Abram – In the Book of Genesis we are taught how God chose Abram (later Abraham) and called him to set forth to a new land as the Patriarch of chosen people, (Gen 12). In great faith Abram set out and God led him to Canaan where he eventually settled in Bethel (a name which means “House of God”) (Gen 12:8). But there was a famine in the land and, instead of staying and trusting God,  he left Bethel and went to Egypt (Gen 12:10),  though God had said no such thing. Now Egypt is a symbol of the world and is distinct from Bethel which is a symbol of the “House of God.” And while in Egypt Abram prospered, but sinned mightily by prostituting his wife Sarai,  placing her in Pharaoh’s harem so as to secure his own safety and prosperity (Gen 12:11-15).

Now Abram is chosen by God, he is God’s man and God gave him an inheritance. But Abram forsook his glory from heaven and preferred worldly glories and comforts. God would have to shame Abram back to his senses. The biblical text says:

But the LORD inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife Sarai. So Pharaoh summoned Abram. “What have you done to me?” he said. “Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife?  Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!” (Gen 12:17-19)

So it took Pharaoh to compel Abram to leave Egypt (the world) and return to Bethel (House of God). Frankly it is a rather embarrassing moment in salvation history.

2. Another example is Jonah. Jonah was God’s chosen man and designated prophet to go to the east to Nineveh and proclaim a word of repentance to them. But Jonah fled to the west on a ship. A storm blew up that so threatened the ship that the experienced sailors began to pray to their gods. But the chosen man of the one, True God, Jonah remained asleep!  Finally,  after casting lots,  the sailors discovered Jonah was the source of their problem and roused him from his sleep to rebuke him:

What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the LORD, because he had already told them so). The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?” “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.” Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. Then they cried out to the LORD, “Please, LORD, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, LORD, have done as you pleased.” Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him (Jonah 1:11ff)

And thus it was that pagan sailors were more repentant and moral than God’s chosen prophet. Another great embarrassment to be sure.

The fact is that the Church is to be a light to the world, but it sometimes happens that we fall short and God must allow the world itself to rebuke us. The Christian community is supposed to be self-correcting. It is an embarrassing truth that it sometimes takes Caesar to tell us to give to God what is God’s, to be more serious about our Christian walk, and to be true in our claims to be Catholic.

Another example – More widely known than the cases above, is the recent sexual abuse scandal. The actual abuse was terrible enough but was then compounded by the credible accusations of a lack of action evident in certain dioceses, which meant abuse in those places was often unaddressed and even,  in some cases, covered up.  It really took serious legal penalties to end the problem. The judicial branch of government (which had long been lenient in this matter as well) had to awaken the proper level of outrage. This is perhaps the most lasting disappointment on the part of many towards the Church in this matter.

From the Newman Society blog comes this advice for Catholic Colleges and universities:

It must be noted….that any available exemptions for religious institutions will not apply if a college that was founded as a religious institution has become largely secular. It is therefore vital that Catholic colleges and universities maintain their Catholic identity in all of their programs in order to best protect their religious character and mission.”

 For decades since the infamous Land O’Lakes declaration, too many Catholic colleges and universities have straddled the line between Catholic and secular.  While the Vatican and bishops have patiently encouraged the renewal of Catholic identity, state and federal regulators are increasingly demanding that Catholic colleges justify their claims to be religious.  For all but a handful of faithful Catholic colleges, this is a difficult if not impossible task. … the Catholic Church’s Canon Law and the Apostolic Constitution Ex corde Ecclesiae lay out the requirements for a college to be considered Catholic… should be noted that a college that does not faithfully adhere to and apply the Catholic Church’s own law might find it difficult if not impossible to convince a secular court that it is a Catholic institution deserving protection.” [1]

It shouldn’t take Pharaoh to tell Abram to go back to Bethel. It shouldn’t  take pagan sailors to rouse Jonah to obey God. And it shouldn’t take the Federal Government to tell Catholic Colleges to actually be Catholic. But if that’s what it takes, if God has to shame them  into it, so be it . God has a history of drawing Israel to repentance by making use of the nations around them to provoke, shame, and punish them. As Scripture says,

The LORD’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted inheritance….[Yet] you deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth….[The Lord says], for they are a perverse generation, children who are unfaithful. They made me jealous by what is no god and angered me with their worthless idols. [So] I will make them envious by those who are not a people; I will make them angry by a nation that has no understanding. (Deut 32: varia)

Religious Liberty Threatened – To be clear, there are very serious threats today looming over religious liberty. An increasingly intrusive government and menacing new laws are seeking to unreasonably restrict the Church, and her work of evangelizing the culture. We ought to resist any such attempts to limit religious liberty in this age of highly selective “tolerance.” We have discussed such threats on the blog before.

But the moral lesson in these cases seems to be that we had better get our own house in order. Certain “Catholic” Colleges may go on for a while gleefully dissenting and ignoring Church mandates, but in the end they are going to be called to account by Caesar who will say, “Either give God what God is due, or stop pretending and pay the taxes that every other secular organization pays and observe the requirements every other secular entity does.” In other words, decide what you really are and do so quickly.

For the state to respect the rights of Catholics, Catholicism has to be intelligible. Hence these dissenters also endanger the religious freedoms of those who are faithful. Yes, we need to get our house in order.

One may argue that bishops could have been more forceful, Rome more demanding, or that the Catholic faithful should have voted with their feet long ago and stopped  frequenting  and supporting fake Catholic institutions . But in the end, God may well be allowing a secular authority, which has no understanding of things religious to insist upon truth-telling. In so doing it may well be that God is following an old pattern where Pharaoh had to give Abram a good swift kick in the pants, and where God used nations like Babylon and Assyria to purge and prune Israel.

Catholic or Consequences – Like it or not, the world demands of Catholics what they seldom demand of other denominations: that what it means to be a Catholic should be clear and that it be lived to deserve the title. The secular government may mean harm in this, but God can use it for good. (cf Gen 50:20)

What do you think? Remember, if this post feels edgy, I am doing that to provoke conversation.

109 Replies to “Catholic or Consequences: Feds increasingly tell Catholic Entities to Be Authentically Catholic or Lose Religious Exemptions”

  1. I am grateful to you for speaking so bluntly. It’s timely that the haranguing we faithful Catholics do to our liberal brothers and sisters and our liberal Catholic institutions is also going on with the federal government. Let the sham ‘Catholic’ institutions perish, including those religious orders who defy the papacy and the magesterium. May the actions of our secular government inspire us faithful Catholics to draw clear boundaries with the Arians, the ones who pretend that Christ is not God but a good man like so many others. The time has come to give not only the colleges, but the religious orders, the Catholics in pews who believe they can vote against life, the people who are afraid or or just mad at the Catholic Church and who try to destory it from within – it’s time to give them an ultimatum also. Behave like faithful Catholic or go secular…leave the Church. We will always be there to welcome you home when you have truly repented and want to come home. I lefft the Church as a teenager and came back in my 30’s. It’s good to be home.

    1. Abby, way to go.

      You said it right.
      We as Church are always ready to welcome the Prodgials.

      God bless

  2. I agree with you Father. It means something to be Catholic — to follow the teachings of Christ. So there has to be a Catholic identity. You can’t have a hospital or school or any institution that calls itself Catholic and then goes against the teachings of the Church, by giving out birth control pills or performing abortions or vasectomies in the name of “health care” nor can they teach about it as a viable option. And this applies to the individual as well. If you’re Catholic, then live as one. Carry your cross and follow Jesus. This much I am learning as our faith and our understanding grows.

    By the way, I am thoroughly enjoying Fulton Sheen’s book Your Life is Worth Living. I didn’t realize these were all radio broadcasts, him just speaking.

  3. Excellent. Unfortunately, you’ve provoked nothing but a vigorous nodding, especially as you’ve already mentioned how God used contemporary empires to rebuke Old Testament Israelites for their sins.

  4. I understand the need for the word Catholic to mean something, but what is one supposed to do if he or she cannot accept every teaching of the Church? Leave? I chose the Catholic faith, and try to live it as best I can, but it’s not always as easy or simple as some would have it. What if accepting that teaching would cause one’s spouse to divorce you? Stay and be divorced or leave and stay married? Is it not possible to stay and have a bit of private dissent? Not all dissent is “gleeful;” for me, it is quite painful. It cannot be ignored or reconciled – it is my own cross to bear.

    1. Trying, I will pray that you have the strength to bear your cross and for a change of heart for your spouse to accept the Church’s teaching. It can happen. I have seen it in my own family. God bless you.

    2. Trying, It seems to me that you have already accepted the teachings, but are torn by the fact that you cannot proclaim and practice that acceptance openly at the risk of losing your husband. My only suggestion is to pray for your husband to have a conversion of heart on this matter and that he can accept you fully, just as you want to accept Christ’s Church fully.

      It took 18 years from when I entered the Catholic Church until I fully accepted and reconciled myself to all of the Churches teachings.

      Keep praying and remember Jesus loves you.

    3. Many people who accept the teachings still struggle to live them. Confession and growth are all part of the picture. It is the gleeful rejection that is most problematic and it does not sound as if that is you.

    4. Trying – if you can’t accept every teaching of the Church, it’s still best to not throw the baby out with the bath water by leaving Her.

      I’m a cradle Catholic, practicing, teaching, participating every-which-way, and I still have problems with some teachings. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t. I do know that we pray constantly to have our eyes opened to the truth and for God to please be patient with us as we come to grips with beginning to believe and agree with things we don’t right now.

      Stick with it – it’ll all come around in the end. Bear that cross. It’s worth it.

      As for the spouse divorcing you thing, that’s something you would need to take up with a priest that has some experience in that area, and possibly a marriage counselor, which I’m not generally in favor of, but it might be helpful.

  5. Serves them right. I think it’s pretty funny. I wonder if Noter Dame and George Town and Marquette will pass secular muster as religious institutions!!! Too bad that the bishops themselves couldn’t do the job like they were supposed to have done. Pretty embarassing.

  6. Great post! We each need to apply the same examination to our own lives and the way we live our “Catholic” idendity. As a previous post points out, that is not always easy, however, we must do it as best we can. All is possible with God.

    1. Yes, it is one thing to struggle but it is another thing to go on calling good what God calls evil. And, as I am sure you agree, this is the real heart of dissent.

  7. I’ve never understood why the Catholic Church is so terrified of using her magisterial “power” to discipline universities or insitutions that claim to be Catholic but are everything else but that. I don’t leave the Church because I know it to be Christ’s Church and I have faith, but honestly I can understand why so many Catholics leave the Church for more conservative and unafraid churches. If a Baptist university acted the way most Catholic ones do you could be sure the faithful would protest. Catholicism is getting to be like American Judaism. Just a loosely observed set of rituals and feast days. It’s like the Church has no spine. Very depressing.

    1. Yes, it is a mystery of the modern Church. I usually attribute the lack of the fraternal correction at every level of the Church to be a general timidity in the matter of authority. Our culture has a real problem with authority, not just being under ut but also using it. Many parents suffer the same timidity and hence we are raising a generation of increasingly spoiled and incorrigable children.

      1. The fourth commandment is often presented as only “Honor thy father and thy mother.”

        There needs to be more “…that it mayest go well with thee, and thou mayest live long upon the earth.”

  8. Why would a Catholic organization prevent unionizing? Have we too quickly forgotten Dorothy Day?

      1. Why would such workers want to unionize? Unions are, by their very nature, adversarial and divisive. They do not advance the cause of unity, but are inherently us vs. them.

        They do not advance the cause of justice, but have proven themselves repeatedly to advance selfish-interests to the detriment of others, using threats and extortion (e.g. strikes) by which to gain power and extract material wealth. Just look at the UAW, just look at the public unions, they bankrupted two car companies and are well on their way to bankrupting local, state, and federal governments, reducing the standard of living of citizens who have to pay the taxes that go to enrich union workers and well-to-do young pensioners.

        That is the antithesis of caritas in veritate.

  9. It sounds like you’ve made some New Year’s resolutions. I believe we all have to resolve to embrass Catholism in its entirety. Not just in our Universities, Lower education, parishes, and charitable organizations but also in the very foundation of our families. This may be a stretch but if we continue the government will decide how we should live out our faith in the privacyof our homes. It is one thing to be obedient to the Church and her teachings, it is another thing to have ‘LOVING’ obedience. Where is the love? Amen.

    1. As always, we should be be fearful of Government intrusion into Church matters because Govt always grows and becomes more intrusive. I sense that religious liberty is really threatened these days and to some degree we have brought it on ourselves.

  10. My uncle had several hundred acres here in Texas, but he would never take government subsidies (or grants) because he did not want them to tell him what to grow, when to grow it and how much. If you can avoid letting the government in the door (eg. taking or borrowing money from them) you are better off.
    It is wrong for them to tell religious institutions what to do, but I think it is only going to get worse. It is a shame so many Catholic universities have sold out on their Catholice identity– allowing pro-abortion politicians to speak, allowing opposing views to the Faith to have a voice–they have really sold out. Very sad, because they did not stay strong but preferred to be political correct.

  11. I wonder if faux Catholic institutions can be sued for defamation of character? After all, they are claiming to represent me as a Catholic.

  12. Excellent article regarding the lack of Catholicity at most of the institutions in the U.S. As a former student from an unnamed “Catholic” university I can attest to the lack of faithfulness rampant on many of these campuses.

    Great picture by the way at the top! You should put a caption on there, from where it was taken and what is happening. “Cardinal DiNardo oversees the Oath of Fidelity at Wyoming Catholic College that all faculty must sweat to.”


      1. LOL at “sweaT” to

        No doubt Charles meant to type “sweaR” to – however when it comes to living and defending the Church, there surely is a good deal of sweat involved.

  13. @ recovering liberal. You are too funy. I like it “defamation of character. I’ll have to use that one..

  14. Wow, thank you Monsignor. I had never made the connection between Abram’s flight to Egypt and “the world”. It makes sense. I had perhaps always had such reverence for the great patriarch that I had failed to see the message God was writing in this story. Thank you wholeheartedly and God bless you.

  15. I wonder how much of the lack of Catholic-ness in Catholic Institutions can be attributed to the catechesis (or lack thereof) received by those in leadership roles? Msgr Pope has observed that the parents of CCD/Faith Formation students often are as much in need of catechesis as are the children themselves.

      1. A few years ago I pointed out to someone that IVF is a conflict with the Church’s position on the Sanctity of Life, and explained why. I, a Lutheran, explaining Catholic doctrine to a cradle Catholic active in her parish. What’s up with THAT?

  16. Thanks for this article. It was very thought provoking. I am guessing that the length of the article prevented you from discussing the issue of the teachers forming a union. The Catholic Church is very clear about the right of workers to form a union. So, would it be correct to say that the school was not practicing the teachings of the Church on Social Justice when they tried to prevent such a union?

    1. I am not exactly sure of all the details reagrding the union question. WHat you have said is certainly true in a general sense, namely that works have such a right. However, there may have been some issues with the particular union in question. But as a general norm you are most correct in pointing this out and that the social justice norms were indeed violated.

  17. What you have said needed to be said. We should all police our own institutions or a higher civil authority will do so, and this applies to the Boards of the colleges you cite, as well as state boards of higher education. The constitution does not give the federal government authority to govern education, and there’s a good reason for that. (The Feds just take care of the money they distribute and the taxes they receive.) But if we aren’t careful the states and the people will lose their authority by default.
    Regarding the union question. In Kansas the teachers in public education are afforded an opportunity to form Professional Associations (e.g. Kansas National Education Association), and have almost all the privileges of unions except they cannot strike and ultimately the Board of the college can offer unilateral contracts, but the collective bargaining can be a useful tool for the Board as well as for the teachers. I think many states have such an alternative to “unions.” There are also disadvantages, which is why most 4-year and research institutions do not have such professional associations.

  18. Father,

    While I strongly agree with you about the need for a Catholic Identity for Catholic Institutions, I am concerned by the distinction made by the National Labor Relations Board:

    “the NLRB reviewed College statements and course content, finding “that the purpose of the College is secular and not the ‘propagation of a religious faith’.”

    Ours is a faith of works as well as belief. We are to preach the gospel through our actions – even more than through our words. It is our actions that give people a reason to ask us for “the reason for the hope that is in us”. Thus our secular actions can lead people to our religious persuasion.

    in line with the NLRB’s logic, one might argue that our soup kitchens, our hospitals, our charity outreaches and, as in this case, our schools are secular because they are not wrapped in evangelical words but rather evangelical actions. (Obviously, I am not speaking directly about Manhattan College since I am as ignorant as yourself about the details)

    In the future, a future drowning in relativism, one of the tasks of the Church may very well be keeping the promise of reason alive. The Church may end up being the last refuge of the scientist and the mathematician. IMHO, this would be a valid Church role – not the only role – but a valid role just the same.

    When we consider the dark ages leading up to and incorporating the fall of the Roman civilization, we are forced to recognize the role of monks in preserving and transcribing not only religious works but secular knowledge as well. Their efforts led to the flowering of Christendom.

    Again, I am not arguing against Catholic identity. I simply find it difficult to separate Catholic secular actions from the fullness of the Catholic faith.

    On a separate note:
    Like you, I know nothing of Manhattan College but somewhere in the back of my mind is a half remembered dispute between Cardinal Egan and Manhattan College where the Archdiocese revoked the schools Catholic credentials. Perhaps the NLRB is confirming rather than trampling on the archdiocese’s prerogative.

    I found a link to the dispute with the diocese
    Has the archdiocese rescinded this decision?

    1. I share your concern about the NLRB and any government intrusion. I do not revel in any of the stories I recounted but simply recognize in them a kind of biblical motif wherein God uses “a foolish and unknowing nation” to humble his people since they will not repsond in any other way. It is clearly a blunt instrument and one that will likely do more damage where it is not necessary. We’re in for some tough sledding if the govt gets increasingly involved.

      I also agree that the Church’s purpose in not merely religious and sacred/secular distinctions are often artificial. We do the work of Christ in explicit ways as well as in less explicit ways.

      I hope you are right about the Arch of NY having already handled this if it was necessary. In the end the Church should be self correcting and not “need” outside entites to insist that we order ourselves rightly

    2. Just checked your link it would seem that Manhattan College is a different entity from Marymount Manhattan College. Both are founded and run by different orders. If you google on both names you can see the details. Thanks for the link that helps to clarify and also testify to the fact that three Colleges have in fact lost their status under ex corde ecclesiae. This was something unknown to me.

  19. As a Manhattan Jasper, this is so disheartening. At the core of this is the quest for government grants, federal and state, and colleges everywhere sought to qualify for those grants and adjusted charters, boards, and faculties to do so. It’s very important for colleges to be financially independent, even if it means that those colleges are smaller than they would like. This was so disappointing, but you could see it happening in the 70s and 80s. I feel especially sorry for the deLaSalle Brothers.

  20. As a Jesuit institution, doesn’t Georgetown fall outside the pale of the ADW’s authority? If so, I would expect G-town to remain a bastion of relativism for some time to come – the Jesuits are hurting and have been for almost a century.

  21. You go, Msgr Pope! what an eye-opener this might be for parents searching out truly Catholic schools, to say nothing of the battle I can hardly wait to see the non-Catholic Catholic colleges attempt with this!

  22. Msgr. Pope said: ” I sense that religious liberty is really threatened these days and to some degree we have brought it on ourselves.”

    I cannot agree more. Catholic leadership tried to remedy the pathologies of secularism by supporting secular solutions in the form of government programs … and it has confused the flock … they can no longer distinguish between God and Caesar.

    I wrote the following to our local Catholic newpaper on the subject. It was not published, unfortunately:

    “Tell the Bishop, but not my Mom”

    I quit going to mass. I felt guilty going to mass and not putting anything in the collection basket, yet I couldn’t support an organization I feel does more harm than good.

    The Bible tells us that we are our brothers’ keepers. We are to give shelter to the homeless, clothing to the naked, food to the hungry and minister to the sick and lonely. However, a society largely guided by the Bible can take care of the few brothers that need assistance. Over the last 50 years, Americans have gradually found God’s Word too restrictive and become secularized. As a result, the number of needy Americans exploded.

    Church leadership should have maintained faith in God. They should have redoubled efforts to highlight cause and effect: Turn from God and God will not punish you, but you will most assuredly suffer. Instead, leadership, overwhelmed perhaps, chose expediency and put their faith in government.

    In a prior letter, I attempted to explain that only a free person could be charitable. I ended by asking, “If it is moral and serves God’s purpose that government should tax our money for charitable works, would it not be more moral for the Church to do so? In contrast, if the Church is unwilling to use Its authority to tax us in Christ’s name for works of charity, is it moral to support empowering baser authorities?” Unless I missed it, I never received a direct answer and could find none in Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical “Caritas in veritate.” He acknowledged the Church’s mission to give witness to His truth could be jeopardized by the corruption of temporal power, but ignored how that same corruption causes governments to ignore that same truth.

    When I pray, I pray that Pope Benedict will be inspired by God to declare The Declaration of Independence to be inspired by God. In it, our Founders acknowledged God’s ultimate authority, listed the limits of government authority, explained how King George had exceeded those limits and asked God’s assistance in their endeavor to establish a government more aligned with His wishes. They were successful and gave thanks to God. Only continued prayers can sustain that which was originally accomplished through prayer.

    We live in a country where we have the freedom to do what is right, what God asks. If instead we do what we please, our days of freedom are numbered. To paraphrase Matt 11:30, His yoke is easiest, and His burden lightest when accepted by all. Radio host Dennis Prager listed our shared values as “In God We Trust”, “Liberty” and “E Pluribus Unum” and called them our “American Trinity”. We must use our liberty to reach our potential. Then we must use that potential to serve God and each other in a unity of purpose. Instead, Americans are turning in greater numbers to trust government, a human institution, to assure their prosperity and happiness. Government erodes liberty by forcibly taking from some for the benefit of others. Unity is impossible with the growing enmity between those saddled by and those enriched by unchecked government power.

    I cannot support the Church until It follows the principles It tried to instill in me during 12 years of Catholic education. If I am wrong, I place my soul at risk of eternal damnation. If I am right, millions of souls have been, and will continue to be, put unnecessarily at risk.

    1. Jeff,
      Authentic reform of the Church must come from staying inside of it and working to change it, not from splitting from it and demanding it to change. Luther tried the second method, and the consequences have been grave, both for him and for the world. God has not given up on His bride the Church because of the bad behavior of some of her members, so neither should you. God bless you.

  23. Another example, which shows the Christians conforming to pagan society, is found in 2 Maccabees chapter 4.
    This chapter shows how those in Jerusalem became Helenists and how their society persecuted them as we see now. Later in Acts we see Paul debating the Helenists. So are now Helenists? I believe we are to the extreme.

  24. Now Msgr, to be totally fair, a major part of the problem is not with Church institutions but with the law. Let’s take the Catholic Charities case that you reference. You don’t give a citation, but I assume it is Catholic Charities of Sacramento v. Superior Court as that is the most significant California case on the question. If not, please let me know what case you’re referencing. CC of Sac involved a religious exemption similar to that in Catholic Charities of NY v. Serio. Both require an organization seeking religious exemption to meet four criteria: (a) The inculcation of religious values is the purpose of the entity, (b) The entity primarily employs persons who share the religious tenets of the entity, (c) The entity serves primarily persons who share the religious tenets of the entity, and (d) The entity is a nonprofit organization under the IRS.

    In both Serio and CC of Sac, the Church lost because of the definition of religious exemption. Charities would tend to fail prong (c) because, by their nature, they help people regardless of their faith. Arguably, they would not meet (a) either, under secular thinking that doesn’t recognize preaching the Gospel through actions rather than words. It’s not always (and under the recent challenges almost never) a question of faithfulness to Church teaching, but rather a question of narrow legal definitions biased against broad protections of religious liberty.

    1. Thanks for this. I think, as I indicated in the articles I am not stipulating that the Judges in any of these cases are fair in their judgments. I don’t know all the details. owever, few will argue that we DO have significant problems with Catholic identity in my of our insitututions such as colleges, hospitals and social outreach.

      1. OK. I was simply posting to clarify that, in at least one of the examples you cited, the problem was not the Catholic identity of the institution (or even, for that matter, the judge). Instead it was the law. Under the law, not even Mother Teresa could have gotten an exemption if the Missionaries of Charity did not primarily serve Catholics…. and I suspect that they do not.

  25. Let all catholics and all other religions have a march soon in Washington,DC. It is time for to protest to our
    government and our elcted officals notice.

  26. Our Lord was a leader and as such taught us the way (right way), it is for us to follow, however; we are a people that need a leader or we will stray. All these questions about Catholic Colleges seem to all lead to the leadership, we recently had pro abortion gatherings, Obama speaking, and the Government questioning activities. I would like to see the leadership step up and lead or step down and be led, which seems to be what they are causing the whole Church to have done to (be led), by the Government, I am sure Bishops and Monsigners can be removed, demoted, or even excommunicated for failure to fulfill their duties. Let’s not blame who does not need blamed, it all comes down to the leadership from parents to the Pope.

  27. Thank God for Priests like yourself. Keep God’s work. As a lay person, I recently decided to wear a Cross and a Miraculous Medal outside my shirt instead of inside and since my hair is thinning, I need to wear a hat – my new hat says “I do Believe” instead of “Go Patriots”. The response from strangers has been amazing and 99% positive. I do sense a new springtime coming!

    Again thanks for your leadership and service Father


  28. I agree with Msgr. Pope in his statement. Back when my sisters & brothers attended Catholic colleges, there was no problem that they were attending thoroughly Catholic colleges.

    In the 1960’s the issue of “academic freedom” was bantered about by professors wanting to teach material that was out of the norm. This “virus” spread rapidly to include Catholic institutions of high learning. The Land O Lakes accord allowed academia to spread their errant philosophy. No one was keeping tabs after that, I’m sure!

    I’m glad the government has spoken up but it shouldn’t have happened this way. The Catholic Campaign for Human Developement is suffering from this same ill. We won’t tread any further into that “minefield”!

  29. And to think, the Holy Father personally addressed this in his visit to the US in 2008, at Catholic University of America!

  30. Dear Msgr Pope,

    On a personal note, I just want to commend you for such a great website. I have been reading it for several months and it is so refreshing Catholic. It is the kind of Catholic that resonates with my heart. Faithful to Christ, Faithful to his church, Faithful to his teaching. It shows great leadership. I honestly mean that. Down here in the O.C, south of Los Angeles, we are drowning in the muck of a liberal bishop who treats the church here as a politically correct business which gives platitudes to the Pro-Life movement, platitudes to traditional marriage, platitudes to church doctrine. He gives just enough Catholic shine to play the part, but no one calls him on it. The one exception in the media that I came across is a local secular newspaper, one that is filled with adult advertisements and is found free in sandwich shops, in which had a headline on the Catholic Bishop of Orange. I read the article, expecting the usual Catholic bashing, but instead the author, pointed his finger so to speak, directly at the bishop, noting such things as his living in a private mansion (I seem to remember the number of restrooms ran in the double digits) and employing sushi chiefs from high end restaurants, and noting quite strongly that the bishop was using the church to advance his own comfortable lifestyle. I wanted to argue with the author, but his statements were, well, factual. Hard to argue with real estate facts.

  31. To all,
    When are the Catholic Cardinals and the Bishops going to wake up and start enforcing Catholic doctrine on Catholic campuses? From the promotion of abortion, cuddling anti life politicians, to Catholic universities hosting plays such as the Vagina Monologues, the hirarchy within the Catholic Church regarding its responsibilities to the teaching of the Church is a disgrace. And the Church wonders why so many catholic leave the Church? It may be that the reason many Catholics lose their religious identity while in College, is becasue the Catholic may be attending a Catholic “Institution of moral destruction.” (IMD) I received my daughters high school placement test score – she placed in the 99th percentile. She’ll make a great engineer or scientist some day. She will not be attending a Catholic IMD.

  32. Dear Msgr. Pope, it is unlikely, but I would wish that my pastor would read your presentation or become aware of how his actions (or timidity) have led him to oppose efforts by our laity. We tried to “stand up” and disseminate literature regarding the correct moral position of Catholicism on gay marriage and abortion. He maintains that these issues are “too political” to be presented openly on church grounds. He seems to be concerned about “offending” some parishioners. We love and pray for him and he is a major force in our current high level of evangelization success, but he is also quite human.

  33. Thank you for this Msgr. Pope; it’s a perfect response to my Catholic friends and relatives, as well as for my non-Catholic friends who’ve asked about the church allowing Notre Dame in particular to call itself a Catholic institution. God bless you.

  34. Msgr. Pope; thanks for all your efforts concerning Catholic identity. My prayers are with you. We must draw a line in the sand and force all universities to declare their alligance to God and the Catholic Church.
    I went to Boston College High and Boston College, One of my 8 children went to Fairfield U and one went to Assumption C in Worcester, Ma. I’m not sure either got a Catholic education.
    I need to know where my 17 grandchildren can find a CATHOLIC school of higher learning.
    God bless you, Rich Hickey

  35. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you! We continue to pray for our Priests, Bishops, Cardinals and Pope that the Holy Spirit will fill them, as the Apostles were filled at Pentecost. We are grateful to God to be a member of His Mystical Body, and though we suffer together, we will also triumph together! God will do what He wants, when He wants and with whom He wants to accomplish the coming of His Kingdom.
    In the Will of God!

  36. Well said Msgr. Pope! Thank you!
    To Trying, may I recommend two books for you to read: “The Imitation of Christ” by Thomas A Kempis and “Jesus of Nazareth” by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. I will prayer for you and your family.

  37. Dear Msgr. Pope. Thank you for your courage in presenting this ever present issue. I agree, that perhaps this is a necessary step to call back our institutions to assert themselves as truly Catholic. It will require of them a serious reflection of their Catholic identity and perhaps enable them to courageously assert themselves. There is nothing wrong with admitting fault. It actually shows conviction and good purpose. We are in dire need today of clear Catholic teaching in our schools. This needs to be done without fear and with great conviction. It has always been part of our Catholic history. Present day institutions of higher learning should not be afraid to follow in the footsteps of the “greats”. Decisions that will require of them, going “against the tide”! Once the decisions are made, mission statements and course descriptions are changed to reflect good Catholic teaching, they may actually be surprised to the positive results. I taught for 20 years in Catholic schools. I would love to see once again that comfort so often present in the classroom of those teaching and learning the Catholic faith out of love, conviction and fidelity! After all, it is our life and frankly, we should get into the habit of not constantly apologizing for it! Peace!

  38. Thank you for your blog and yes it is time for Catholics to stand up and self correct those who use our Church’s name in vain. Cleaning house always “hurts” but it is a cleaning of house out of love, not just for those in error, but for those who are in union. We must not shrink back from the Christian mandate to “rebuke” those in error for the truth will always set free.

  39. The Notre Dame is reviewed, the Bishop was outspoken over years about the necessity of that university to adhere to Magisterium protocols. Notre Dame rationalized the issue away (ignored him). Can there be a point in time when the Church should designate any “Catholic” agency as “outside”? However, there appears to be a significant problem in that there is no common position or central authority among the Bishops … only consensus … and morality cannot be a consensus affair. So is the alternative is to rely upon the Pope to edict or imprimature “Cathiolicity” of agencies?

    . If there are issues with the IRS because the Catholic organization is focused upon acts of mercy to the general public (and not exclusivly to Catholics), then maybe someone should consider the Salvation Army and its position re: the IRS. There doesn’t appear to be a problem. Perhaps there is something missing in the Catholic Charities model?

  40. Nothing makes me HAPPIER than see a so call Catholic College been exile into paying taxes and I hope the charges are GRANDFATHER TO ITS CREATION, by the same token I hope soon Notre Dame is thrown into the fire after its DISGRACE of inviting a so call president who is a KNOWN COMUNIST SUPPORTER his dame an ANTI AMERICAN DISCRAGE and the two of them and their children’s members of a disgraceful ANTI WHITE, ANTI CATHOLIC (NAMING THE POPE AS THE SATAN ON EARTH BY THE SO CALL MINISTER WRIGHT) AND ANTI AMERICAN this disgraces that have been going in the colleges should have been stopped by our own church by ELIMINATING AFFILIATION and SUPPORT long ago.

  41. Two observations. Years ago Bishop Sheen advised Catholic parents NOT to send their children to Catholic colleges, where they would lose their faith. Send them rather to secular colleges where they would have to defend it.

    The chief difficulty with Catholic colleges, it seems to me, is that bishops have little direct control. This is particularly true of colleges run by religious orders, e.g., the Society of Jesus.
    Bishops have much on their plates respecting the Catholic life of their flock. A good book to read, to get an idea of the difficulties, is Gordon Zahn’s CATHOLICS AND HITLER’S WARS. Had the German bishops – many exceedingly honorable men – been more outspoken, would they not have drawn down the gangster wrath of the Nazis on their flocks? Undoubtedly, yes.
    Consider the lady having difficulty with her husband over the Church’s teachings [probably about the Pill]. This is the problem that finally led Bishop Shannon to resign from his post. Bishop Shannon did not try to split the difference. He saw that he could not continue to deny use of the Pill. He did the honorable thing. And is an example to his brother bishops [and their apes the college presidents].

  42. Way to go, Msgr! Or shall I say, MeSsenGeR?

    Let’s put back all authentic Catholic religious sisters, brothers and priests into the classrooms so we can again enjoy those glory days of authentic Catholic education where I came from.
    I am glad that my son graduated from a Jesuit University in Spokane, WA but regretted the fact the he lost his Catholic faith in the process. I wish I had known about the Cardinal Newman Society then. I have so much to pray for. My cross-bearing continues…but happy to bear it for the glory of God! Pray for me. Thanks.
    God bless you, Msgr!

    1. Dear Fe, so sorry your son lost his faith at Gonzaga–there…I said it. I’m surprised at that as one can routinely see their president speaking on EWTN, which permits no nonsense on its programming. But as this discussion hints, tenured academics can often trump their leadership or bury them in meritless lawsuits that the school’s counsel pines to settle. Perhaps your experience was in the past before this fine priest took the helm of that university. But I don’t think Gonzaga is listed in the CNS guide–no Jesuit schools are. Let’s pray things get–or continue to get–right there. Long ago, with the imfamous Land-O-Lakes declaration, our bishops failed us. The destruction of your son’s faith rests squarely on their shoulders (those who reigned at the time–and that is SIN) and rubs off on those who sit today as ordinaries but lack the courage to fight for the name “Catholic.” They are not shepherds but wolves in sheep’s clothing.

  43. The problem is soundly our bishops. The last time they showed any spine–and it was for the wrong reasons–was when they collectively and illicitly suppressed the old latin rite in the late 1960s. I recall priests who privately confided that they were forbidden to say it–and by whom? Their ordinary–that’s who. Now this thread isn’t about the Extraordinary Rite, but if our bishops would be leaders and men instead of mamby-pamby stand-for-nothings (except, of course, what tends to deconstruct the Roman Catholic faith) the faithful such as myself would be a lot less frustrated. It’s really very simple: Rome sets the tone and all they have to do is follow. But now that we have a truly faithful and authoritative pontiff even that seems to be too much for many of them (not all). They obstruct the Magisterium, permit apostacy and foster moral indifference when they could act, and lead their faithful into the abyss. May God have mercy on them.

  44. Father, thank you so much! Do you know anything about ACE (Alliance Catholic Education) out of Notre Dame. It just arrived in our Catholic elementary and high schools of our diocese, and because it is out of Notre Dame, I am suspicious. They (ND) has been involved in so much of the Alinsky community organizing over the years, I greatly fear it is a direct descendent of this line of thinking. I fear a slow brain-washing of young, innocent children, making them into “progressive” social justice advocates (not true s.j. as in Caritas in Veritate). More of the secularization of our Church happens in the social advocacy groups that join progressive community organizing which supports gay marriage, pro-choice, etc. I believe it is “works” without God (like is mentioned in “Soul of the Apostolate”) and hurting the souls of the involved church members, as well as the souls of the poor they attempt to help. PLEASE KEEP SPEAKING OUT. I’m doing what I can to study and fight it in my diocese.

    1. Dear Jo, you are so right to be suspicious. We took our daughter out of Catholic school as she was being taught moral relativism by the sisters there!!! Drugs and even sexual problems existed there. At least they wore a habit–which is more than I can say for most religious these days. But the school and diocese suffers from rot from within. We now homeschool using Seton’s outstanding program. It’s work but is a labor of love. Seton’s is an outstanding program–they read great classical Catholic literature to facilitate their lessons instead of Clockwork Orange and other such psychobable in an effort to brainwash our children into apostacy. As mainstream Catholicism continues make their institutions essentially unusable by the truly faithful, we have at least some alternatives. I am Catholic–but will not cooperate with or support what is presented to me by our “leadership” that tends to destroy our faith.

  45. Dear Msgr. Pope,

    THANK YOU for saying what desperately needs to be said. Your posting is not edgy, it is the TRUTH. That more of your Brethren don’t proclaim this same truth, proclaim it loudly and often, has mystified me for years. May God bless you with health and fortitude so that you may continue to fight the good fight.

  46. Thank you Msgr. Pope for writing on this issue and telling the truth! We can see where Catholic pandering to the secular culture at large has taken us. Christ did not expect to be popular with popular culture, neither should we, eh? I am afraid that intellectual pride has taken precedence over faithfulness. This is extremely sad but also angering as so often actual faithful Catholics have been demeaned in one way of another even by their own clergy! I am a revert of 18 years, having been out for 25, and coming back to a Church in disarray. I don’t really get it – that priests, bishops, theologians, and laity who no longer believe in the magisterium and true teachings of the Church try to undermine the Church instead of being honest and just leaving. I left the Church when I no longer believed, I did not expect the Church to convert to my way of thinking. It is clear to me that it is only by the grace of God and the workings of the Holy Spirit that the Church has maintained the integrity of its dogmas and doctrines…we humans are way to frail. We must pray for those who are so lost. We must also maintain our voice and speak out…what they do is dishonest, undermining, and extremely unjust to Catholics who struggle day in and day out to live their lives in faithfulness in the midst of a world that denigrates them. Please do keep speaking out and encouraging your fellow faithful priests and religious to do the same. I as one of the laity will pledge myself to do the same and to support faithful religious in every way I can. God bless.

  47. Thank you, Msgr Pope, for so eloquently reminding our Catholic collleges that God expects them to not only teach about justice but also to act justly when seeking privilege for themselves.

  48. Msgr. Pope’s observations are thought provoking and right on. Notwithstanding that I find it shocking that a government agency arrogates to itself the right to define what is religious This represents a serious assault on the First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion. Where is the ACLU when you really need it?

  49. Thank you, Msgr.Pope, for your straightforward and very much needed words.Thank God for those colleges like Thomas Aquinas College and other Catholic colleges who remain faithful to the magesterium.

  50. Very well said. This should help to strengthen the hand of those students who, as at Georgetown University, resisted the university administration’s weakness and pushed, instead, to witness for their faith by retaining (and in many cases restoring) crucifixes in the classrooms. This is the same university which acceded to President Obama’s demand that “IHS” be covered when he gave his address there. How utterly craven, especially when compared to the sacrifices of the Jesuit martyrs in North America! It really just makes one want to vomit.

  51. Caeser’s insistance on Catholic institutions to “prove” their catholicity is not out of any adherence to moral consistency….it’s what happens when metropolitan and state governments get desparate for tax dollars! In this case, staggering government debt can be a good thing…when it forces Caesar to come calling for his due. If it forces secular “catholic” institutions to adjust course (or make a 180), then this is good. God writes straight in crooked lines.

  52. Thank you for your thoughtful post…it’s long overdue

    Two good articles of note regarding the secularization of Catholic higher education:

    The Fatal Blow – The Case of the Stinking Corpse
    Fr. Martin (Marty) Moleski, S.J. (2008)

    Roots of abandoning non-secular nature of Jesuit colleges and universities…1965 – St. Louis University

    Who Owns Jesuit Colleges and Universities?
    Vincent T. O’Keefe, S.J. (1992)

  53. Thanks to all of you who have responded most recently to this article. There was a second wave of comments that came in after the Cardinal Newman Society placed the link on their site. So many comments have come in that it is impossible for me to answer them all. Just let me say I have read them and appreciate the support, the challenges and the clarifications you have provided. God bless you all.

  54. I suppose I am naive in believing that those going to Catholic colleges want a Catholic Education.
    If they are not receiving this, why aren’t they complaining? As a parent I would not pay the high
    price for a Catholic college if it is no different that a public college. This is all very surprising to me.
    Also, I feel ashamed that the motivation to restore Catholic identity to Catholic colleges is money.
    I love my Catholic faith and would think that those who run these colleges would love this faith also!

  55. Reply to a papal knight: We also took our 3rd and 4th children OUT of Catholic schools and are homeschooling, using a combination of Seton, Angelicum, Kolbe, and Mother of Divine Grace, along with some of our own. Yes, it is a lot of work, but we truly feel it is worth it. Our Catholic HS also had drug/sex problems, and the school dances did not discourage inappropriate behavior, like “grinding”, the theology program was the weakest of all subjects, they encouraged athletics above all else, and the books on the Literature list were indeed disgusting. You would think with all the books out there they could find some without cussing, sex, etc. And then there were the teachers with the Obama stickers… I finally couldn’t stand it any more, and was sorry I didn’t home school the others. They did, however, choose to attend REAL Catholic colleges: University of Dallas and John Paul the Great (San Diego).

  56. In college search, there comes various rankings. The ranking is helpful to those who wants to know more about the school. The ranking is also a meaningful feedback to the school administrators how the school stands.

    Do we have a “C-score” somewhere?

  57. Msgr. Pope, With all due respect. Pray for the Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary ( Jesus Mother )
    As God had ordered at the Apparition of Fatima. For the Pope and all the Bishops of that time and through out these 9 decades ( 90 years ) and yet, not done. Who has lost the faith in God ? The Popes and the Bishops ? What have they got
    to loose ? There Soles and those of many others ? Where have the Shepherds gone.
    I thank God for all the blessing he has bestow upon me.
    In Christ, God Bless.
    Rudy H. Arambula

  58. God Bless you Msgr. Pope, You do have the support of many………We all must keep praying!!! JHM

  59. Pardon me for intruding and thank you for indulging a man in his late seventies. An excellent education is what an individual needs to prepare himself/herself for good paying employment upon graduation. The academic demands will require personal discipline if it is a difficult major (where the money is!). My wife went to an expensive all girls Catholic college that offered limited majors and excellent Catholic doctrine courses. Her major in education was a great help in training our five children , but would probably not have afforded her more then a modest income had she been on her own. She wanted to earn a business degree ,which wasn’t offered. She had graduated from a public high school . In both her case and mine, we attended Mass and received the sacraments in grade school and high school . Training in religion is primarily the responsibility of parents not of schools. Interestingly enough I graduated from the Naval Academy, a very secular school, and yet I was required to attend a church service of my choice on Sunday.

    My point is that getting to know Jesus Christ is a personal not an academic responsibility. He saved my life in the military and He is my best friend. If you don’t like other’s ways of conducting their life, pray for them but don’t let their bohemian ways cloud your own goals.

  60. John F. you are right that it is the parent’s responsibility to educate the child, especially religion, but I personally know people who sent their children to an inauthentic Catholic College and their children were brain-washed into thinking so much that the Catholic Church teaches is not-true, not good for people, that they should water down their beliefs to what feels good and never feel guilty or the need for confession or other sacraments, and that maybe God is just a theory. Pro-abortion groups are allowed on campus, including planned parenthood, plays like the Vagina Monologues, etc. I have heard people say their second child would NOT go to a Catholic college, after their first had become an atheist after attending University of San Diego. The goal of having Jesus as a best friend is wonderful, but who can do that if they are being told Jesus is a community organizer, and we owe people retribution for our father’s sins, and permanent, taxed welfare is part of our Christian beliefs? I would never say you can’t get a great education from a secular university, and that a person’s faith is a good thing to see in such a place, I’m just saying it is criminal for the Catholic Church to support a university that claims to be Catholic when in reality it is not, and instead of building up the Kingdom of God, it is tearing it down, student by student.

  61. Praise God for Msgr. Pope! I wish every bishop would read this and take to heart his message and act accordingly regarding universities which have lost their Catholic identity.

  62. Thank you Monsignor Pope for your honest statements about any organization that calls itself Catholic but does not practice our Catholic Faith. I’m encouraged to see that the Cardinal Newman Society is publicizing institutions that are truly Catholic that promote and practice our faith. It would be good to see the CNS publish the minimum set of standards that an institution must have to call itself “Catholic”. That would apply to educational institutions as well as hospitals or any other organization that claims to be Catholic.

    I am 100% in favor of taxing those instituitons that do not practice our faith at the same rate as secular institutions. They truly are no longer “Catholic”. Bob Ulicki – California

  63. Interesting comments, but, please can we stop with the anecdotal evidence about Catholic colleges that aren’t really Catholic. Even the Msgr. fails to name names.

    As a new to the faith convert, I would like to know exactly which colleges are Catholic in name only.

  64. For the Catholic Colleges/Universities who DO follow the Magisterium of the Church, see the Cardinal Newman list that is published each year. All other “catholic colleges” do not pledge adherence to the Magisterium. Some schools have their theology teachers only sign; others have every professor on campus sign. My question is, why would a Catholic school NOT sign this. Even more, why should they have to? If they are NOT loyal to the Chuch/Pope, aren’t they protestants????

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