Identifying as a Catholic University

Have you ever wondered what the ‘Catholic’ part of USF means? You might ask: Is it actually important?
Recalling the beginning of USF’s Mission statement: “The core mission of the University is to promote learning in the Jesuit Catholic tradition”, USF clearly claims the title of ‘Catholic,’ but one may wonder what the essential elements of any Catholic college are and the implications that follow.
In 1990, former Pope John Paul II gave the adress Ex Corde Ecclesiae (From the Heart of the Church). The foundation of the document’s message can be captured here: “It is the honour and responsibility of a Catholic university to consecrate itself without reserve to the cause of truth.” This may seem broad and well accepted even at non-Catholic universities, so we must dig deeper into what makes a Catholic University unique in its identity.
In another section, John Paul II specifically argues that a Catholic University ought to promote the message of Christianity and adhere to the teachings of the Catholic Church. It should be noted that the recognition of the Christian message includes promoting or at least respecting the Church’s stance on “matters of faith and morals.” This may be actualized in official University programs and promotions of certain organizations or individuals. One may then ask what happens when a University sponsored organization or University policy violates these morals and values?
John Paul II says something regarding this matter directly: “If need be, a Catholic University must have the courage to speak uncomfortable truths which do not please public opinion, but which are necessary to safeguard the authentic good of society.” What is striking here is that his address includes an institutional voice to the ‘uncomfortable’ truths of the day. This may include social issues such as the injustice of high unemployment or the unfair treatment of non-citizens in our own country. It may also include other moral issues such as the immorality of homosexual relations and the promotion of the virtue of chastity. Both students and the Institution have a right to speak up against the immorality and injustices of our vurrent times, and to promote authentic Catholic values and morals.
One learns from the Papal document that the Christian message lives at the heart of any Catholic University, including USF. How then is the ‘Catholic’ identity of USF reflected in its members, faculty and students included, and in its institutional voice? Do people outside of the University view USF as a college that remains true to the teachings of the Catholic Church? There are numerous examples at USF which reflect its ‘Catholicity,’ and perhaps there are areas of improvement.
Either way, I personally urge every Catholic at USF to examine more carefully Ex Corde Ecclesiae and continue to promote the richness of the Catholic Faith in all ways possible. And I urge all, Catholic or not, to grow in awareness of what the ‘Catholic’ part of our Mission and what that implies. We are USF, we are a Catholic school, and we ought to always learn about and remember our school’s identity. If we are to change the world from here, then we first and foremost need to know who ‘we’ are.

4 thoughts on “Identifying as a Catholic University

  1. The uncomfortable truth is not that homosexuality is immoral, but that the Church and other religious organizations promote homophobia. The truth to Catholic identity is in the dignity of the human person, and marginalizing homosexual persons does not in fact “safeguard the authentic good of society,” but rather attacks their dignity and isolates them from the church and society.

    The Jesuit Catholic identity of USF is crucial to carry out the mission statement while striving for social justice. The real immorality lies in excluding our homosexual brothers and sisters from the Church, and that is the social/moral issue we should be fighting. If Catholics can’t come together to fight for this cause in San Francisco, where else can we?

  2. To Amy:

    I appreciate the comments. You said “The real immorality lies in excluding our homosexual brothers and sisters from the Church.”

    You are correct that we should not exclude our homosexual brothers and sisters from the Church. The Church is not saying that all; in fact, the Church is teaching that we ought to embrace and help our homosexual brothers and sisters just like we should help ourselves and everyone else in the Church to live out the virtue of chastity. And as Catholics, we know that we are all called to live chastely. If we taught that homosexual persons did not need to be chaste, then we would indeed be excluding them. We ALL need to strive towards chastity, and for homosexual persons, depending on the person, this may include great difficulty (just as for heterosexual persons) because it may include a considerable amount of self-control. However, it is the same self-control that Jesuits themselves have as they live their vow of celibacy- so we know it is definitely possible. In fact, all celibate religious men and women can attest to this grace from God, and I think they should be some of the first ones assisting all of us, including homosexual persons, in our pursuit of chastity.
    Catholic groups like Courage can attest to this accepting and loving pastoral approach.

    So, yes, we must accept our homosexual brothers and sisters and there should be no unjust discrimination or homophobia, but this does not mean we accept everything that they do. We have certain values when it comes to sexual intercourse, marriage, and relationships. We believe marriage is between a man and a woman as Genesis records, and that sexual intercourse is life-giving and thus must be open to possibility of new life. In embracing our homosexual brothers and sister, we cannot sacrifice these values, for love is not love if it is not in the truth.

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