Wednesday, April 10, 2002

The Mandatum Controversy

As many of you may know, the US Catholic Bishops recently approved their guidelines for implementing JPII's document Ex Corde Ecclesiae (On Catholic Universities), and a part of that document and the Bishops' guidelines concern the mandatum (mandate) which all Catholic theologians are required to seek from the bishop where they teach.

This has generated great controversy within Catholic academia, with some theologians and university administrators wringing their hands over concern that the mandatum will restrict the academic freedom so prized in universities.

To me, it's much ado about nothing. As one commentator recently noted, the purpose of the mandate is simply to ensure that when a professor teaches specifically Catholic theology, he or she actually teaches Catholic theology. In other words, I could not stand up before a class and teach that, according to Catholic theology, there are two persons in Jesus Christ (Nestorianism). Now, I would be free to teach Nestorianism, but not as Catholic theology.

Can anyone explain to me what is so controversial about that? Would we protest if a spokesperson for the Anti-Defamation League would be removed from their position if they stated in their official capacity that, say, the Holocaust never occurred? I think not. Nor should anyone be upset when the Catholic Church asks its theologians that when they communicate and elucidate the teachings of the Church they actually communicate and elucidate what the Church teaches.

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