Sunday, September 20, 2009

Being Catholic Isn't Easy at Some "Catholic" Universities

The first sign that we were making a bad decision came in the form of a laugh. My husband had just asked a priest at one of the colleges he was considering for grad school if the school was loyal to the teachings of the Magesterium and if the professor’s had to sign a statement declaring their allegiance to the Church and it’s teachings. And he laughed because the idea was so ridiculous as to be unimaginable.

I felt a sinking in my stomach but continued to smile. The program had amazing scholarships and we wouldn’t have to move half way across the country a month after the baby was born. So we told two very traditional universities in Texas that he wouldn’t be attending their programs and stayed in California.

Looking back we were more then a little na├»ve. We had both been reading and studying and devouring every book on theology and Catholicism that we came across, but having never experienced a liberal “Catholic” college as a practicing Catholic, we really didn’t know what we were in for (or more specifically what he was in for).

Still I doubt it would have helped had we been warned that he was about to enter a program that is considered by many to be the second most “liberal” Catholic theology program in the country (behind the Jesuit Theological Union). We talked about the conversation and thought that heterodox classmates and professors could sharpen his apologetic skills as he was exposed to passionately divergent viewpoints. And that has happened. My husband loves a good argument and he’s had the plenty of opportunity for it.

What we didn’t expect was that politically liberal self-righteousness would possibly affect his grades. The prevalent idea in much of academia is that anyone who doesn’t agree with ultra liberal beliefs is a “bigot” (a term often used to refer to orthodox Catholics in their current reading assignment).

Last year my husband received a graded paper covered in personal insults. This professor was still allowed to give my husband a grade in the class (his first A-, ruining his 4.0 GPA). He had to tell another professor that he wouldn’t discuss the Church’s stance on condoms with him because he was afraid it would affect his grade (the man had become outraged because he agreed with the Vatican on that issue).

Yesterday a fellow student went off on a tirade bashing the Church, Church leaders, and the Church’s teachings. At the end of his monologue the professor called him “very wise” and then refused to call on my husband who (naturally) had a response.

Then there’s the assigned reading. I picked up the 400 + page book, which was written by a Jesuit priest, and read one paragraph. The reading was difficult and at first I thought I might have misunderstood the author’s intent. I asked my husband to clarify and he asked me what I thought I had read. I explained that it sounded like the author had serious problems with the sacraments of baptism (because of infant baptism) and holy orders. He said that came up many times and was a good assessment of it.

As my husband reaches the halfway point in the program I am reminded of a quote I read (I believe it was John Paul II who was being quoted) in Pope Benedicts book Jesus of Nazareth. JPII was asked why Catholic Colleges who went against the teachings of the Church were allowed to continue and he spoke of the parable in which weeds are sown in a field along with the grain seeds (Matthew 13:24- 30). The landowner’s servants come along and ask if they should pull out the weeds. He tells them not to because the wheat will be damaged too. When the harvest comes the weeds will be gathered into bundles and burned… That would make me nervous if I were a heterodox Catholic educator who spent a large portion of my classes bashing the Church and spreading division.

I can say that we won’t make the same mistake twice. The next step in my husband’s education will take us to an Orthodox University… only 21 months of of heterodox Catholic education to go.

From the RSV CE
Matthew 13:24-30

24 Another parable he put before them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants of the householder came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then has it weeds?' 28 He said to them, 'An enemy has done this.' The servants said to him, 'Then do you want us to go and gather them?' 29 But he said, 'No; lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'"


  1. Hi, I really enjoy reading your blog. Your blog post reminded me of my experience of going to an open house at Seattle U. I asked the professor if any priests taught in the grad program and she replied, "Oh no, definitely not," and went on to explain how she was worried to teach there because it was a Catholic college and she had a problem with Catholic values, but fortunately it was anything but Catholic. I attended the evangelical school for my masters (there were very few schools in my area for my degree without having a really long commute), but it was just as bad as probably what I would have experienced at the "Catholic" university. Nevertheless it made me realize that what I really wanted was to simply stay at home and be a mother and educate my own children in the faith - the best revenge for a bad education.

  2. Hi Maria!

    I'm glad you liked it. Our experience has definitely motivated us to educate our own children too. And I think I'll definitely encourage them to go to either go to a traditional Catholic University when the time comes, or a Public University. I heard a quote by Father Corapi once where he said, if you want to keep your kids Catholic send them to a public University, not a Catholic one and I think he definitely had this type of Catholic University in mind when he was talking about. Thank goodness there are schools like Franciscan and St. Thomas Aquinas!

  3. Hi,

    Just wanted to suggest Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. My husband is a grad student in the Philosophy department there. There is a "catholic community" in an inexpensive area nearby (the safe, nice part where most of the families live is the historic district in Hyattsville, MD. The rest of the areas labeled "Hyattsville" are not so great) The moms have a home school co-op. There are ten families in the catholic homeschool co-op and there is a parish school as well. Chris Currie's e-mail is on the link -he's the contact person. My husband and I are thinking about moving there because a friend lives there and she said that there is a moms/ women's book club meeting and that they take turns making meals when someone has a baby! How nice is that?! Most people go to the NO mass at the local parish, but there is a latin mass community in Silver Spring at Old St. John the Evangelist Just wanted to put a bee in your bonnet!

    Love in Christ,

  4. Hi Colleen! Thank you for the suggestion! Catholic University of America is very high on his list (and mine!), especially of schools in the US. He would love to study at the Angelicum in Rome, but unless something huge happens (like us winning the lottery without buying tickets) it's a very far off dream. Catholic University definitely seems more possible right now.

    I would love to have that sort of community and will definitely show this to my husband! He was worried about the price around D.C. and how we would afford living there, so I really appreciate this. It's so much fun to think about!

    He went and met with a Canon lawyer in the diocese that his University is in and they advised him to go around to different diocese and ask them if they would agree to put him through grad school (the canon law part) in exchange for five years of work as a canon lawyer after he graduates. It would be amazing if something like that worked out.

    I'll check out the websites and thanks again!


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