The Catholic University of America

Archived April 11, 2007

Section 2: The University's Catholic Identity

Approved by:

Board of Trustees

History: Issued--June 2006
Additional History
Responsible Official President

The University's Catholic Identity

The very name of the University and its historic relationship to and within the Catholic Church from the time of its establishment by the bishops make abundantly clear its Catholic nature and character. In addition to its Mission Statement, the University is guided with regard to its Catholic identity by the Code of Canon Law (Canons 807 - 821) and relevant ecclesiastical documents that include the documents of the Second Vatican Council; the Apostolic Constitution, Ex Corde Ecclesiae (1990), which pertains to all Catholic universities; the Apostolic Constitution, Sapientia Christiana (1979), which pertains specifically to the ecclesiastical faculties in the Schools of Canon Law, Philosophy, and Theology and Religious Studies; and other pronouncements of the Holy See and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In 1990 Pope John Paul II issued the Apostolic Constitution, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, as the guiding document for Catholic universities and colleges. Ex Corde Ecclesiae presents four essential characteristics of a Catholic university: (1) a Christian inspiration not only of individuals but of the entire university community; (2) continuing reflection in the light of the Catholic faith upon the growing treasury of human knowledge to which the university seeks to contribute by its own research; (3) fidelity to the Christian message as it is comes through the Church; and (4) an institutional commitment to the service of the people of God and of the human family (n. 13). The Apostolic Constitution goes on to state that: "In a Catholic university, therefore, Catholic ideals and principles penetrate and inform university activities in accordance with the proper nature and autonomy of these activities" (n. 14). And, further, "A Catholic University, therefore, is a place of research, where scholars scrutinize reality with the methods proper to each academic discipline, and so contribute to the treasury of human knowledge. . . . In a Catholic university, research necessarily includes (a) the search for an integration of knowledge, (b) a dialogue between faith and reason, (c) an ethical concern, and (d) a theological perspective (n. 15).

The founders of The Catholic University of America desired an internationally respected institution that accentuated the Catholic contribution to American culture and maintained the highest standards of academic research. The ideal of a Catholic university becomes a reality when the faculty at The Catholic University of America affirms and acts upon the principles contained in the University's Mission Statement. Each member of the faculty, indeed every employee of the university, regardless of his or her religious affiliation, is expected in virtue of their contract of employment to respect and support the University's Mission Statement. In addition, each member of the faculty has a responsibility to reflect on ways in which his or her research contributes to the University's identity, especially as described in Ex Corde Ecclesiae, whether in general or in specific, as is appropriate to the discipline in which the faculty member works. By themselves and in isolation from other academic units, the University's ecclesiastical faculties and its required courses in philosophy and theology cannot alone sustain the institution's religious identity. Promoting the institution's Catholic identity is the responsibility of the entire University community. Indeed, a candidate's willingness to respect and contribute to the mission of the University is a consideration in the tenure process.

The Catholic University of America aspires to the pursuit of knowledge through the lens of faith and reason. The University recognizes that no genuine question is outside the potential interest of a Catholic university. "[A]ccepting the legitimate autonomy of human culture and especially of the academic disciplines," a Catholic university "recognizes the academic freedom of scholars in each discipline in accordance with its own principles and proper methods, and within the confines of the truth and the common good." (n. 29) There are, however, areas of investigation that one might expect to be promoted at a Catholic university and other areas that one might not expect. These derive, most obviously, from the concerns of such an institution: (a) to transmit the heritage of Catholic thought and life to a new generation; (b) to advance an understanding of that heritage in itself; and (c) to relate that heritage to new problems, theoretical and practical, as these arise.

Faculty Handbook of The Catholic University of America, 2006 Edition