The Catholic University of America

Faculty Handbook Part I: The Government of the University - C. Historical Documents

Section 3: Canoncial Establishment of the University


Approved by:

The Holy See/Pope Leo XIII
History: Issued--March 7, 1889  




Canonical Establishment of the University

The 1887 letter of approval of Pope Leo XIII was followed two years later by an apostolic letter of the pope entitled, Magni nobis gaudi, and dated March 7, 1889, the feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas. By this letter the pope canonically established the University, noting that its opening (in the fall of 1889) came in the centennial year of the establishment of the American hierarchy. Since the dioceses of the United States were still considered "mission territory," the University fell within the competence of the Roman Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, and it was to this body that the original constitutions (later called statutes) of the University had been submitted for approval.


To Our Beloved Son, James Cardinal Gibbons, of the Title of St. Mary in Trastevere, Cardinal Priest of the Holy Roman Church, Archbishop of Baltimore: and to Our Venerable Brethren, the Archbishops and Bishops of the United States of North America.


Beloved Son and Venerable Brethren, Health and Apostolic Benediction:


We find cause for great joy in the zeal with which you devote yourselves to the preservation of the Catholic religion and to the interests of your dioceses; to the providing of such equipment as may secure the proper formation of youth, both clerical and lay, and the teaching of all knowledge, sacred and profane, according to the rule of faith. Consequently, your letters towards the end of last year gave us great pleasure, since in them you informed us that the work of founding a University in the city of Washington is progressing successfully, so that through your care all things are prepared for the opening of the Theological School this year. From our Venerable brother, John Keane, Titular Bishop of Jasso, the Rector of the University, whom you sent to us, we have gladly received the statutes and regulations of the University, submitted by you to our authority and judgment. And in this matter we deem worthy of all praise your resolution to commemorate the centenary of the establishment of your hierarchy by making the opening of the University a monument and perpetual memorial of that most auspicious event. Desiring, therefore, to secure the fulfillment of your righteous wishes, we committed the examination of the Constitutions of your University, which had been referred to us, to the Cardinals of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, that they might report to us concerning them. Having heard their opinion, we willingly grant your request, and by our authority approve by these present letters the statutes and regulations of your University, and endow it with the rights proper to a lawfully­ constructed University. We grant, therefore, to your University power to confer academic degrees on students who shall have passed satisfactory examinations, and likewise to confer the doctorate in philosophy, theology, pontifical law, and those other studies in which the different degrees and the doctorate are usually conferred, whenever the teaching of these branches shall have been established. And we wish that you, Beloved Son, and you, Venerable Brethren, should exercise watchful care over the proper direction of studies, the preservation of discipline among the students in your University, either in person or through Bishops chosen by you to attend to this duty. And since, moreover, the See of Baltimore is foremost among the See of the United States, we confer on the Archbishop of Bal­timore and his successors the office and authority of Chan­cellor. We desire, in addition, that the plan or courses of studies, or the program of the branches taught in your Univer­sity, especially in so far as they relate to philosophy and theology, shall be submitted to the Apostolic See for recogni­tion and approval, and that all the departments of the University may be so ordered that young clerics and laymen may have an equal opportunity of fully satisfying their laudable desire for knowledge. We wish that among these departments there should be founded a school of Pontifical Law and Public Ecclesiastical Law, since we realize the great importance of these studies, especially at the present time. We exhort you all that you should take care to affiliate with your University your seminaries, colleges, and other Catholic institutions, according to the plan suggested in the Constitution, in such a manner, however, as not to destroy their autonomy. In order that a greater number may enjoy more abundantly the benefits of the teaching of the University in its various departments, let these schools, and especially the Schools of Philosophy and Theology, be thrown open, not only to those who have completed their studies according to the decrees of the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore, but also those who wish to begin or to continue their studies. Since, however, this University not only tends to the greater honor of your country, but also promises rich and salutary results both for the spread of sound doctrine and the defense of the Catholic religion, we have every reason for trusting that the faithful of America, with their wonted magnanimity, will not allow you to lack the help of their generosity for the glorious completion of this work now begun. And as the University at Washington is established by these our letters, we decree that no other institution of this nature shall be undertaken by anyone with­ out consulting the Apostolic See. We believe that these pre­sent declarations and ordinances of ours will be a clear proof of the zeal and solicitude with which we desire that the glory and prosperity of the Catholic religion in your country may be advanced from day to day. We earnestly implore the most Mer­ciful God, from whom comes every good and perfect gift, that He may direct your undertakings to a prosperous and happy out­ come, and as a presage of all celestial gifts we most lovingly impart our Apostolic Benediction as a token of our sincere affection for you, Beloved Son, for you, Venerable Brethren, and for all the clergy and the faithful over whom you preside.


Given at Rome, at St. Peter's, on the seventh day of March, Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, 1889, the twelfth year of our Pontificate.



Faculty Handbook of The Catholic University of America, 2006 Edition