The following February 20 story by Anne Hendershott appeared in the online version of Catholic World Report.
….Last month, the Office of the Secretariat of Education at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released what they called The Final Report for the Ten Year Review of the Application of Ex Corde Ecclesiae for the United States.
Unfortunately, the Ten Year Review provides almost no information about the progress that has been made in implementing the papal document on the 230 Catholic campuses throughout the country. Rather than providing facts about the implementation, the Ten Year Review is a one-page, self-congratulatory, platitudinous document that lauds “ongoing dialogue” and a “spirit of collaboration,” but says almost nothing about what is really happening in Catholic higher education.
In fact, any Catholic who has been paying attention to the culture and curricula on many of these campuses can be forgiven if he felt like he had stepped into a chapter of George Orwell’s 1984 when reading a recent headline in the National Catholic Reporter, which proclaimed: “Bishops, colleges find good collaboration in Ex Corde review.” That same Catholic must have been even more surprised to read a headline in Our Sunday Visitor that claimed: “Progress seen in boosting Catholic identity on campuses.”
Good collaboration with bishops? Boosting Catholic identity? For faithful Catholics, it must have seemed like just yesterday there was yet another serious scandal on a Catholic campus. That is because it was just yesterday. In fact, this month alone included a long list of scandals on Catholic campuses. Leading the list are the annual productions of The Vagina Monologues, most scheduled on or around Valentine’s Day. This year, performances of the play were held on 12 Catholic campuses, up from nine last year; among other things, the play favorably portrays homosexual relations, adult-child sex, and abortion.
Beyond these annual events, on many Catholic campuses students can get class credit through internships at Planned Parenthood, serving as clinic escorts. Pro-abortion speakers and promoters of same-sex marriage continue to be honored on many campuses. On Friday, February 15, Providence College hosted a lecture by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) despite his 100 percent pro-abortion voting record in the Senate.
Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, Texas recently became the first Catholic school in Texas to revise its student handbook to protect transgendered students, faculty, and staff of the university from discrimination based on gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation.
Last semester, dozens of Catholic campuses celebrated Gay Awareness Month in October, as well as National Coming Out Day on October 11, with many campuses—as the University of Notre Dame has done in the past—constructing “coming out closets” on campus to encourage students to “come out” as gay or lesbian.
At Notre Dame’s Coming Out Day celebration a few years ago, students were invited to “eat rainbow cupcakes, and come out of a giant glittery closet.” Other schools, including the University of San Diego, Santa Clara University, and DePaul University, held “Drag Queen Shows” replete with professional drag queens and cross-dressing students.
It is unlikely that there was any collaboration between San Francisco’s archbishop and the University of San Francisco when Vincent Pizzuto was selected to chair the Department of Theology and Religious Studies Department in 2012. Pizzuto was “ordained” a priest in 2006 in the Celtic Christian Church, which is not in communion with Rome. His church’s website states that Pizzuto has presided at same-sex weddings, and his published work—including “God Has Made it Plain to Them: An Indictment of Rome’s Hermeneutic of Homophobia,” in the Winter 2008 edition of Biblical Theology Bulletin—is openly critical of Catholic teachings. Still, Pizzuto not only teaches Catholic theology at USF, he also heads the theology department—supervising other theology professors in the department who are teaching Catholic theology. It is difficult to believe that USF and the presiding bishop are working collaboratively in implementing Ex Corde Ecclesiae….
To understand how such a vacuous report could be disseminated by the USCCB, one has to go back to November 14, 2010, when the USCCB Committee on Catholic Education approved a 10-year review of the application of Ex Corde Ecclesiae for the United States. Headed by Most Rev. Thomas Curry, then an auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, the Committee on Catholic Education set the goals and the guidelines for the 10-year review. (Curry recently resigned as bishop in the wake of the release of documents showing that he deliberately and knowingly took steps to conceal the abuse of children from law enforcement and to protect abusive priests.)
The guidelines for the 10-year review guaranteed that no data of substance would be collected or analyzed to determine effectiveness. Rather than collecting data to assess effectiveness and progress toward meeting the goals of Ex Corde Ecclesiae, the committee stated that the purpose of the review was to “provide a reference tool for both bishops and presidents of Catholic institutions.” Rather than collecting specific information that could be quantified and analyzed, the review was to simply consist of a “conversation between a bishop and each university president within his diocese.” In lieu of collecting facts to inform a report that would assess progress toward goals, the review was described by Bishop Curry and his committee as “not a report, but rather an opportunity for a bishop and a president to meet and discuss the Application of Ex Corde Ecclesiae for the United States.”
It was anticipated that “this 10-year review, modeled on the five-year review of 2006, will occur in a spirit of ecclesial communion and will yield an appreciation of the positive developments and remaining challenges in our collaborative efforts to ensure the implementation of Ex Corde Ecclesiae in the United States.” Rather than a real assessment, the purpose of the review was identified as simply providing an opportunity for the bishops and the presidents to talk with one another—to “dialogue.” The words “dialogue” and “conversation” are used frequently in the one-page report on the 10-year review, as were “positive” and “progress.” The reviewers also promise “continued dialogue…for greater cooperation in advancing the mission of the Church.”
….In a phone conversation with CWR on Thursday, February 7, 2013, Sr. John Mary Fleming, the new executive director of the USCCB’s Secretariat of Catholic Education, helped put the report into context by saying that the 10-year review was “never designed to be an attempt to assess the past.” And although Sr. Fleming acknowledged that “the relationship between the bishops and the college presidents was fractured in the past,” she spoke optimistically about the future, lauding the bishops for “focusing on how they can reach out to create a culture of communion and support.”
Acknowledging that challenges do remain, Sr. Fleming pointed to the one sentence within the report admitting that “there is still work to be done.” Sr. Fleming also pointed to the formation of a group of bishops and college presidents who will be working under Bishop Joseph P. McFadden, the current chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education. According to Bishop McFadden, the working group will “continue the dialogue about strategic subjects on a national level….”
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