John Paul II on the Catholic Character of the College

Most Catholic Colleges and Universities invoke the term Catholic to describe their institution. That term can be filled in with any number of meanings such as social justice, humanism, integration etc., etc. Sadly, it is a term used with little specifity.

Pope John Paul II spoke to the third International Meeting of Catholic Universities and Institutions of Higher Learning on April 25, 1989.He said: “This Catholic character — perhaps Christocentric is a better expression — does not distort the the university or restrict its legitimate autonomy.”

WHat strikes me about this sentence is that “Christocentric” is a good term to use to specify the Catholic identity. The vague notions of integration or humanism can actually mean something. Is integration specifically through a Christian understanding of history? Is philosophy measured against the word of God? Is humanism and Christian humanism?

Blessed John Paul II would remind us that Catholic identity entails a specific reference to Christ as the defining aspect of the educational efforts of the institution:

From Ex corde:
21. A Catholic University pursues its objectives through its formation of an authentic human community animated by the spirit of Christ. The source of its unity springs from a common dedication to the truth, a common vision of the dignity of the human person and, ultimately, the person and message of Christ which gives the Institution its distinctive character.

Even the term “integration” must mean specificcally “Christo-centric” theology and philosophy as a defining aspect of the curriculum:

Aided by the specific contributions of philosophy and theology, university scholars will be engaged in a constant effort to determine the relative place and meaning of each of the various disciplines within the context of a vision of the human person and the world that is enlightened by the Gospel, and therefore by a faith in Christ, the Logos, as the centre of creation and of human history. Ex corde.

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