Catholic Identity

The founders of the UOWC network are proud of their Catholic identity and make their allegiance to the Papacy, the Magisterium and Ex corde Ecclesiae a matter of no uncertainty, as even a brief visit to demonstrates. UOWC received its founding impetus at the World Conference on Catholic Education held in Toruń, Poland in 2008, presided over by the Prefect of Catholic Education, Zenon Cardinal Grocholewski. UOWC founders are signatories of the Toruń Declaration in support of Ex corde Ecclesiae.

2009-2010 is the first year the colleges and universities participating in the UOWC network offered courses and degrees in collaboration. Each institution involved has its own founding date, ranging from 1983 to 2005.

The Catholic institutions participating in the UOWC network each have a strong, Catholic public identity, including firm support for Ex corde Ecclesiae. Otherwise they are not invited to join, nor remain with UOWC. Non-Catholic participating institutions are welcome and must be willing collaborators in the preservation of Western civilization in the areas of the natural sciences and general education. To avoid any possible confusion, they are clearly identified as secular institutions, offering general education courses. At present the secular university collaborating in the UOWC network is Harrison Middleton University, College of Humanities and Sciences, offering accredited, online and independent home study Great Books courses.

Let those who declare the teaching of Christian doctrine to be opposed to the welfare of the State, furnish us with an army of soldiers such as Christ says soldiers ought to be; let them give us subjects, husbands, wives, parents, children, masters, servants, kings, judges, taxpayers and tax gatherers who live up to the teachings of Christ; and then let them dare assert that Christian doctrine is harmful to the State. Rather let them not hesitate one moment to acclaim that doctrine, rightly observed, the greatest safeguard of the State. – Tertulliani

That view of the radical importance and benefits of a specifically Catholic education understood as “the teaching of Christian doctrine…rightly observed,i.e.,subject to the Catholic Church’s Magisterium (which Catholics believe alone has the authority to determine orthodox doctrine and observance), set forth in the quotation by Tertullian (c. 200 AD) above, all the way through and including Vatican II’s declaration on Christian education (Gravissimum Educationis, 1965) was radically redefined by a group of 26 Catholic university presidents and administrators on July 23, 1967. They met at Land O’ Lakes, Wisconsin and approved a document entitled “The Idea of the Catholic University” which has become known as the Land O’ Lakes Statement. The 1,500 word document was unremarkable except for one crucial phrase – a radical demand for autonomy from ecclesiastical authority:

the Catholic university must have a true autonomy and academic freedom in the face of authority of whatever kind, lay or clerical, external to the university itself.”

Commentary within the statement gratuitously added:

To say this [the above quotation] is simply to assert that institutional autonomy and academic freedom are essential conditions of life and growth and indeed of survival for Catholic universities as for all universities.” and,

“…the intellectual campus of a Catholic university has no boundaries and no barriers.”ii

That phrase and commentary began a continuing debate about the character of American Catholic higher education. Supporters believed the Land O’ Lakes Statement was a long overdue assertion of Catholic educators’ agreement with the tenets of American secular academia, such as freedom to reject any interference based on theological grounds. Critics regarded it as a manifesto of a dangerously flawed understanding of academic freedom divorcing the Catholic university from the life of faith which set in motion a deplorable decline in the Catholic identity at American institutions of higher education.

That decline was highlighted (2009) by the invitation to address Catholic students at the University of Notre Dame and to be honored with an award there, extended to President Obama, whose positions on abortion, embryonic stem cell destruction and other important issues are directly in conflict with Catholic moral principles.iii The Cardinal Newman Society was instrumental in bringing that violation of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ guideline – that Catholic schools should not give awards or platforms to those who “act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles” – to public attention.

Not a little ironic is that Notre Dame should be at the center of the decline in Catholic identity at American universities since a conference center which was owned by Notre Dame University at Land O’ Lakes, Wisconsin was the location where an educational revolution started, the outcome of which many of the signatories (including the group’s host, Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, CSC, the young president of Notre Dame) could not have foretold and might have abhorred.iv

On November 22nd, 2008 at the World Congress of Catholic Education held in Toruń, Poland, an international group of Catholic scholars and educators drafted and signed the following declaration, intended to correct the Land O’Lakes Statement. They hoped to make a public statement that scholars and educators could support a proper view of academic freedom and also the growing international acceptance of the Apostolic Constitution Ex corde Ecclesiae which was written by Pope John Paul II to restore the proper relationship between Catholic institutions of higher learning and the Magisterium.

Participants in the World Congress on Catholic Education held in Toruń, Poland, November 22, 2008 including the Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, His Eminence Zenon Cardinal Grocholewski, together with Archbishop Stanislaus Wielgus, former member and consultant to the Congregation of Catholic Education and a member of the humanities section of the European Academy of Science and Arts; Their Excellencies Bishop Andrzei Suski and Bishop Stanislaus Napierala; Catholic priests, scholars and educators from Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Italy, Poland, Spain, Switzerland and the USA.


Seven Points for Recovering Catholic Education

In order to facilitate a recovery of authentic Catholic higher education, the undersigned group of scholar participants in the 2008 International Congress on Catholic Education being held in Toruń, Poland, who have signed this declaration share it with you in the hope of widening the growing, positive response to the Apostolic Constitution on Catholic Universities, Ex corde Ecclesiae, of the Servant of God, Pope John Paul II. We encourage you to share this with other Catholic educators, scholars, parents, faculty, administrators and local ordinaries who can all appreciate and utilize this declaration, or something like it, as a clear and unambiguous statement that they and/or their institutions accept and support the principles and norms of Ex corde Ecclesiae.

We, the undersigned, accept:

1.) that education in Catholic schools should chiefly aim at perfecting the human person by integrating human talents, with a view towards man’s last end, the beatific vision of God;

2.) that a Catholic school is essentially a community of integrated talents, or virtues, in which educators and students exchange their personal gifts and skills in order to participate more effectively in the Church’s mission of forming the person in the integral unity of his being;

3.) without reservation the principles and the eleven norms set forth in the Apostolic Constitution Ex corde Ecclesiae;

4.) the right of academic freedom, subject to the Magisterium, and subject to the duty of professional Catholic educators to know the principles of their subject matter and its proper methods of investigation for discovering and imparting the truth in each of their respective disciplines, and their ability competently to teach their students;

5.) the teaching authority of the Catholic Church, received from Christ, as being the chief measure of the limits of exercise of teaching all arts and sciences within all Catholic institutions of learning;

6.) that being a Catholic educator is a vocation – a calling – not simply a secular profession;

7.) that, beyond a minimum of solid professional formation proper to each discipline, Catholic educators require proper theological and philosophical formation;

Signed by the Conference Participants (in their individual capacities) on this 22nd day of November, 2008 at Toruń, Poland.


Prof. dr. hab. Piotr Jaroszynski
Chair of Philosophy of Culture
Pope John Paul II
Catholic University of Lublin
Lublin, Poland Prof. Peter A. Redpath
Philosophy Department
St. John’s University
Chairman of the Angelicum Academy
New York, USA

Prof. Carlos Horacio Torrendell
Director, Departmento de Educacion
Pontificia Universidad Catolica Argentina
Buenos Aires,Argentina

Prof. Ermano Pavesi
Theologische Hochschule
Chur, Switzerland

Dr. Curtis L. Hancock
Joseph M. Freeman Chair of Philosophy
Rockhurst University
Missouri, USA

Dr. Gerard O’Shea
John Paul II Institute

Prof.dr. hab. Rev. Andrzej Maryniarczyk
Chair in Metaphysics
Pope John Paul II
Catholic University of Lublin

 Dr. Tom Michaud
Philosophy Department
Wheeling Jesuit University
West Virginia, USA

Prof. Mauricio Echeverria Galvez
Universidad Santo Tomás
Santiago de Chile Prof. Jose Juan Escandell Cucarella
Universidad CEU San Pablo
Madrid, Spain

Patrick S.J. Carmack, J.D.
President, Western Civilization Foundation
Angelicum Great Books Program
Colorado, USA

Imelda Chlodna, Ph.D.
Department of Philosophy of Culture
Pope John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin
Lublin, Poland

Prof. Carlo Fedeli
Universita di Torino
Torino, Italy

Rev. Pawel Tarasiewicz, Ph.D.
Philosophy Department
Pope John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin
Lublin, Poland

Prof. Enrique Martinez
Universidad Abat Oliba

Mr. Stephen F. Bertucci
Director, Great Books Program
Washington, USA

Rev. Tadeusz Guz
Pope John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin
Lublin, Poland

The signatories of the Land O’ Lakes Statement,as one commentator aptly noted, whatever their intentions,

“by refusing to be shepherded by the Church’s bishops, set the sheep free to roam into whatever error academic freedom might lead them. Nearly forty years later, the shepherds are still trying to gather their scattered flocks.”

One is reminded of the words of Pope Leo XIII:

“’Where Peter is, there is the church.’ Wherefore, if anybody wishes to be considered a real Catholic, he ought to be able to say from his heart the self same words which Jerome addressed to Pope Damasus: ‘I, acknowledging no other leader than Christ, am bound in fellowship with Your Holiness; that is, with the chair of Peter. I know that the church was built upon him as its rock, and that whoever gathereth not with you, scattereth.”vi

As far back as 1899, Leo XIII, in his Apostolic Letter Testem Benevolentiae had already warned the Church in America of certain tendencies it seemed to have to allow the secular model of civil liberties to undermine the doctrine of the Church. If Papal infallibility as defined by the Vatican Council is true, Leo declared, it

“was not intended to hamper real serious study or research, or to conflict with any well-ascertained truth but only to use the authority and wisdom of the Church more effectually in protecting men against errorvii

How could such a gift from God be useful to protect students and faculty from error if the university they attended rejected “authority of whatever kind, lay or clerical, external to the university itself.”viii

Such a view of academic autonomy opened the door to “the assumed right to hold whatever opinions one pleases upon any subject and to set them forth in print to the world, [which actions] have so wrapped minds in darkness that there is now a greater need of the Church’s teaching office [Magisterium] than ever before.ix

Indeed, academic autonomy and liberty must inevitably confront the truths of the faith and either yield to them, deny them or suppress them. Leo warned “that faith is not to be relinquished or in any manner suppressed under any specious pretext whatsoever; such a process would alienate Catholics from the Church instead of bringing converts.”x As studies document, that is precisely what has happened at secularized “Catholic” universities and colleges. Leo concluded:

“If we are to come to any conclusion from the infallible teaching authority of the Church, it should rather be that no one should wish to depart from it, and moreover that the minds of all being leavened and directed thereby, greater security from private error would be enjoyed by all.”xi

The Church has opposed a secular monopoly on education, such as happens when Catholic universities and colleges are secularized:

“But it must always keep in mind the principle of subsidiarity so that there is no kind of school monopoly, for this is opposed to the native rights of the human person, to the development and spread of culture, to the peaceful association of citizens and to the pluralism that exists today in ever so many societies.”. – Pope Pius XIxii

Even the most fervent apostles of the distorted notion of “academic freedom” advanced by the Land O’Lakes Statement have been given pause by the unexpected and rapid secularization resulting there from.xiii The Catholic Church’s authoritative response to those baneful secularizing effects is primarily that of the of the Servant of God, Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Constitution, Ex Corde Ecclesiae issued in 1990.

The Toruń Declaration, also drafted and signed by an international group of Catholic scholars and educators, is intended to demonstrate their support for and to further the goals of Ex corde Ecclesiae, as well as to help expose and remedy the errors contained in the Land O’Lakes Statement.

iTertullian in his Apologeticus
ii Cf. Fr. Hesburgh’s successor as President of Notre Dame, Fr. Jenkins, CSC, in the Spring, 2006 issue of Notre Dame online in an article entitled Academic Freedom and Catholic Values by Richard Conklin ’59M.A. directly contradicted that Land O’ Lakes position: “I do not believe that freedom of expression has absolute priority in every circumstance. While any restriction on expression must be reluctant and restrained, I believe that, in some situations, given the distinctive character and aspirations of Notre Dame, it may be necessary to establish certain boundaries, while defending the appropriate exercise of academic freedom.” Unfortunately, when he invited President Obama to both address and be honored at Notre Dame, Fr. Jenkins did not heed his own warning about the errors contained in the Land O’ Lakes Statement (nor did he heed the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops).
ivSuch a radical notion of university autonomy or academic freedom, once accepted, inevitably resulted in reducing or entirely severing the legal ties and control previously exercised by ecclesiastical superiors, religious orders and communities, and replacing them with lay boards of trustees composed partly or, in some cases, predominantly of non-Catholics. Catholic faculty percentages began a precipitous decline as well. For example, in the same 2006 article quoted above, Fr. Jenkins, the current President of Notre Dame wrote that:
“In the 1970s the percentage of Catholic faculty [at the University of Notre Dame] was near 85 percent; in 1984 it was 62 percent. It is currently 53 percent. With the retirement of senior faculty who are Catholic in greater percentages, it is likely to drop further.”
vOnly participating Catholic scholars and educators at the World Conference active in education were invited to sign the Declaration.
viApostolic Letter Testem Benevolentiae of Pope Leo XIII (1899)
viiiLand O’ Lakes Statement, 1967
ix Op. cit. Testem Benevolentiae
xiiPope Pius XI’s encyclical letter, Divini Illius Magistri (21), Dec. 31, 1929: A.A.S. 22 (1930)
xiiiOp.cit. Spring, 2006 issue of Notre Dame online