September 21, 2006
God And Girl At Catholic College: Readers Respond
By Athena Kerry
My last article, Girl and God at Catholic College, brought in tons of email responses, partly because of a link from LewRockwell.com. (Thanks, Lew!) Apparently, the sell-out of my Catholic university to the multiCult gets on a lot of people’s nerves.
I’d be lying if I said that all the email I received was supportive (as you will see). But the huge majority of it was. There are a lot of people who have experienced frustrations similar to mine when dealing with "Catholic" institutions. Between requests that I disclose my school’s name, guesses about my location and a few doubting accusations, there were a lot of interesting stories about religious institutions and what one reader called "offendophobia" (the fear and dread of—shudder—offending someone).
According to several readers (some of whom requested anonymity), Catholic universities aren’t the only disappointment. One reader wrote: "I am over fifty, and a Protestant, rather than a Catholic, but I assure you that the same degeneracy has afflicted Protestant campuses." Another went on to say, "...as a Catholic myself I couldn't agree more. Not only is it that way in universities…it's that way in elementary and high schools too!!" [Brian Schroder, email]
A third reader described the "crisis of faith in the Catholic educational community" as "terminal." A Catholic high school graduate in 1990, he says things have since gone rapidly downhill:
“Suicides among the student body, drug use so rampant on campus that the school is thinking of instituting mandatory testing of all students, and promiscuity more befitting a kegger than a learning environment.”
Not only is the situation in these places rotten, but also, for many, fighting it seems like a hopeless waste of time. I can’t count the number of times I’ve unsuccessfully attempted to rouse a group of friends to argue with some university policy or requirement—they’re happy to sit in my now-off-campus apartment and wring their hands, but very few actually try to take any real action.
There are two important reasons for this:
a) no one wants to be a martyr. Public denunciation, bad grades or the loss of a campus job are all very real possibilities;
b) it’s unlikely that any bad will be prevented or that any good will be initiated by our action.
As one reader wrote:
“I graduated Boston College ten years ago. I was very active in the College Republicans and helped found a Christian newspaper The Observer. We raised money and we highlighted the hypocrisy of our ‘Catholic’ college. I sat in every communist, gay and lesbian, multicultural meeting there was. We badgered Ted Kennedy and stood up to union campaign cronies. I argued against my liberal professors and got bad grades in return.
“In the end I look back at the whole experience, I know despite a lot of hard work, I did not change one mind.” [Chris Duane, email]
Peter Brimelow often reminds me that "no one outside of the universities knows what’s going on." But I have reason to believe that is slowly changing. Many of my responses come from Catholic and non-Catholic parents and grandparents of high-school and college age students who are looking for better options. Some tell me they get my article through home-school email lists or forwarded on from fellow parishioners. Some are even concerned clergy.
One reader put well what many readers tell me:
“I am a student at a small Franciscan College in our area. We have another Catholic university here which is Norbertine and is liberal, like the one you attended. They host guest speakers in that are very anti-Catholic. The diocese here condemns my priest for not going with the modern changes, and yet they let any old liberal Sr. Mary Make Believe come in and destroy the faith.” [Scott LaLonde, email]
And this father writes a short note not unlike many, many others I’ve received—all mentioning different schools ( Georgetown, Fordham, Notre Dame, Loyola Marymount, etc):
“Good article Athena. Your school sounds just like my daughter's school at Seattle University. It's a sad time for Catholic education.” ("JMC206" email )
Even people who don’t seem to have any direct connection to the modern erosion of Catholic education are nonetheless touched by it. As a reader from Fort Wayne, Indiana writes:
“I once had a co-worker from the University of Dayton. Although the name may sound secular, it's in fact a Jesuit university in Dayton, Ohio. This gent was a classic born-again Christian type, so I asked him how he got along as a Protestant attending a Jesuit school. When he heard the word 'Jesuit', he responded, ‘You're crazy, Dayton isn't a Jewish college.’ It was apparent that he had never even heard the word Jesuit. I said, ‘You know, the Jesuit Catholic order ...’
“The baffled look on his face made it obvious to me that he had no idea that the University of Dayton was in any way associated with a church.”
My exposing the stories from my school has encouraged people to share the stories they have from theirs—and many eagerly take the bait, giving their own schools some well-earned criticism.
One reader shared numerous examples of perfidy in Australian Catholic University (ACU—a.k.a. he quips, Allegedly Catholic University):
“There, a nun lecturing theology said ‘It's just not true that God forgives us because of Christ's sacrifice.'
“Someone said ‘I'm studying scripture,’ and when my friend asked what he was learning, the man replied ‘I'm learning that we can't trust it.’
“ACU teaches that the priesthood and the episcopacy are completely separate things (contra ancient church teaching wherein the episcopacy is the fullness of the priesthood), and thus that the Pope’s teaching on the impossibility of female priests doesn’t apply to bishops.
“There was no regular mass or chaplain on campus, even major events were celebrated with a ‘liturgy of the word’ not a mass. There were priests available, so I suspect this was to be ecumenical.
“I also spent time at United Faculty of Theology in Melbourne, where Jesuit seminarians are trained. On the first day there I heard from the head of the New Testament Studies department ‘Now, in the past, Christians used to think the Bible was the Word of God.’
“The head of the moral theology department said ‘As Christians, we all understand that we can’t say that anything someone else does is wrong.’ (I'm not making this up, I swear)
“From a member of the Philosophy department: ‘When we do philosophy, we need to remember that there are no true and false answers.’
“My tutor for New Testament studies got her PhD in ‘eco-feminist biblical criticism.’ Once again, not making this up.
“And finally, from the head of the religious education department: ‘I don’t think education should have anything to do with passing on the faith.’”
Another reader, a 1971 graduate now living in New Jersey, shared the following anecdote:
“I completed graduate studies at Villanova University (an Augustinian school outside of Philadelphia) many years ago and still receive their alumni bulletin. If one didn't know that Villanova was a Catholic school, one would be hard pressed to realize it from the bulletin. The final straw came some two years ago when a distraught professor murdered her Downs syndrome child and then committed suicide, a very tragic series of events. Other faculty proposed a memorial in the library. After a large outcry, the proposal was shelved. Of course, the article in the bulletin made no mention of murder and suicide as mortal sins.” [Jason Cebalo, email]
But there are always rays of hope. Yes, there are some good Catholic colleges. When asked, I usually recommend University of Dallas, Christendom Collge, Thomas Aquinas and Ave Maria. The Australian reader quoted above went on to praise Campion College in New South Wales, where he now attends school, saying they are true and devout, traditional Catholics.
It’s finding the real state of faith on campus that is so difficult—one shouldn’t trust the brochures or admissions counselors. Instead, one should go directly to the theology department and start asking hard questions.
But don’t expect to get answers you want to hear. This reader didn’t:
“I recently had the opportunity to meet with one of the top officials at one of the most well-known Catholic universities in the USA. I took the opportunity to ask about how they dealt with maintaining their Catholic identity in the face of growing secularism.
“My heart sank when I received the reply. Basically I was told that serious Catholic criticism is discounted as fanaticism from people with too much time on their hands. So sad, especially from someone in charge of one of the most prestigious universities in the world.” (D'Arcy Drachenberg, email)
But after all this condemnation, is this change in Catholic education really so bad? I mean, after all, my school is supposedly teaching me to respect the people around me, opening my eyes to different viewpoint and teaching me not to judge—isn’t it?
The last reader I feature in this article challenges my entire take on university education (ignoring that fact that I’m talking about specifically Catholic institutions—schools that are promising a faith-based education.)
Kris’ note exemplifies just exactly the kind of open-minded, tolerant and non-offensive tone that made liberal (not Catholic) education so worthy of my many thousands of dollars:
“The purpose of a liberal arts education is to take closed minds and open them as much as possible. It sounds like they at least tried to do that in your case.
“My Aunt who's been a nun for 51 years now, teaches that if men could become pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.
“By the way, I remember from high school that Catholic girls were the biggest hoochies, is that still true?
“Best, Kris Martinsen, Berkeley.” (email her at email@example.com)
Athena Kerry (email her) has just graduated from a Catholic university somewhere in America.