Appeared in 1997-1998, Vol. XXIII, Nos. 3 & 4

In the January, 1998 Issue of Instaurare, Christendom College president Timothy T. D’Donnell, S.T.D., K.C.H.S., declared that:

The most significant document affecting the Catholic university in this century is Pope John Paul II’s apostolic constitution on Catholic Colleges and Universities, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, “Out Of the Heart of the Church.” Recently, the Bishops of the United States submitted to the Vatican a draft of their norms for the implementation of Ex Corde Ecclesiae in our country. This draft was returned recently to the U.S. Bishops by the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, which deemed the document inadequate. I think this makes an examination of the Pope’s powerful document timely and appropriate (p. 2).

While Dr. O’Donnell and others have explored with great clarity the many theological and philosophical issues involved with the apostolic constitution, this essay concerns itself with some of the important sociological considerations relevant to the history, reception, and implementation in the United States of Ex Corde Ecclesiae, first promulgated in 1990. One of these considerations involves the historical decision of American (and later, American Catholic) institutions of higher education to model themselves after the highly specialized German research university. Another would be the (unjustified) sense of inferiority that progressive Catholic scholars, epitomized in Monsignor John Tracy Ellis’ famous 1955 lament, felt vis-a-vis their Protestant and secular brethren of the American academy during the pre-conciliar period.

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