ROBERTS: Catholic Colleges must return to Catholicism — not embrace Leftism

It is past time for Catholic institutions to sever their ties to the Democratic Party and end the teaching of modern liberal ideologies for the good of their students and the Church in America.

As things currently stand, American Catholic universities are actively sowing the seeds of the Church’s destruction in the United States. Unless administrators get serious about being faithful servants to church teaching in academia, Catholic colleges will undoubtedly finish the job of the left’s infiltration into all American institutions.  

No single image better symbolizes the fall of Catholic higher education than Barack Obama in 2009 standing in front of an intentionally covered “IHS” inscription and cross while speaking at Georgetown University. IHS—a traditional monogram for Jesus Christ—was deliberately concealed by the Jesuit institution to accommodate the requests of the newly installed Democrat president. In other words, the Catholic school decided to reject the messiah of the universe and embrace America’s new messiah of leftism. While seemingly harmless to most secular observers, the incident is indicative of a longtime practice of the American Catholic Church leaders to abandon its teachings in order to adhere to the overwhelming influence of modern liberalism. 

[RELATED: Notre Dame uses cops to shut down students’ traditional marriage table]

It is no secret that Catholic leadership in America has historically been an ally of the Democratic Party. Today’s church leaders who sit on the sidelines as “devout” Catholics Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi pursue the most anti-Catholic agenda at the highest levels of the federal government are not the first to appease, and in many instances, advance the agenda of the American left. 

Recall that the only two Catholic priests to serve as voting members of Congress were Democrats—including one particularly pro-abortion sympathizer

In the 1980s, the most vocal criticisms of the Reagan administration didn’t always come from Tip O’Neill or the halls of Berkeley, but also from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, especially on defense and economic policy. 

Perhaps the only thing more embarrassing than Cardinal McCarrick and O’Malley’s participation in funeral services for staunch church dissident Ted Kennedy in 2009 was allowing President Obama of all people to deliver the eulogy in a basilica. 

Since the 1960s, Catholic colleges have been at the forefront of accelerating the Church’s demise. The shameful tenure of former longtime Notre Dame President Fr. Theodore Hesburgh epitomized American Catholic leadership’s adoption of leftism. “Fr. Ted” led astray countless students and young generations of Catholics through his notoriously cozy relationships with pro-abortion Democrat politicians like Mario Cuomo and the Clintons, and particularly by his openly heretical calls to disassociate Catholic universities from the Vatican and the Church as a whole through the 1967 Land O’Lakes Statement

America’s ongoing embrace of the false promises of the ‘60s sexual revolution both culturally and in public policy has undoubtedly degraded young people and fractured families. What makes it even more tragic is Catholic higher ed’s acquiescence to such a destructive ideology to “liberate” the individual. Attend a tour of any Jesuit institution and the only worship of God you’ll hear about is not the Trinity composed of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but rather the modern progressive idolatry of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. 

Today’s elite Catholic colleges are especially indistinguishable from their secular Ivy League counterparts. Rather than instill moral values through a classical education designed to ultimately guide young men and women into Heaven, contemporary education on a Catholic campus is more concerned about inculcating students with a blind allegiance to DEI to ultimately land a lucrative job on Wall Street or at The New York Times

You would be hard-pressed to find more than a small handful of Catholic universities that have heeded the warnings of Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae. In this prophetic document intended to clarify the church’s long-standing opposition to artificial contraception during the rampant moral relativism of the ‘60s, Paul VI accurately predicted that the societal consequences of widespread birth control would result in “marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards,” man “[forgetting] the reverence due to a woman … [reducing] her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires,” as well as the “danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law.”

It should come as no surprise when “Catholic” schools like Sacred Heart University eagerly showcase its students advocating for leftist policies like unfettered access to artificial birth control, or when Villanova University decides to bless all “marriages” — “regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

[RELATED: Jesuit university celebrates gay marriage ruling on social media]

Whatever is pleasing to the liberal establishment, not God, is the rule rather than the exception for such Catholic institutions in 2023.

For the few remaining Catholic officials in higher education who wish to preserve the integrity of their schools, they should look no further than to an architect of Catholic education: John Henry Newman. In his timeless 1852 classic, The Idea of a University, the future saint wrote:

But a University training is the great ordinary means to a great but ordinary end; it aims at raising the intellectual tone of society, at cultivating the public mind, at purifying the national taste, at supplying true principles to popular enthusiasm and fixed aims to popular aspiration, at giving enlargement and sobriety to the ideas of the age, at facilitating the exercise of political power, and refining the intercourse of private life. It is the education which gives a man a clear conscious view of his own opinions and judgments, a truth in developing them, an eloquence in expressing them, and a force in urging them. It teaches him to see things as they are, to go right to the point, to disentangle a skein of thought, to detect what is sophistical, and to discard what is irrelevant.

In order for the Catholic Church in America to have a viable future, its university educators have no other alternative than to teach a biblically-based, genuinely CATHOLIC education designed to enrich the souls of their students. At a time of endless societal problems, not the least of which are skyrocketing isolation and depression among young people, a Catholic higher education institution would be wise to promote a sound campus culture and curriculum based on lasting truths and traditions—not toxic ideologies and modern fads. Such a change could make a difference in the long road ahead to rebuild American communities around a common purpose, rather than continuing to endure our present status as a divided nation of atomized individuals. 

Editorials and op-eds reflect the opinion of the authors and not necessarily that of Campus Reform or the Leadership Institute.