Pastor's Page
By Fr. George Welzbacher
July 24, 2011

The chickens are coming home to roost. Over the past half-century far too many Catholic institutions of higher learning have shown themselves to be so eager to prove that they are "just as good" as the secular competition or have been so eager to secure government funding that they have sold their birthright for a mess of pottage. Theology departments in particular  have too often transformed themselves into havens of dissent, in order to show the world that they now enjoy full "academic freedom", having broken free of the "chains of dogma". If belief in Christ's manifestation of the goal of human life as a sharing in the innermost life of God, a manifestation moreover whose faithful transmission to the end of time will be guided and guarded by the Holy Spirit, speaking within Christ's Church, in accord with Christ's promise-if through a failure of logic or the impulse of passion such adherence of mind and will to the revelation given us through Christ should come to be thought of as a demeaning bondage, I suppose one could then find reason to rejoice at the bursting asunder of "chains". But those who acknowledge Christ's revelation for what it is: a gift from God, a divine illumination of the purpose of human life, together with full provision of the means for its achievement-they will gaze aghast at what can only be described as a full-speed-ahead "Operation Demolition."

Fortunately not all Catholic colleges and universities have joined in this feverish rage for self-destruction. But those that have are beginning to face some unwelcome consequences vis-à-vis a secular government's incremental intrusions.   May I be pardoned for once again citing our nation's far and away best daily paper (and the one that is far and away the most sympathetic to the teachings of the Catholic Church) from the issue of June 24th.
*          *         *         *         *
Are Catholic Colleges Catholic Enough?
The Wall Street Journal, June 24, 2011
Patrick J. Reilly

It's not just Boeing that the National Labor Relations Board is picking on: for the second time this year, the NLRB has ruled against a Catholic college.

The Chicago office of the NLRB said that St. Xavier University had failed to demonstrate the "substantial RELIGIOUS character" necessary to qualify for EXEMPTION from federal labor law. As a result, adjunct professors in its employ will be allowed to organize, even though the school has argued that a faculty union would interfere with the school's autonomy as a religious institution by ceding "jurisdiction over important matters to a third party."

In January, the NLRB's New York office made the same determination about Manhattan College, a Christian Brothers institution, which has since appealed.

Both cases hinge on the Supreme Court's ruling in NLRB v. The Catholic Bishop of Chicago, et al. (1979), which found that the NLRB had violated the First Amendment's free exercise clause by requiring Catholic schools to comply with federal labor laws, thereby possibly interfering with religious decision-making. But that ruling didn't stop the NLRB from claiming authority over MOST Catholic colleges and universities by arguing that "Catholic Bishop" protects only "church-controlled" institutions that are "substantially religious," a phrase taken from Chief Justice Warren Burger's majority opinion in the case. Many of the nation's 224 Catholic colleges and universities are LEGALLY INDEPENDENT of the Catholic bishops or the religious orders that founded them. [Such for many years has been the status of the University of St. Thomas].

So the NLRB has put itself in the position of JUDGING schools' RELIGIOUS character, and it has concluded over the years that many Catholic institutions are inconsistent in their application of Catholic principles to teaching, course requirements, campus life and faculty hiring. It's a serious overreach by the government, though many Catholics would agree that colleges and universities often demonstrate inconsistent religious observation.

The erosion of religious identity in Catholic higher education over the past 50 years has been marked by theological dissent, hostility toward the bishops, and increasingly liberal campus-life arrangements such as co-ed dorms and lax visitation rules. These issues fueled the 2009 confrontation at Notre Dame, for example, when pro-life Catholics objected to the school's honoring President Barack Obama. This year the U.S. bishops are engaged in a review of Catholic educators' compliance with church rules for colleges and universities.

Colleges that have deliberately watered down their Catholic identity, in part to help themselves compete for government aid, now face church pressure to strengthen their religious identity.

The choice for Catholic educators is increasingly clear: defend religious liberty and stand up for a STRONG Catholic identity--or give up the PRETENSE. Catholic educators are now awaiting the result of Manhattan College's appeal to the NLRB regulators in Washington. Their appeal relies heavily on an argument put forward in 1986 by future Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. Writing for half the members of an evenly divided D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Breyer argued that the NLRB had contravened the Catholic Bishop ruling by establishing a "substantial religious character" TEST TO DETERMINE whether a college meets sectarian standards.

The D.C. Circuit [Court of Appeals] has formally embraced Justice Breyer's reasoning twice over the past decade, instructing the NLRB to STOP interfering with any college or university that "holds itself out to students, faculty and community as providing a religious educational environment." In ruling against St. Xavier University and Manhattan College, NLRB regional staff seem to have IGNORED that instruction. [Emphasis added].

Mr. Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, is author of "The NLRB's Assault on Religious Liberty," published by the society's Center for the Advancement of Catholic Higher Education.

*          *         *         *         *

A Shrinking Share of Children (from a recent edition of The Star Tribune).

Children now make up less of America's population than ever before, even with a boost from immigrant families. And when this generation grows up, it will become a shrinking work force that will have to support an expanding elderly population.

The latest 2010 census data shows that the share of children in the United States-people under 18-is 24 percent, failing below the previous low of 26 percent for 1990. The share is projected to slip further to 23 percent by 2050, even as the percentage of people 65 and older is expected to jump from 13 percent today to roughly 20 percent by 2050.

In 1900, the share of children reached as high as 40 percent, compared to a much smaller 4 percent share for seniors 65 and older. The percentage of children in subsequent decades has held above 30 percent until 1980, when it fell to 28 percent amid declining birth rates, mostly among whites.

*          *         *         *         *