Tuesday, January 02, 2001

Pilarczyk addresses concerns about doctrine oath

Some teachers reject mandate

By Ben L. Kaufman
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Don't sweat it, Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk is telling Catholic professors who fear the church is imposing an ill-conceived loyalty oath on them.

        “The feeling is real, but I do not believe the threat is real,” the archbishop said.

        The new requirement, called a mandatum, or mandate, is each scholar's promise to teach only “authentic Catholic doctrine” at about 250 Catholic colleges and universities nationwide.

        Archbishop Pilarczyk led the national committee that drafted the mandatum and implementation policy. A fi nal version is to be approved by bishops in June.

        Critics say the mandatum is an affront to academic integrity.

        It is an “unnecessary and perhaps unjustified intrusion” on teachers' rights and academic freedom, said Paul Knitter, a Xavier University theology professor. “A lot of the theologians feel it is a questioning of their integri ty. It's bound to cast a shadow over anybody's presence in the classroom.”

        Dr. Knitter predicted that he won't be
alone when he declines to apply for it.

        But the archbishop said the mandatum is no more than an affirmation of the complementary roles of professors and bishops, and soon will fade into the other realities of academic life. It covers Catholics teaching Scripture; dogmatic, moral and pastoral theology; canon law; liturgy and church history.

        Its impact will be as global as the Vatican's efforts to reinforce Catholic identity of Catholic schools, and as im mediate as classes at Thomas More College, Xavier University, the University of Dayton, Chatfield College and the College of Mount St. Joseph.

        Under proposed rules, a mandate is to be requested by each teacher and issued by the local bishop unless the bishop has proof that the scholar is violating the pledge.

        Archbishop Pilarczyk said he expects to grant the mandatum to everyone who requests it.

        “I do not believe that in our diocese that anyone is teaching heresy,” he added.

        The current draft includes a face-saving way to avoid individual confrontations by allowing a bishop to confer the mandatum on his own initiative - without an application by a teacher - “provided that the commitment to teach in full communion with the church is clear.”

        By June, the draft version will have been the basis for further discussions between bishops and scholars, Archbishop Pilarczyk said: “This is as new to the bishops as it is new to the theologians.”

        The archbishop wants to assure teachers that the mandatum is not the leading edge of a conservative purge.

        Among scholars who do not oppose the mandate is the Rev. William Cleves, who will return to teaching at Thomas More next year after serving as that school's president.

        “I do not have the feeling I'm being imposed on,” Father Cleves said, recalling similar affirmations during his studies in Rome.

        However, William Madges, theology chairman at XU, said Dr. Knitter's anxieties are “equally shared by all of the members of the department.”

        There also is the possibility that prelates less “intellectually alive” than Archbishop Pilarczyk might interfere in the classroom, Dr. Knitter said.

        Similarly, Dr. Knitter said, outside critics might force a school to make possession of the mandatum a condition of employment.

        With that risk in mind, Dr. Madges said, the mandatum could limit scholars' “ability to reflect creatively on the traditions of the church.”

        So, what can a bishop do to a teacher who doesn't apply, whose application is rejected or whose mandatum is revoked?

        “Nothing,” Archbishop Pilarczyk said.

        That does not prevent a school from considering the lack of a mandatum when it is time for a pay increase, contract, promotion or tenure, he added, and if that goes badly for a teacher, it's the school making the decision, not the bishop.

        Similarly, nothing happens to a school that allows faculty to continue teaching without a mandatum, Archbishop Pilarczyk said.


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