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Going! Going! ....?

For years, after Vatican II, the issue of the Catholic identity of colleges and universities, was, for the most part, avoided. Most institutions were, in effect, drawing upon previously accumulated capital.

John Paul II's Ex Corde Ecclesiae brought the issue to the center of attention once again, and a number of institutions belatedly responded with new mission statements that stressed not only "Jesuit" or "Vincentian" or "Augustinian," but their commitment to the "Catholic" tradition.

Some promising Catholic Studies Programs were initiated, as was, in some places, the attempt to begin serious conversation about the Catholic Intellectual Tradition.

But still the crucial issue of "hiring" has not been seriously confronted (though, if I remember correctly, the Steinfels broached this subject more than 15 years ago).

Now, an article in the current America (available only to subscribers -- the August "grace period" having expired!) broaches the problem acutely.

The author, a faculty member at Notre Dame (no, not that faculty member) pulls no punches: he cites some fascinating details.

Here is his radical prescription for what he fears will be an otherwise terminal illness:

The matter of hiring Catholic faculty has been of concern at Notre Dame for
some time. The Rev. Robert Sullivan, of the history department and the
Erasmus Institute, now heads an effort to identify able Catholic scholars.
He also heads an ad hoc committee on recruiting outstanding Catholic faculty members, appointed by Provost Burish. One of the charges for this committeeis to identify "the best practices for hiring Catholic faculty members." One can only hope and pray for the success of these endeavors.

It must be understood, however, that this is not a matter that can be
massaged by minor measures. The temptation for administrators is to hope
that a little adjustment here and a bit of tinkering there might improve the
situation without stirring faculty opposition. Settling for minor measures
in the present circumstances, however, indicates a complicity in the
secularization process. A major change in the hiring process is required,
and the need for it must be approved at the level of the board of trustees
and implemented with courageous leadership, whatever faculty resistance it

If the seemingly inevitable downward trend in the Catholic percentage of the
faculty is to be arrested and reversed, a major board decision calling for
two-thirds of all future appointments to be committed Catholic scholars is
essential. This would require very different ways of hiring from the
department-based procedures of today. The university would need to engage in what might be termed strategic hiring or hiring for mission. A recognition
that this approach is crucial to its identity could drive the endeavor. It
would require Notre Dame (and other schools that want to preserve their
Catholic mission and character) to be truly different from their secular
"preferred peer" schools. Failure to take such action, however, will lead
schools like Notre Dame to merely replicate such secular institutions and to
surrender what remains of their distinctiveness. This is surely a sad
prospect for those who hoped, with Ex Corde Ecclesiae, that a Catholic
university might constitute "an authentic human community animated by the
spirit of Christ."

About the Author

Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is Associate Professor of Theology Emeritus at Boston College.



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I'm of two minds about this. Part of having a "Catholic mission and character" should involve a truly Catholic openness to the gifts of non-Catholics. Why would it detract from the Catholicism of the university if a Methodist teaches music or math? Methodists are Christians--why wouldn't they make a contribution to "an authentic human community animated by the spirit of Christ." A Catholic ecclesiology is engaged with non-Catholics; why shouldn't this engagement be palpable and real on campus?On the other hand, is there something distinctive about the Catholic outlook that would affect, for example, the way economics is conveyed? Is literature, taught by a Catholic, differently-oriented than as taught by e.g. a non-believer?

It will be interesting to see what will win out for bright high school graduates and/or their parents -- a catholic education dedicated to, (usually a strong concervative) catholic identity or a better secular education with more prestige. I find it interesting that the two men that conservative catholics are most proud of went to non catholic undergraduate and graduate(law) schools...Alito and Roberts And they, themselves are suppose to be outstanding catholics!I can remember in the baby boom years, when I had young children, and the question was, "where do you send your children for high school? Should it be the catholic high school where they would get a good education or the public high school where they would get a better education? The better public high school education won out for most parents who were concerned for their children's future. And the parents who opted for for that decision were pre-vatican II, well educated in the faith catholics, that were produced by that supposed gold standard of catholic education of the 1950's.

Those of you interested Commonweal's review of the Morey/Piderit book can read it here:

Bravo to "America" for publishing this article. But it is long in the coming. Having read the magazine regularly for the last 17 years, I can't recall any article that significantly questioned or discussed how well Jesuit colleges and universities have preserved their Catholic identity. Unfortunately, when it comes to things Jesuit, "America" tends to resemble more the cheerleader than the journalist. Since Vatican II, have Jesuit institutions done anything that we may now see as mistaken or misguided? Has everything been absolutely wonderful for the past four decades? Let's see if "America" will publish some articles that are both reflective AND self-critical of Jesuit insitutitons.

All who value Catholic higher education should be grateful to Father Miscamble for writing, and to America for publishing, this disturbing description of the attenuation of the Catholic character of Notre Dame. The general theme will be familiar to all who have examined recent studies such as Catholic Higher Education by Piderit and Morey. With respect to Notre Dame, a comprehensive analysis appears at, the homepage of Project Sycamore, a non-profit established by Notre Dame alumni. Most alumni dont like to hear this and dont want to believe it. The place looks the same when they visit, and the University incessantly tells them its getting better every year. Notre Dames formidable public information machine proudly points to the crowded chapels and the hours students spend in social service; priests still are much in evidence; the grotto remains a treasured place of peace and prayer. While all of this is real, it's fatally deceptive, as a former Provost of Notre Dame, James T. Burtchaell, C.S.C., has explained in his landmark study The Dying of the Light. The student body continues as before at Notre Dame 85% of the students are Catholic and the old religious practices continue even as the faculty is being secularized. With the infrastructure gone, the superstructure ultimately collapses. But then its too late. As Father Burtchaell says, the alumni begin to worry that their university might lose its religious identity after it already has.At Notre Dane, it is already very late. Catholic representation on the faculty has fallen steadily and precipitously from 85% in the 1970s to 53% in 2006. Applying a minimal discount for nominal and heterodox Catholics, there is no longer the majority of Catholic intellectuals that the schools Mission Statement declares is essential to the schools Catholic identity. Worse, as Father Miscamble points out and the Provost has predicted, because of the heavy concentration of Catholics retiring, unless there is a major turnaround there will soon not be even an arithmetical majority. While, as Father Miscamble notes, the President, Father Jenkins, understands the problem and has put in place some measures designed to solve it, the question is whether this will suffice. Hiring has been largely controlled by the faculty. Most of them oppose paying any attention to whether a candidate is Catholic, as a 2003 study set forth in the Project Sycamore materials shows; and a number are actually hostile to mission hires, according to Father Miscamble. Will they bow to exhortation? It seems unlikely, to put it conservatively.. Past administrations have not been indifferent. The secularizing elements of the faculty so far have largely, though not uniformly, ruled.The University has so far been reluctant to disclose last years hiring results to the extent it has in the past, which does not inspire confidence. It says that in the largest of the colleges over 50% of new hires are Catholic, but theres nothing new about that sort of figure. As Father Miscamble stresses, a bit over 50% is not close to enough even to maintain the unsatisfactory status quo. He puts the figure at two-thirds. This corresponds with Project Sycamores estimate, which it advised the University it would use unless told it was badly off the mark. The University did not take exception. Assuming, then, as seems almost certain, the situation remains grim, the question is whether those in governance will be willing exercise their residual authority despite the very real risk of vocal opposition and resentment of substantial elements of the faculty. And even some snickers and sneers from secular academe. Stay tuned to

I wonder what Fr. Sullivan and Fr. Miscamble make of the hiring of the well-respected historian Mark Noll, an Evangelical.

I hope they will say, but I would be astonished if they didn't regard it as a first-rate appointment. Certainly the Project Sycamore organizers do. (I note the link to Project Sycamore in my earlier comment is not live, though the second is. All interested in Notre Dame should examine what's there. Again, the address is The point is not to revert to the monolithic faculty of 40 years past, and certainly not to denigrate the important contributions of non-Catholic faculty. But Notre Dame purports to be Catholic and has declared that, to be Catholic, it must have a "predominant number of Catholic intellectuals" on the faculty, a term that all agree means a solid majority. The point, as Father Miscamble stresses, is to meet this requirement. Or, I add, concede that it can't or won't, so as not to be guilty of false advertising. Had Notre Dame not turned its back on Eamon Duffy, a sorry episode related by Father Miscamble, it might have had an extraordinarily powerful duo in Professors Noll and Duffy.

Without pretending to know what Fr. Sullivan and Fr. Miscamble would say, here is what Fr. Michael Buckley, S.J., said in the Winter 2007 issue of B.C. Magaziine("Without Catholic scholars, intellectuals, professors, and a corresponding core curriculum, the Catholic identity will inevitably failliving on only in the catalogues and official pronouncements of the university after the faculty has long since ceased to espouse the vision.The presence of Catholic intellectuals is obviously necessary and urgent, but not sufficient. Essential is the presence on the faculty of members of other traditions, both religious and humanistic. They should find in the Catholic university a strong support for the religious and humanistic values they represent, a support they might not find in any number of other academic institutions."Hiring for mission does not preclude hiring non-Catholics; but, clearly a critical mass of Catholic scholars is crucial.

Since the Jesuits have been mentioned, it is worth noting that the latest issue of "Conversations on Jesuit Higher Education" (not yet on their website) is devoted to what place theology and philosophy should have in a core curriculum. It includes a survey of 23 Jesuit colleges and universities with regard to requirements in those two areas. The most any one of them requires is three courses in each area; most seem to require two in each; one of them requires only one course in each area. Some replies speak of courses in Religious Studies rather than of Theology, so it is difficult to know whether any courses specifically on Catholic theology are required. It would appear that in some places it would be possible to fulfil the requirement by a course, say, on Meso-American Creation Myths and another on Post-Modern Critiques of Religion.I do not believe that the whole burden of the Catholic identity of a college or university should be borne by the Theology Departmentfar from it! But if we dont want our students limping when they leave our institutionswell-developed in the area of their major, but weak in the adult appropriation of their own faith, then requirements in that area certainly need to be looked at.Curriculum and faculty--the two basic issues, I think. If not, why bother?

It also might be worth discussing (at some point )different pedagagical approaches to the adult appropriation of faith. Especially important to parents, I would think, is the continuity or discontinuity that is presumed between the students' prior catechesis and the theological instruction of the university.

Curriculum and faculty are "the two basic issues," as Fr. Komonchak says, but I also wonder how much the quest among universities for inclusion in the upper echelons of the "U.S. News & World Report" rankings has affected Catholic universities, especially ND, Georgetown, and BC, and how much the Catholic identities of such institutions may have suffered as a result of the competition to achieve higher and higher rankings.

Father Buckley's succinct statement put it very well indeed. With respect to the state of affairs at Notre Dame, Dr. Jude Dougherty, Dean Emeritus of of Catholic University's School of Philosophy, put it even more succinctly in a letter to Project Sycamore: ""It all comes down to this: At its highest levels, the Holy Cross Fathers and the Board, the University must decide before it is too late whether it wants to be a Catholic University or merely another secular university. " The point about the curriculum is very important and deserves full treatment in another article. The character of the education obviously depends both on who teaches and what is taught. The gutting of the core curriculum at Notre Dame has evidently paralleled that at the Jesuit institutions. Though Father Miscamble praises the Theology Department as one exception to the general pattern, that may not matter much to the typical student . Only three hours over four years need be devoted to a distinctively Catholic subject; and that course as described is limited to "the Bible and early Catholic traditions." Another three hours must be taken, but they may consist of studying medical ethics, or war and peace, or poverty, or "Gendering Christianity." With this feeble a theology requirement, one may reasonably question the strength of the claim of these institutions to afford a Catholic education. (As to Philosophy, again only six hours are required and Notre Dame, and here there is the overarching faculty commposition question.) If Notre Dame is still the most Catholic of the major universities, as it may well be, the bar has been lowered so much through changes in faculty and curriculum that the praise is faint indeed.

Today, 9.2.2007, a few days after the publication of this article in America, not one comment has appeared on America's website, but twelve are here at Commonweal! Please tolerate several disparate statements from me. Neither Fr. Miscamble nor the commentators have mentioned how Notre Dame gets "sold" to potential undergrads: It is a school that brings prestige to the student (even if he barely graduates); it provides networking for jobs because of one's classmates and acquaintances, and its football team is renowned. If alumni complain that it is no longer very Catholic, that complaint may be simply that Notre Dame's faculty no longer belongs to our tribe. Or, perhaps, the alumni wish to turn the clock back to an everybody-is-my-kind age when they themselves have plunged into a varied, pluralist world of business. It annoys me that some Catholic high schools likewise offer exclusiveness, networking, and athletics while boasting their Catholicism.

Interesting post and comments.In my experience, Catholic schools of all kinds tend to rest on their title, their associations (with a parish, diocese, or religious order) or even their history--and that's not so terribly different from most Catholics who don't renew their intentionality on a regular if not daily basis.Hiring Catholic faculty may be a piece of the picture. But from the outside looking in, I see the tireless promotion of the culture of sport. Is it really necessary? Or does it keep big-pocketed alumni happy? Just like any other secular learning institution.

I am now entering my twentieth year at Notre Dame. From my perspective in the Theology Department, too often made the locus for carrying the Catholic character of the place, I do think that Bill Micamble makes some persuasive points and some others that are a tad over heated. For those alumni who worry about what is going on at Notre Dame a few salient points may not be out of place> We have 250 students majoring in theology; we offer on a volunteer basis one credit courses under the rubric :Know Your Catholic Faith." Students compete to be accepted in the Alliance for Catholic Education where they go off to teach in under served Catholic schools for two years; The Institute for Church Life has just started another pogram called ECHO to train catechists for a two year commitment in parishes around the country. Ten percent of our graduating class goes off to do service with the poor each year. That we need more Catholic intellectuals who join the faculty is a high priority. Recently, a distinguished alumnus has endowed four chairs to recruit distinguished Catholic scholars in a spectrum of disciplines. Here is a major probelm: many of our brightest students choose law school over PhD programs (much to my sadness). I keep pleading with them to go to graduate school since the last thing this country needs is another lawyer.Is the cup half empty or half full? I do not know. I do know this: all the old grousing alumni and others who lament the absence of Catholic faculty need to know that it is not easy finding committed Catholic professors and, secondly, if they spent some time in an state suppported school (as I did) they would begin to realize how Catholic Notre Dame is. A crisis is both a warning and a time of opportunity. It is that sense in which, as Piderit and Morey show in their book, that Catholic schools like Notre Dame are in crisis.

Larry,Thanks for the further detail.There certainly is a half-full glass(un buon rosso italiano, spero).And I could cite similar positive signs about B.C.I agree with the warning/opportunity perspective.But, as you suggest, the challenge is great;and perhaps, for some schools, it is too late.Or, as John Meier used to intone in Dunwoodie days."zu spaet!"

I leave it to others to judge whether the extensive analyses and the sources upon which they are based that are set forth at amount to grousing by superannuated (and, for the younger supporters, perhaps immature) alumni. I am put in mind of the Wall Street Journals observation this past week with respect to the governance dispute at Dartmouth: Like administrators at most universities, these academic elites expect only money -- not opinion and oversight -- from their alumni donors. But if Professor Cunningham, in speaking of what he knows, really means to say that those who take a view different from his must have had no experience with secular universities and do not appreciate how much more Catholic is Notre Dame, or that they must think there is an ample supply of outstanding Catholic scholars eager to come to Notre Dame, he is simply wrong. If he will examine the credentials of our board, he will find persons with extensive experience on the faculties of both secular and Protestant universities as well as Notre Dame, and there are many more with similar experience among our supporters. We know full well that Professor Cunninghams litany of worthy programs and notable achievements could be greatly extended. Dean Roche did so every year in his annual reports to the faculty, an excellent source. For my part, as I have said, I think Notre Dame is probably the most Catholic of the major Catholic universities, though I confess inadequate knowledge of the others to be confident of my view. And it is true that the proportion of Catholics on the faculties of the top secular universities, from whom Notre Dame prefers to draw, is far lower I think around six percent than the proportion of Catholics in the population.I suggest that none of this really advances the discussion but rather tends to detract from the central point of agreement, namely, that there is a crisis in Catholic education generally, and at Notre Dame specifically, with respect to Catholic identity, and that the question that must be answered now is what should be done about it. This, after all, is the burden of Father Miscambles article. So far, I have not seen in these interchanges any discussion of the steps he proposes. The four additional chairs referred to by Professor Cunningham, while welcome, are insignificant in relation to the problem. If I understand Father Miscamble, he is arguing that experience teaches that exhortation by the Administration will not be sufficient, and that new measures must be adopted that will in substance limit, if necessary, the virtually free hand heretofore enjoyed by faculty. What is to be said about that? I add a question bearing on the supposed difficulty of attracting enough qualified Catholic candidates to reverse the downward trajectory. Father Jenkins, Provost Burish, I take it Father Miscamble, and others deny that this is an insurmountable problem. Notre Dame, after all, is widely regarded as the premier Catholic University. Dean Roche has reported that the great majority of those who have joined the faculty in recent years listed Notre Dames Catholicism as their principal reason. Professor Brad Gregory stands as an outstanding example. But assume that, nonetheless, to hire the high proportion of Catholics now necessary to maintain a predominant number would require that in some, perhaps a number, of instances the best qualified candidate would have to be passed over. Not that the Catholic would not be fully qualified. No one goes so far as to argue that. But the Boston College or St. Louis graduate would be taken from time to time over the Harvard or Stanford graduate. This puts the question that I suggest is at the heart of the matter: Is excellence as measured by secular academe to be preferred over Catholic identity when a choice must be made? Is maintaining a predominant number of Catholic intellectuals worth sacrificing a few places one way or the other in the U.S. News & World Report ranking?For a good while, Notre Dame and other universities didnt face a choice. The number of Catholics was ample. And so it went year by year until now, with Catholics retiring at a high rate, it will take a brave and decisive effort to stop the train. But, again, which is more important? This is a crucially important governance issue and should be addressed honestly and decisively by the Board and, at Notre Dame, the Fellows. At the moment, on paper, Catholic identity should trump. Will it in practice?

At Catholic University a few years back, one of our departments, famous for its accomplishments in the study of the Catholic Church, saw the last Catholic on the faculty retire. The administration insisted that they had to hire a Catholic to replace him. The faculty of the department regarded this as an infringement on their academic freedom and integrity. The department was told that they would lose the faculty slot unless they hired a Catholic. Which was done. There had been a similar case a couple of years earlier, and once again it took the intervention of higher administration for the issue to be resolved.

I am not sure what William Dempsey's main point is. If he is sayig that we ought to hire a greater number of Catholics on the faculty, I cannot but agree; if he thinks that is an easy task then we do not agree. We actually have a mechanism in place to search out such faculty and they work very hard at it.He further thinks that four endowed chairs is a drop in the bucket. Wrong! Distinguished scholars draw graduate students who become later colleagues; they also draw younger faculty who wish to be in their company. Some faculty (I would number myself among them) were drawn to Notre Dame precisely because it is a Catholic university.

Why there should be fewer top-rank Catholic scholars today escapes me. But it does raise an issue that was part of the argument that John Tracy Ellis made over fifty years ago: whether we dont have too many Catholic colleges and universities, whether we might be better off if we had fewer but better institutions. I havent heard this discussed much.

Regarding the unnamed Department at C.U.'s capitulation, it seems to confirm the suspicion that, whatever our mission statements may profess, Marx had it right about the bottom line.Superannuated alumni unite!

About a year ago, BC held a gathering to discuss Monsignor John Tracy Ellis's famous question a half century ago -- where are the Catholic Salks and Oppenheimers? etc. Apparently the participants disagreed as to whether things had improved much in the past half century. Micamble's piece suggests that there is now no shortage of good Catholic candidates for academic appointments. I wonder if he's not a bit too optimistic; it's hard to think of all that many Catholic intellectuals who have made a mark on American public life, and that situation may be replicated in the numbers of younger men and women getting PhDs and ready for the job market. Of course we should be concerned about institutions keeping alive a Catholic environment, and serving the highest Catholic values, rather than going secular. But perhaps we ought to be even more concerned about the lack of interest (to use no stronger words) in the intellectual life among those picked by Rome to be our putative leaders, and who are charged with implementing Ex Corde. Don't get me wrong; the bishops may all be brilliant men, for all I know, deep thinkers doing their best to grapple with burning questions, turning over all variety of possible answers in their minds, and discussing them with others. But if they are so, they do an extraordinarily effective job of hiding it, so that in their public voice, they seem interested only in making pronouncements from on high, as if that solved all problems. How refreshing it would be if we could actually see them so grappling, and be assured that they had listened intelligently to the arguments of all sides. Instead one can only wonder if, in this case, they have read anything of what's been coming out over the last few years (such as that of our own Dennis O'Brien, whose The Idea of Catholic University appeared in 2002). So I wonder if, in the minds of many, this attitude might not seem to reflect a distrust, even fear, of intellectual inquiry. And I wonder if, to young American Catholics considering an academic career, this public attitude might not suggest that one must abandon the intellectual life if one is to be a good Catholic; or that one must abandon Catholicism if one is to be a good intellectual.That is certainly the message put forth all too often by the would-be bishops of the secularist academy; it is too bad if it is seemingly reinforced by the Church's own leaders. (On this subject, those of you who have access to the NYT be sure to read Peter Steinfels's article last Saturday on the disastrous effects of the Roman campaign against Modernism a century ago. It's at:

My main point is to suggest that it might be a good idea to focus squarely on what I take to be Father Miscamble's main point, i.e., that the attenuation of Catholic presence on the faculty due to the hiring policies of a large number of faculty departments has gotten to the stage that only some form of active intervention by those in governance, or at least the threat of it, will halt the secularization process. Is this true at Notre Dame? At other Catholic institutions? The course of events at Notre Dame seems to me to support that conclusion, as does Father Komonchak's telling example at CUA. At Notre Dame, Dean Roche's dark warnings to the faculty in his 2003 report were followed by two years in which the hiring of Catholics plummeted to around 40%. Judging from the Administration's unwillingness so far this year to disclose with any precision the resullts of last year's hiring, the work of Father Sullivan to which Professor Cunningham refers seems plainly to have fallen short. What stands in opposition to Father Miscamble's conclusion other than faculty resentment ? Why should it prevail? It did not at CUA, to its credit.

An addendum: I have just read an article in a student publication in which Father Sullivan states: The goal of the University is to annually exceed 50% in the hiring of instructional faculty" and that this goal was in general met last year. This is most dispiriting. Nothing Father Sullivan says suggests that meeting this goal will preserve even the slim arithmetical Catholic majority that existed last year. Surely it will not. Surely this goal has been met often in prior years as Catholic representation has stseadily declined. With the heavy concentration of Catholics retiring, this newly declared goal is a sentence to minority status in short order. Something between 60 and 70%, for reasons I have given earlier, is evidently necessary. Father Miscamble puts the figure at two-thirds. Moving the goalposts back to where the ball lies is not really to win the game. Rather, it is to sacrifice the school's claim to a robust Catholic identity, which the Mission Statement tells us "depends upon" a majority Catholic faculty. The Administration has until now consistently proclaimed this as its goal. Its new majority hiring goal, however satisfactory it might sound to the unknowing, is in fact hostile to the Mission Statement, as anyone familiar with the facts will immediately understand. One hopes there is something so far undisclosed that will erase these unhappy implications.

If one talks about percentages across the entire university it should be kept in mind that in certain fields (engineering comes immediately to mind) there is a grave shortage of Westerners who go on for PhD work; in other fields, where is no shortage of PhDs, industry and other private entities compete for their services. If you have a diminshed pool and then you stipulate that the candidate must be a Catholic you can see why there might be a hiring problem. Let us suppose that there is a Catholic candidate but he or she is a mediocre teacher/researcher - does one still go for the Catholic? Such issues arise less frequently in the College of Arts and Letters but when one looks at the university as a whole the matter becomes quite complicated. It is one thing to send down a mandate ex altissimis that two thirds of all faculty hires must pass the Catholic test and it it is quite another matter to implement that mandate across the entire university.I was actually on the committee that framed the mission statement (a task I would only wish on my worst enemies) and stand by the commitment that we need a Catholic majority at Notre Dame but the idea of setting exact quotas may not be the way to do it.

It is gratifying to learn that a scholar of Professor Cunningham's stature helped formulate, and stands by, the Mission Statement requirement of majority Catholic faculty. That standard is unquestionably not fully satisfactory, but the alternative is something like "critical number," which translates to "enough," which can mean whatever those in charge say it means.I know a good deal has been said about the importance of Catholic faculty in engineering and the like in contrast to liberal arts, and Professor Cunningham's observations about supply are certainly pertinent. I leave those matters to him and others better informed than am I. And of course no one should countenance the hiring of a mediocrity just to raise the Catholic head-count. However, the issue has not been joined on that basis, at least in Arts & Letters, and it is hard to imagine that it could be. That something else is at work is evidenced by the fact, reported by Dean Roche last year, that for a number of years six departments had hired Catholics at about a 60% rate and another six at about a 30% rate. Professor Cunningham's department and the Law School are particularly impressive success stories. No one has suggested that any department has hired mediocrities. The problem is that, as the Baylor study showed, some 60% of the faculty are simply unwilling to take Catholicism into account at all, and indeed there may be some hostility to hiring Catholics in some quarters. (I might note that Boston College was part of that study. If memory serves, it came out about the same as Notre Dame. The study is accessible at a precise arithmetical quota is the correct answer may be fairly debatable, as Professor Cunningham suggests. Some flexibility reflecting the nature of different departments and schools and existing ratios might be reasonable. I do not understand Fr. Miscamble to suggest otherwise, though I could be wrong about that. But if not something of this sort, then what? Surely this new goal of an overall 50% hiring rate is simply surrender. It is to sacrifice what is necessary to what may be achievable without offending the faculty in CUA style. So it seems to me, at any rate.

Mr. Dempsey--I didn't go to college at ND, but I have two siblings who did, and a nephew who is a sophomore there now. However, I did attend a Catholic university, and I do have concerns about what appears to be the increasingly secular nature of that institution.I have a question if you don't mind. In your comments about the critical need for "a majority Catholic faculty" at ND, how, if it all, are you defining "Catholic"? Is it enough to be a baptized Catholic intellectual who is academically qualified, or must the applicant satisfy some litmus test of orthodoxy? Father Miscamble alludes in his article to Eamon Duffy's perceived orthodoxy as being a reason Duffy was not extended an offer by ND. If Fr. Miscamble is correct about the Duffy matter, then that is certainly a shame. But it would be equally a shame if a qualified candidate were not extended an offer merely because he or she was associated with the Catholic left. IMO, for a university to be truly Catholic, the full spectrum of Catholic intellectual thought should be reflected in the faculty and made available to the student body.

William Collier has put his finger on an important point. We speak of it as the conundrum of the "check the Catholic box" - are to hire someone who checks "Catholic" but hasn't a clue or any interest in matters Catholic or someone who is not a Catholic but who is open to and sympathetic about the Catholic mission of the university. Picking the first person ups the "quota" but is of little existential value.

Larry,With regard to your last: d'accordo.I have a number of colleagues who are not formally Catholic, butwho, in my opinion, are animae naturaliter catholicae, and who want to teach at a university in the catholic tradition and contribute greatly by their presence and expertise.But I would also suggest an addendum to another of William Collier's points.It would be a shame if a qualified candidate were not extended an offer merely because he or she was deemed "conservative."

A question for those more familiar with Catholic higher education than I am: There are at least several Catholic academic Catholic professional associations; the Catholic Historical Association is one, and there's one for Philosophy, I believe. Do they exist in other fields -- the natural sciences, social sciences, English and foreign literature, etc? If they do, do they keep any rosters of say, emerging Catholic PhDs, which could be useful for search committees? If not, why not? And if they do, do search committees at Catholic institutions use them? And if not, why not? From years and years in the hiring business, I'm quite aware that, if you're interested in, for instance, affirmative action, while it's not entirely legal to say, We're looking for an African American historian of the American early twentieth century (or anything else) there are certainly informal ways of finding out what the AA talent pool is. Side note: there are at least two, and probably only two, African-American social historians of the Sung dynasty (960-1279 AD for those whose Chinese history is weak) here in the US (that's a pretty recondite field). One is on the faculty of my institution and the other one used to be. Affirmative action certainly helped us chase them down; but with their credentials, we'd have hired them like a shot quite apart from affirmative action.

I'm chiming in late here, and haven't yet been able to read Fr. Miscamble's article, but I'd like to add something to Professor Cunningham's observations about faculty recruitment. I'm a practicing Catholic who was an ND undergrad and is now a faculty member at Georgetown University. Despite Notre Dame's many virtues, its location undoubtedly makes it harder to draw faculty who have spouses with established careers, as many younger faculty do. This is particularly the case when the spouse is not in academia and hence, can't readily be employed by the university. It would be interesting to know how Catholic faculty hiring at Notre Dame has been affected by the increasingly widespread two-body problem. I would bet a lot that it makes it especially difficult to hire Catholic women faculty.

An important point indeed. Dr. Cunningham's observations show why there is not today a majority of Catholics in any meaningful sense of the word on the Notre Dame faculty. When even a very conservative discount is appplied to the 53% figure to take account of dissident and heterodox and nominal or "cultural" Catholics, any claim that there is truly a "predominant number of Catholic intellectuals" collapses. I presume that's one reason why the author of the Statement, then president Fr. Malloy, said that it requires "more than a mere majority." Why does not the University do a better job in telling a "paper Catholic" from a real one? In a recent interview Father Sullivan said that there were legal inhibitions. Surely the University's lawyers cannot be giving any such advice. This notion is insupportable on its face. If it is not unlawful for Notre Dame to establish a policy of according preferences to Catholics in hiring, as it most assuredly is not, then obviously it could not be illegal to find out whether an applicant is in fact, rather than simply in name, a Catholic. At a recent panel discussion, Professor Walter Nicgorski pursued this subject with an eye toward improvement in a process that is plainly inadequate to its purposes in at least some circumstances. I have been heavily involved in hiring in various fields for a long time, and while academic hiring no doubt presents its own problems, I simply cannot believe that if one really wants to find out whether a check mark is only that, one almost always can. I suspect that it is the attitude described by Professor Cunningham -- t he desire to add a number to to the "Catholic "column -- that is the principal culprit.All should agree with Nicholas Clifford's view that the full range of Catholic thought ought be represented, but I doubt that all do. It may go one way at, say, Ave Maria, but II cannot imagine that at Notre Dame or any other of the major Catholic universities it is the "left" rather than the "right" that is slighted..On anoher point, I might have supplemented Father Komonchak's account by noting that a similar episode occurred at Notre Dame during Fr. Malloy's tenure when he granted tenure to a C.S.C. over faculty objections. What I understand to have been a similar uproar ensued. Dr.Cunningham could speak to this much better than I.

Making Catholic institutions attractive places for first rate Catholic scholars to teach would seem to be a good idea. But I doubt that overriding the judgment of departments in order to impose Catholic candidates they don't believe otherwise qualified to teach in their programs can possibly be the way to go.

Ms. Gannon: Who said anything about hiring Catholic candidates thought otherwise not to be qualified? That wasn't the issue in the two cases at CUA. The department's complaint was not with regard to specific candidates..

In the case of Notre Dame, there is the additional problem that it is located in South Bend. And there seems to be nothing in South Bend except Notre Dame (even the Studebaker plant has shut down). A colleague of mine taught for a semester at ND. A month or two into his sojourn, his heart leapt when someone said, "Let's go down to the mall." He was thinking of the Mall, in D.C., with its many museums. The other person was thinking of the South Bend shopping mall. If Notre Dame were located somewhere else, they would be stealing all our best people.Miseree mei, Domine, secundum multituduben miserationum tuarum miserere mei.

Having spent several years in New Haven after South Bend, I can testify that the malls and all else are not distinguishable. Yale does pretty well nonetheless. Still, living in Washington, I take Father Komonchak's point. But this raises a related consideration he touches upon.. As Prof. Gregory, who came to ND from a tenured Stanford position, said to the Wall Street Journal, were ND not Catholic no scholar who could choose a "Top Ten" (or, I should think, a Top 20 in a more exciting place) would select ND instead. What this means, I suggest, is that as ND's Catholic identity weakens it gradually moves into the worst of all worlds: that of a weakly Catholic universithy of diminished secular standing. Almost as bad as getting whomped by Georgia Tech. And I quite agree with Father that it is not a question of forcing candidates deemed unqualified upon the faculty. The question is, rather, should the faculty turn aside fully qualified candidates to such an extent that the policy established by those in governance is undermined. Put differently, who's in charge, anyway? Or, more accurately, who should be.

Fr. Komonchak: I assumed the department would not have chosen the Catholic candidate in question as the best qualified applicant, or there would have been no problem. CU's method of "resolving" the situation might well make well-qualified scholars think twice before committing to a career there.

Ms. Gannon: As I said, the dispute was not over specific candidates but about the general principle that an important department should not be without Catholics on its faculty..

Relative to the disadvantage of living here in South Bend I will only comment as I always do. If you want to be a great scholar/teacher location is unimportant if the university community is a good one, the library is excellent, and the students (like those in Lake Wobegon) are above average. The nice thing about this place is that there are few distractions. A true scholar must practice a certain asceticism. I do not understand how the distiinguished scholars ar BC and CUA contributint to this discussion get anything done with the cornucopia of distractions their locations afford. I do take the point that the issue of finding job opportunities for married couples creates its own difficulties. I actually like it here for the precise reason that not much is going on even though Chicago is just a short ride away and sometimes exerts its siren call. After all, I abandoned the sybaritic joys of Florida for the more austere pleasures of northern Indiana and have not regreted it at all. Finally,: for the cost of a house, say, in Boston, in South Bend you could buy a shopping mall. Maybe that is why we we have attracted three former Harvard professors to our department even though none, to my knowledge have actually purchased a shopping center.

Ms. Gannon: By shifting the subject from an "unqualified" to the "best qualified" candidate, you have changed the framework of the discussion. As Father Komonchak has said in relation to the Catholic University dispute in particular, and as I say in relation to the situation in general, the issue of giving the faculty free rein does not appear in any important way in the context of hiring someone who is unqualified. It arises, rather, in terms of someone the faculty department considers "best qualified." Best qualified, that is, by the standards of the elite secular academe. The most publications, the most prestigious publisher, degrees from a Top Five University, and the like. Here is the problem: In his landmark study, Professor George Marsden of Notre Dame concluded: "Once a church -- related institution adopts a policy that it will hire simply 'the best qualified candidates,' it is simply a matter of time until its faculty will have an ideological profile like that of the faculty at every other mainstream University." So, in the end, here is the choice: an elevated ranking by secular academe or a fine genuinely Catholic University. Should Notre Dame or any of the other major Catholic universities aspire to be another Harvard or rather to be the finest Catholic University in the world? (For reasons I've given, I think to aim at the former is to miss both targets in the long run, but assume I am wrong about that.) Up until now, Notre Dame has played both hands, but that game Is over. It's decision time for all major Catholic universities, so far as I can tell,, and as Father Imbelli has suggested, it may be too late for some. Perhaps even for Notre Dame. 66

I have some questions:1. There are an awful lot of disciplines where it is not immediately obvious that stressing your religious persuasion (of whatever denomination) is at all connected with professional opportunities. When you talk of hiring "Catholic" faculty, what does this mean for biology, chemistry, or other natural and physical sciences? Catholic schools make up only a small number of the overall academic positions available -- unless one has one's heart set on teaching at Notre Dame, why would individuals in these disciplines identify themselves, as such, as "Catholic intellectuals"?2. How does stressing Catholic identity play out in terms of tenure determinations? Wouldn't a non-Catholic academic think long and hard before committing to ND if there were an inherent bias in favor of Catholic identity? I say this because the wife of a friend of mine many years ago was denied tenure at ND and according to my friend (who admittedly was biased) she was passed over in favor of people who were viewed as more Catholic than she was (though she actually was Catholic). I think she definitely would have gone elsewhere if she had understood at the outset that she would be judged by such a standard. The two body problem is probably most acute for female faculty, but my friend was a stay at home dad who adored South Bend.3. Does each department have to come up with a statement of how it advances the school's mission through coursework, lectures or other initiatives, with corresponding budget figures tied to the meeting of those goals?

One small clarification with reference to a comment by Mister Dempsey. The faculty does not have "free rein" over appointments. A department may recommend a person but that recommendation must be approved, first by the dean, who recommends to the provost. In other words, not to put too fine a point on it, the faculty proposes but the administration disposes.

Dr. Cunningham: You are of coursse correct. What I had in mind was not the right, but the practice, and I should have said so. The problem is that the residual authority has not been employed in such fashion as to arrest the precipitious decline in Catholic faculty. Put differently, to insure meeting the Mission Statement's requirement that there be a Catholic majority. The school's Catholic identity, the Statement declares, "depends" on it.Now, on that subject, all interested in Notre Dame should be on the watch for a change in that Mission Statement that would end this requirement and substitute a goal of hiring a Catholic majority each year. I mentioned this before. Father Sullivan, who heads the relevant faculty committee has recently reframed the Mission Statement this way. That might appear a relatively benign change. But in fact, because of the heavy concentration of Catholics among current and prospective retirees,tthe change would be decisive. If a bare majority are hired each year, the result, we calculate, would be a continued rapid reduction in Catholic faculty that would not level off until the 20-30% range, and it would stay there as long as the eye can reach. I mean 40 years and more. Barbara: Those are good questions that Dr. Cunningham and others, but not I, could answer with authority. I will say only this. First, there has been a good deal written about the relevance of the Catholicism of instructors in the sciences, physics, and the like, and the subject, I understand, was carefully considered by the ND Administration in formulating its Mission Statement. So it is an issue that has been taken seriously. The question of supply raised by Dr. Cunningham is a different matter. Second, on anecdotal and some actual evidence, my impression is that non-Catholics at Notre Dame are at least as likely to be granted tenure as Catholics, all else being equal. That is the logical result of a faculty that is already, for practical purposes, minority Catholic. Beyond that, my understanding is that the affirmative action policy (which applies also to women and minorities) applies to hiring, but not to tenure. I quite agree that this is how it ought to be. Third, as to integrating the Mission Statement into what goes on in the classroom, all I can say is that a solid majority of Notre Dame professors, in the 2003 Baylor study available on the Project Sycamore site,, said that, if asked to do so, they would not know how to approach such a task. So it would appear there are no requirements of the sort you describe.In all these matters, it is important to recognize that, notwithstanding the torrent of press releases and the like stressing Notre Dame's Catholicism, Catholics (excluding nominals and dissidents) are already in a minority , and it may not be a very large one, on the faculty.

Seriously, William, I think you've plugged your Web site enough in this thread.

Thanks for another plug, Mr. Gallicho; but I quite agree with you that another was not at all needed. My purpose was simply to provide a link to the Baylor study, which provides such a compelling demonstration of how faculty attitudes are in the way of hiring Catholics at Notre Dame and Boston College that it deserved a plug. Or so I thought, anyway.

Forgive the late contribution to the thread; I'm a new subscriber to the forum, so I'm doing the equivalent of wandering through the stores in the mall.I'm not a faculty member anywhere, but I did attend a Catholic college (Loyola Chicago). Reflecting on my undgraduate deeds and missteps, I confess that it isn't self-evident to me that the denomination or even the faith of an individual professor, matters very much in creating a Catholic environment. Even in the three theology courses I sweated through - two of which were taught by Catholic priests - the professors were all about exposing us to the material and getting us to think, and very little about sharing their faith or their beliefs with us.I'm wondering if faculty composition isn't being so focused upon because it is so easily measured, rather than being genuinely intrinsic in determining the Catholic character of a university. Since we obviously have Catholic faculty in this thread, I'd welcome their input on this.I did have one priest instructor, a Jesuit decidedly of the old school who memorably reminisced at one point while walking us through "Models of the Church", "I taught Fr. Dulles his Latin", this while taking issue with Dulles' interpretation of "subsists in" in Lumen Gentium - one teacher of all the faculty in 4+ years of undergraduate study who began each class with a prayer. That I remember him, and his praying, while having forgotten the names of nearly all of my other instructors all these years later, speaks of something about the distinctively Catholic character of a university.I believe the notion we've inherited from our parents and grandparents of what makes a university Catholic is a kind of ill-defined mishmash of courses being instructed by priests and nuns; compulsory mass attendance at least once per week; a student body that is almost entirely if not 100% Catholic; and separate dorms for men and women. Not all of these are even possible anymore, and most may not even be desirable, but if those days have passed, then what are the characteristics that make a contemporary institution Catholic? One more miscellaneous reflection: for me, the undergraduate years were spiritually fruitful; but that was due to an almost accidental confluence of circumstances (too dull to relate here) that did not occur for most of my college friends. At least in those days (in the early '80's), one could enter Loyola as a freshman and exit four years later as a graduating senior, and, beyond the mandatory nine hours of theology, have an extremely minimal encounter with the Catholic Church and her intellectual tradition.

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