Dear Bishops

An open letter on Ex corde ecclesiae

The current generation in Catholic higher education has been one of growth, debate, and retrieval. It has given rise, especially in the past few years, to a widespread determination that the religious identity of American Catholic colleges and universities is a gift that must be preserved and handed on. That determination has been strengthened by the 1990 apostolic constitution, Ex corde ecclesiae. The authors of this letter have all been engaged with Ex corde since its early drafts, and have been working to implement it since its promulgation. However, we are concerned that a November vote by the U.S. bishops on the current version of the norms for implementation could hinder our efforts. We offer here a brief reflection on why Catholic higher education will benefit from more time to work out the issues that remain unresolved.
The theology of communion (communio) has provided a rich framework for the principles and norms of the Ex corde implementation document. The "theology of communion" at Vatican II overcame ecclesiological approaches that tended to be overly juridical. Communion themes were intertwined with a stress on the collegial exercise of authority, on the universal call to holiness, on ecumenical progress, and on human solidarity. "Communion" is used analogically in the council documents to refer to a complex web of relationships. Juridical norms need be framed in the light of how they foster or...

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About the Author

Brother Raymond L. Fitz, SM is the former president of the University of Dayton.