The 'Mandatum': Now What?

What does conscience require?

By June 1, 2002, Catholic theologians who teach in Catholic colleges and universities are supposed to have received and accepted a mandatum from the local bishop. (In this article, I will use "universities" to include all these institutions.) Those hired subsequently are to acquire the mandatum within the academic year or within six months of being hired, whichever period is longer. Many theologians then are facing a question of conscience. How did we get to this point?


A Brief History

Georgetown University, founded in 1786, is the oldest Catholic institution of higher education in the United States. From that time until World War II, there was really no question of what made Catholic universities "Catholic." That was something that could be taken entirely for granted. Most of their students were Catholic; most of their faculty members were Catholic clergy and religious. Most of the laity who eventually taught alongside of them were themselves Catholic. The curriculum reflected Catholic interests, beliefs, and sensibilities. The Catholic community was willing to support this unique and complex private school system, including primary and secondary schools, because enough Catholics felt that, in a religiously pluralistic culture, it was important to provide an education for their children in which being Catholic could be something pervasive and...

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About the Author

Robert J. Egan, SJ, a frequent contributor to Commonweal, teaches theology and spirituality at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington.