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twenty questions and answers abuot selecting a catholic college

twenty questions and answers abuot selecting a catholic college

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Published by: Center for the Study of Catholic Higher Ed on Sep 11, 2009
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The Newman Guide
1.\ue000What is the special value of a Catholic
college education?

A faithful Catholic college provides an open and healthy environment for serious consid- eration of ideas without the tyranny of ha- rassment, political correctness or enforced relativism. The same cannot be said for many secular institutions.

At the colleges featured in thisGui d e,
students will also \ue000nd a vibrant Catholic cul-
ture on campus that respects Catholic moral
teaching and o\ue002ers numerous opportunities
for spiritual development. Although every
campus varies, di\ue002erences from the typical

secularized Catholic campus might include a more active Catholic campus ministry, re- spect for Catholic values in areas including residential life and campus programs, active

pro-life and social justice e\ue002orts, community
outreach programs, Catholic study groups,
2.\ue000Can I get a good education at Catholic
colleges and universities that are not
included in thisGu ide?

ThisGui d e represents the Catholic colleges that we were able to identify as placing a pre- mium on their Catholic identity in all aspects of campus life. They also provide a good edu- cation. Among those colleges not included in theGui d e are some with strong academic cre- dentials but that do not have, in our opinion, the same commitment to Catholic identity.

The opportunity for strengthening spiri- tual formation during the college years is enhanced where Catholic teachings are con-

stantly reinforced. We believe that the best
combination of spiritual and academic com-
mitment is re\ue001ected in the colleges recom-
mended in thisGui d e.
3.\ue000What is Ex corde Ecclesiae?

It is the Apostolic Constitution on Catholic higher education issued by Pope John Paul II in 1990. The document, which is available at

TheNewmanGuide.com, identi\ue000es what con-
stitutes Catholic identity at Catholic colleges
and universities and speci\ue000es General Norms

to achieve a Catholic mission. These Norms are binding on Catholic colleges as an appli- cation of Canon Law.

In 1999 the U.S. bishops approved guide-
lines to implement Ex corde Ecclesiae in the
United States; these became e\ue002ective in 2001.

Compliance by the U.S. Catholic colleges and universities varies widely. Clearly, a Catho- lic institution that minimizes or subvertsEx

corde Ecclesiae, which has the force of Canon
Law, has serious problems with its Catholic
identity. All colleges recommended in this
Guide enthusiastically support and abide by
Ex corde Ecclesiae.
4.\ue000What is a core curriculum?
A core curriculum is a body of courses that
is required for all students. Generally, these
re\ue001ect a traditional liberal arts perspective.
Some colleges\u2019 core curricula encompass the
entire four-year program, while others re\ue001ect
only a limited number of courses.
The importance of a core curriculum,
Twenty Questions and Answers About
Selecting a Catholic College
Twenty Questions and Answers
The Newman Guide

in our opinion, is to ensure that students are adequately exposed to the Catholic intellec- tual tradition through theology, philosophy and other disciplines. As a rule, the larger the

number of such required courses, the be\ue005er
the curriculum is likely to be in forming the
student\u2019s thinking as a Catholic.
Sometimes a college may allow some \ue001ex-

ibility within the core curriculum, allowing, for example, a student to choose among vari- ous theology courses. This may or may not be desirable depending on the choices available. In the main, the best situation would seem to be where students are exposed to as large a number of strong, orthodox Catholic courses as possible.

5.\ue000How is a core curriculum different from a
Great Books curriculum?

A Great Books curriculum prescribes that stu- dents be taught the classical works of Western Civilization, generally through direct reading of the texts and discussing them and writing about them. A Great Books program can be

secular in nature, but those identi\ue000ed in this
Guide are not.

Those who promote a Great Books ap- proach at Catholic colleges see it as an unfet- tered way to present the Catholic intellectual tradition, because they take the position that the great classics are intertwined with Catho- lic thought.

A Great Books program tends to be rig- orous and can be an outstanding opportunity for serious students seeking a broad liberal arts degree. Such an approach, however, is not for everyone\u2014for instance, a student who is seeking specialized courses in a traditional college major.

6.\ue000I consider myself more a \u201cdoer\u201d rather

than a \u201cthinker.\u201d Should I avoid colleges
that place a premium on theology and
philosophy courses?

No, that would be a mistake. Everyone should be concerned with \u201cFirst Things\u201d\u2014the natu- ral and supernatural truths that lie at the root of all knowledge and activity\u2014and the best way to do so is to understand what they are and how to address them. You would short- change yourself by avoiding these academic areas. For a fuller discussion of the impor- tance of philosophy and theology, please read

Professor Kree\ue004\u2019s essay at the beginning of
thisGui d e.
7.\ue000In identifying a college, should I place
a greater emphasis on a well-rounded
education or on training for a career?

This is a raging debate in education circles. Historically, colleges were established to teach people to read the Bible, perhaps even to be- come clergymen. Another consideration was that students be taught enough of the classics to be good, productive citizens.

The focus on education, including higher
education, has shi\ue004ed. There is a certain en-

thusiasm for courses and majors to be \u201crel- evant.\u201d To a large extent, we as a society are the poorer for it.

We encourage students to direct their ed- ucational priorities in this order: (1) broaden your understanding of the Catholic intellec- tual tradition; (2) develop a greater apprecia-

tion for writers and thinkers who have in\ue001u-

enced Western thought, including prominent Americans; and (3) sharpen your reading, writing and other intellectual skills to even- tually take an active role in society.

That\u2019s why a core curriculum is valuable; it helps direct you toward learning what is es- sential for you to lead a rewarding life as a

Twenty Questions and Answers
The Newman Guide

Catholic in a democratic society. If you don\u2019t learn these basics in college, you are unlikely to learn them later in life.

8.\ue000How important is accreditation?

Accreditation is very important. Problems can result down the road if a student graduates from an unaccredited college. In applying to

graduate school, for example, they may \ue000nd

that their undergraduate work is not fully ac- ceptable at the college to which they are ap- plying.

A few colleges in thisGui d e are not yet accredited because they are new and accredi- tation can take several years. There is a stan- dard process that an aspiring college must follow. The good news is that once accredita- tion is granted, it applies retroactively. We are impressed by the progress that the not-yet- accredited colleges in thisGui d e have made,

and we are con\ue000dent that the key question is
\u201cwhen\u201d not \u201cif\u201d they will be fully accredited.
Nevertheless, students should discuss
this ma\ue005er with the admissions o\ue003ce at each
college and feel comfortable with the accredi-
tation status of the college that is \ue000nally se-
9.\ue000Can a Catholic college have a lay board
or lay of\ue000cials and be committed to
Church teachings?

Absolutely. It is not unusual for dedicated, or- thodox Catholic laypeople to found or direct a college.

The key is how closely the college em- braces Ex corde Ecclesiae. Does it, for instance, require the theology professors to receive them an d at um from the local bishop? Is the college\u2019s commitment to Church teachings

re\ue001ected in the spiritual life, the curriculum,
the outside speakers who appear on campus,
the types of groups that \ue001ourish on campus,
etc.? What is the college\u2019s relationship with
the local bishop?
10.\ue000What is thema ndatu m?

According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, \u201cThem an d at um is fundamentally an acknowledgement by church authority that a Catholic professor of a theological discipline is teaching within the full communion of the Catholic Church.\u201d

According to Canon Law, every Catholic theology professor must receive them an d at um from his local bishop. Catholic colleges, how- ever, are not obligated to require them and a -

tum, and most colleges will not reveal which
professors have received it.

Students seeking assurance of the ortho- doxy of theology professors should consider colleges that voluntarily require them and a -

tum for employment and tenure. Many col-
leges in thisGui d e do so.
11.\ue000Do requirements such as thema ndatu m
or prohibiting appearances by pro-
abortion speakers curb academic free-
No. A college that identi\ue000es itself as Catholic
should be expected to re\ue001ect Church teach-

ings. A college\u2019s purpose is to seek and teach truth; at a Catholic college, the Catholic faith is recognized as truth from God revealed to us through Scripture, Christ and the Church.

Academic freedom protects faculty from interference when they seek or teach truth ac- cording to the methods proper to their aca- demic discipline. Academic freedom also pro- tects the truths of Faith from those who have no recognized theological expertise but who would publicly undermine Catholic teaching. In his address to Catholic educators (found in the Appendix), Pope Benedict notes that the crisis of Truth is rooted in a crisis of Faith.

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