From the “Campus Notes” blog on the Cardinal Newman Society site:
Catholic families have a right to know which theology professors have the mandatum, and Catholic colleges and universities should require it as a condition for employment, affirmed the Vatican’s chief judge Cardinal Raymond Burke in a new report prompted by recent concerns from Pope Benedict XVI.
Cardinal Burke and several bishops, canon law experts, and theologians discussed the mandatum with The Cardinal Newman Society in an online report published today at www.cardinalnewmansociety.org.
The report, titled “A Mandate for Fidelity,” follows upon a May 5th address by Pope Benedict to several American bishops during their ad limina visit to Rome. The Pope expressed concern that “much remains to be done” toward the renewal of Catholic identity in U.S. Catholic colleges and universities, “especially in such areas as compliance with the mandate laid down in Canon 812 for those who teach theological disciplines.”
He cited “the confusion created by instances of apparent dissidence between some representatives of Catholic institutions and the Church’s pastoral leadership.”
Canon 812 of the Catholic Church’s canon law states, “Those who teach theological disciplines in any institutes of higher studies whatsoever must have a mandate from the competent ecclesiastical authority.”
As implemented by the U.S. bishops, a theology professor requests a “mandate” (commonly identified by the Latin mandatum) from the bishop presiding over the diocese where the theologian is employed. The professor commits, in writing, “to teach authentic Catholic doctrine and to refrain from putting forth as Catholic teaching anything contrary to the Church’s Magisterium,” according to U.S. guidelines.
But in the United States, many Catholic colleges and universities have not required theology professors to have the mandatum, or even to disclose to students and their families which professors have the bishop’s recognition. The 1990s saw vigorous opposition to the mandatum by some theologians and the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, but the controversy has since cooled down, largely because in practice the mandatum has not had much relevance to students and college leaders.
Now Pope Benedict’s concern about a lack of “compliance” with Canon 812 renews questions about Catholic colleges and universities’ obligations relative to the mandatum. The Cardinal Newman Society asked several experts including Cardinal Burke, archbishop emeritus of St. Louis and prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s highest canon law court, to explain what canon law requires.
Citing Pope Benedict’s description of the mandatum as “a tangible expression of ecclesial communion and solidarity,” Cardinal Burke said:
It’s tangible in the sense that it’s a public declaration, in writing, on the part of the ecclesiastical authority that a theologian is teaching in communion with the Church, and people have a right to know that so that if you, for instance, are at a Catholic university or parents are sending their children to the Catholic university, they know that the professors who are teaching theological disciplines at the university are teaching in communion with the Church. They are assured in that by the public declaration of the diocesan bishop.
“The fact that I teach in accord with the Magisterium is a public factor,” added Cardinal Burke. “That’s not some private, secret thing between myself and the Lord.”
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