WASHINGTON (May 27, 1997) -- Bishop Anthony M. Pilla, president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, has appointed a Subcommittee to review several observations received from the Holy See on the text sent to it by the U.S. bishops implementing Ex Corde Ecclesiae for this country. Ex Corde Ecclesiae is Pope John Paul II's apostolic constitution on Catholic higher education. The text submitted to the Holy See was approved by the U.S. Bishops in March, 1996.
Bishop Pilla appointed the committee at the request of Bishop John Leibrecht, Chairman of the Ex Corde Ecclesiae Implementation Committee, to whom the new Subcommittee will report its recommendations. Subcommittee members are Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, Chair; Cardinal Adam Maida, Bishop Thomas Doran, Bishop Raymond Burke and Monsignor John Alesandro, a canon lawyer from the Diocese of Rockville Centre, N.Y. Their task is to address issues outlined in four pages of observations from Cardinal Pio Laghi, head of the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education.
Cardinal Laghi presented the observations with a letter dated April 23 to Bishop Pilla during a May meeting at the Vatican. Bishop Pilla then notified Bishop Leibrecht and the Ex Corde Ecclesiae Implementation Committee of the observations from the Holy See.
In the letter to Bishop Pilla, Cardinal Laghi expressed his "profound gratitude" to the bishops and university presidents who developed the implementation document of Ex Corde Ecclesiae for the United States and noted the "delicate questions which the project gave rise to in the context of the United States university system."
Cardinal Laghi also stressed that asking for a "second draft" was a normal part of the process and suggested that revisions be made before the document goes to the Vatican Congregation for Bishops, which gives final approval to the document.
Bishop Pilla asked that the Ex Corde Ecclesiae Implementation Committee consider these observations of the Vatican Congregation "as soon as possible."
In his letter, Cardinal Laghi stressed that the theme of mutual trust between university and Church authorities, which the U.S. bishops had highlighted in their first draft, is "one of the attitudes which may have been less obvious in the past and which should mark a new era in the place given to -- and the role performed by -- the Catholic University within the Church, for the good of the Church and for the good of society."
In his observations, Cardinal Laghi recommended that the next draft include juridical elements seen as necessary "for an effective functioning institutionally of Catholic universities as university and as Catholic in all aspects of their organization, life and activity" and the addition of "essential elements" of a mission statement.
He also urged that the the revised document include additional attention to Canon 812, which is included in that the section of Church law governing Catholic universities. It states that "it is necessary that those who teach theological disciplines in any institute of higher studies have a mandate from that the competent ecclesiastical authority."
Cardinal Laghi also proposed more study of that the Bishops' document, Doctrinal Responsibilities: Approaches to Promoting Cooperation and Resolving Misunderstandings Between Bishops and Theologians.
Episcopal conferences worldwide have been developing local applications to that the papal document, which was issued in 1990 and which stressed that the the relationships between that the college/university and Church authorities is "characterized by mutual trust, close and consistent cooperation, and continuing dialogue."
Bishop Leibrecht said that discussions between representatives of Catholic colleges and universities with bishops on that the identity and mission of Catholic higher education, based on the apostolic constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae will continue. He indicated that such discussions will prove productive while that the Implementation Committee prepares a second draft for that the Congregation for Catholic Education.
In the United States there are 235 Catholic colleges and universities, with an enrollment of 635,648 students.