WASHINGTON (June 7, 2000) -- Galveston-Houston Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza, president of the U.S. Catholic Bishops' Conference, announced today that the Conference had received the recognitio or formal approval for its application of Ex corde Ecclesiae to Catholic universities and colleges in the United States.
Ex corde Ecclesiae (ECE) ("From the Heart of the Church") is an apostolic constitution on Catholic higher education issued by Pope John Paul II on August 15, 1990. It deals with how the structure and life of Catholic colleges and universities should reflect their Catholic identity.
An apostolic constitution is a document in which a pope enacts and promulgates law.
Ex corde Ecclesiae: The Application to the United States (the Application) takes the principles and norms of ECE and applies them to the situation of Catholic colleges and universities in the U.S. ECE called for bishops' conferences to do this.
After approval by the Holy See, these local or regional norms are valid for all Catholic institutes of higher studies in that territory. Besides the general norms of ECE itself, the Application also takes into account the Code of Canon Law (Canons 807-814, Book III, Title III: Catholic Education, Chapter II, Catholic universities and Other Institutes of Higher Studies) and complementary Church legislation.
The recognitio, granted by the Holy See on May 3, 2000, began a year-long implementation period. The norms of the Application will come into full effect on May 3, 2001.
In his statement Bishop Fiorenza said that the U.S. Bishops' Conference is Aprofoundly grateful to the Holy Father for the wisdom and insight with which he has addressed the question of Catholic higher education." He pointed out that Pope John Paul Adedicated a considerable part of his ministry to Catholic higher education."
"Clearly the Holy Father addressed this issue from his own heart," Bishop Fiorenza said.
Bishop Fiorenza said that Ex corde Ecclesiae contributed immediately to Catholic higher education in the United States "by providing the focus for the first sustained discussions in the U.S. between bishops and college and university presidents."
This dialogue "was important in itself and as a contribution to preparing the Application. The continuation of this dialogue should be a permanent result of applying Ex corde Ecclesiae to Catholic higher education in the United States," he added.
Bishop Fiorenza acknowledged the work of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Implementation of Ex corde Ecclesiae, its resource persons, consultants, and project directors.
He said that he especially wanted to acknowledge Athe outstanding leadership of the Committee's chairman, Bishop John J. Leibrecht of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, throughout this nine year process."
Bishop Leibrecht "has been extraordinarily perceptive and prudent in dealing with a complex matter whose ramifications extend from theology and canon law to issues of academic administration and civil law," Bishop Fiorenza said.
"The essential contribution" of the Subcommittee on the Implementation was also singled out, and Bishop Fiorenza said that "under the leadership of Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua of Philadelphia, who brought to the task his vast understanding of the issues involved as well as his expertise in canon and civil law, this Subcommittee's contribution to the final draft was crucial."
Bishop Fiorenza also acknowledged the prefects and officials of the Congregation for Catholic Education in Rome Awith whom the Implementation Committee and Subcommittee closely collaborated," in particular Cardinal Pio Laghi, "who brought to the matter extensive familiarity with Catholic higher education in the United States from his service here as Apostolic Nuncio," and Archbishop Zenon Grocholewski, who recently succeeded Cardinal Laghi.
Bishop Fiorenza said that "the purpose of Ex corde Ecclesiae and the U.S. Bishops' Application is, above all, to strengthen our Catholic colleges and universities, especially by helping them to maintain their Catholic identity."
Pointing out that "few dimensions of service are as closely associated with the Church as education," Bishop Fiorenza said that in a time of concentration on material success, "educational institutions which raise the fundamental questions of human existence are a vital necessity to our society.
"Ex corde Ecclesiae and its Application envisage Catholic higher educational institutions -- while maintaining their own proper autonomy -- working in communion with the entire Church community through the ministry of the Bishop to provide our society with this kind of alternative," he added.
Saying that "some practical matters of implementation about which inquiries have been made" will be addressed during the implementation period "in dialogue with college and university presidents, theologians, and canonists," Bishop Fiorenza acknowledged "the diversity and complexity of the world of Catholic higher education" in the U.S. He said that the Bishops "hope that when the Application comes into full effect on May 3, 2001, that the practical effects will have been clarified and that implementation will proceed appropriately."
Bishop Fiorenza asked all Catholics to pray during this implementation period for its success, noting that "many Catholics are proud graduates of these institutions and continue to support them to this day. Others benefit from their existence, since many of their graduates assume leadership in their fields and in the church and secular communities.
"The Bishops of the United States join in prayer that Catholic higher education, which has been one of the prides of the Church in our nation, will be united in an even greater communion with and draw its sustenance and strength from the heart of the Church community," he concluded.
There are approximately 900 Catholic institutions of higher education worldwide. According to the 2000 edition of the Official Catholic Directory, there are 235 Catholic universities and colleges in the United States, enrolling 701,240 students as of January 1, 1999, forming the single largest concentration of such institutions in one country.
A 1979 apostolic constitution, Sapientia Christiana, governs ecclesiastical universities and faculties which grant their academic degrees in the name of the Holy See.
A copy of Bishop Fiorenza's statement is attached.
Ex corde Ecclesiae: The Application to the United States can be found on the U.S. Catholic Bishops' Conference web site, nccbuscc.org.