Ex Corde Ecclesiae

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Apostolic constitution issued on Aug. 15, 1990 by John Paul II; intended to supplement the apostolic constitution on ecclesiastical faculties and universities, Sapientia Christiana (1979), by providing for non-ecclesiastical universities and other Catholic institutions of higher learning a description of their nature and purpose and general norms to govern their activities.

After an introduction (nos. 111), the text is divided into two parts. The first, "Identity and Mission" (nos. 1249) briefly describes the nature of a university and locates Catholic identity in the Christian inspiration of individuals and the whole community, "reflection in the light of the Catholic faith upon the growing treasury of human knowledge, to which it seeks to contribute by its own re-search," "fidelity to the Christian message as it comes to us through the Church," and an institutional commitment to the service both of the People of God and of the whole human family (no. 13). Research undertaken at a Catholic university should be characterized by the search for the integration of knowledge, a dialogue between faith and reason, ethical concern, and a theological perspective (nos. 1520).

The next sections discuss the university communityteachers, students, and administrators (nos. 2126)and the university's place and role in the Church, both universal and local, and the responsibility of bishops to promote and assist in the preservation and strengthening of Catholic identity, with due regard to the autonomy of the sciences, including in theology, and to academic freedom (nos. 2729).

The mission of the Catholic university is described, first, in terms of its service to Church (no. 31) and to society (nos. 3237). For the latter the emphasis falls on the university's becoming an "instrument of cultural progress," bringing to bear Christian "ethical and religious principles," promoting social justice, and encouraging interdisciplinary research projects. The Catholic university should also be a place in which pastoral ministry assists an integration of faith and life, demonstrating this by opportunities for community worship and concern for the poor and those suffering injustice (nos. 3842). The institution should promote the dialogue between the Gospel and culture, with special reference to local cultures and contemporary problems. It should in particular promote a dialogue between Christian thought and the modern sciences. It should encourage and contribute to ecumenical dialogue (nos. 4347). In all these ways the Catholic university will make an indispensable contribution to the Church's primary task of evangelization (nos. 48, 49).

The second part of the document is devoted to eleven general norms to supplement other ecclesiastical legislation. Article 1 requires that they be applied locally and regionally "taking into account the statutes of each university or institute and, as far as possible and appropriate, civil law." The general norms and local or regional applications to be incorporated into governing documents and university statutes are, as necessary, to be brought into conformity with them. Article 2 legislates for the Catholic identity, which is to be made known in a public document and to be promoted by the influence of Catholic teaching and discipline over all university activities, with due regard taken for the freedom of conscience of each person and for the autonomy and freedom of the various disciplines. Article 3 lists three different ways in which a Catholic university may be established: by the Holy See, an episcopal conference, or a local bishop; by a religious institute or other public juridical person; by other ecclesiastical or lay people. Article 4 entrusts the primary responsibility for maintaining and strengthening Catholic identity to the university itself and its officials. All teach-ers and administrators are to be informed about this Catholic identity and expected to promote or at least respect it in ways appropriate to the different disciplines. Catholic teachers, particularly in theology, are to be faithful to Catholic doctrine and morals, and others are to respect them; non-Catholic teachers and students are to recognize and respect Catholic identity, and non-Catholic teachers are not to constitute a majority within the institution; education of all students is to include a formation in ethical and religious principles and courses in Catholic doctrine are to be made available.

Article 4 requires that the university remain in communion with the universal Church and with the local Church; bishops are to promote the good of the institution and have a right and duty to supervise the preservation and strengthening of their Catholic identity; the institution is to make periodical reports to the competent church authority on the university and its activities. Article 6 makes provisions for the pastoral ministry at the institution. Article 7 encourages cooperation among Catholic universities and between them and the programs of governments and other national and international organizations on behalf of justice, development, and progress. Articles 8 to 11 provide transitional norms for the application of these norms. The bishops of the United States in November 1999 authorized a set of norms for the application of Ex corde ecclesiae and sent these to Rome for approval.

Bibliography: For the text of Ex corde ecclesiae, see: Acta Apostolicae Sedis 83 (1991): 249339 (Latin); Origins 20, no. 17 (October 4, 1990) (English); The Pope Speaks 36 (1991): 2141 (English).

[j. a. komonchak]