Pope warns educators against contradicting church teachings

April 18th, 2008 - 8:14 am ICT by admin  

Washington, April 18 (DPA) Pope Benedict XVI warned US educators Thursday against contradicting the church’s positions at religious universities, which have drawn criticism for diverging from official teachings on issues such as abortion. In a speech at the Catholic University of America, Benedict affirmed the role of academic freedom on the church’s university campuses but said that such freedom should not be used to “justify positions that contradict the faith”.

Critics who say the universities have become too secular point to clubs for homosexual students, performances of the Vagina Monologues and speeches on campuses by politicians who support abortion rights.

The Cardinal Newman Society, a group that seeks to return such universities to their traditional role, accuses many of pursuing “a secular model as the university ideal to a point where their own Catholic identity and mission within the church is no longer clear”.

Institutions such as Notre Dame University in Indiana, Villanova University in Pennsylvania and Georgetown University in Washington are among the most respected in US education and attract many non-Catholic students to their campuses.

“Teachers and administrators, whether in universities or schools, have the duty and privilege to ensure that students receive instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice,” Benedict said.

“Divergence from this vision weakens Catholic identity and, far from advancing freedom, inevitably leads to confusion, whether moral, intellectual or spiritual.”

Benedict said the moral relativism of a modern age makes religious educational institutions more important than ever. He stressed that Catholic identity in education was not tied to the number of Catholic students but to looking at the world through a religious lens, and cited the importance of teachers in upholding the faith and his own experience as a professor in Germany.

Benedict also stressed the need for Catholic elementary and high schools, whose “long-term sustainability must be assured”.

Since 1990 about 1,300 Catholic schools in US cities have been forced to close, displacing 300,000 students and disproportionately hurting poor children’s access to education, a study this month by the Thomas B Fordham Foundation found.

“No child should be denied his or her right to an education in faith, which in turn nurtures the soul of a nation,” Benedict said.

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