Archbishop Gregory Aymond this week told an audience at Loyola University that Catholic colleges and universities should be places of religious tolerance internally and fully engaged with the world outside, but also committed to pointing students “to one who is the way, the truth and the life.” Aymond’s sketch of Catholic higher education Thursday night inaugurated a year-long lecture series that is part of a centennial celebration at Loyola — with Xavier University and Holy Cross College one of three Catholic colleges or universities in New Orleans.
Over the last three decades what it means to be an American Catholic university has become a contentious question on campus and in the church.
The tension is balancing loyalty to certain faith and value propositions already definitively accepted as true — thus Aymond’s reference to the figure of Jesus — against the pull of secular Western academic culture, where faculties’ first principle is that universities should not be seminaries, and that inquiry must be free to go anywhere.
New Orleans’ three Catholic higher-education institutions are all independent, not under Aymond’s direct control. But as the Vatican pointed out in a 1990 policy paper, Catholic universities are expected to cooperate with the local bishop in teaching Catholic faith and values.