By John-Henry Westen

ROME, November 25, 2005 ( – Pope Benedict XVI paid a visit to Rome’s Sacred Heart Catholic University today to address students on the occasion of the inauguration of the academic year.ÂThe Pope, knowing the devastation to the faith of millions of Catholic students which has taken place in Catholic universities, asked pointedly of students at Catholic Universities “How do they leave? What culture did they find, assimilate, develop?”

The ideal envisioned by the Catholic Church for Catholic schooling has been expounded on in various papal documents. It revolves around the hope of higher learning fused with formation in faith in God and the pursuit of the logical connection between faith and reason. As Pope Benedict put it, “This is the great challenge: … to give life to a true Catholic university, one that excels for the quality of its research and teaching and, at the same time, for its faithfulness to the Gospel and to the Church’s Magisterium.”

However, that ideal has, for the most part, been gravely distorted especially in North America. Even if young people survive with their faith intact until university or college age, statistics show they will lose their faith in so-called Catholic higher education.

A large study which gained massive attention in 2003 found that by the time they graduate, students at many Catholic colleges are significantly more opposed to Church teachings, pray less, and are in many ways less religious than when they were freshmen. The study, based on annual surveys by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute (HERI), surveyed students at 38 Catholic colleges finding that:

· Whereas a majority of students entered Catholic colleges pro-life (55% opposed to legal abortion, 45% in support), many graduated pro-abortion (57% pro-abortion, 43% pro-life).

· Support for legalizing homosexual “marriages” increased from 55% to 71% by senior year.

· Approval of having sex with someone known “for only a very short time” increased from 30% to 49% by senior year.

· Although 15% of seniors reported much stronger religious beliefs and convictions than when they were freshmen, the same growth was reported by 12% of seniors at nonsectarian colleges and 24% of seniors at other religious colleges (mostly Protestant).

· Only 37% of seniors prayed more than one hour a week; 31% didn’t pray at all.

· Among Catholic students, 9% left the faith by graduation. Although 11% of non-Catholic students converted to the Church, their actual numbers were smaller and still left Catholic colleges with a net 4% loss of Catholics.

· Among Catholic seniors, 13% did not attend a religious service in the past year (a four-fold increase since their freshman year), and about half attended only occasionally.

The eyebrow raising statistics come as no surprise to those who have followed the catalogue of anti-Catholic actions at Catholic universities and colleges in Canada and the United States.Â

Last year, the Cardinal Newman Society, an organization established to hold Catholic universities true to the faith they profess, issued a report summarizing such scandals at U.S. Catholic colleges and universities. The 56-page report, “The Culture of Death on Catholic Campuses: A Five-Year Review,” documented inroads made by advocates of abortion, contraception, premarital sexual activity, and physician-assisted suicide on Catholic college campuses since 1999. The report cited nearly 200 instances of campus speakers and honorees who have been public advocates of abortion or otherwise contributors to the “Culture of Death”. College officials and faculty with ties to pro-abortion and pro-euthanasia organizations and some even providing abortifacient drugs to students. (see coverage )

In 2003 alone, the Cardinal Newman Society reported that 42 U.S. Catholic Colleges were scheduled to present the “Vagina Monologues” play, which includes an approved reminiscence about a lesbian seduction of a 16-year-old girl.

For comment on the Pope’s remarks, spoke with Professor John Paul Meenan who heads one of the few Canadian Catholic colleges which prides itself on being fully adherent to the faith it professes.“As the Church has emphasized, the Catholic university is called in a particular way to provide a solid, clear grounding in truth, both natural and revealed,” said Meenan, Dean of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy in Barry’s Bay, Ontario.“The purpose of Catholic education should not simply be to impart knowledge, but to immerse young people in a truly Catholic culture, to provide an integral, well-rounded education. Students should leave firm in their faith, able to enter into dialogue with a world that is not always friendly to the truth.” (See the Academy website: )

High-placed Vatican officials have hinted recently that Pope Benedict is ready to act on the matter of Catholic colleges and their adherence to the faith. Earlier this month, the Vatican’s number two education official, Archbishop Michael Miller, secretary of the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education, predicted that Pope Benedict XVI will follow a path of “evangelical pruning” of secularized Catholic colleges and universities, declaring them no longer Catholic. (see coverage: )

The complete address (in Italian) is available here:

  (with files from the Vatican Information Service)


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