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May 14, 2012

Professor Benedict lectures the professors

In his latest address to American bishops visiting Rome, Pope Benedict XVI stressed that Catholic educators should remain true to the faith -- a reminder issued just in time for another tense season of commencement addresses.

No, the pope did not mention Georgetown University by name when discussing the Catholic campus culture wars.

Yes, he did mention the law requiring professors who teach Catholic theology to obtain a Canon 812 "mandatum" (mandate) document from their bishops to certify that they are truly Catholic theologians.

Many American bishops have cited a "growing recognition on the part of Catholic colleges and universities of the need to reaffirm their distinctive identity in fidelity to their founding ideals and the Church's mission. ... Much remains to be done, especially in such basic areas as compliance with the mandate laid down in Canon 812 for those who teach theological disciplines," said Benedict, who taught theology at the university level in Germany.

"The importance of this canonical norm as a tangible expression of ecclesial communion and solidarity in the Church's educational apostolate becomes all the more evident when we consider the confusion created by instances of apparent dissidence between some representatives of Catholic institutions and the Church's pastoral leadership: such discord harms the Church's witness and, as experience has shown, can easily be exploited to compromise her authority and her freedom."

Benedict's remarks to the bishops of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming came during the fourth of five Vatican visits by Americans reporting on life in their dioceses. His January address, to the bishops of Washington, D.C., Baltimore and the U.S. Armed Services, made news with its focus on threats to religious liberty. It came shortly before Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the Obama administration would not withdraw its rules requiring the majority of religious institutions to cover all FDA-approved forms of contraception in health-insurance plans offered to employees, as well as to students.

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