What is Catholic Identity? What does it mean at a Catholic university?

What is Catholic Identity?  What does it mean at a Catholic university?

A perspective from Associate Professor Patrick McArdle, Canberra Campus Dean and Director of the Institute for Catholic Identity and Mission.

In considering Catholic identity and how it plays out in the work of a Catholic University, it is useful to explore the Vatican document Ex Corde Ecclesiae (or Born from the Heart of the Church).  The document defines the role that Catholic Universities play in society.

Ex Corde Ecclesiae discusses the dialogue between faith and reason in pursuit of Truth; and how the Church engages with the world. 

The primary objective of a Catholic university is to build relationships through scholarship between the Church and the world.  The title of Ex Corde Ecclesiae itself indicates this – ‘born from the heart of the Church’.  It is an outward movement – and it is through this movement, and this objective, that Catholic universities are a vehicle for the Church in putting faith into action.

Two themes predominate in Ex Corde Ecclesiae: as a Catholic university, the university needs to own its Catholic identity; and in order to pursue its scholarly mission, academic freedom is essential.  These two themes intertwine and are complementary – yet they can be in tension.  Academic freedom is not an unfettered right to make public comment on any issue that one may choose – that is the expression of an opinion, not an academic statement. Similarly, as a Catholic entity there are views, perspectives and beliefs which guide our understanding of the world and the place of research and learning within the world.  All universities, at times, struggle to balance their broad social and institutional commitments with their academic task to investigate what it means to know.

As a Catholic university ACU is unequivocal in being Catholic - that is, part of a broad spiritual, religious and intellectual tradition interpreted through the lens of faith in Jesus Christ, his Resurrection and his ongoing Mission in the world.  As a Catholic university ACU is unequivocal in its commitment to quality learning, teaching and research in the ongoing search for all that is true.