How Catholic Are Catholic Universities?

, Malcolm A. Kline, 1 Comment

Many are recognizably Catholic in that they have the reputation for being so, largely due to their age. Moreover, they advertise their Catholicism on their websites but when you go to their catalogs, you find material well beyond St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas.

The young staffers at the Young America’s Foundation did just that and offer a neat little guide to several of these universities. For example, at Georgetown you can take courses in:

• Labor/Sexuality/Globalization;

• Athletics and Gender;

• Culture/Politics/HIV;

• Gender and Sustainability; and

• The Bible and Horror.

Providence College, meanwhile, has a Women’s Studies department that is easily competitive with its secular counterparts, offering courses in:

• The Power of Whiteness;

• Gender and Politics; and

• Globalization and Social Justice.

Nevertheless, the prize for testing the boundaries of the faith may go to Seton Hall University, with its course on The Politics of Marriage. “This course focuses upon gay marriage as a contemporary political idea, part of an important public policy debate,” the catalog promises. “Gay marriage is bound to a larger historical, religious and cultural narrative.”

“The course focuses upon the European and American experience. Other nonwestern and indigenous traditions are introduced to assist in examining the diversity and complexity of the topic. Complementary ideas are introduced and evaluated, most notably social construction and essentialism. This endeavor requires careful attention as many important voices here (women and queer individuals in particular) are historically marginalized.”

It makes Xavier University’s course on Religion and Hip Hop look absolutely pious by comparison.