As Summer is drawing to a close, students everywhere are getting ready to go back to school. You or someone close to you is getting ready to go (back) to university and one of the challenges of campus life is keeping one’s spiritual life in check. This is certainly less of a challenge for those who attend places like Christendom College or OLSWA, but a universal yearning for all Catholics no matter where they pursue studies.
On my own campus, I’m sad to say that I’ve found myself on both sides working for and working against the local Campus Ministry’s initiatives. I understand the hard work leaders put into doing their best to serve students, but one must not forget the culture war within the Church that manifests itself on campus. There are many thought patterns coming from the “hermeneutic of rupture” after the Second Vatican Council that are alive and well in Campus Ministry.
I don’t recommend selecting a school based on the quality of the chaplaincy. I’ve seen Great holiness rise in student environments that are less than friendly to orthodoxy, even in my own school.
Nonetheless, it is advisable to be on guard with the “official” ministry, or any unofficial ones for that matter. Watch out for these phrases from chaplains and ministers, lay, consecrated and ordained alike:
“Era of the Laity” – When people refer to the progression of the Church as to suggest that we no longer require priests and deacons to foster a normal spiritual life, we aim to ignore the full unity of the Body of Christ.
“Pope Ratzinger” – A reference to the Holy Father by his birth-name is meant to stir fear and irreverence so as to dismiss the authority of his teachings.
“Institutional Church” – One of the marks of the Church is its institutional nature. There is no way to separate the institution from the Church herself. To divorce our own little community from the ties to appointed spiritual leaders is to cease to be Catholic.
“Freedom of Conscience” – Yes and No. An informed conscience cannot be divorced from the teachings of the magisterium. We are called to act in conformity with God’s design. Barring the current situation where the US Government is trying to infringe on the Conscience rights of Catholic institutions, this phrase tends to come up so as to suggest that couples can legitimately disagree with the Church on artificial birth control or premarital sex.
“Conservative Catholic” – while there are Catholics that have a preference to the older, the label Conservative is meant to divide as if the Church is made up of political factions. Politics are a distraction from the real issues: orthodox vs heterodox (thinking with vs apart from the Church).
“Spirit of Vatican II” – The use of this phrase to justify any liturgical or doctrinal innovation is meant to distract from the real teachings promulgated at the Second Vatican Council itself. Cardinal Ambrozic often reminded people that it makes no sense to pit the Spirit of the Second Vatican Council against the actual Council.
“Prophetic Dissent” – It takes a lot of chutzpah for one to label themselves as a Catholic, but dissenters often publicly disagree with the Church and believe they can lead the Church to change its doctrine. It simply doesn’t work this way. The Church changes as much as God does. And God doesn’t change.
The “Thinking” Catholic – This is meant to imply that Catholics that do agree with Church teaching are thoughtless sheep. See above regarding thinking with vs apart from the Church.
“In the Catholic Tradition” – This phrase sets off a red flag with me as it is often used by schools and hospitals to acknowledge their Catholic founders but fail to stand up for what is actually true and good (i.e. in the Catholic tradition but not necessarily Catholic). Professors may be inclined to teach and advocate alternative beliefs and hospitals may be engaged in protocols that include treatments that do not respect life.
Hearing these phrases in and of themselves should not cause any student to abandon the ministry entirely, but a well-prepared Catholic can learn to respond accordingly so as not to go astray. Recently, the Vatican has threatened to remove the label “Catholic” from one of its universities that has gone past the boundaries of what can be identified even remotely as Catholic. I pray that Catholic students have an awareness of the tension created by ministers who stray from the truth that they can be a beacon of light to bring Catholicism back to these Catholic ministries.