Posted on 10 April 2017 by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf
From a reader…
I am a dean at a Catholic college in the US. The majority of faculty and administrators are not Catholic. How does one work to make progress on Ex Corde Ecclesiae when there is passive / semi-active resistance against strengthening Catholic identity and a disheartening air of indifferentism on campus?
Ah… Ex corde Ecclesiae… nearly as ignored as Veterum sapientia!
GUEST RESPONSE from a priest friend in college level admin:
The first rule of war is “Know your enemy.”
In this case, the enemy is legion. It’s all of the academic administrators, deans, and tenured faculty who are objectively hostile to and reject the Church and Her teaching. This enemy takes the form of search committees intentionally formed to reject those candidates who take seriously the Church and Her teaching, the departmental hierarchies intentionally put in place to hire those made in their image and likeness, the college hierarchies and deans intentionally hired to further ensure that only those candidate who are make in their image and likeness are recommended for hiring, and the academic administrators who intentionally hired those deans and department chairs to ensure this outcome. All the while, the enemy claims that “At XYZ university (or college, it matters not), we hire for mission.”
That is the enemy.
The second rule of war is “Disarm your enemy.”
In this case, disarmament comes through the judicious and wise use of power, meaning, “the ability to get people to do what otherwise they ordinarily wouldn’t do.” It took decades for the enemy to build institutions of Catholic higher education in their image and likeness; therefore, to seek to overturn the system that is currently in place would be a fool’s errand, one causing a palace revolution and rendering the one seeking to wage war dead. Instead, the one seeking to wage war must disarm this enemy slowly but ever so effectively, with intense focus, patience, and persistence. In this regard, academic administrators and deans can be most effective if the measure of success they use to assess themselves in waging war is building a small nucleus of sympathetic senior faculty who mentor junior faculty and who themselves will form a larger nucleus of senior faculty, perhaps only long after those academic administrators and deans who hired them have departed the institution.
The third rule of war is “Have a serious strategy that will strike at the enemy’s heart.”
To disarm this enemy effectively, those academic administrators and deans who seek to wage this war must consider themselves “interim servants” of the mission of Catholic higher education. Their role is not to mount a direct, frontal assault, only to be surrounded on all sides and be decapitated. No, the strategy is to leave the institution better off as Catholic than if those academic administrators and deans hadn’t been there. Any academic administrator or dean who seeks to decapitate and eliminate the enemy in this war will fail, leaving the institution no better off as Catholic than if this individual hadn’t been there. This strategy will slowly strike directly and effectively at the enemy’s heart by sapping it of power as that small nucleus of junior and senior faculty replicate and form a community of professors who, as Bl. John Henry Newman wrote, “think as Catholics do.” From this group will emerge the academic administrators and deans who will slowly surround the enemy, rendering it irrelevant in the institutional decision-making process and begin the process of freeing the liberal arts from the prison in which the enemy has interred them for at least several decades.
The fourth rule of war is “Provide the necessary tools to wage battle.”
The tools that nucleus of faculty require include: a clear and articulate vision of where they’re headed; a sound strategy to guide their decision-making processes; encouragement as well as the freedom to make decisions; and, challenge to hold themselves and one another accountable for their successes and failures. Administrators and deans are perfectly positioned to provide all of this—to serve their warriors—while they battle on in the trenches. What those administrators and deans need to keep in mind:
• Success in this endeavor requires character not money…the exact opposite of what the enemy offers its warriors.
• Their clarion call is to serve the Church not to change the church…the exact opposite of the enemy’s clarion call.
• Prestige is measured in terms of conversions to the Truth not aversion from the Truth…the exact opposite of the enemy’s measure of prestige.
“Rome wasn’t built in one day” and, it should be added, “Rome wasn’t destroyed in one day.” No, the barbarians knew their enemy, disbarment the enemy, and had a serious strategy that struck directly at the enemy’s heart.
As this observation concerns Catholic higher education, “Catholic higher education wasn’t destroyed in a day” and “Catholic higher education won’t be rebuilt in one day.” Academic administrators and deans who seek to reconstitution Catholic higher education must keep that in mind, as it constitutes their primary mission.
I’d commend the reader to consider carefully von Clausewitz’s “On War” inserting “Catholic higher education” where applicable.