IRVING, Texas — The University of Dallas has always prided itself on its faithfulness to the magisterium, but only quick action by the administration and local bishops fended off a sudden rebellion of undergrads, alumni and parents seeking to defend UD’s orthodoxy against perceived threats.
Triggering the insurrection was an open letter from a high-profile father of five UD grads objecting in advance to the imminent approval of a new undergrad program for parish lay ministers at UD’s School of Ministry, which some have called “doctrinally challenged.”
The letter went viral among campus bloggers, sparked dozens of incendiary emails to UD’s president, Thomas Keefe, and a petition with several hundred signatures (UD has 1,400 students). The university’s board of trustees nonetheless approved the new program on March 3.
“Heresy is not being taught at the University of Dallas. Blasphemy is not being taught at the University of Dallas,” Keefe told the Register. “Any faculty that do not comport with the teachings of the Church will not be teaching at this university.”
The parent who raised the alarm is Patrick Fagan, director of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C. His letter began: “Depending on how the board of the University of Dallas votes tonight, I (proud father of five UD alumni children) may well be telling folks: ‘Don’t send your kids to UD. It used to be great but now is a danger to their faith.’”
I know there are a lot of University of Dallas graduates out there, so my questions are to them: what, exactly, is this all about? Is there any reason to be worried about UD's committment to orthodox Catholicism? Is the original parent who complained out of line, or are various statements by Bishops Farrell and Vann (of Dallas and Fort Worth, respectively) enough to satisfy critics of the proposed School of Ministry?
For all readers: what do you think of a Catholic university having an undergrad program for lay ministers? Is that blurring the lines between the laity and the priesthood, or simply a pragmatic response to the increased role of the laity in parish life?
Please feel free to share your thoughts on this matter in the comment boxes--I really do want to hear what others are thinking about this.
UPDATE: Here's a link to the University of Dallas page discussing the controversial new undergraduate degree in pastoral ministry, and here is the page describing the major. Frankly, I find it rather vague. What sort of "ministries" are the lay majors supposed to be trained to do?
UPDATE 2: A reader writes:
This past weekend I attended a Catechetical weekend sponsored by my diocese. OSV brought in Bill Huebsch, who is an adjunct professor at UD's school of ministry AND who taught in their 'semester in Rome' program for 2010.He spoke AGAINST infant baptism, claimed the adoption of the Nicene Creed turned the Church from a community of believers into a 'social club', and mentioned that 'before Vatican 2, it was a sin for Catholics to read the Bible.' Oh, yeah. And before V2 all Catholics were mindlessly obedient robots who were sure they'd go to hell if they accidentally ate meat on a Friday, and after Vatican 2, we all are full of faith and good feelings and blah, blah, blah... you know the standard baby boomer drill.
And that simply perpetuates the problems we have now, of lay pastoral ministers, DREs, catechists etc. being woefully ignorant about the real teachings of the Catholic Church, but ready to spout off any amount of total nonsense inflicted upon them by "scholars" who are functionally heretics in terms of their acceptance of and adherence to Church teachings as outlined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
If I were a UD grad, I'd be mad about this, too.