Alice Gallin, who performed a great service in gathering primary materials into a single volume in her American Catholic Education: Essential Documents, 1967-1990, has done so again with Ex Corde Ecclesiae: Documents concerning Reception and Implementation. The new volume contains each draft of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB)’s “Ex Corde Ecclesiae: An Application to the United States” in addition to Rome’s responses. Providing fuller context, Gallin also has included the memos that circulated among the bishops from Bishops Leibrecht, Pilla, and others. She has selected several important reflections from leading American theologians and canonists, communications from the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, and the responses of the College Theology Society, the Catholic Biblical Association, the Catholic Theological Society of America, and the Canon Law Society of America to the NCCB. Completing the spectrum of opinion on this contentious process, Gallin has chosen the criticisms that the Cardinal Newman Society for the Preservation of Catholic Higher Education and the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars offered the bishops after the first drafts of the Application, which did not include a juridical mechanism (i.e., the mandatum) for teachers of theology. The collection begins with a reprint of Ex Corde Ecclesiae. Gallin’s own long essay on the process prefaces the volume, and her brief postscript caps it. The result is an important assembly of primary materials for historians of U.S. Catholicism at the end of the twentieth century and a valuable document for theologians (esp. in ecclesiology and canon law) and thinkers considering the idea of American higher education in religiously affiliated institutions.
As Gallin writes in her introduction, studying a document’s various drafts enables an understanding of the process of deliberation and negotiation by which agreement finally comes. The evolution of these documents, from the original 1993 draft of the ordinances with its phrase that the mandatum would be issued “after appropriate review” through the middle drafts that rejected a juridical solution in favor of a pastoral one to the final ordinances that received the recognitio, is interesting in itself. It is all the more so with the additional documents that Gallin provides that not only give context but the specifics of the disagreements that occurred. Her judgment that “the process followed by this committee is a model for the development of authentic interaction between bishops and their people in the decision-making tasks of the Catholic community (p. 1)” seems entirely correct.
Scholars who investigate these documents can follow discussions of several crucial ideas. An understanding of U.S. university culture and the concerns, both legal and academic, that a juridical solution might raise for Catholic universities ranks foremost. This volume contains well-argued documents on both sides of that issue. Communio, an ecclesiological idea central to the discussion of a theologian’s reception of the mandatum, merits attention also, and the volume has important documents relating to it. One that should be pointed to is Bishop James Malone’s brief foray into Latin philology in which he suggests that the word be regarded in terms of the Latin cum and munus rather than cum and unio; that is, as a sharing of a common duties rather than strict uniformity. Underlying the issue is the understanding of the mandate as an acknowledgement of the theologian’s presumed communion with the church rather than a commissioning to teach. The problem is neatly stated by Cardinal Dulles (pp. 112-114), and discussed in several documents with attention to the distinction between mandatum and missio canonica. Theologians such as Lisa Cahill and Joseph Komonchak expand the discussion by articulating the differences between magisterial teaching and the study of theology in the classroom. The distinction was important throughout the eight years from the first draft of the ordinances until their promulgation. The claim that theology is one of the central ways in which the Church engages the wider culture also looms large. On the other hand, the Vatican’s eleventh-hour insistence that a local ordinary need not accept the general principle of the mandatum’s portability receives no discussion, but is nonetheless noted by Gallin (p. 30) as a potentially more serious matter for church rule than the mandatum itself.
Much has been written over the last few decades about Catholic universities in the U.S. This collection of documents from the heart of the controversy is indispensable to students of the matter.