Academic Freedom Statement

Preamble

At John Paul the Great Catholic University, faculty and students are called to come to know, love and serve Jesus Christ. As a Catholic University, 'it is a place to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth. This relationship elicits a desire to grow in the knowledge and understanding of Christ and his teaching. In this way those who meet him are drawn by the very power of the Gospel to lead a new life characterized by all that is beautiful, good, and true; a life of Christian witness nurtured and strengthened within the community of our Lord's disciples, the Church'. (Pope Benedict XVI to Catholic Educators; 4/17/2008) For those who seek the truth Christ reveals, JPCatholic offers a genuinely true academic freedom.

JPCatholic embraces the traditional freedoms of scholarship, inquiry, and dialog, together with the responsibilities implicit in its Catholic mission.

The following statements articulate JPCatholic's principles of individual and institutional academic freedom. They are strongly informed by Ex Corde Ecclesiae, the apostolic constitution of Pope John Paul II on Catholic Universities.

Individual and Institutional Academic Freedom

JPCatholic balances and distinguishes between individual and institutional academic freedom - both are necessary to maintain our unique intellectual climate.

  1. Individual Academic Freedom. At JPCatholic, individual academic freedom celebrates the value of free inquiry and the freedom of conscience of each person is fully respected. The Catholic Church "affirms the great value of academic freedom. In virtue of this freedom faculty are called to search for the truth wherever careful analysis of evidence leads them. Yet it is also the case that any appeal to the principle of academic freedom in order to justify positions that contradict the faith and the teaching of the Church would obstruct or even betray the university's identity and mission; a mission at the heart of the Church's munus docendi and not somehow autonomous or independent of it" (Pope Benedict XVI to Catholic Educators; 4/17/2008).

  2. Institutional Academic Freedom. JPCatholic defines itself as a distinctively Catholic university with an uncompromising adherence to the magisterial teachings of the Catholic Church. JPCatholic claims the right to maintain this identity by the appropriate exercise of its institutional academic freedom, expressing the privilege universities have to pursue their distinctive missions. This time-honored concept of academic freedom guarantees institutional autonomy. The concept of institutional academic freedom is tacitly sanctioned by WASC. JPCatholic, while established with the consent of the diocesan Bishop, is owned and operated by an independent Board of Trustees. JPCatholic provides a university education in an atmosphere consistent with the ideals and principles of the magisterial teachings of the Catholic Church. Catholic faculty must live lives reflecting faithfulness to the Word of God and sign a statement reflecting that fidelity. In addition, theology faculty must interview with the diocesan Bishop and must obtain his mandate as a condition of employment. Faculty of other faiths must agree to respect the Catholic nature of the university and its mission, while the university in turn respects their religious convictions.

    Thus JPCatholic, as a Catholic institution, informs and carries out its teaching, and all other activities with Catholic ideals, principles and attitudes. This differs clearly and deliberately from the public university that is legally bound to a separation of church and state. It is not expected that the faculty will agree on every point of Catholic doctrine, much less on the issues in the academic disciplines that commonly divide faculties everywhere. It is expected, however, that a spirit of Christian charity will unite even those with wide differences and that questions will be raised in ways that seek to strengthen rather than undermine faith.

  3. Abuses of Institutional Freedom. Institutional academic freedom is critical for JPCatholic with its distinct Catholic mission. Academic freedom must include an individual's freedom to ask tough questions as well as the institution's freedom to claim a religious identity. There is no way to completely eliminate the friction between individual and institutional academic freedom, without suppressing the claims of one freedom or the other. Thus, the University establishes principles and procedures to reduce conflict and that help the Board of Trustees, faculty, and administration navigate through differences as they arise.

  4. Limitations on Individual and Institutional Academic Freedom. Individual and institutional academic freedom are subject to reasonable limitations based on careful consideration of what lies at the core of the mission of the university. In general, a limitation is reasonable when the faculty behavior obstructs or even betrays the university's identity and mission or the Catholic Church. A faculty member is considered innocent of the academic freedom violation until it be can fairly established that he/she is aware that the expression violates the standard. Examples would include articulating positions with students or in public that:
    • Dispute or oppose fundamental Catholic teachings;
    • Intentionally attack or mock the Catholic Church or its hierarchy and clergy; or
    • Breach JPCatholic's Honor Code;
    These principles shall be interpreted and applied with humility and love in the spirit of Jesus Christ and through established University procedures. The ultimate responsibility to determine harm to the university mission or the Church, however, remains vested in the university's governing bodies - including the university president, the senior administration and, finally, the Board of Trustees.

  5. Summary. Individual Academic Freedom is almost always unrestrained, while Institutional intervention is rare. Individual faculty freedom is essentially unrestrained except for matters that obstruct or even betray the university's identity and mission or the Catholic Church. Faculty members approach their commitment to the University with a sense of fidelity to the mission. Institutional intervention is rare and limited to cases the university's Trustees or administration determines a compelling threat to JPCatholic's mission or to the Catholic Church. The faculty, administration, and the board should work together in a spirit of Christian love, trust, and charity. The faculty has an obligation of dealing with sensitive issues sensitively. JPCatholic expects Catholic faculty to be faithful to Church teachings, and other faculty to be respectful of, the Church and University's mission.

Conclusion

JPCatholic is a Catholic university. Its mission is to provide students an opportunity to encounter Jesus Christ and to grow in a deep personal relationship with Him. For those who embrace the truth Christ reveals, JPCatholic offers a genuinely true academic freedom.