In March of 1989 the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a directive to Catholic colleges and universities, requiring those directly connected with teaching Catholic doctrine on faith and morals to profess their adherence to the teaching authority of the Church. Later that spring the theology faculty and the priests serving at Franciscan University voted unanimously to approach the bishop of the diocese and express their desire to pledge fidelity to the Magisterium in accordance with the new directive. Most Rev. Albert Ottenweller gave his consent and administered the Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity that spring at the Baccalaureate Mass. Every year since that time, new theology faculty, priests and other appropriate personnel at Franciscan University have taken the Oath.
This year, given that our philosophy professors will be taking the oath of fidelity, some clarifications should be given regarding the distinctive nature of philosophy and how philosophers serve the mission of the university. These are important clarifications for us all in order to avoid a certain misunderstanding that could arise from this action.
One might think that, since both philosophers and theologians take the oath, philosophy starts in faith in just the same way that theology does. This misunderstanding is called fideism and it is foreign to our great Catholic tradition. Philosophy as Catholics practice it is a certain work of reason. In his great encyclical Fides et Ratio Blessed John Paul II taught that "philosophy must remain true to its own principles and methods," indeed that "a philosophy which did not [do so] would serve little purpose"(49). He also says that "the content of Revelation can never debase the discoveries and legitimate autonomy of reason" (79). Thus, according to Blessed John Paul, philosophy has the ability to address not only fellow believers, but all men and women of good will. Indeed, a Catholic university has a special call to engage in dialogue with the surrounding culture, and philosophy is especially suited for such a task, as stated in Ex Corde Ecclesiae (43).
At the same time, refusing to absolutize reason or philosophy, the philosophers agree with Blessed John Paul when in Fides et Ratio he goes on to say that, while "the value of philosophy's autonomy remains unimpaired when theology calls upon it," we must also acknowledge "the profound transformations which philosophy itself must undergo" in relation to revelation. (77) In this regard, "philosophy, like theology, comes more directly under the authority of the Magisterium and its discernment, because of the implications it has for the understanding of Revelation. The truths of faith make certain demands which philosophy must respect." (77).
And so, on today's occasion, the philosophers wish both: 1) to declare their readiness to serve the faith of the Church directly in taking the oath of fidelity and profession of faith and 2) to highlight their special role in serving the Church by being true to the genius of philosophy and to the philosophical commitment to reason.
The Oath of Fidelity
I, N., with firm faith believe and profess each and everything that is contained in the Symbol of faith, namely:
I believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen. I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation, he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
With firm faith, I also believe everything contained in the word of God, whether written or handed down in Tradition, which the Church, either by a solemn judgment or by the ordinary and universal Magisterium, sets forth to be believed as divinely revealed.
I also firmly accept and hold each and everything definitively proposed by the Church regarding teaching on faith and morals.
Moreover, I adhere with religious submission of will and intellect to the teachings which either the Roman Pontiff or the College of Bishops enunciate when they exercise their authentic Magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim these teachings by a definitive act.
I, N., in assuming the office of ………, promise that in my words and in my actions I shall always preserve communion with the Catholic Church.
With great care and fidelity I shall carry out the duties incumbent on me toward the Church, both universal and particular, in which, according to the provisions of the law, I have been called to exercise my service.
In fulfilling the charge entrusted to me in the name of the Church, I shall hold fast to the deposit of faith in its entirety; I shall faithfully hand it on and explain it, and I shall avoid any teachings contrary to it.
I shall follow and foster the common discipline of the entire Church and I shall maintain the observance of all ecclesiastical laws, especially those contained in the Code of Canon Law.
With Christian obedience I shall follow what the Bishops, as authentic doctors and teachers of the faith, declare, or what they, as those who govern the Church, establish. I shall also faithfully assist the diocesan Bishops, so that the apostolic activity, exercised in the name and by mandate of the Church, may be carried out in communion with the Church.
So help me God, and God’s Holy Gospels on which I place my hand.