Status Envy: The Politics of Catholic Higher Education

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9781412808170: Status Envy: The Politics of Catholic Higher Education

The debate within Catholic educational circles on whether church sponsored colleges and universities perpetuate mediocrity by giving too great a priority to the moral development of students instead of scholarship and intellectual excellence continues in this book by sociologist Anne Hendershott. She asserts that part of the reason for the crisis of faith within Catholic colleges is due to status envy--the desire to compete with the top colleges in the country. Catholic universities are generally not rated as top-notch. They are viewed as having a lower status than secular institutions, which, of course, creates resentment. Catholic universities, in turn, become more secular as they become consumed with status concerns.

Detailing how this resentment manifests itself on campuses, Hendershott explains faculty and administrative attempts to distance universities from Catholic ideas and curriculum. Some have distanced themselves so far from their Catholic origins that the church no longer recognizes them as Catholic institutions. The author questions whether even determined Catholic universities will be able to avoid the pressures to become more secular. Hendershott, who clearly sympathizes with the original mission of Catholic universities, leads the reader through the earliest signs that Catholic colleges were beginning to lose their way in the 1960s, up through the ongoing issues of feminism and homosexuality and their impact.

In focusing on these secular issues, colleges are denying exposure to the traditional Catholic views on subjects such as homosexuality, women's ordination, and abortion. Like all culture wars, the interaction among people defines the situation. The campus is a reflection of the greater culture between those who assert that there are no truths, only readings--and those who believe that the truths have been revealed and require constant rereading and application. It is a conflict between those dedicated to the negation of the authority of Scripture and the hierarchy of the church, and those proposing a renaissance of the Catholic intellect and a renewed appreciation of the church itself.

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About the Author:

Anne Hendershott is professor of urban affairs at the King's College in New York City. She is the author of The Politics of Abortion, The Politics of Deviance, and The Reluctant Caregivers: Learning to Care for a Loved One with Alzheimer's.

Review:

"Anne Hendershott sees—oh, so clearly—all the strangeness, all the weirdness, and all the contradictions of Catholic higher education in America today. It's a gloomy tale of decline and fall, and yet, Hendershott's study ends on an upbeat note: The world has changed, and Catholic students today are not the same as the Catholic students who let their patrimony slip away. The solution is works like Anne Hendershott's Status Envy, which explain why we really shouldn't abandon ship just at the moment there is a chance...."

—Joseph Bottum, Editor, First Things

"Heart-breaking—but a must-read for Catholics and all others who care about colleges. . . . All parents considering Catholic colleges should get this book and thank Anne Hendershott."

—Jim Holman, Publisher and Editor, California Catholic Daily

"Catholic colleges and universities that imitate their secular competitors' romp through the intellectual sandbox of post-modernism and the toxic waste dump of moral relativism do little service to their students, the Church, or the broader culture. Status Envy offers a disturbing sketch of institutions of higher education that 'make it' by losing what's distinctively theirs—their link to the great tradition of reason in the West, to which Christian faith contributed so much."

—George Weigel, Distinguished Senior Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington

"Status Envy is a(n) . . . infuriating account of the failed 1960s-era experiment that tried to separate 'Catholic identity' from the morals and leadership of the Catholic Church. Only time will tell if this book chronicles the final chapter of US Catholic higher education, or the last hurrah of secularism before the more compelling vision of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI take hold."

—Patrick J. Reilly, President and Founder, The Cardinal Newman Society

"Anne Hendershott's new book . . . takes on a much discussed topic: the precipitous decline of Catholicism in America's Catholic colleges and universities since Vatican II. Though this crisis has been much discussed in recent years, its extent and causes have been poorly understood—until now. Hendershott painstakingly documents the dramatic decline . . . Status Envy is not only well researched; it is beautifully written in a spirit of detached analysis tinged with hope for better days ahead. This book should be read by every Catholic who has wondered what went wrong after Vatican II. And it should be read by anyone who cares about what is happening on America's Catholic campuses."

—Gerard Bradley, Professor of Law, Notre Dame Law School

"In her lucidly written, intellectually rigorous, and compelling narrative, sociologist Anne Hendershott objectively documents and brilliantly analyzes a fundamental shift, most prominent since the mid-1960s, in the frame of reference of most Catholic administrators and scholars involved in Catholic higher education in the United States. [T]his shift entails a rejecting of Catholic informed social thought with its application to the broader world to the reduction and cutting down of the Catholic heritage to secular and politically correct modes of thought. Status Envy is destined to become the standard reference in the field."

—Joseph A. Varacalli, Catalyst

The controversy over the invitation of President Barack Obama to the University of Notre Dame has placed at the forefront once more the debate over the identity of Catholic universities. Protests, which centered on Obama's anti-life measures taken in the first months of his administration, started immediately. For those wanting to know more about what lies behind the conflict over this issue, Anne Hendershott analyzes the topic in a book published in January titled Status Envy: The Politics of Catholic Higher Education."

—Father John Flynn, LC, Zenit.org

 

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