Then he added, “So the answer is this is a Catholic religious community that we’re in,” during an interview in June at a Santa Monica beach hotel. He was on a west coast swing to meet alumni and donors plus pitch his Washington, D.C., university to perspective students and their parents. “And all of us, including me as a lay president, have this responsibility.”The 63-year-old father of five children and grandfather of 13 is, in fact, only the third lay person among the 15 presidents chosen to lead the only university established by U.S. bishops with the approval of Pope Leo XIII in 1887. CUA was first a graduate school and research center that started offering undergraduate education in 1904. A graduate of Harvard Law School, Garvey accepted the job last year after a distinguished career as a lawyer in the U.S. Department of Justice; professor of law at the University of Kentucky, University of Michigan and University of Notre Dame law schools; and dean of Boston College Law School.“I wanted to strengthen Catholic University’s own Catholic character as well as its intellectual character,” Garvey explained. “I think there are some advantages that I bring as a lay person. One of them is I have been a consumer of higher education having sent five children through college. So I know what parents want out of a university.“Also, concerning the vocations of our students as Catholics in their own faith, the life that I and my wife live is more likely to be their lives than the life of religious. So in some ways it’s easier to lead by example than a priest or a religious. And in other ways it’s more difficult.”Ex corde EcclesiaeThe college president says the mission of a Catholic university today is most of all to prepare the next generation of Catholics for service to their church and country. In short, it’s formation of the whole person, both in “intellect and virtue.” During his first year at CUA, he drove home this duel theme, starting with his inaugural address along with campus conferences, lectures and special events.For the last half-century, some Catholic colleges and universities, according to Garvey, have been more concerned about making their institutions academic powerhouses while letting the virtuous development of their students slide. He says for that reason Pope John Paul II issued in August 1990 Ex corde Ecclesiae (From the heart of the Church), the first official Vatican document on Catholic universities and their relationship with the Church. A decade later U.S. bishops published their own application of the papal encyclical here in the United States.“There was a great deal of hand-wringing of was this going to mean the death of Catholic universities,” he pointed out. “On the contrary, I think they have had a very beneficial effect on Catholic higher education. “At a wide range of American Catholic colleges and universities there is now focused attention on ‘What does it mean to be a Catholic university and how exactly are we living this out?’ And you’ll almost not find a Catholic university that doesn’t give some thought to that question.”There’s been a “certain amount” of concern over the encyclical’s mandate that members of theology departments at Catholic universities are required to seek approval from the local bishop, he notes. And, moreover, there’s been less full implementation of another recommendation — that at Catholic institutions of higher learning a majority of the faculty should be Catholics committed to the witness of their faith.“That is really where the rubber meets the road in Catholic higher education today,” he observed. “The faculty are the people who above all do the work of the university. They are teaching and doing research and writing books, and they’re training the students who pay tuition to learn. “That’s not to say that there isn’t an important place in Catholic universities for people who are not themselves Catholics,” he said. “But somebody’s got to carry the ball. And that’s the part of the application and the message of Ex corde Ecclesiae that in the next 10 years Catholic universities are going to have to pay attention to.” “Being a university, I think we have an obligation to allow our students and faculty to consider the entire range of ideas. Otherwise, they won’t be fully convinced of the truth of what we really think is most important to them.”— John Garvey, president of Catholic University of AmericaGarvey says he does now every time a position opens up for a new faculty member or even when a veteran professor seeks promotion. The issue comes down to who is going to provide the kind of faith witnesses Jesuits, Franciscans, Dominicans and members of other religious orders offered when vocations were plentiful, and priests and religious lived in dorms and interacted daily with students on Catholic college campuses. “And my answer is that it’s the responsibility of the faculty as it was before,” he stressed. “Except now the faculty are lay people.”Academic freedomWhen queried if a Catholic university today can have a Catholic identity and still allow its faculty to maintain academic freedom, Garvey has another ready answer. “Sure,” he declared. “In the popular press there’s a tendency among people who don’t understand the world of Catholic education to think that our being ‘Catholic’ is a matter of subtraction from what happens at other universities. And so there are ideas that we are afraid of and can’t be permitted to be spoken or students will seize onto them in preference to their Catholic beliefs. “But being a university, I think we have an obligation to allow our students and faculty to consider the entire range of ideas. Otherwise, they won’t be fully convinced of the truth of what we really think is most important to them.”He says the question of academic freedom comes up in different forms at different times at Catholic colleges and universities. The hot-button issue in recent years was commencement speakers, highlighted by President Barack Obama speaking to graduates at the University of Notre Dame in 2009. Critics claimed that any individual who does not publically object to abortion should never be allowed to speak to Catholic students. Garvey didn’t directly address the question of President Obama’s commencement speech at South Bend. But he did make a big distinction between having persons with opposing views on campus debating orthodox Catholic doctrine, which he strongly favors, and having commencement speakers who espouse anti-Church views such as abortion. He says the latter are actually endorsing the “idea that they’re promoting.” CUA’s new president and his wife Jeanne lived in a campus residence hall this year to not only become better acquainted with students but also to absorb some of their energy and enthusiasm. They ate in the dining hall, went to lacrosse and football games and attended daily Mass on campus. From time to time, the couple also invited groups of students over for meals. John Garvey says he was “happy as a clam” teaching and writing books as a law professor at the University of Kentucky’s law school for 18 years, and could have spent the rest of his academic life doing just that. “For me, the only thing that could induce me to leave first Kentucky and then teaching was my own commitment to the business of Catholic higher education,” he said. “It was important for us that our children attend Catholic universities. And as a teacher, I couldn’t afford to just buy that education. They had to go where I was going. So I went to work at places where they could go to school like Boston College.”After a moment, he confided: “The idea of being the dean of a law school or the president of a university is something that in some ways requires a sacrifice for me because I love being a teacher so much. Here I am an administrator or a spokesman for the Catholic University of America. “But what we are doing,” he said, “the education that we are providing to our students is for me so unique, so important to the lives of our students, to the future of the Catholic Church in America, you know, I’m happy to give up my own private or professional pleasures in favor of promoting this work.”{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2011/0708/catholic/{/gallery}