Catholic Character of DePaul


The “Catholic Character of DePaul” is a chapter in the book The Playful Hand of God: Memoir of John T. Richardson, C.M. (pp. 74-79) published in 2011 by DePaul University, Chicago, IL.  Fr. Richardson served as President of DePaul University from 1981-1993.  In this chapter the author recounts the great history of the Catholic Church’s involvement in higher education both in Europe and in the United States over the past several hundred years.  He muses on how DePaul University had implemented some of the liberating spirit of Vatican Council II long before the beginning of that Council in 1962 and how later changes in the Church’s Canon Law in 1983 seemed an attempt to rein in some of the freedoms envisioned in Vatican II documents.  He noted Chicago’s Joseph Cardinal Bernardine’s opposition to those very restrictions and the University’s total agreement with the Cardinal. In addition, he reflects on the “space race” situation in the Cold War years when federal monies became available for research in science, technology and space exploration.  Were such monies to be available to colleges and universities with religious or church affiliations; or would grants to such institutions be considered unconstitutional?  This question was especially important to DePaul as the Music School of the University had been given special recognition by the Vatican years earlier affiliating it with the Pontifical Institute in the Vatican.  In 1966, the Board of Trustees voted to terminate that special arrangement with the Vatican and the issue became moot.

Bottom line is this (in his own words): “The Catholic identity of DePaul has not restricted learning to a sectarian point of view….the University respects the basic religious freedom of belief and practice enjoyed by its students, faculty and staff.  This explains why our undergraduate curriculum includes studies in many religions as well as the study of Catholic theology.  Catholics form the largest single religious group of student, but slightly more than half of the student body consists of other religious or no-religion groups.”