Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

What is cura personalis?

Over the years some Catholic institutions of higher learning have been offering programs, lectures, and instruction and have welcomed initiatives that appear to conflict or do conflict in some manner with Catholic teachings and beliefs. In other cases, some of these institutions have engaged in actions that appeared to or did sponsor positions which contravene Church teachings. Examples quickly come to mind: lectures by Larry Flynt, the publisher of Hustler magazine; the production of Eve Enslers’s Monoglogues; including “reproductive health services coverage” (i.e., abortion, artificial contraception) in healthcare benefits for employees; granting honors and podiums to politicians who advocate stands that contravene Church teachings; and providing internships with problematic organizations such as Planned Parenthood. The list does not stop here.

Quite recently Marquette University announced in March of 2011 that it would include “domestic partner benefits” for its employees beginning in 2012. [here] Marquette describes itself as “a Catholic, Jesuit university dedicated to serving God by serving our students and contributing to the advancement of knowledge. Our mission, therefore, is the search for truth, the discovery and sharing of knowledge, the fostering of personal and professional excellence, the fostering of faith, and the development of leadership expressed in the service of others.” [here] The mission statement continues by elaborating excellence, faith, leadership, and service. Moreover, the mission statement further develops its representation of the school’s Catholic identity.

The new Marquette program does not cover all domestic partnerships according to one news source (above). It applies only the homosexual domestic partnerships. As this news source states:

Officials [of the University] said they’re still working out details, but medical, dental and vision benefits currently offered to married couples and their dependents will be extended to registered domestic partners. The couples receiving the benefits must share a residence, must be of the same sex. The declaration of domestic partnership may be initiated by an application filed with the clerk of the county in which an individual resides. (italics added)

In his comments on this initiative, the University’s president was quoted as saying:

If we are truly pastoral in our application of the Jesuit principle of cura personalis, I asked myself if I could reconcile that with denying health benefits to a couple who have legally registered their commitment to each other.”

The president also explained that cura personalis is Latin for “care for the entire person.” 

I am gravely concerned by this decision taken by and about to be implemented by an institution that claims Catholic and Jesuit identity. If the University is in fact concerned about authentic cura personalis, and it should, what approach ought it take? I would suggest the foundation of the Society of Jesus would be a good place to start in constructing a benefits package that takes care of the entire person in a Christian, Catholic manner:

Whoever desires to serve as a soldier of God beneath the banner of the cross in our Society, which we desire to be designated by the name of Jesus, and to serve the Lord alone and the Church, His spouse, under the Roman pontiff, the vicar of Christ on earth, should, after a solemn vow of perpetual chastity, poverty, and obedience, keep what follows in mind. He is a member of a Society founded chiefly for this purpose: to strive especially for the defense and propagation of the faith and for the progress of souls in Christian life and doctrine, by means of public preaching, lectures, and any other ministration whatsoever of the word of God, and further by means of the Spiritual Exercises, the education of children and unlettered persons in Christianity, and the spiritual consolation of Christ’s faithful through hearing confessions and administering the other sacraments. Moreover, this Society should show itself no less useful in reconciling the estranged, in holily assisting and serving those who are found in prisons or hospitals, and indeed in performing any other works of charity, according to what will seem expedient for the glory of God and the common good. (italics added)

I do not see how Marquette’s plan to offer domestic partner benefits in the fashion described, or for that matter in any other fashion, serves the Lord and the Church under the Roman Pontiff—the Vicar of Christ on earth. Nor do I see how this decision strives to defend and spread the faith or how it aids in the progress of souls in Christian life. Sadly, this decision seems to do just the opposite of what a Jesuit institution is supposed to do.


RJA sj



Araujo, Robert | Permalink

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