America’s bishops’ university is at a crossroads. As announced last fall, after 11 years, John H. Garvey is stepping down as president of the Catholic University of America and a search is narrowing for his replacement. The stakes are high, not only for the university but also for the church.
Punching far above its academic weight, CUA plays a leading role in the intellectual formation of Catholic leadership in the United States. As its founders envisioned, today about half of U.S. bishops studied at CUA at some point, and church institutions, seminaries, Catholic advocacy groups, religious congregations and Catholic media organizations are replete with its graduates.
The situation the new president will face is daunting. A complex of interrelated problems poses a challenge for which progress can only be slow and the chance of failure high. Not the least of the problems is the perennial question: What does it mean to be a Catholic university?