Department of Educational Administration


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A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Educational Studies (Educational Leadership and Higher Education), Under the Supervision of Professor Donald F. Uerling. Lincoln, Nebraska: December, 2011

Copyright (c) 2011 James A. Caridi


This research assessed Ex Corde Ecclesiae within American Catholic higher education from the perspective of presidents and academicians who oversee or teach within theology or religious studies. Pope John Paul II’s Ex Corde Ecclesiae outlines the theological essence of the Catholic University and details its specific responsibilities toward providing an authentic Catholic experience. It is valuable to examine whether Catholic postsecondary presidents and academicians believe their institutions are fulfilling these expectations.

Specifically, this research explored how presidents understand and value Ex Corde Ecclesiae and whether they believe their institution has achieved progress toward its prescribed norms. Similarly, this research surveyed academicians who teach or oversee theology or religious studies to assess their perspectives and compliance with Ex Corde Ecclesiae. These assessments examined presidents and academicians against central principles set forth by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on how Ex Corde Ecclesiae can, and in some instances, should be applied to the American Catholic College.

Additionally, this research explored the Catholic university’s relationship with the local ecclesial community, how this relationship is sustained, and whether there is mutual trust and consistent dialogue between the ecclesial community and the university. In particular, the unique relationship between the local Bishop and the president was explored.

This study utilized a dominant-less dominant design. Presidents and academicians received a survey in the spring of 2011 and results were summarized and presented to a sample of presidents and theologians for interviews. Research findings confirm that presidents believe their institutions are subscribing to Ex Corde Ecclesiae and are more optimistic in their beliefs than academicians. In addition, results show a majority of Catholic theologians surveyed have received the mandatum from their bishop. Moreover, the research suggests presidents have trusting but not clear relationships with their bishop. Other results suggest presidents have a strong desire to hire for mission but lack critical information in this regard, and theologians face self-imposed and external challenges toward achieving the ideals of Ex Corde Ecclesiae.

Advisor: Donald F. Uerling