Very Rev. David M. O'Connell, C.M. , university president, was quoted in an April 9 Washington Times article about preparations for the papal visit at CUA. See his comments in the article below.
CUA Eager for Papal Visit
University prepares crowd control, landscaping

From: Washington Times Date: April 9, 2008 Author: Amy FaganThe Catholic University of America is spending some $800,000 in landscaping, security and other campus preparations to host Pope Benedict XVI next week, an event that officials expect will attract close to 20,000 people to the campus.

"I'm ecstatic," CUA President the Very Rev. David M. O'Connell said of the approaching visit. "This is just, for me, perhaps the greatest thing that could happen on a Catholic campus."

The school is setting up barriers to keep crowds contained during the pope's campus visits on April 17. So far, they've printed out 18,000 tickets that will allow people into designated viewing areas, he said.

During the visit, the pope is expected to deliver a speech to more than 200 leaders of Catholic colleges and universities. Much discussion has occurred as to whether his message will praise and encourage them, scold them for failing to adhere more strictly to Catholic teaching, or fall somewhere in between.

Father O'Connell - who has raised about $400,000 in private donations for the CUA event - said that "the message will be a positive one" and that some prematurely assumed it will be a rebuke.

It will likely include "a clarion call to fidelity to the Christian message" of the Catholic Church, he said, and a call to "promote and foster true Catholic identity." But, he added, "to suggest the pope is going to come over here and be negative and critical ... is really unfair."

Continuing tension, however, remains about what a Catholic university should look like. Some have criticized schools' activities in recent years as decidedly un-Catholic, including a rally hosted by Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is pro-choice, at St. Mary's University in San Antonio; and performances of "The Vagina Monologues" on Catholic campuses, such as the University of Notre Dame.

The Rev. Terence Henry, president of Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, said the pope's message will likely be clear.

"He's probably noticed a secular drift and will challenge Catholic universities to be more faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church," he said.

Father Henry said Franciscan is an example of a school that returned to Catholic roots and requires all religious or student life faculty to take an oath of fidelity to Catholic teachings.

Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, said Catholic schools have made progress in accepting Ex Corde Ecclesiae, issued by the Vatican in 1990 to define what constitutes a Catholic college and reassert bishops' authority.

But, he said, "the reform of Catholic higher education has to continue" if American Catholic life is to be revitalized.

"With the pope's visit, there's an opportunity both for celebration and for great concern," he said.

Among other problems, he said, is that schools, such as Georgetown University, don't look much different from secular schools.

Georgetown Theology Department Chairman Terrence Reynolds, who isn't Catholic, said Georgetown "lives under a critical tension" - taking its Jesuit Catholic background "very seriously" but also dealing with "the plurality of ideas" that exist on campus.

Conservatives hope that the pope will admonish schools to adhere more to Ex Corde, while others expect a more "conciliatory" tone, he said.

"My hunch is that it will really be an opportunity for him to acknowledge the important role that Catholic universities play in the United States and to call us to enhance that role," said the Rev. Brian Linnane, president of Loyola College in Maryland.