Ethics Leader Urges Oath at Notre Dame

In an opinion article for The Observer, Terrence Keeley, advisory board member of Notre Dame’s Nanovic Institute for European Studies, urges the University to support a growing movement for business students to take an ethics oath.

Keeley writes:

Carolyn Woo, Dean of the Mendoza Business School, has taken a particularly strident line against the MBA Oath movement. “If Purdue wants to support it, that’s fine,” she told me. “It’s just not for Notre Dame.” I met with Dean Woo this past August to discuss the MBA Oath and a related initiative I founded with a global group of bankers (about which, please see I listened as Dean Woo described why she would not let Notre Dame students be drawn into any oath-taking movements, something she clearly regards as a passing fad. “We should only take oaths on two occasions in our lives,” she informed me. “When we marry, and when we join the religious life.”

We note that at several of America’s most faithful colleges, many or all faculty take the Oath of Fidelity to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.  The U.S. bishops’ guidelines for Catholic higher education require new presidents of Catholic colleges and theology professors seeking the mandatum to take an oath of fidelity.

In 1989, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (under the future Pope Benedict XVI) declared:

The faithful who are called to exercise an office in the name of the church are required to make the profession of faith according to the formula approved by the Apostolic See (cf. Canon 833). In addition, the obligation of a special oath of fidelity with regard to the particular duties inherent in the office that is to be exercised–previously prescribed solely for bishops–has been extended to the categories named in Canon 833, Nos. 5-8.

The latter categories are described in a note to the CDF declaration:

vicars general, episcopal vicars and judicial vicars; “at the beginning of their term of office, pastors, the rector of a seminary and the professors of theology and philosophy in seminaries; those to be promoted to the diaconate”; “the rectors of an ecclesiastical or Catholic university at the beginning of the rector’s term of office”; and, “at the beginning of their term of office, teachers in any universities whatsoever who teach disciplines which deal with faith or morals”; and “superiors in clerical religious institutes and societies of apostolic life in accord with the norm of the constitutions.”

It would seem that oath-taking is not so inconsistent with Notre Dame’s Catholic mission.  Keeley concludes:

In my considered judgment, if Notre Dame does not promote universal values with other like-minded aspirants, we will have failed Our Lady, our Church, our society and the principles we hold most dear.

Terrence Keeley is an Executive Director of the Financial Hippocratic Oath movement.  Read his bio here.