From an essay by Timothy S. Healy, S.J., president of Georgetown University, in the school's annual report. At the moment in the United States there is some tension between the teaching authority of the church, called its magisterium and exercised by its bishops, and the autonomy of American Catholic universities. That tension is unfortunate, because it is unnecessary, indeed, founded on confusion. The Catholic university poses no challenge to the magisterium of the church or, indeed, to the authority of its bishops. . .
Conflict arises between the church and the university when the two jurisdictions, episcopal and academic, are confused. The university has neither the duty nor the right to determine authoritatively the teaching of the church, but must instead use its skill and freedom to influence respectfully the growth of the church's understanding. In like manner the church cannot claim to control the structure and penalties of the university, question its civil contracts, or call upon it to impose civil punishment or exclusion on any of its faculty members.
There should be no surprise at the existence of this particular tension, because both church and university are perenially caught in the wrestle between authority and freedom that marks any complex society. . . . Like the university itself, with its debate about the relative importance of teaching and research, the church has moments when it opens itself to an influx of new ideas and moments when it withdraws to absorb, to structure and to formulate them. Both the church and the university could well follow Hamlet's hint to "observe the modesty of nature," a decent respect for each other's internal autonomy.