Catholic University of Louvain drops the C-word

The Catholic University of Louvain (Leuven), which dates to 1425, has decided to drop “Catholic” from its name. Reasons? Distancing from the Church’s handling of the abuse scandals and the official Church position on scientific research. Yet another sign of the growing gap between Church authority and the modern world, alas. Brief story here.


  1. They use the scandal as a smoke screen for another agenda, but at least they are honest in not calling themselves Catholic anymore because they really aren’t. I applaud them for their honesty and dropping the name Catholic will at least not lead anyone to think they are Catholic when they’re aren’t, especially parents who might be paying for what they think is a Catholic education.

  2. Though in some ways this is hardly a surprising development, it still makes me, as someone who spent two happy years in Leuven, profoundly sad. I suspect that the abuse scandals are, as Fr. McDonald indicates, a smokescreen. The real issue is that they don’t want to have any constraints on their scientific research.

  3. Looking at the original article from De Standaard, it looks like the English summary is making more of this than is actually there. The current rector is doing some huffing and puffing about dropping the “Catholic,” but denies that there are any imminent plans. He says he “hopes” that such a move would not be necessary. I seems that this is the University Rector’s rhetorical slap at the Vatican for criticizing the awarding of the Nobel prize to Robert Edwards.

  4. +JMJ+

    So the university disagrees the Catholic Church’s official stance on IVF and other genetic research. Better for it to drop “Catholic” from its name to gain the freedom it desires than to retain the name and openly work against her principles.

    Oh well. 🙁

  5. I got wind of this when In Leuven recently. The papers were full of angst-ridden stories on sexual abuse of minors by clergy. The timing has a suicidal quality. But really whether it is KUL or UL hardly matters. Their press is Leuven University Press, no Catholic in their title.

  6. 23. As regards matters in which without harm to faith or discipline – in the absence of any authoritative intervention of the Apostolic See – there is room for divergent opinions, it is clearly the right of everyone to express and defend his own opinion. But in such discussions no expressions should be used which might constitute serious breaches of charity; let each one freely defend his own opinion, but let it be done with due moderation, so that no one should consider himself entitled to affix on those who merely do not agree with his ideas the stigma of disloyalty to faith or to discipline.

    24. It is, moreover, Our will that Catholics should abstain from certain appellations which have recently been brought into use to distinguish one group of Catholics from another. They are to be avoided not only as “profane novelties of words,” out of harmony with both truth and justice, but also because they give rise to great trouble and confusion among Catholics. Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected: “This is the Catholic faith, which unless a man believe faithfully and firmly; he cannot be saved” (Athanas. Creed). There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism: it is quite enough for each one to proclaim “Christian is my name and Catholic my surname,” only let him endeavour to be in reality what he calls himself.

    – Benedict XV ‘Ad Beatissimi…

  7. I think this prospect is profoundly troubling, not for the immediate present but viewed historically. Over the years, the Catholic Church has founded a number of fine institutions, such as hospitals and schools, which are now going out of business for economic reasons.

    But the situation in this case is quite different. The motive for unhitching of the word Catholic from Louvain seems to be a combination of shame and unresolved conflicts. Don’t you think something should be done to fix the sources of the problem, rather than abandoning the institution? In whose interests is the resolution of the problem? It is in the Church’s interest, to be sure, because the university can get along perfectly well without being Catholic. Yet, correct me if I’m wrong, I don’t see that any real attempt is being made by the Church to “keep” Louvain. If this is true it is tragic.

    The cultural patrimony of Europe is interwoven with Catholicism. It’s not in the best interests of the Church to shrug as yet another of its great universities gets a divorce from the Church. It’s sadly quite possible for the Catholic Church to go down the drain intellectually. One sign of decline is the inability to maintain a good relationship with its institutions.

    1. Rita, all you say is true, but a good relationship works two ways, and institutions of the Church seem to have a superiority complex when it comes to the teachings of the Church and knowing better. I would hope that behind the scenes there is dialogue and an impetus to work things out, but ultimately, people who comprise institutions and comprise the Church, both laity and clergy have free will and can do as they please. I think Jesus never forced anyone to follow him and I don’t think our Church’s bishops or pope can force it either.

  8. “A superiority complex when it comes to the teachings of the Church” — namely, the mature, sound, biblically and historically based reflective theology for which Leuven at its best was universally respected is to blame for decatholicization?

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