Czech Catholic faculty 'too conservative' even for Vatican

January 4, 2002

A theological faculty at Prague's Charles University could lose its accreditation after the Czech education ministry criticised the professional qualifications of its staff and their allegedly rigid and conservative style of teaching.

The Catholic theological faculty, where the average age of lecturers is 68, will no longer be able to admit students, grant diplomas or hold state exams, if the recommendation of the ministry's accreditation commission is confirmed.

The commission, which monitors the quality of taught courses in Czech universities, said accreditation should be withdrawn from two courses and a third course scrapped. The current cohort of students may be forced to transfer to other institutions.

The ministry moved to strip the faculty of accreditation after Charles University rector Ivan Wilhelm complained that it was abusing academic freedoms by pursuing a narrow, dogmatic syllabus open only to would-be priests.

University rules prevent the rector from forcing change himself and after faculty leaders resisted his calls for change, the ministry was called in.

Professor Wilhelm said: "The situation is intolerable. There are only four lecturers with a higher doctorate. Courses have not been modernised and there are no foreign exchange programmes."

Dissatisfaction among the Catholic church hierarchy has also failed to force change on the faculty. Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, chancellor of the faculty, has failed to push through changes demanded by the Vatican.

The Czech Bishop's Conference called the decision sad but not unexpected given the inflexibility of the ultra-conservative leadership of the faculty.

But Jaroslav Polc, head of the theological faculty, dismissed suggestions that the church was united in its opposition to the courses he taught or that his lecturers lacked sufficient qualifications.

"There has been no session of the Bishop's Conference about this issue and there is no theological or educational dispute. It is a matter of administration - the university claims that we do not have enough full professors, but we do."

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