Catholic Faculty loses accreditation

As we reported in January, the Catholic Theological Faculty of Charles University in Prague was facing serious problems. Devastated by decades of miserable existence under communism it never fully recovered and it has failed to find its place in the free academic environment even 12 years after the fall of the regime. At the end of last year the management of the university took the matters into their own hands and started implementing changes. However, the faculty has now lost its accreditation. Pavla Horakova has the details.

The faculty was facing criticism for a long time from both the university and the Vatican for the poor quality of education it provided and also for its isolationism and conservative principles. Women and laymen had virtually no chance of getting onto the full-time course and the faculty functioned more or less as a seminary for future priests. In December last year, the Ministry of Education suspended the faculty's academic rights and freedoms and transferred the management powers to the rector of Charles University, professor Ivan Wilhelm. Last Sunday was the deadline for the faculty to adopt measures necessary to improve its academic standards and give an account to the Ministry of Education. The ministry was not satisfied with the results and decided to withdraw the faculty's accreditation. But that fact does not mean the faculty will cease to exist. The faculty has already applied for new accreditation, which it hopes to receive from the ministry by October when the old accreditation runs out, so current students might not be affected at all. Professor Wilhelm has appointed the philosopher and theologian Mikulas Lobkowitz to make changes in the academic staff and start working on new, improved curricula. The faculty is hoping to begin the next academic year with brand new courses and students should brace themselves for more demanding studies. Meanwhile the Czech Archbishop, Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, who is also the faculty's Great Chancellor has withdrawn all teaching powers from the faculty's conservative ex-dean, Vaclav Wolf. Mr Wolf was highly criticised throughout the 1990's for mismanagement of the faculty. The Catholic Church has now denied him the right to teach theology.