Historic decision: Radboud University is no longer Catholic

23 Oct 2020

After almost a hundred years, Radboud University is no longer permitted to call itself a Catholic institute. The Dutch bishops have withdrawn the designation of 'Catholic' following a long-drawn-out conflict with the regulatory body of the university and hospital, 'Stichting Katholieke Universiteit'.

Radboud University is no longer a Catholic institute. University and bishops announced this on Tuesday evening. A press statement explains that the decision was taken by the Conference of Dutch Bishops (Nederlandse Bisschoppenconferentie). The Catholics are withdrawing the designation of ‘Catholic’ from the SKU (Stichting Katholieke Universiteit). The SKU is the regulatory body of not just the university but also of Radboud university medical center.

Conflict

Behind the split is a long-running dispute. In short, the bishops do not want to have reduced say over appointing new members to the Board of the Foundation, something the Board had previously called for. A number of nominated members had earlier been rejected by the conference of bishops because they were ‘not Catholic enough’. The Board responded by taking the case to the Enterprise Chamber because the sitting members felt that matters could not continue in that manner; vacancies had not been filled for some time. In July this year, the Enterprise Chamber decided that the Board of the Foundation of the university and the hospital was permitted to appoint members themselves, without the bishops having a say.

The latter offended the Catholics. In addition, in the press statement, they now state that ‘the Conference of Bishops and the SKU have differing visions on the way in which Radboud University and Radboudumc should interpret their Catholicism. There is no reason to expect that the gap between these visions will decrease.’

Two boards

There was also disagreement between the bishops and the SKU on a second matter, namely that of the disbanding of university and hospital. As of 1 January, both institutes will continue in two separate foundations, each with its own regulatory body. In both bodies, only one of the five supervisors was to be appointed by the bishops. However, the bishops demanded the right to still appoint all board members. The Enterprise Chamber decided in favour of the SKU, in order to allow preparations for the disbanding to continue. Once the reorganisation had been implemented, the bishops would only have been allowed to appoint one member to the boards of the regulatory bodies.

Radboud University has been Catholic for almost a hundred years. In 1923, the Netherlands wanted to further the emancipation of Catholics in the Netherlands by giving them their own university. The Board of the Foundation responds in the press statement that they are deeply saddened by the bishops’ decision but that they ‘will respect it.’

 

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