It has been clear, during the turmoil occasioned by the selection of the president to speak at Notre Dame, that the Church in the United States remains deeply divided between those who feel life in the Church is to, primarily, be one of communion with the world, and those who believe life in the Church is, primarily, to be a sign of contradiction in the world—and I would be counted among the latter—though with great appreciation of the difficulty to always and in each instance embrace that.
While the operating ethos for those whose work is to be in communion with the world can be seen in this commentary from a Catholic magazine, Peter calls us to embrace the difficulty of being a sign of contradiction in the world, “When Christians are truly the leaven, light and salt of the earth, they too become the object of persecution, as was Jesus; like him they are "a sign of contradiction."
In relation to the mission of the Catholic University, he spoke—rather clearly I thought—when he visited the United States last year and addressed Catholic educators.
“The dynamic between personal encounter, knowledge and Christian witness is integral to the diakonia of truth which the Church exercises in the midst of humanity. God’s revelation offers every generation the opportunity to discover the ultimate truth about its own life and the goal of history. This task is never easy; it involves the entire Christian community and motivates each generation of Christian educators to ensure that the power of God’s truth permeates every dimension of the institutions they serve. In this way, Christ’s Good News is set to work, guiding both teacher and student towards the objective truth which, in transcending the particular and the subjective, points to the universal and absolute that enables us to proclaim with confidence the hope which does not disappoint (cf. Rom 5:5). Set against personal struggles, moral confusion and fragmentation of knowledge, the noble goals of scholarship and education, founded on the unity of truth and in service of the person and the community, become an especially powerful instrument of hope….
“This same dynamic of communal identity – to whom do I belong? – vivifies the ethos of our Catholic institutions. A university or school’s Catholic identity is not simply a question of the number of Catholic students. It is a question of conviction – do we really believe that only in the mystery of the Word made flesh does the mystery of man truly become clear (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 22)? Are we ready to commit our entire self – intellect and will, mind and heart – to God? Do we accept the truth Christ reveals? Is the faith tangible in our universities and schools? Is it given fervent expression liturgically, sacramentally, through prayer, acts of charity, a concern for justice, and respect for God’s creation? Only in this way do we really bear witness to the meaning of who we are and what we uphold…
“Teachers and administrators, whether in universities or schools, have the duty and privilege to ensure that students receive instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice. This requires that public witness to the way of Christ, as found in the Gospel and upheld by the Church's Magisterium, shapes all aspects of an institution’s life, both inside and outside the classroom. Divergence from this vision weakens Catholic identity and, far from advancing freedom, inevitably leads to confusion, whether moral, intellectual or spiritual.”