Promulgated on August 15, 1990 and intended to become effective in the academic year starting in 1991, its aim was to define and refine the Catholicism of Catholic institutions of higher education. Institutions newly claiming to be Catholic would require affirmation from "the Holy See, by an Episcopal Conference or another Assembly of Catholic Hierarchy, or by a diocesan Bishop". Institutions currently claiming to be Catholic are considered Catholic unless declared otherwise by the same. The document cites canon 810, which instructs Catholic educational facilities to respect norms established by local bishops.
The apostolic constitution was widely received as a late rebuttal to the Land O'Lakes Statement, a 1967 declaration by University of Notre Dame on the role of Catholic universities. Bishops in the United States, in particular, interpreted the document to say that all teachers of theology in Catholic colleges and universities must be mandated by ecclesiastical authorities. This interpretation has been criticized by many in American Catholic higher education as violating institutional autonomy and reversing elaborations of academic freedom made at the Second Vatican Council. Some Catholics, including culturally conservative Catholic educators, have applauded it.
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