You may have seen our recent post in which we interviewed the president of the University of San Francisco's Faculty Association, which is fighting the university's mid-contract efforts to remove abortion coverage from an employee health plan.
Among other things, Elliot Neaman, the association head, said the Catholic Church’s opposition to abortion is irrelevant to the question because USF is not legally a Catholic university. "A long time ago, to get federal funding, the Jesuits divested themselves of the university so it is basically run by the board of trustees. They cannot apply for an exemption as a Catholic university because they could lose federal funding because of that," he said.
Tonight, the university told us that while Neaman is technically correct, his characterization doesn't tell the whole story.
From Gary McDonald, in charge of USF communications and public affairs:
Under U.S. law, there is no definition of a Catholic university. Therefore, no university in American is legally defined as Catholic. Instead, universities are defined by their organizational form. USF, for example, is defined legally as a California nonprofit public benefit corporation.
Catholic universities are Catholic not because the law defines and recognizes them as such, but because they self-identify as Catholic, based on their values and affiliation with the Catholic Church. Also, in the case of the University of San Francisco, the Board of Trustees has explicitly ratified the Catholic character of the University. Catholic institutions such as USF are also listed in the Official Catholic Directory, which is updated annually.