Our books

Become a Fan

« Tips for expanding one's professional network for a neurodivergent 2nd-year PhD student? | Main | Specifications grading? »



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

neither catholic

Catholic colleges indeed seem to be quite different from one another. Some of them are formally associated with the Catholic church, but are really not much different from "regular" colleges. I remember interviewing for one such job where the committee members expressed committed feminist views that would not play well with the pope. I don't think being a Catholic is even an asset at those kind of places. Others seem to be places where faculty share a conservative world view and are mostly Catholic themselves (whether through self-selection or through selection in job searches I don't know). One mark of the latter: if the job ad mentions the "ex corde ecclesiae" constitution, stating that it is important to the school or asking you to elaborate on what it means to you, they are likely assuming a conservative understanding of Catholicism and are viewing religion to be an important part of student education.

Paul Carron

I teach at a religious school that takes our religious mission seriously, but not a Catholic institution. However, I work with folks from Catholic institutions and have friends that teach at such places. I would reiterate how diverse officially Catholic universities can be; everything from nominally Catholic and quite liberal/progressive to very committed and fairly conservative. So, my advice would be to do some research on the particular institution and department. If they are they former, go for it. If they are the latter, don't bother. Some of the former might still require that you can express some intellectual humility and openness to religious commitment, so approach the interview with caution.

bad faith

I think the number 1 rule is not to sign a statement of faith with which you don't agree.

Other than that, it is worth applying. I can't imagine any decent, serious philosophy department at a religious school minding that someone is an atheist. What they would mind is if someone is an aggressive atheist in a way that will cause problems at some point.

In my experience, plenty of faculty at religious institutions are on the atheist-agnostic spectrum. I am, and had a good experience as non-TT faculty at a mid-sized Catholic institution.

assc prof

I work at a "Catholic" university. I put it in quotes because other than getting an Easter break and there being a generic prayer at the beginning of any university-wide meeting, there's virtually no evidence the place is Catholic. If you're looking for hints, I'd look at two things:

1. Where did the faculty get their degrees? The less they get them at Notre Dame/CUA/SLU/Fordham/etc., the less likely it is to be very religious.

2. Are there things on the website that express support for LGBT causes? If there are, that's a sign that it's not that religious (not to suggest that they're incompatible in principle).

vaguely non-religious theist

It's true that there are a wide variety of Catholic universities. While the very strict ones might be looking for actual Catholics, many are not so strict.

I worked at one of the less strict Catholic universities. When I interviewed - and later, when I was on a search committee - the emphasis was on whether candidates understood and would be committed to the mission of the university, rather than any specific religious beliefs.

Many of my colleagues were practicing Catholics. I also had colleagues that were Jewish, vaguely non-religious theists (that's me), and agnostics.

At the Catholic university where I worked, somebody openly hostile to religion would have been a bad fit. Campus meetings started with prayers, there were crucifixes in the classrooms, some of the faculty were priests, and we occasionally had campus events in the chapel. Most of the militant atheists I know would find the culture problematic.

That said, I do not think that an honest atheist would be automatically disqualified. It comes down to the mission, what it means to you, and how you can implement that in your teaching and service. If you are an atheist but you can translate the mission - which might include stuff about God and faith - into concepts that make sense to you, and you can respect and support students that have strong religious beliefs, then it can work. If you cannot make sense of the mission, then that's a red flag, and the search committee will pick up on it.

thank god

I just wanted to thank everyone for taking the time to comment. My basic takeaway is that I need to be pretty true to myself in presentation. I'm not contemptuous of religion or religious people. At the same time, I'm not going to convince anyone 1) that I'm Catholic or 2) that I'm conservative. If that's what they are seeking in a candidate, I'm sure they have many options available!

Non-Catholic at Catholic School

Catholic universities vary widely. It seemed pretty clear to me that non-Catholics wouldn’t be considered at more conservative schools (I have in mind places like CUA, Ave Maria, and University of St. Thomas), and there are other Catholic schools where the only thing that might be a sign that you’re at a Catholic school is the mention of social justice in the mission. I’m at a place closer to the latter: the overall feel is very progressive and oriented toward social justice, but the Catholic intellectual tradition is emphasized, there is an openness to transcendence, and there are definitely some traditional Catholics.. In my department, discussion of the mission would be expected to go beyond social justice; there definitely would be some people pushing you on faith and reason and the connection to social justice and the dignity of all people, for instance. No one would ask you about your religious beliefs, but they would expect to hire someone who’s not going to look down on colleagues who do, for example, Catholic moral philosophy. I have at least one nontheist colleague (that I know of) and colleagues of non-Christian faiths in my department, but unless you are close friends with someone or are one of the conservative Catholics, it’s not a common conversational topic.

Catholic at a Catholic Institution

I'm the Catholic at a Catholic institution in the main post. One thing that bothers me about these discussions is the smooth identification people make between committed Catholics with conservative (politically conservative?) commitments and only hiring Catholics, and presumably the converse: lackadaisical institutions/Catholics, one assumes, have progressive commitments and are more open to non-religious colleagues. Those things come together at some institutions or in some circles but not others. Also, every individual is an individual. Just ... be curious. Don't jump to conclusions about your (potential) colleagues or students, about their political beliefs, religious beliefs, their open-mindedness or closed-mindedness. If you are wondering about their commitments, ask questions. Don't make assumptions.

One way in which ignorance about religion manifests itself is when a person confidently identifies serious religious commitment with a certain set of social or political beliefs. Try not to do that, both in interviews and more generally.


As far as the original question goes, I'm with "bad faith's" reply above. But I feel like it might also be worth adding something to the discussion. I'm not religious and work at a Catholic university and I think that the militant atheist types (or those of a firm atheist bent who are critical of religious schools) might take a moment and note how helpful Catholic universities are to Philosophy as a discipline. Catholic universities typically take Aquinas (a philosopher) to be a key figure. Many have core requirements that include Philosophy (places like Notre Dame and Fordham require 6 credits of Philosophy for their students). Many have large Philosophy faculty and regularly hire philosophers. Also where many state schools have administrators who are eager to cut Philosophy departments since there's no use for them, Catholic universities don't because they perceive Philosophy to be relevant to their missions. I'll also add that I can regularly have conversations with my colleagues in Religion at my school about such figures as Plato, Aristotle, Kant, etc. So I think philosophers should be very grateful for the existence of Catholic universities since they support our discipline in ways we shouldn't forget.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

Subscribe to the Cocoon

Job-market reporting thread

Current Job-Market Discussion Thread

Philosophers in Industry Directory


Subscribe to the Cocoon