The Catholic University of America is a flagship of the Church, but with newly restrictive conservative values and shadowy billionaire backers, is it losing sight of its original purpose?
When Cardinal Peter Turkson spoke at a conference at the Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington DC in 2017 alongside the billionaire libertarian Charles Koch, it encapsulated a mounting controversy over the direction the university is taking.
Koch and his brother, David, run Koch Industries, and have poured huge amounts of money into conservative political causes in the United States, aggressively promoting lower taxes, looser regulations on business and climate-change denial. The Charles Koch Foundation has given $10 million to the business school at CUA. The Cato Institute, co-founded by Charles Koch, is the premier think tank in the US for laissez-faire economic theories of the kind that have been condemned by every Pope since Leo XIII issued his seminal encyclical Rerum Novarum in 1891. Nevertheless, Koch was given a hero’s welcome at the CUA event, and lauded as “a closet Catholic”.
Tim Busch, CUA board member and significant donor to the business school, told the conference that the donations from himself and Koch had “re-energised the Catholic University of America. We made it great again. We are the Catholic University of America and we have educated half of the bishops in this country.”