Ex corde ecclesiae and CDU

The Catholic Church has been operating universities for a thousand years and was involved in education for a thousand years before that. When John Paul II issued the apostolic constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae (15 August 1990), he restated the tradition and experience of the Church as it relates to Catholic universities.

He explained the role of faith in the working of the faculty, staff, and students. He also set down how research and teaching are illuminated by faith. The university is an intellectual community, but it is intellectual in a uniquely Catholic way because it respects the truth. As Pope Benedict XVI said, “Only in faith can truth become incarnate and reason truly human, capable of directing the will along the path of freedom” (cf. Spe Salvi, 23).

Faith nourishes and guides the Catholic university and makes it a genuine intellectual community. Catholic Distance University takes Ex Corde Ecclesiae as its guiding light.

The Principles That Guide Us

“Every Catholic university, as a university, is an academic community which, in a rigorous and critical fashion, assists in the protection and advancement of human dignity and of a cultural heritage through research, teaching and various services offered to the local, national and international communities” (art.12).

“Since the objective of a Catholic university is to assure in an institutional manner a Christian presence in the university world confronting the great problems of society and culture, every Catholic university, as Catholic, must have the following essential characteristics:
[1] A Christian inspiration not only of individuals but of the university community as such;
[2] A continuing reflection in the light of the Catholic faith upon the growing treasury of human knowledge, to which it seeks to contribute by its own research;
[3] Fidelity to the Christian message as it comes to us through the Church;
[4] An institutional commitment to the service of the people of God and of the human family in their pilgrimage to the transcendent goal which gives meaning to life” (art. 13).

The Motto of Catholic Distance University

The motto of CDU is Joy from the Truth, Gaudium de Veritate.
John Paul II described Catholic universities as coming from the heart of the Church in his Apostolic Constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae. He stated that “[a Catholic university] shares that Gaudium de Veritate, so precious to St. Augustine, which is that joy of searching for, discovering and communicating truth in every field of knowledge.”
(See St. Augustine, Confessions, X, xxiii, 33, quoted in Ex Corde Ecclesiae, art. 1)

“I am so grateful to Catholic Distance University for the solid teaching of the faith made so accessible to catechists and religious education leaders wherever they may live. It is an amazing resource for the new evangelization for all seeking a firmer foundation in the faith.”

—Reverend Edward C. Hathaway, Basilica of St. Mary, Alexandria, Virginia

Catholic Distance University was established in 1983 under the leadership of Bishop Thomas J. Welsh, founding bishop of the Diocese of Arlington. At the time, Bishop Welsh also served as North American Chairman of the Pontifical Council for the Family and believed that families should be able to deepen their knowledge of the Catholic faith in the warmth, security, and convenience of home, giving an example to children of the importance of learning more about our faith throughout life.

Bishop Welsh was deeply committed to Catholic education and to the education of lay people whose distinct vocation in the world was clearly articulated in the documents of the Second Vatican Council. Bishop Welsh worked tirelessly in the Diocese of Arlington and later as the Bishop of Allentown, Pennsylvania, to provide opportunities for education and spiritual growth. Not only did Bishop Welsh believe that distance education was an innovative approach to adult religious education, but the Holy See in November 1983 praised CDU for carrying out the mandate of Christ to “Teach all Nations” using new methods and approaches and approved CDU as a Pontifical Institute with the authority to award the Pontifical Diploma, later known as the Catechetical Diploma. This was the first time that the Diploma was awarded exclusively through correspondence education.

In 2004, St. John Paul II reminded a group of American bishops, “It is of utmost importance, therefore, that the Church’s institutions be genuinely Catholic: Catholic in their self-understanding and Catholic in their identity.” CDU’s Catholic identity has been at the heart of all we do since our founding, as articulated by St. John Paul II in his  Apostolic Constitution On Catholic Universities, or in Latin, Ex Corde Ecclesiae (meaning “from the heart of the Church).

CDU’s Board has always included bishops and priests along with a majority of lay people and religious committed to the mission of CDU. The Bishop has ultimate authority over CDU’s curriculum.

For 40 years, CDU has educated thousands of students worldwide through high-quality programs steeped in the Catholic intellectual tradition that not only prepare them for professional success but also nurture a love for Jesus Christ. CDU fosters a strong, vibrant global learning community. Our faculty and staff are strongly committed to the mission of CDU and to fostering a life-changing encounter with the living Word of God, Jesus Christ.

  • CDU’s curriculum faithfully transmits the teachings of the Catholic Church following the principles of Ex Corde Ecclesiae.
  • CDU is listed as an approved, degree-granting institution of Catholic higher education in the United States by the USCCB.
  • CDU is a member of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, an organization committed to strengthening its members’ Catholic mission and to fostering collaboration among Catholic colleges and universities.
  • CDU is the only fully online university recommended by the Cardinal Newman Society, an organization committed to promoting and defending faithful Catholic education.

“Pope Francis has said: ‘This is one of the challenges of our time: transmitting knowledge and offering a key for vital comprehension, not a heap of notions unconnected to one another. There is need of a true evangelical hermeneutic for better understanding life, the world, and humanity.’ (Address to the Community of the Pontifical Gregorian University, 10 April 2014)

Catholic Distance University plays a vital role in taking up this challenge by providing an authentically Catholic, high quality education in a flexible and affordable way, making use of the latest technology and an exceptional faculty to form the hearts and minds of men and women who promote the mission of the Church by engaging culture, using both reason and faith.”
Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio


CDU Archbishop Lori

“Using modern technology and taking into account contemporary lifestyles, CDU provides its students not merely with information about the faith but with genuine spiritual nourishment for living the faith rooted in prayer and in a living encounter with Christ, the Incarnate Son of God. In various ways, CDU prepares its graduates to give reasons for hope to all those whom they are privileged to serve in an array of ministries, including and especially parish and school evangelization and catechetical programs.”

Most Reverend William E. Lori, Archdiocese of Baltimore



CDU Bishop Loverde

“Over the past 31 years, CDU has served thousands of students in the United States and throughout the world. Moreover, a number of my brother bishops have entered into diocesan partnerships with CDU in order to provide theological and catechetical formation for Catholic school teachers, parish catechists, and candidates for the permanent diaconate.”

–Bishop Emeritus Paul S. Loverde, Diocese of Arlington, Member of the Board of Trustees


“Since its founding in 1983 by Bishop Thomas Welsh, Catholic Distance University has engaged students in sharing the Church’s mission of the New Evangelization. By providing distance education, CDU has ensured that students worldwide have access to a first-rate education in theology, the liberal arts, and faith development, among other subjects, even when they cannot attend a Catholic university in person. By ministering to members of the military, parents, business professionals, missionaries, cloistered religious, prisoners, and permanent deacons, [CDU has] helped them not only advance professionally, but also live out their universal call to holiness.”

–Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan, Archdiocese of New York

CDU Broglio

“The firm commitment of Catholic Distance University to the pursuit of excellence and the search for truth has made her a forerunner in distance learning. At a time when so much misinformation is disseminated, we are privileged to have this instrument to deepen knowledge of the Catholic faith and promote the New Evangelization.”

–Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, Chancellor and Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees

“For 31 years, Catholic Distance University has been one of those ‘outstanding environments’ for the development of evangelization, to which Pope Francis refers. With its student body now coming from all 50 states and from 60 countries, CDU is a praiseworthy response to the call of Jesus Christ to ‘make disciples of all nations’ (cf. Matthew 28:19).”

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, Apostolic Nunciature, USA

“At Catholic Distance University, students are formed in the ancient truth and tradition of the Church, faithful to her teachings throughout the centuries. The catechetical training is useful not only for working in schools and parishes but more importantly for helping oneself and others to grow as disciples of Jesus Christ. I am grateful for the important work of this university and for the staff, faculty and students who continue to fulfill the call of the New Evangelization in their teaching and studies.”

–Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I., Archbishop of Chicago

“Through the faith-filled utilization of ever-evolving digital technology and expanded course offerings, Catholic Distance University remains steadfast in providing high quality academic programs in theology, liberal arts, and faith formation.”

–Archbishop Leonard P. Blair, Archdiocese of Hartford

St. Paul: The First Distance Educator

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton: The Founder of the Catholic School System in the United States.

The seal of Catholic Distance University combines elements from the arms of Bishop Thomas J. Welsh, CDU’s founder, with symbols that represent our patron saints and our universal reach through online learning.

The three collegiate colors are red, blue, and black signifying: red for the Holy Spirit, source of wisdom and Truth; blue for Mary, seat of wisdom; and black for the ascetical discipline necessary for growth in wisdom and understanding of Truth.

The right side of the shield is from Bishop Welsh’s coat of arms. The arrowheads are adapted from the Welsh family coat of arms.  The chevron with an arrowhead signifies the Bishop’s patron, St. Thomas the Apostle.  The crowned humilitas is taken from the coat of arms of St. Charles Borromeo, the seminary where Bishop Welsh served as rector.

The book and sword are symbolic of our two patron saints: the sword for St. Paul, the Church’s first distance educator, and the book for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the founder of the Catholic school system in the United States. Printed on the pages of the book are the words Ex Corde Ecclesiae – the Apostolic Constitution issued by Blessed Pope John Paul II that guides CDU as an intellectual community and Catholic university.

CDU’s commitment to providing accessible education is symbolized by the globe. Through our online campus, our students and faculty come together to create a global learning community dedicated to the search for Truth and love of knowledge for the glory of God.

Beneath the seal lies the motto of the university, Gaudium de Veritate – Joy from the Truth, a phrase from Saint Augustine, expressing the spirit of the university.