Problem 1: Philosophy
The Philosophy department teaches its students that philosophy is the queen of the disciplines, having a natural precedence over all other disciplines. Insofar as it teaches, say, Aquinas, it teaches him primarily as a philosopher, not a theologian.
Philosophy means "lover of wisdom". Philosophy revolves around a discussion of the tools necessary to correctly perceive reality.
Theology means "words about God." Theology revolves around a discussion of reality Himself, the divine deposit of Faith. Reality is superior to the tools which we use to perceive Him. Our tools may be right or wrong, appropriate or inappropriate, necessary or unnecessary, but Reality abides.
The fact that the FUS Philosophy department fails to understand this basic fact skews the entire department, and therefore the university's outlook on reality as a whole. All students have to take some kind of philosophy course. Students who imbibe FUS philosophy run the risk of mistaking the tools men created to use for the Reality men are created to glorify, the risk of mistaking the means for the end, and the philosophy graduates are the ones most heavily infected with this obtuse understanding. Placing philosophy over theology is classic error of the Enlightenment, and one which has deep roots at FUS.
Problem 2: Grounding in the Fathers and Doctors
The short version: there isn't any substantial grounding in the Fathers and Doctors. During my time at FUS, I can immediately call to mind only only two texts that originated in a Father or Doctor: Aquinas' Treatise on Law (from the Summa) and Athanasius' On the Incarnation. Reading the second was not actually necessary to passing the course. All the other texts were from modern theologians. If it was a Scott Hahn class (who, to his credit, required the Aquinas reading) the studies sources were almost always either Protestant or Jewish.
I understand that Scott forms his students the way he was formed, but there is the problem. The Catholic instructors didn't do much with the Fathers or Doctors - they used texts from modern theologians. The instructors from a Protestant background didn't do much with the Fathers or Doctors - they used texts from Protestant theologians.
We are Catholics. We should be receiving formation from the Fathers and Doctors. For all its vaunted theological underpinnings, FUS is actually quite, quite weak in this foundational formation. There was a single graduate course that covered the Fathers and Doctors, but that elective (not required!) course was pretty much the only course in which a graduate student could encounter them. The Fathers and Doctors were generally segregated from the rest of the curriculum.
Problem 3: Catechetical formation
When I attended, the graduate program in catechetics was under the direction of the renowned Barbara Ann Morgan (BAM). Why she was renowned was never made clear. As more than one grad student noted, her skill lay primarily in exhortation, not particularly in doctrine. I have personally worked several years with her successor. His skill does not lie in either area.
During my training to receive an MA in theology with catechetics emphasis (which required more classes than an ordinary MA), I was taught about the two missions of the Church: to teach and to sanctify.
What's that you say?
Oh, why yes, you are absolutely correct. The Church does not have just two missions, She has three: to teach, to sanctify and to govern, corresponding to the missions of the Son, the Spirit and the Father. But our graduate theological formation was such that the third mission, the mission of the Church to govern, was never emphasized. In fact, it was de-emphasized to such an extent, that when, after graduation, a priest pointed out to me that the Church actually has THREE missions, I was literally shocked.
Now, BAM made sure to use the Catechism of the Catholic Church for her teaching, and the three missions of the Church are clearly spelled out in that text (CCC 873). So, I couldn't figure out how I had missed that. So, I started asking other FUS catechetics MA grads what the missions of the Church were, and the answer was always the same: to teach and to sanctify.
They were always shocked when I pointed out that there were actually three missions. (Note: I tried the same experiment with Notre Dame theology grads. They were not only shocked to discover that there were three missions, they were actually repelled by the idea of "governance." One ND grad, when shown a piece of paper with all three missions written on it, struck through "to govern" with a pen, repeatedly, while saying, "I don't like that one." To FUS' credit, I never met FUS grads who had a similar reaction. FUS students always embraced it as soon as they heard it. That's why I have even less regard for Notre Dame than I do for Franciscan University.)
In fact, BAM created a spin-off called the Association for Catechumenal Ministry whose mission it was to train parish catechists. ACM's original catechetical material also failed to give any indication of the Church's third mission. And, in the interests of full disclosure, I am one of the authors of some of that material. A year or two after the launch, I noticed the hole in the material. Since I knew the associate to the director, I pointed out the lacunae to him and, to his credit, he promptly fixed it.
But how did that grade-school level error creep through the dozens of FUS grads who were checking the ACM material? The question is disturbing, the answer even more so.
Franciscan University may be one of the better Catholic institutions out there, but - given the errors - that is clearly not a very high bar. It has systemic problems in outlook and instruction that have not, to my knowledge, been remedied. I am not a fan of the institution, nor do I recommend it to anyone.
The problem is, perhaps, best summed up by a conversation I had with my best friend at FUS, also a theology grad student, as we walked across the quad one day:
Me: "So, we are getting a master's degree in theology."
Me: "And we're basically learning what we should have been taught in high school."
Franciscan University provides a very fine high school education.
Beyond that, not so much.
And that, as they say, is the other side of the story.