Skip to content

CDU ‘vetted’ professor with faked degrees

A Catholic online university said it did sufficient vetting before hiring a controversial and high-profile professor who has faced scandal in recent years over false academic credentials.

Mario Enzler. Credit: Catholic Distance University.

Mario Enzler, a one-time member of the Vatican’s Swiss Guard, was appointed this year as a faculty member and the director of ecclesial administration and management programs at Catholic Distance University, a West Virginia based online Catholic university, which works with dioceses across the country. 

Enzler resigned in 2022 as dean of the business school at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, after colleagues charged that Enzler’s credentials were falsified: the Italian university from which he claimed to have been awarded a Ph.D. in music does not offer doctorates, and the institution from which he claimed a bachelors degree was actually a high school.  

Professors at the university called Enzler a “con artist” as they reported his apparent fraud to the university’s board of directors, which saw Enzler resign from the university two years after he had been hired.

Enzler has made other dubious claims about his background and academic credentials. 

In a 2022 speech, the professor claimed to have received a doctorate in finance from a Milanese university, at the same time he was claiming at the University of St. Thomas to hold a doctorate in music. 

Enzler also claimed to have studied in Milan under famed Communion and Liberation founder Fr. Luigi Guissani, but Guissani stepped down from his faculty position in Milan in 1990, while Enzler was a member of the Swiss Guard in Rome. 

In the same speech, Enzler said he had dated two nieces of Pope St. John XXIII — a claim which The Pillar has been unable to verify. 

But while Enzler’s former colleagues in Houston called him a “fraudster,” a spokesperson for Catholic Distance University declined to explain why the institution had hired Enzler amid allegations of serious academic fraud.

“While it is university policy not to comment on personnel matters, the university vets all faculty and staff prior to hiring,” a spokesperson told The Pillar Thursday, by email. 

I Served A Saint - Catholic Information Center
Swiss Guard Mario Enzler, right, with Pope St. John Paul II. Credit: public domain.

Enzler served as a member of the Swiss Guard from 1989 to 1993, according to his LinkedIn profile. He worked subsequently as a relationship manager for a Swiss bank, before founding and leading a now-defunct private school in New Hampshire.

In 2016, Enzler was hired as a professor at the Catholic University of America, where he remained until his 2020 appointment as business school dean at the University of St. Thomas.

Also in 2020, Enzler published a short book, “I Served a Saint,” in which he recounted anecdotes from his time in the Vatican, and suggested that he had formed friendships with Pope St. John Paul II, St. Teresa of Calcutta, and other prominent ecclesial figures.

While Enzler has repeatedly identified himself as an expert in ecclesiastical management, he has not worked in diocesan chanceries, or in administrative posts in the Vatican curia.

Catholic Distance University was in 1983 founded in Arlington, Virginia by Bishop Thomas Welsh, as a catechetical institute for lay Catholics. The university has since moved its headquarters to West Virginia, but the current and former bishop of Arlington are on the board of directors, along with Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese of the Military Services. The board is chaired by Stephen Pryor, a longtime Exxon executive, who retired as president of ExxonMobil Chemical Company in 2015. 

In the 1990s, the university began offering degree programs, and the school is now accredited to confer both undergraduate and graduate degrees, most of which are in theology. The university has also partnered with dioceses to offer courses or certificates to catechists and diocesan personnel.

In 2022, the last year for which tax revenue was available, CDU reported roughly $2 million in revenue, and said that 1,264 students were enrolled in courses.

Enzler has not responded to The Pillar’s request for comment.

Subscribe now

Comments 12