Tag Archives: Catholic

Regnerus and the ‘Liberal War on Science’


ongoing controversy over University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus is a
textbook example of how a legitimate scholarly dispute can turn into a
political witch-hunt. Regnerus, an associate professor of sociology at Texas’s
flagship campus in Austin, published a peer-reviewed paper in June in the
journal Social Science Research concluding that the adult children of
parents in same-sex relationships fare worse in a number of ways–alcoholism,
depression, drug use, and so forth–than the adult children of parents in
stable heterosexual marriages. Other sociologists have contested both
Regnerus’s findings and his methodology. But instead of challenging the results
of Regnerus’s research via normal scholarly channels–reviews, other scholarly
papers, or conference panels–Regnerus’s opponents have sought to delegitimize
him both personally and as a professional academic. They have attacked his
editors at Social Science Research, and they have goaded the UT-Austin
administration into investigating him for scientific misconduct. They have
fought their battle not in the journals but in the pages and web-pages of Mother
and the Huffington Post. Regnerus, a Catholic convert, has
even been aligned with the Catholic traditionalist group Opus Dei that is every
progressive’s favorite faith-based werewolf. Shades of The Da Vinci Code!

Continue reading Regnerus and the ‘Liberal War on Science’

Student Voices: The Obama’s Administration’s Attack on Religious Colleges

With election season well under way, the Obama administration now finds itself up against lawsuits brought by several of the nation’s most prominent religious universities. Catholic University and the University of Notre Dame have already filed suit in opposition to the now-infamous federal requirement that insurance companies provide no-fee coverage of a slew of contraceptive pills. And now, as CNN’s Belief Blog reports, they have been joined by Wheaton College, an evangelical institution. Wheaton’s lawyers claim that the mandate is an insult to Wheaton’s institutional beliefs, because it forces the school to both cover and provide guidance for the use of abortifacients.

Continue reading Student Voices: The Obama’s Administration’s Attack on Religious Colleges

Could “Diversity” Become Mandatory?

diversity mandate.jpgThose of us who were disappointed when a divided Supreme Court upheld the distribution of burdens and benefits based on race in Grutter are hopeful that decision might be overturned — or that at least its most deleterious effects might be reined in — when the Court revisits affirmative action next fall in Fisher v. University of Texas. It would be a mistake to assume, however, as many do, that the worst-case scenario is the possibility that racial preferences in admissions and hiring might remain legal. If this administration’s arguments about the unprecedented and virtually (or even actually) unrestrained power the government possesses are upheld — either in currently pending litigation or by a future Supreme Court with new justices appointed by a re-elected President Obama– then “diversity”-justified discrimination could actually become mandatory.

Consider, first, the administration’s view of government power.
Twelve Catholic bishops, the Archdioceses of New York and Washington,
Notre Dame, Catholic University, Catholic Charities and the Consortium
of Catholic Academies — all told, 43 plaintiffs in 12 concurrently
filed lawsuits — have charged the Obama administration with trampling
their religious liberty by requiring them to finance or enable behavior
that violates their religion. Both the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal covered the lawsuit on their May 22 front pages; the New York Times
buried it on p. A17. They charge, both implicitly and explicitly, that
the government now refuses to recognize any limits to its power, that
it does not have to follow the rules that formerly restrained it.

Continue reading Could “Diversity” Become Mandatory?

A Controversy at Post-Catholic Georgetown

kathleen_sebelius.jpgKathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, is scheduled to speak Friday at a Georgetown University commencement event, setting off protests among Catholics and others who believe the Obamacare mandate violates religious liberty. So far, some 25,000 people have signed petitions asking for the invitation to be withdrawn. On campus, the reaction seems more tepid: only 9 of the 1500-plus faculty members and just 3 of the 55 resident Jesuits are known to have joined the protest.

For President Obama, the speech sets up a likely win-win outcome:
dispatching a nominal Catholic to a nominally Catholic university that
yearns to be secular (the question, “Is Georgetown still a Catholic
university?” has been asked since the mid-60s) either provokes an angry
response that would fit the “war against women” scenario, or a trifling
one demonstrating that the Catholic bishops have bluster, but few troops
behind them, even on a Jesuit campus.

Continue reading A Controversy at Post-Catholic Georgetown

The Insincerity of the Georgetown Letter

As has been reported here and here and here, some 90 Georgetown University professors and administrators sent a letter to Congressman Paul Ryan in advance of his speech on campus last week. The main point the letter makes is that Ryan’s political outlook and the budget that issues from it violate Catholic teaching, even though Ryan claims that his Catholic understanding informs his ideas. Those who signed the document make a firm recommendation to Ryan: do not maintain positions that impact the poor and the needy so strongly, but instead preserve government programs aimed toward them.

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‘Totalitarian Tactics’ at Vanderbilt

Posted by Fr. John Sims Baker

The students here at Vanderbilt Catholic have decided to move our 500-member group off campus rather than allow the university to dictate who our leaders might be. Using anti-discrimination rules, the administration says campus groups must allow all students to become group officials–which would means we must accept non-religious and even anti-religious candidates for office. How impressive to spend three and a half hours with these students on a Friday evening a couple of weeks ago deciding what we needed to do in response to the policy which had finally appeared in writing, along with official interpretation:

Continue reading ‘Totalitarian Tactics’ at Vanderbilt

‘It’s a Major Assault on Religious Freedom’


The abortion-drug and contraceptive mandate issued by the Obama administration is a frontal assault on the freedoms given to every American by God Himself, and guaranteed in our Constitution.  If allowed to stand, the precedent will have been set that the government can, in fact, prohibit the free exercise of religion, by taking to itself the power to define what is and is not religious behavior, and by punishing those whose faith leads them to make decisions for themselves or their organizations that contradict government directives.

There are many in the press, however, who want to hijack this discussion and make it about a woman’s “right” to contraception.  But this is not the central issue.  At the heart of the matter is whether the government can require religious organizations, or individuals, to provide services or engage in practices that violate their religion-based moral convictions.  That is why Geneva College, with the aid of the Alliance Defense Fund filed the lawsuit, Geneva College v. Sebelius, in federal court in Pittsburgh, PA on February 21st.

Our Board of Trustees Policy Manual says this:

“Geneva College publicly professes that Jesus Christ is the ruler of all institutions.  Should it develop that federal and/or state laws or regulations are deemed to require the College to act in a way inconsistent with the Word of God, the Board of Trustees will actively seek to challenge such laws or regulations, and/or support a position of dissent, such as the College took in response to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.”

Our lawsuit challenges the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ regulations under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that mandate religious employers like Geneva provide abortion-inducing drugs through the health insurance we provide to our employees and students.  The mandate also forces the college to fund government-dictated speech in the form of counseling that is directly at odds with the religious message we wish to convey to our students and the broader culture.  We believe this mandate is a violation of the freedoms of religion and speech guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States and affirmed by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Plan B and Ella Are Not Preventive

The technical aspects of the situation are simple.  The Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA), which founded the college in 1848, holds the position that human life begins at conception.  Geneva’s policies have long reflected the position of the church in that we have excluded coverage for elective abortions and abortion-inducing drugs from the insurance plans we provide to our employees and students.  Preventive oral contraceptives are and will continue to be covered.  But drugs such as Plan B and Ella, the “morning after” and “week after” pills respectively, are not fundamentally preventive; they function to prevent implantation or otherwise kill a human embryo.  Thus, they violate our consciences and our long-standing practices in support of life.  Yet the FDA has labeled them “contraceptives,” and the rules being promulgated by HHS require that they be covered by employer-provided health plans.
In the words of Greg Baylor, Senior Counsel for the ADF, “This mandate offers no choice.  We either comply, and abandon our convictions, or resist and be punished.  Geneva College and other employers who do not qualify as sufficiently religious under the federal government’s excruciatingly narrow definition of religious organizations, cannot freely abandon the mandate.  Obamacare imposes exorbitant penalties on entities that would refuse to comply.  These penalties would undermine Geneva College’s ability to pursue its religious mission.”  The government cannot be allowed to force anyone to buy and sell insurance coverage that subsidizes the killing of young human beings.  Nor can it be allowed to define what is considered religious belief or behavior.  To grant it this power eviscerates the First Amendment.
Our freedom to exercise our religion is guaranteed by the establishment and free exercise clauses of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, and further protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  Our freedom of speech is secured by the free speech clause of the same amendment.  Both our freedom of religion and our freedom of speech are violated by this government mandate.  This is not a Roman Catholic issue.  It is not a Reformed Presbyterian issue.  Indeed, it threatens religious organizations and people of all faiths.
Geneva’s motto, Pro Christo et Patria, “for Christ and Country,” has never been understood to suggest two equal authorities.  Rather, Jesus Christ is Lord of all, and we seek to educate students who are prepared to serve the country and society out of love for and obedience to Him.  When the state stands in opposition to Christ, we must make our stand with and for Him.  Our government should not be able to force us to buy or sell insurance that subsidizes morally objectionable treatments.  If we do not contest this mandate, we believe that we would be responsible for allowing abortions to occur.
Greg Baylor concluded our joint press conference this way: “Every American should note that a government with the power to do this to Geneva College has the power to do anything to anybody.”  Our elected officials swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, not distort and upend it.  Thus, Geneva College and the Alliance Defense Fund are, by this lawsuit, exercising the final right granted in the First Amendment: “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”  And we do so on behalf of the millions of Americans who still believe in the promises that we have inherited from the founders of this great nation.

Will Harvard Stop Trying to Impose Orthodoxies?

Harvard Building.jpg

Although our beleaguered universities continue their seemingly inexorable march from being institutions of higher education to resembling, more and more, political and social re-education camps for the young, every now and then the students demonstrate that they remain well ahead of campus administrations and faculties when it comes to appreciating the true role of our colleges and universities:  It appears that our universities’ efforts at attitudinal indoctrination have not been wholly successful.

We see the latest example at Harvard in an editorial in the college newspaper The Harvard Crimson. Headlined “A University, Not A Think Tank: Harvard should not issue a formal position on inequality” (The Harvard Crimson, December 14, 2011), the undergraduate journalists take their professors to task for continuing on the perilous journey of politicizing the institution by seeking to have the school, in the editorial’s words, “use its position to make a statement against social inequalities.”

The statement, triggered by the ubiquitous “Occupy” movement that recently swept the nation as well as many college campuses, was proposed at the December faculty meeting by Professor Susan Suleiman, acting chair of the Department of Romance Language and Literatures. While the student editorialists agreed with Professor Suleiman “that social inequality is an important issue to address in today’s society,” they warned against turning a university into a “think tank” by officially espousing political and social positions.

The Crimson editorial argues that Harvard’s primary responsibility is “to promote free discourse,” and that the university’s taking a formal and official position on “contemporary political issues…such as inequality” would inevitably move it in the direction of, for example, “endors[ing] a presidential candidate, or impos[ing] a political litmus test for faculty.”

In fact, this would hardly be the first time that the student journalists had to lecture their teachers on the contours of intellectual freedom and of the dangers in crossing the line from education to indoctrination. Whether defending a student’s right to parody seemingly incompetent administrators at the Business School, or castigating the attempted imposition of a racial speech code at the law school, the student editors of the Crimson have for the most part eloquently defended intellectual freedom against those who would constrain it.

But the push against open discourse and intellectual vibrancy at the university has been strong over the last two decades, as university administrators and faculty have made a veritable tradition of betraying these seemingly sacrosanct principles. In 2006 the faculty managed to drive out the university president, Lawrence Summers, for suggesting the existence of scientific evidence of women scientists’ gender-based overall predisposition not to perform at the highest levels, in contrast to their male counterparts. In 2009, the Dean of the Law School publicly embarrassed and castigated a student for a controversial private e-mail expressing the student’s interest in seeing more scientific research results on the hot-button issue of race and intelligence. And at the beginning of the last semester, the Harvard College Dean of Freshmen sought to impose on all new arrivals a “Freshman Pledge.” As explained in this space this past September, it was only because of considerable push-back that the dean retreated from his insistence that the oath be posted at every freshman dorm entryway with a signature line for every student, so that everyone would see which students were, and which were not, prepared to publicly declare their fealty to the notion that “the exercise of kindness holds a place on a par with intellectual attainment,” thereby “upholding the values of the College” that include “inclusiveness and civility.” (For a longer discussion of Harvard’s new tradition of betraying free speech, see this piece by Daniel R. Schwartz.)

And so even though the Dean of Freshmen failed (for the current year only – he vowed to return to the issue at the start of fall semester later this year) to stampede first-year students into pledging to kindness and inclusiveness as essential and mandated values rather than mere personal preferences, the acting chair of a major department tried to pledge the entire institution into solidarity with a social and political movement.

And unfortunately, we cannot be overly confident that the Crimson will maintain its longstanding policy as a bulwark against administrative and faculty overreach. In the last year alone, Harvard’s highly regarded student newspaper (“The University Daily Since 1873,” blares the masthead proudly) has failed twice to defend freedom of conscience at Harvard. In response to the pledge controversy, rather than support former Dean Harry Lewis’s unmitigated position against the pledge, the Crimson editorial board called for the imposition of amoral code. The code would, said the editors, represent “an explicit affirmation of the moral value set that should guide the Harvard community;” such “codification of morality” being necessary to “truly bring integrity, respect, compassion, and kindness on par with success.”

And two days earlier, the student editors reminded the faculty of the proper academic and intellectual mission of the liberal arts university, the same editorial page supported the December 6th vote of the Harvard College faculty to exclude from the Harvard Summer School catalogue two economics courses taught by Indian economist Subramanian Swamy. The reasons for Swamy’s effective expulsion from the faculty was his authorship of an editorial–for a newspaper in his native India–urging the Indian government to take drastic steps in response to Muslim extremism. This action by the faculty was taken at the behest of Comparative Religion Professor Diana L. Eck, who strained laughably to characterize Swamy’s newspaper column as something more sinister and dangerous than mere speech. This time the Crimson editorialists bit: “Swamy’s op-ed clearly constitutes hate speech, by even the most lenient definition,” they wrote. “As a matter of principle, there is no place for hate speech in the Harvard community.” While a clear misreading of the article–Swamy’s piece may seem radical, but calling it hate-speech is quite a stretch, and calling it incitement absurd–what neither Professor Eck and her faculty colleagues, nor the student editorialists understood, of course, was that in the society outside of the ivy gates, “hate speech” is accorded vigorous constitutional protection.

As the Crimson editorial’s warning to the university not to go overboard in adopting formal institutional positions on such political issues and economic inequality demonstrates, the students are still ahead of their teachers when it comes to preserving the academy’s unique devotion to freedom of thought and speech, and to intellectual pluralism. However, as the Swamy and pledge editorials equally show, even student editors are not completely immune from the increasingly dangerous politicization of the academy that threatens academic freedom and, indeed, the whole concept of a liberal arts education. The danger, of course, is that within another generation, the constant pressure from faculty and administration to water down the liberal arts university’s traditional mission will have converted the students into unquestioning followers of their politicized elders.

The Pointless Case Against Catholic University

The Catholic University of America is, um, a Catholic university. So–surprise, surprise–its Washington, DC campus, like those of most other Catholic institutions of higher learning, has a lot of Catholic stuff around. Chapels, priests and nuns on the faculty, crucifixes in the classrooms, statues of the saints, and a gigantic church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, which, while technically not part of Catholic University, is the site of its graduation and other formal ceremonies. Some 85 percent of Catholic’s 3,600 undergraduates self-identify as Catholics, and to top it off, the university has a papal charter, granted by Pope Leo XIII in 1887.

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Shocker: Single Sex Dorms May Be Bad for Your Behavior

John Garvey, the new President of Catholic University, announced last week that the university will return to single sex dorms. Many feathers were ruffled. It is a measure of the unisex madness in which we have become enmeshed that a Catholic university’s decision to house unmarried young men and women in separate dorms could be described as “controversial.”
Garvey announced his decision in a Wall Street Journal op ed.  He cited his own experience as the father of five kids, and a handful of social science studies to affirm the obvious:  When adolescents freed from the constraints of family life, are tossed into the same dorms, they are more likely to do dumb things. Garvey writes, “Christopher Kaczor at Loyola Marymount points to a surprising number of studies showing that students in co-ed dorms (41.5%) report weekly binge drinking more than twice as often as students in single-sex housing (17.6%). Similarly, students in co-ed housing are more likely (55.7%) than students in single-sex dorms (36.8%) to have had a sexual partner in the last year–and more than twice as likely to have had three or more.”
Do we really need social science data to demonstrate this?  Apparently so. A rather well-designed 2009  peer-reviewed study  by Brian Willoughby and Jason Carroll, “The Impact of Living in Co-ed Resident Halls on Risk-taking Among College Students” confirms Garvey’s common sense.  The study, published in the Journal of American College Health, relied on data from Project R.E.A.D.Y., a multi-site research project dedicated to investigating various aspects of emerging adulthood development.

Continue reading Shocker: Single Sex Dorms May Be Bad for Your Behavior

The Death of a Radical


The death of feminist philosopher, theologian and former Boston College professor Mary Daly earlier this month at the age of 81 received fairly little notice in the media. What attention Daly did receive, however, was almost entirely of the positive kind. Time magazine ran a short obituary by fellow radical feminist Robin Morgan, who eulogized Daly as “a fierce intellectual, an intrepid scholar, a wicked wit and an uncompromising radical” as well as “a central figure in contemporary feminist thought.” A Boston Globe editorial called Daly “a fighter” as well as “a vital figure in feminism and in the recent history of Catholicism in America,” while acknowledging that her radicalism was at times excessive.

Trained as a Roman Catholic theologian, Daly eventually became a self-proclaimed ‘post-Christian’ whose vitriolic anti-Catholicism went far beyond liberal demands for reform. She wrote, notably, that ‘a woman’s asking for equality in the church would be comparable to a black person’s demanding equality in the Ku Klux Klan.’ She continued, nonetheless, to teach at Catholic Boston College for more than 30 years, despite openly deriding that school as ‘a laboratory for patriarchal tricks.’

Daly’s most notorious moment came in 1999, when she became embroiled in a controversy about her policy of barring men from her “Introduction to Feminist Ethics” course. A Boston College senior, Duane Naquin, complained. Since Daly’s practices were a clear violation of one of the feminists’ favorite laws, Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments – which forbids educational institutions that benefit from any federal funds to discriminate on the basis of gender, except for single-sex schools – the college ordered her to admit Naquin into the class. Daly discontinued the class instead. After a prolonged squabble, she either she either resigned (according to the college) or was kicked out (according to her).

Continue reading The Death of a Radical

The Perennial Issue—Free Speech

We belatedly came across two free-speech articles this morning, one a year old, the other a week old. The year-old story is vaguely similar to the current Obama-at-Notre-Dame issue. John Corvino, a gay ex-Catholic who teaches philosophy at Wayne State, was invited to speak on gay rights at Aquinas College, a Catholic institution in Grand Rapids, Michigan. On the morning of the long-planned event, Corvino got a phone call from the college postponing his talk. A week later the talk was canceled. The president of the college said, “We want to explore the issue from an academic perspective, not from the perspective of an antagonistic attack to core Catholic values.” But Corvino had not sounded antagonistic, and professed deep respect for the Catholic faith, though he no longer believes much of it. “Homosexuality is an issue on which many thoughtful and decent people still disagree,” he said. “Ignoring this disagreement won’t make it go away, so instead let’s strive for productive dialogue.” The dialogue occurred off-campus. Students found a site and Corvino delivered his talk, thus saving the honor of the college.

The week-old article, which we put up in our Commentary section today, appeared on the Philadelphia Inquirer site, headlined—sensibly enough—“Colleges Can Handle Controversy Without Squelching Free Speech.” In the article, Charles Mitchell, program director of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, congratulated Millersville University for not canceling a speech by William Ayers, the ex-Weatherman. The university’s invitation to Ayers touched off an uproar of protest, some of it from state legislators. To its great credit, Indiana University of Pennsylvania also refused to withdraw a speaking invitation, this one to Ward Churchill. Mitchell wrote that no college is obliged to invite Ayers or Ward Churchill, but once invited, they can’t be disinvited for fear of controversy.

Exactly so. Most of the speakers disinvited by colleges and universities are on the right, given the politics of our campuses, but conservatives who speak up for their own should make clear that they stand for free speech across the spectrum. That happened when a political move to fire Edwin Chemerinsky as dean of the new law school at the University of California, Irvine. Many of Chemerinsky’s loudest defenders were conservatives and libertarians who don’t much like his politics.

One the problems with colleges lecture programs is that faculty and students often tend to ignore balance, often because the intellectual currents on campus flow only one way. At Columbia University, for example, it’s a sure bet that any speaker canceled or shouted down is either on the right or in disfavor with the left. The Minutemen leaders, instance, were invited, shouted down and canceled, then re-invited a year later and canceled again, all without a peep of protest from the left. Mitchell suggests that faculty and students submit a lit of proposed speakers well in advance, so administrations can make sure a range of perspectives is considered. That sounds right. Uproars are less likely if a genuine variety of speakers is approved and listed for all to see.

A Crucifix Controversy at BC

Over the winter break, Boston College placed in its classrooms crucifixes and other Christian symbols, many of them brought back from historically Catholic countries by BC students studying there. To the surprise of no one, this turned out to be controversial at the Jesuit-run institution. Any lurch in the direction of religion by religious colleges is bound to leave some professors aghast. Chemistry professor Amir Hoveyda said: “A classroom is a place where I am supposed, as a teacher, to teach without any bias, to teach the truth. And when you put an icon or an emblem or a flag, it confuses the matter.” There’s a lot to unpack in that statement. Professor Hoveyda apparently thinks he will be unable to teach the truths of chemistry in a classroom containing a Christian symbol. The power of a Jesus image is apparently so strong that the professor believes he will be unable to function in a bias-free manner
And it isn’t just a crucifix. In his view, “an icon, an emblem or a flag” automatically brings bias to the class. (Make that the American flag, which is recurrently controversial in the academy and disdained by many as a symbol of imperialist aggression. It was banned on some campuses after 9/11 out of deference to foreign students who might have been as unsettled by its presence). The casual linking of flag and crucifix as troubling images recalls the writings of sociologist Peter Berger. He saw a connection between the increasing obeisance of believers to the “cultured despisers of religion” and the increasingly “large number of Americans (who ) seem to apologize for the basic character if not the very existence of their own country.” Both forms of back-pedaling, he thought, point to a hollowing out of traditional symbols.
A few professors used the “discomfort” argument, a powerful one on the modern campus: anything that makes me feel uncomfortable is intolerable. This puts the crucifix in the same category as the painting that discombobulated a feminist professor at Penn State years ago. She said she felt harassed by a copy of Goya’s famous “Naked Maja,” though the painting had been hanging there in class for decades before it began harassing her. The “discomfort” argument can also be called “the sensitive person’s veto.” The only way to avoid the veto is to ban any imagery that offends anyone, even Christian images at Christian colleges. To its credit, BC is unwilling to do that.

A Letter From A Reader

I just learned about your organization today, following a link from, of all places, the Chronicle of Higher Education. Thank you for what you are doing.

As a voice crying in the wilderness, I find that many of the points being made on your site resonate with my own critiques that fall, inevitably, upon deaf ears. I teach at a very conservative Catholic college, so the political-correct issues do not dominate the landscape here so much. Still, the question of what higher education is really supposed to be about is very much an issue here—or ought to be. I am persuaded that there are two factors dominating this crisis, even where left-leaning bias is not the governing model. We are dealing with a spiral-effect from the interplay between tuition-driven funding for institutions and doctrinaire Education experts. Here, I am extremely critical of, at the very least, the NEA, but also the basic paradigm at work in Education conceived as a discipline deemed competent to oversee all other disciplines in the academy, but itself, remaining above critique. We can observe a clear historical correlation here. The “education paradigm” rises in the academy in conjunction with government-endorsed accrediting agencies peopled by those who embrace this paradigm. These agencies arise in an effort to protect the public interest by judging whether federally administered or guaranteed funds for tuition were being used well. Calling for constant navel picking and sweeping plans for growth as requirements for accreditation, colleges must seek more and more money to remain accredited. They have to hire people to oversee and manage their ever-expanding programs and self-studies. They have to pay for new buildings, etc. They have less and less money to pay faculty, but ask faculty to seek ever-higher qualifications at their own increasing expense, only to have them teach at ever lower standards in the increasingly unlikely event that they can find employment once they have assumed what amounts to a mortgage to gain the privilege of applying for the diminishing number of permanent posts.

In any event, I will be visiting the website often.


Who Should Speak At Catholic Colleges?

The overwhelming majority of American catholic colleges won’t be honoring public figures that flout church teaching at this year’s commencement exercises, according to the Cardinal Newman Society, the conservative Catholic watchdog group. Of the hundreds of men and women who will be awarded honorary degrees by the nation’s 225 Catholic universities this month, the Society labels only 6 as dissenters on key moral issues (abortion, as always, seems to be the biggie), down from 24 in 2006 and 13 in 2007, according to the Boston Globe.

As the Globe’s Michael Paulson points out, pro-choice catholic politicians are the most obvious snubs. Rudy Giuliani, Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, and Ted Kennedy, all regulars on the commencement speaker circuit, will not be addressing a catholic college’s graduating class this year.

Many catholic schools, particularly the smaller, more conservative institutions, seem to have genuinely taken to heart the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops advice from 2004 that “the Catholic community and the institutions which are a part of our family of faith should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles.”

For schools like Notre Dame, Georgetown, and Boston College, which have large, politically diverse student bodies and faculties, as well as the prestige to lure big names if they want to, the move away from politicians as speakers may also be borne at least in part from a desire to avoid partisan rancor that detracts from the communal nature of commencement. Boston College, in particular, has drawn ire from all directions over its choice in partisan honorees in the past. Extending invitations to socially liberal honorees like Warren B. Rudman (1992) and Janet Reno (1997) has been panned by more conservative voices within the church, while attempts to honor Bush administration officials like Condoleezza Rice (2006) and Michael Mukasey (Law School, 2008) have angered pacifist Jesuits on campus and the more left-leaning lay faculty. It’s not surprising that this year the school opted for the very non-controversial historian David McCullough.

Continue reading Who Should Speak At Catholic Colleges?

Catholic Colleges Lose Their Character?

Among today’s postings is an article asking whether hiring professors strictly by excellence isn’t a way to guarantee that Catholic colleges will, in time, lose their Catholic character and become secular. The article, “Academic Excellence Is Not an Excellent Criterion“, is by Georgetown University associate professor of government Patrick Deneen and it appeared in the campus publication The Hoya. Deneen serves as director of the Tocqueville Forum on the Roots of American Democracy. If affirmative action allows veering away from excellence to raise the number of women and minorities on campus, he asks, how is it wrong to actively and consciously recruit Catholic faculty to safeguard Georgetown’s religious tradition? Reader reactions to Deneen are worth reading too.

Administrative Orthodoxy At Ave Maria

Tom Monaghan, founder of Domino’s Pizza, Ave Maria University, and the town of Ave Maria, Florida (in that order) obviously isn’t attracting media acclaim in his effort to establish a conjoined orthodox Catholic University and Catholic town on a former tomato farm in Southwest Florida. No, he comes off as something as something of an Inquisitor, putting a farm of happily secular Florida tomatoes to the sword to make room for a bishopric of right-wing Catholics. The caviling about Monaghan, for the most part, is easily explained; Monaghan has explicitly proclaimed his intention of creating an orthodox Catholic University, and his critics despise the thought.

Monaghan’s truly revolutionary step here isn’t imagining a university – it’s that he hasn’t simply handed his dream over to the standard mush of college administration, but has remained deeply involved with the project – so far as to literally uproot the college over several states. The college’s move from the Midwest to Southwest Florida is a rather dramatic example of a founder’s influence, but American higher education seems to have altogether forgotten the experience of a living founder in this day of universal rule by amorphous faculty-trustee-administrator confederation (aka “our costs will always go up but no one knows who’s responsible”). Faculties are accustomed to Presidents who can be curbed when overly outspoken (Laurence Summers) and administrations are accustomed to routinely ignoring the wishes of donors and trustees (the Bass donation at Yale, the Robertson donation at Princeton). Monaghan is a very different quantity in this mix, an individual who hasn’t been content to see his wishes run aground in the morass of standard academic decision-making. He’s continued to exert a very active role in his University – a step that professors would see in almost any case as a clear intrusion into their purlieus.

Continue reading Administrative Orthodoxy At Ave Maria