Gonzaga: The Knights are Back

 

Thayne mcculloh 206Dr Thayne McCulloh

Gonzaga University’s president, Dr Thayne McCulloh announced Tuesday that he was granting student club status to the campus chapter of the Knights of Columbus.

Gonzaga is a Catholic University, founded by the Jesuits.

SueWeitzDr Sue Weitz

Dr McCulloh’s action reversed an earlier decision of his Vice President for Student Life, Dr Sue Weitz. Dr Weitz had refused the Knights of Columbus student club status because the group is Catholic and all-male in membership. Dr McCulloh has also directed the Student Activities department to review and update the policies which led to this decision in the first place.

Logo GonzagaPrimary

Although I am glad that the university’s president has reversed the decision, the fact that it happened in the first place seems to me to raise questions about exactly what kind of education students are getting there. Is Gonzaga becoming just another secular institution where Christians are shunted aside and barely tolerated? Has political correctness replaced Gospel teaching on the campus?

There has been quite a bit of discussion over Vatican’s moves to reform the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. I wonder if similar reforms, and for the same reasons, are needed at some of our Catholic universities.

From CNA:

.- The Knights of Columbus applauded a decision by Gonzaga University to grant them recognition as a sponsored organization after their application to be acknowledged as a student club was denied.

“We welcome this development and appreciate that our college Knight of Columbus Council #12583 has received official approval” as a sponsored university organization, the group said in a statement.

“We express our gratitude to the President of Gonzaga University, Dr. Thayne McCulloh, for his support and for asking for a review of the current Clubs and Organizations Recognition Policy and Process to deal with any inconsistencies.”

On April 30, Gonzaga president Thayne McCulloh granted the Knights of Columbus status as a student club, after an earlier decision by the school’s student life office suggested that they would not be granted this recognition.

“The Knights of Columbus St. Aloysius Gonzaga Council #12583 is approved as a sponsored organization at Gonzaga,” said a statement released by McCulloh’s office.

“This sponsorship is granted under the University’s ‘Standards for On-Campus Religious Activities Policy.’”

On March 7, the university’s student life division had denied the council’s application for recognition as a “student organization,” according to a report by the Cardinal Newman Society.

The Knights of Columbus is a Catholic charitable fraternal organization with 1.8 million members globally. It has more than 14,000 local councils – including numerous college councils – throughout the U.S. and overseas.

The vice president for student life at Gonzaga, Sue Weitz, had written the March 7 letter to the Knights council saying it could not be recognized as a “student organization” because the group is closed to women and non-Catholics. (Read the rest here.)

Trendy Jesus, Gonzaga, and MIssion Drift in Catholic Universities

Logo GonzagaPrimary

Catholic education cannot be Catholic unless it is also faithful to the Church and its teachings. 

Trendy Jesus is not the Lord of all Creation who is the same yesterday, today and forever.

The Catholic Church, with its 2,000 year witness of absolute fealty to Christian teaching, is irreplaceable. It has handed the Gospels, the creeds and the sacraments forward through the millennia to us and it will send them forward again to our children and grandchildren.

CatechismoftheCatholicChurch

Catholic education is part of that handing forward of an unblemished faith. When Catholic universities start spinning off into their own trendy little orbits around the moral fashions of the day, they cease to be legitimately Catholic and they fail in their mission.

Catholic schools are pressured to forego their first mission of upholding and teaching the faith, even here in the Oklahoma backwaters. In my town, it’s the schools in the wealthier areas who get the most pressure and who most often accede to it.

This pressure does not usually come from Catholic parents. It comes from non-Catholics, including a surprising number of atheists, who send their children to these schools for the excellent education outside the troubled public school system. I’ve listened to these parents decry the “backwardness” of the Catholic schools they send their children to. They can sneer and belittle with the best of them.

The schools often bend to this nonsense and shear themselves clean of large parts of their reason for existing in the first place.

It appears that this process of mission betrayal is far advanced in a number of the elite Catholic Universities in this nation. I’ve written before about “elite” Catholic Universities that have become expensive funnels for tracking their students from wealthy zip codes back into those same zip codes. Rather than being the leaven of society that Americans have long thought education to be, they are becoming markers of a new and isolated ruling class. I’ll go back to that aspect of this scandal in other posts.

Georgetown obama

Today I want to talk about the loss of Catholic identity in some of our most well-known Catholic Universities. This ranges from Georgetown University and its willingness to cover the cross so that it wouldn’t be photographed with President Obama, to Gonzaga University and its refusal to give official status to the Knights of Columbus.

If Catholic Universities do not offer anything different than secular universities, then why do they matter? If all they give the Church is bragging rights about their famous graduates — many of whom appear to go out and fight against Church teaching in their careers — then why are we, the faithful — supporting them?

Gonzaga University is not alone in its mission drift. But its refusal to give the Knights of Columbus official status has certainly spotlighted what is happening there.

Dr Eric Cunningham, faculty adviser of the Knights of Columus council at Gonzaga, gave an interview to the National Catholic Register that speaks for itself in this regard. I’m going to pull quotes from the article, then link to it so you can read it all.

From The National Catholic Register:

A professor at Gonzaga University has countered claims by the school that it supports the campus’ Knights of Columbus Council after the group’s application to be a student organization was denied.

“Honestly I don’t see that they’re supported in any way,” Dr. Eric Cunningham, assistant director of Catholic Studies and faculty adviser to the university’s Knights council, told CNA April 15.

“If they’ve been denied club status, the only way they exist here is that the members of the Knights of Columbus council are enrolled here,” Cunningham stated.

This year the council has met at a seminary attached to the university, but has not been affiliated with the university, according to university paper The Gonzaga Bulletin.

Cunningham has noticed that the council is “listed in our advertising materials,” specifically in a brochure “that goes out to parents” showing the group listed as a student organization.  “So in other words, we’re kind of using them as recruiting tool, telling parents that we have a Knights of Columbus council that their sons can certainly join if they come here.”

Cunningham understands that roughly $1,000 of the council’s funds had been frozen by the Gonzaga student body association, and he said that “what I hear from the membership, is that hasn’t been returned yet.”

“Not only are they not being supported, they haven’t had their money returned to them. There’s no official support.” Cunningham has been associated with the council since 2006, and noted that he has made available to them the Catholic studies house, after “they were asked by the director of university ministry to stop meeting there.”

“They don’t have a chapter house, they were actually asked to stop meeting in the house they had been using. So I’d really love to know what Gonzaga is defining as support for the campus council.”

Cunningham lamented that this is typical of numerous Catholic universities, saying that “there’s nothing new about this” and that it “goes on I’m sure at every Catholic college campus in America, that hasn’t made its decision to reform itself as a more ‘Magisterial’ school.”

“Catholic universities are leading the way in turning Catholicism into a purely secular discourse and are restricting a serious intellectual engagement with what it means to be Catholic.” (Read more here.)

 

UPDATE: Gonzaga’s President Will Review Knights of Columbus’ Application for University Recognition

Gonzaga University’s president Thayne McCulloh, announced that he will “review” the decision to deny recognition to the Knights of Columbus at the school.

According to the Gonzaga web site, this review is expect to take 30-45 days, which means it will probably come down after the academic year is finished.

That seems like a long time to review something that should, by all rights, be a slam dunk.

This is the web site of the University’s board of regents. If they operate the way boards of regents do here in Oklahoma, they hire and fire the university president and must approve hiring of senior staff. They would also approve the school’s budget, tuition structure and policies.

Here is a copy of the statement from the Gonzaga website:

Proposed Knights of Columbus Student Club

STATEMENT FROM GONZAGA UNIVERSITY ON THE ISSUE OF OFFICIAL
RECOGNITION OF PROPOSED KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS STUDENT GROUP

Gonzaga University’s Student Life division recently issued a decision that it could not recognize a proposed Knights of Columbus student club under its current club recognition process.  The University is concerned that all of the factors involved in this decision have not been represented in their entirety, and thus may be misunderstood.

Gonzaga University President Thayne McCulloh states that Gonzaga honors and respects the purpose and good works of the Knights of Columbus, with which it has a long tradition and mutual collaboration at both local and state levels.  The Knights of Columbus College Council (#12583) is already present within the student body and receives support from the administration.  Gonzaga University’s core Catholic and Jesuit identity recognizes, encourages and supports many student organizations that advance faith-related issues (for example, Gonzaga Right to Life, and the Blessed John Paul II Fellowship).

President McCulloh has received a request from the sponsoring student to review the institution’s decision regarding the recognition of the organization as a student club, and has decided to undertake this review.  The review is expected to take 30-45 days.

Catholic Gonzaga University Bans Knights of Columbus Because They’re Catholic

Gonzaga mascottI’ve written posts recently that I said were “man bites dog” stories. I suppose that makes this one a “dog bites self” story. 

According to the Cardinal Newman Society, Gonzaga University which bills itself as a Catholic university and whose mascot is the bulldog, banned the Knights of Columbus from their campus. This evidently came after a year of stone-walling by the University administration.

The reason this dog decided to bite itself? 

Because the Knights of Columbus is a Catholic organization. Dr Sue Weitz, Gonzaga Vice President for Student Life, wrote (emphasis mine):

“The Knights of Columbus, by their very nature, is a men’s organization in which only Catholics may participate via membership,” says a letter obtained by The Cardinal Newman Society written by Sue Weitz, Vice President for Student Life. “These criteria are inconsistent with the policy and practice of student organization recognition at Gonzaga University, as well as the University’s commitment to non-discrimination based on certain characteristics, one of which is religion.”

Lamaze class

So. Does this mean that if I went to Gonzaga, my all-mom (which, by definition, makes us all female) rosary group could not be recognized by the university? What about an all-girl lamaze class? Of course, the all-male part of this letter, coming from a school with a winning basketball team, which, if I’m not mistaken, is all-male, is ridiculous on its face. It’s just puffery.

The thing that really strikes home is the “dog bites self” action of a Catholic university banning a Catholic organization because it’s Catholic. Dr Weitz commented in the letter that she “believes strongly in the university’s policy of non-discrimination and inclusiveness.”

I would guess that she probably believes what she wrote, but it’s nonsense. In truth, schools like Gonzaga that are so self-consciously “inclusive” and committed to “nondiscrimination” are the elite training grounds for a new upper class. Wealthy parents prepare their children from infancy to go to schools like Gonzaga because they are a funnel for targeting certain people into the privileged zip codes and plumb positions that rule the rest of us.

Harvard, Princeton, Yale are the premiere examples of this. A diploma from one of these schools is a ticket to entry into that other world of easy connections the rest of the country knows nothing about.  Gonzaga students have to push a bit more to get there, but for a vice president of this school to call it “inclusive” and “nondiscriminatory” is an oxymoron.

In truth, these upper tier schools, including those on the second and third tiers like Gonzaga, are no more inclusive and nondiscriminatory than the old “400″ of East Coast high society.

Money is the new discrimination. Wealth is the new prejudice. And the attitudes of the moneyed class control and corrupt higher education from top to bottom. Based on this action banning the Knights of Columbus from their Catholic school, I would say that these attitudes of exclusiveness and discrimination rule absolutely at Gonzaga. 

Knights of columbus

I don’t find it surprising at all that a school which has veered so far from Catholic teaching as it regards wealth and power would be embarrassed by an unashamedly Catholic organization like the Knights of Columbus. Catholicism, if it is practiced as a faith and not a social delimiter, is the antithesis of what all these upper tier schools have become. 

There was a time when education was considered a leaven to our whole society. The principle behind public education is that we will provide a free, equal education for all our citizens so that every single one of them has a chance to live their life to its fullest. 

What has happened instead is that our schools have become, as I said earlier, funnels for discrimination. From the horrible slum schools we foist on large segments of the population, to the country club public schools we provide to other segments of the population, and on into the university level, education in this country has become a method and a means of creating and perpetuating a moneyed elite and a limited citizenry.

Gonzaga is part of that.

Beatitudes

The last thing a school of this nature would want is a genuine Christian influence on its campus. Christianity has a way of turning this elitist nonsense on its head and demanding in the name of a God of justice and mercy that we do better.

I am not saying that this bizarre little letter with its facile self-righteousness that banned the Knights of Columbus from Gonzaga’s campus said any of this. I am not even saying that the Vice President who wrote it or the administrative board that backed it are thinking in these precise terms. I am saying that this is what they are doing.

These upper tier schools appear to be so self-congratulatory that it would never occur to them to challenge their own moral assumptions. They are bubbles of group-think and like-thinking and they have become increasingly aggressive about keeping anyone who is not “our kind” off their premises.

The Knights of Columbus and the Catholic Church which preaches the beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount are definitely not “our kind” in these schools.

Upper tier schools talk a good game about their inclusive, nondiscriminatory values. But in practice they are the instruments by which we have created and are perpetuating an isolated and privileged new upper class.

Gonzaga still claims it’s Catholic identity. In fact, it’s rather self-conscious about it. But I think Gonzaga lost its true Catholic identity long before it sent this letter banning the Knights of Columbus from its campus. True Catholic identity means identifying with the least, the lost, the poor and the weak. Gonzaga has evidently become the kind of school where that Gospel challenge to true inclusiveness and non-discrimination is a bridge too far. 

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