Catholic teaching not allowed at Catholic university?

Catholic teaching not allowed at Catholic university? January 29, 2015

Marquette is a Roman Catholic institution affiliated with the Jesuit order, one member of which is Pope Francis.  According to Catholic author Howard Kainz, Marquette has suspended and banned from campus a tenured professor for saying that arguments against gay marriage should be allowed to be discussed in class.   Meanwhile, a theology professor who advocates abortion and now considers himself an atheist keeps teaching, with no questions asked.

From Howard Kainz, Marquette and L’affaire McAdams – The Catholic ThingThe Catholic Thing:

A graduate student in philosophy, Cheryl Abbate, teaching a course on ethics at Marquette University, was discussing John Rawls’ “Equal Liberty” principle, which affirms individual freedom unless the rights of others are impugned.

When Abbate asked in class for examples where this principle might be employed, one student offered the example of bans on same-sex marriage as flouting the principle. After class, a student recorded a conversation with Abbate on his smartphone (legal in Wisconsin and thirty-seven other states). He complained to her that discussion of same-sex marriage had been too abruptly cut off in class, and offered some arguments he thought reasonable against same-sex marriage.

Abbate responded that the discussion of certain topics would be “inappropriate,” including “sexist” or “racist” opinions. She reminded the student that if he did not want to avoid bringing up inappropriate topics, he could withdraw from the class. He did, and expressed his disappointment about his apparent muzzling to tenured Professor of Political Science, John McAdams, who sided with the student in his conservative and independent blog, and criticized the philosophy instructor for unnecessarily restraining the free speech of her students.

Hundreds of supporting messages and condemnations ensued for both McAdams and Abbate, not only from Marquette, but from other parts of the country. Some included insults or invectives. In the aftermath, McAdams has been suspended with pay, his courses for the Spring semester have been cancelled, and he has been prohibited by administrators from setting foot on the campus. . . .

McAdams’ suspension was rather strange for a Catholic University, especially one at which, for example, tenured Professor Daniel Maguire, nationally famous for his pro-abortion views, regularly teaches in the theology department without any restrictions. Do faculty statutes allow blatant opposition to Catholic teachings, but fail to support the academic freedom of a tenured professor to voice an opinion about what can be said or not in class discussions?

Notice that Prof. McAdams was not opposing gay marriage; he was simply advocating that the issue should be open to discussion.  His cause was academic freedom and the freedom of expression.  But that was enough to get his classes cancelled and to get him banned from campus.

Now I know that reports about campus disputes can often get distorted and that there are often two sides to the story.  Maybe there is more to this than it appears.  Does anyone know?

Still, the thought that a Catholic university would consider a Catholic teaching–namely, that marriage is between a man and a woman–so abhorrent that it may not even be brought up in class, while not questioning a professor who flagrantly defies the church’s pro-life teachings, is exceedingly strange.

What is a Catholic university–or a Lutheran university or a Baptist university or a Christian university–if it is indistinguishable from secular schools?  And what is a secular university if it rules certain discussions out of bounds in favor of its own orthodoxy?

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment