So a year or so ago, Dr. Stephen Lewis, who was, until this past Friday, the Chair of the English Department at Franciscan University, taught a class to students in which one of the texts was written by an atheist who is deeply hostile to the Faith. It included passages deeply insulting to the Blessed Virgin. Lewis is a devout and faithful son of the Church, a good teacher, and a good man. As Emily Stimpson Chapman writes:
I know the professor in question. He was a neighbor of mine in Steubenville. He is a kind, generous, faithful Catholic man, who also is an excellent professor and an expert in modern American literature. He came to us from the University of Chicago, and truly knows his stuff. He also knows what students are reading in graduate programs across the United States, and he knows what upper-level English majors who may be bound for grad school need to be prepared to deal with. His DESIRE to equip students to respond to virulently anti-Catholic sentiments in literature and the culture is NOT a bad thing. It is quite necessary. At the very least, his intentions are completely defensible.
Lewis understands that the purpose of a Catholic education is not indoctrination into a bubble of like-minded and safe cultists who never engage the culture, never encounter its attacks on the faith, and never think about how to bear witness to the Faith in a world that opposes it. Rather, he grasps that victims of such indoctrination typically wither or remain weak, stupid, and shallow instead of maturing into apostles of the Faith. So he chose to do what a good man, a good Catholic, and a good scholar does: let his students grapple with a novel that challenged their faith.
Cue Church Militant, the online cult run by an ignorant demagogue named Michael Voris. As I pointed out years ago, the trick that Voris and his cult of reactionary know nothings always play on themselves is to lie that they are attacking “progressive dissent” inside the Church when in fact what they *always* do is attack orthodox Catholics (like Stephen Lewis, Bishop Robert Barron, and Pope Francis) and pretend they are bravely defying some “Church of Nice liberal conspiracy”. They are, in fact, nothing but ignorant bullies.
There’s a wonderful scene in Moscow on the Hudson which sums up the creepy projective salaciousness of Michael Voris, Christine Niles, Jim Russell, and the cult of Reactionary Puritan howler monkeys they serve:
Similarly, Church Militant carefully excerpted the most salacious bits of the text used in the class to prove that, unlike the godless Dr. Lewis, they would never expose thousands and thousands of their readers to this awful stuff. No sirree! They would not delectate over this passage they are carefully reprinting for all their readers to savor. Nor this one! Nor that one! I mean, would you just get a load of that thing you should not be reading? Read it again! Ooooooh! Nasty!
Yeah. The problem was totally Dr. Lewis, not the projective cult of rageaholics led by a demagogue looking for somebody to crucify.
That is the crowning hypocrisy: They do the same thing Dr. Lewis did, but stupidly and to destroy and not intelligently and to teach. They complain that Lewis expose his student to blasphemy and then they expose their readers to the exact same texts. Only Lewis was doing it to teach his students how to respond to blasphemy as a Catholic. They do it for one purpose: to savor the blasphemy and then destroy the teacher who was teaching his students how to think as Catholics.
So here is reality: Every person who read the salacious passages in Niles’ article is a hypocrite if they do not demand an act of reparation for CM’s promotion of pornography. After all, the theory is that there can never be any justification for exposing readers to that stuff. But if you are praising CM for publishing that stuff in order to “raise awareness” then you have just granted Stephen Lewis the right to do the same.
This is all about rage monkey idiots and hypocrites looking for a good man to crucify so they can feel holy. Every person defending CM is doing grave evil.
Cult Militant: Repent.
Now Church Militant is Church Militant: a cult of malignant rage monkeys with no brains and nothing constructive to say to the Church. They vend empty aimless anger at malcontents who have lost the good of the intellect and they seek to destroy innocent people as the centerpiece of the business model. There’s no point in expecting them to change. It’s what they have always done and what they keep doing. Instead of offering anything constructive, they do things like argue that prayer, fasting, almsgiving and the works of mercy are not the way to heal the Church. I know. In 2013, that was exactly the proposition Voris tried to argue in a debate I had with him in Minneapolis/St. Paul.
Yes, that’s correct. Voris seriously tried to argue against Jesus Christ himself on a point that is the absolute core of Our Lord’s preaching in the Sermon on the Mount. When somebody’s judgment is that epically wrong, only one group in American Catholic life could clasp a false prophet like Voris and hug him to its breast: American Catholic Christianists at war with Pope Francis and truly, deeply, madly in love with the dimestore antichrist who is Donald Trump.
Speaking of Franciscan University, the Administration, instead of ignoring Voris and his cult of ignorant obscurantists waving torches and screaming for the blood of the innocent, instead offered Lewis as a human sacrifice to that mob. That’s right. The same democraphic that was whinging about “academic freedom” when Charles Murray was denied a chance to speak brayed like donkeys for the crucifixion of Stephen Lewis who did nothing wrong.
So the Administration, to its profound shame, folded like a cheap suit to a malignant hatchet job by Christine Niles, Voris’ sycophant and henchwoman. Indeed, they did more than fold. They removed Lewis as chair of the English department and, most despicably, drove a stake through his good name by means of an absolutely disgusting show of false piety intended to crucify Lewis with public shaming. You want demonic?An ostentatiously weaponized Hour of Reparation Kabuki used to destroy a faithful son of the Church and a good teacher, that’s demonic. I think the Blessed Mother spits on this disgraceful use of her to assassinate the character of a good man. The real act of reparation should be for the vile slander committed by Cult Militant and the vile cowardice of Franciscan University’s Administration in caving to this mob of ignorant bullies.
Sam Rocha, an alum of Franciscan describes what that school was like back when it was an actual Catholic university teaching its students how to think like Catholics in engaging the western intellectual tradition:
When I studied at Franciscan University of Steubenville, I was told by one of my teachers (Fr. Conrad Harkins, OFM) to read *everything* in the New York Times top ten book list that wasn’t a cookbook or self-help. We were exhorted to be worldly.
In another class, “Philosophy of Community,” we read Scheler’s “On the Nature of Sympathy” and other personalist texts (by Mounier and Marcel) in contrast to Sartre’s *Being and Nothingness.* Dr. Crosby asks us to deeply attempt to see the common existential ideas across.
In my Spanish literature classes, I was introduced to Pre Columbian history and the thought of Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz among many others, who added a critical layer of reflection upon our studies of the Spanish Siglo de Oro.
In my admittedly party-obsessed fraternity, we often argued through juvenile but formative considerations of libertarianism, communism, and issues of every kind. I found the Left, in many ways, in that community. We had all read Marx.
In my first philosophy course, “Philosophy of the Human Person,” I had to sympathetically understand and rehearse views of personhood from Hinduism among many other traditions. This was a first for me then and I will never forget the impact it had on my mind.
I read Homer with Dr. Almeida, who when he was asked of an etymology that was derived from Persian, not Greek, he hung his head in shame and apologized to the class. That apology taught me something profound. He also held oral exams outside while smoking a cigar.
What I am trying to say is that my personal sense of scandal at the present (but also, as many have pointed out, the recent past) state of my alma mater is not only from academic principle but also a slap in the face of my own experience and education there.
I faced internal critiques of the University and of my own faith at Franciscan and those critiques were essential for my growth. There was never any fear of the administration with the understandable exception of parties and student discipline (I was on disciplinary probation).
Because of our rather, well, rough, social circle, I also interacted with people from around town who I would have never met before. Sure in many cases these were not exactly positive, but the general exposure was just as essential for me.
Also during that time, the University president took a hard stance against the lay apostolate of the Legionaries of Christ. This was the Bush years, sure the campus was conservative in general, but there was much debate. We also founded the first Latino student group there.
Since then I’ve lectured at my alma mater two times and supported student efforts in various causes with concerts that I played pro bono. I also record in Steubenville, with the great musician friends I made there, above all @danbozek.
Seeing what it has become is truly a personal tragedy. This along with the other revelations of abuse there that have been treated in a cavalier way by comparison, and it just stinks to high heaven.
I know I’m not exactly being chronological, but when I saw that the translator of Marion’s *The Erotic Phenomenon* was from my alma mater, I beamed with pride. It was amazing to feel in a small way connected to that work and it also helped me find my way back to phenomenology.
I will always carry the education I received there as a part of who I am. I cannot sever that sacred bond of formation. And for that very reason, its descent into the muck of anti-intellectualism and right-wing ideology is my own hell to bear, too.
Those days are over. And given the trajectory of the Cult that now holds sway there, sucking up to Know Nothing demagogues like Voris and morphing into a hatchery for larval Trumplings where honorable men like Lewis are subjected to Stalinist purges, I don’t see it coming back any time soon. I have heard from a good number of Franciscan alum who have registered their profound dismay at this betrayal by Franciscan, but I will let two stand for the rest:
I agree, Mark Shea. I am all about reparations and prayer, but this struck me as being way, way wrong. My husband and I have supported FUS for decades and were very pleased with the education one of our daughters received there. I feel pretty much done with the school after this.
There are far worse ways to scandalize the young than expose them to the wormy thoughts of strayed Catholics. I hope and pray none of the FUS students are so turned off by this manifestation of weaponized piety that they give up on the Church.
I have a sister who came back to the Church a few years ago after decades of being away. I was so happy. She recently became a catechumen in the non-uniate Greek Orthodox church. In part it was her confusion over the internecine Catholic internet wars that caused her to conclude it was Rome who went wrong in 1054. It’s hard to feel too bad about it, because she has the Eucharist and a very fine local faith community. But it hurts.
This latest from FUS discourages me more than any recent development in our broken society.
Jenn Morson adds:
I am so ashamed of my alma mater today. The president of Franciscan University of Steubenville apologizing publicly to the Blessed Mother because a book of literature was taught but he publicly thanked the staff members who mishandled sexual assault cases and gave one a financial bonus. Where is their letter?
As countless commenters demand reparations be made and demand a(nother) professor fired, where are the calls for rosary walks to re-consecrate the campus now that is fully known all of the places where Father Sam Tiesi molested women?
If the Cult remains true to form in its vacuum-sealed Pharisaic arrogance it will regard the horror of its alums with pride. More of the Impure weeded out. The triumph of the Elect. All very Calvinist. Not very Catholic or Christian. And when the aging mob of Republican Rite Christianists that is left there dies, then what? When there is nobody to replace them in the donor base of Trump Cultists who chose to sell their birthright for a pot of message, Franciscan will have their reward from men, not from God.
Or they can repent the wrong they have done Stephen Lewis and their students and take control of their school back from thugs like Voris and Know Nothings like Niles who gin up mobs to destroy good men like Lewis and good women like Rebecca Bratten Weiss and who will not be satisfied but sharpened in the appetite for innocent blood now that Franciscan has gone the route of appeasement. While they are deciding whether to commit intellectual and moral suicide my sole advice to anybody looking for a Catholic university education is “Send your kid to a Catholic university, not to Franciscan.”