Should Catholic Universities Support Catholic Teaching?

Should Catholic Universities Support Catholic Teaching? December 22, 2012

Should Catholic universities support Catholic teaching?

Secular universities are often seen as teaching anti-Christian, anti-Catholic propaganda along with the rest of the curriculum. One reason many people chose Catholic universities is to avoid this propaganda and attacks on their faith.

So, the question is two-fold. Do Catholic universities have a responsibility to support Catholic teaching? Are they engaging in false advertising when they call themselves “Catholic” and then subject students to the same kind of anti-Catholic propaganda found in secular universities?

Academic freedom is always an issue when dealing with schools at the university level. But how much academic freedom do secular schools, with their group-think mentality about so many issues, actually provide? The word “propaganda” could describe much of what they do. In truth, the word “indoctrination” would also be a good fit. “Academic freedom” in actual practice has often been misused. It can become an excuse for lack of responsibilty, violation of free thought and intolerance for genuine diversity of opinions and fair-play on university campuses.

This often acrimonious debate recently reared its head at the San Diego University. San Diego University is a Catholic university. When the school’s president cancelled the invitation to speak that had been extended to a “Catholic” scholar who opposed core Church teachings, including abortion and gay marriage, she ran into the resistance of many on her faculty, as well as members of the academic community outside her school.

The Catholic Register article describing this situation reads in part:

SAN DIEGO — A textbook case of division over campus Catholic identity is continuing at the University of San Diego, where a significant step undertaken to promote Catholic fidelity has generated fierce controversy.

Earlier this fall, USD’s president, Mary Lyons, denied a British theologian — who is openly at odds with some of the Catholic Church’s most fundamental moral teachings — her upcoming status as a “visiting fellow” at the university. The firestorm of debate over academic freedom that has ensued pits Lyons against many of her own faculty and has now involved the university’s board of trustees, too.

British Catholic theologian Tina Beattie, the director of the Digby Stuart Research Centre for Catholic Studies at Roehampton University in the United Kingdom, was invited by USD’s Frances Harpst Center for Catholic Thought and Culture (CCTC) to give lectures during the month of November at the university as a “visiting fellow.”

Beattie disagrees with the Church’s teachings on contraception, early-term abortion, same-sex “marriage” and women’s ordination, according to a report posted at the website of the Cardinal Newman Society, a watchdog group dedicated to promoting Catholic identity in higher education.

Beattie’s lectures had been scheduled a year in advance, but days before her scheduled arrival in San Diego, Lyons revoked Beattie’s visiting fellowship in an Oct. 27 letter. Lyons took this action because Beattie signed onto an Aug. 13 public letter, published by The Times of London, opposing the Catholic bishops of the United Kingdom on same-sex “marriage.”

In the letter, Beattie identified herself as a Catholic theologian.

President Lyons’ Position

“The issue, for me, is a Catholic theologian using her office as a theologian to advocate that lay Catholics essentially take a position in opposition to the legitimate teaching authority of the Church, namely the bishops,” Lyons told the Register.

The letter signed by Beattie and 26 others stated: “Not all Catholics share their hierarchy’s stated views against proposals to extend civil marriage to same-sex couples. We suggest that it is perfectly proper for Catholics, using fully formed consciences, to support the legal extension of civil marriage to same-sex couples.”

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