I’m Catholic, an FUS Alum, and I support Dr. Lewis

I’m Catholic, an FUS Alum, and I support Dr. Lewis January 11, 2019
Source: pexels.com

I attended Franciscan University of Steubenville from the Fall of 2011 to the Spring of 2015, majoring in Literature and studying under the various teachers in that department, including Rebecca Bratten-Weiss (who was the victim of a terrible and immoral witch-hunt by that same university that cost her her job), and the recently accused Dr. Stephen Lewis.

To answer your first question, no, I have not read The Kingdom by Emmanuel Carrère (yet; I already have it on hold at my library). To answer your follow-up question, no, I don’t need to have read it to agree wholeheartedly that Dr. Lewis had the right to assign that literature, that he was well within his bounds not only as a teacher but as a doctor of literature, and that he has nothing to apologize for.

I have the advantage of having studied under him long enough to know his intent, but even if I hadn’t, the uproar over this text is obscene, uncouth, and ridiculous.

There are so many things despicably wrong with those inside and outside the university accusing Dr. Lewis of doing everything but toppling the entire infrastructure of purity at Franciscan University–as if there was such a thing. Take a look at “Alumnae Question Franciscan University of Steubenville’s Commitment to Title IX” by Jenn Morson, “Is Franciscan University Scared of Speaking Plainly About Sexual Harassment?” by Mary Pezzulo, “Sexual Moral Relativism from the Religious Right?” by Rebecca Bratten-Weiss, or “An Open Letter to Franciscan: Say You’re Sorry” by Emily C. A. Snyder–all addressing the horrendous treatment, cover-up, and outright denial of sexual assault victims and their accusations at FUS. The irony cannot be understated that the same institution that is sending a literature professor to the slaughterhouse for a book addressing sexual issues is the same institution that did not call law enforcement, did not inform parents, and did not do anything except the most meager (and sexist) interviews to handle students (and faculty) coming forward to report that they were victims.

They are, themselves, guilty and more so of the same perverse horror they use against the literature Dr. Lewis assigned.

But let’s set that aside for a moment. Even if Franciscan weren’t legitimately accused of disgusting, horrendous things against its students, this uproar over a book assignment would still be utterly insane.

Let me put this into a different perspective. I’ve recently been watching a documentary about the abuses and power hold of the cult Scientology called, “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath“, and one of the major efforts of their infrastructure to keep people in their power is the absolute mandate that outside research of their church or anything that speaks ill of Scientology is inherently evil, and banned without question. The members of their “religion” (if you watch the show or know anything about Scientology, you’ll know why I put it in quotes) are sated from ever researching anything about their own beliefs because they are forbidden from seeing anything negative, degrading, or exposing about their belief system.

Doesn’t this behavior sound familiar?

If Franciscan (and the media outlets that “exposed” this BS as something worthy enough to smear a number of incredibly gifted and intelligent professors) truly believe that the faith and religion of Catholicism is the greatest good, the strongest foundation, the most real faith, and the best divine connection to the Almighty, then how on earth could one text be disgusting enough to merit sending out a letter begging apologies of the Blessed Mother and the Lord Jesus? Are we incapable as Catholic people, with free thought, free expression, free exploration, to read something contrary to our faith without it upending our entire belief system?

How can we call ourselves warriors for Christ if we shrink at the first challenge to our thoughts–because it does not align specifically with a checklist created by those in authority who want to keep us from exploring different perspectives?

If our faith is so magnificent, absolutely beyond reproach, why are we defending it against the world it was created to save?

The ability to approach Christ in His magnificence, His glory as the Son of All Creation, from an infinite number of perspectives, experiences, beliefs, cultures, and understandings, has been a cherished treasure of the missionaries of the Church since Christ rose and commanded His disciples to preach to all nations.

When did we become so afraid of our ability to hold to our faith that reading a text, as adult college students and educational professionals, is suddenly the source and summit of what can destroy two millennias’ worth of religion?

Stop hiding behind this Puritanical, authoritarian, fear-mongering defense. True Catholicism holds the greatest of beauties and understanding of the world–and the greatest strength to withstand your fear and paranoia. If you are unable to even address varying perspectives in regards to this faith, then you need to take a closer look at how you regard your faith. Christ walked and talked and ate with those whom the rest of the world didn’t regard as being worthy of even setting eyes upon–let us follow His example, and not those too afraid of the world outside their door to even address the possibility of encountering the Divine in the Wild.




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  • Wayfairer

    I judge all works of fiction by the quality of the writing. And when an author has an axe to grind the quality of the writing always suffers for it. I hadn’t even heard of The Kingdom before now, but my guess is that it probably falls into this category, in which case it’s a waste of time for any serious lover of literature on those grounds alone.
    Also, no one deserves the harassment that various students and faculty have received from the denisons of Franciscus University. From everything I’ve heard, it sounds like a horrible place.

  • Jennifer Riley

    Even if it’s a waste of time to read, knowing Dr. Lewis as well as I do, there was a very specific reason he assigned it. But yes, I understand that.

  • Ame

    First, I agree that no one should attack someone personally and necessarily concoct a narrative of evil infiltrator to a person over certain errors that are potentially correctable if there is reason to believe that no one was harmed directly. I hate the online vigilantism that justifies or threatens or revels violence to anyone, even if that person does need to be subject to legitimate justice. So if Mr. Lewis is truly harassed over this, it would be right to use legitimate justice to stop and punish harassers. However, there is also legitimate protest and concerns over a specific book, and from what I understand, over other books in the history of his curriculum. We need not to demonize all such protestors as necessarily far-right puritanicals who have no understanding of the importance of academic freedom and critical analysis. Many times protest is necessary to call to question whether we are using the right means, rather than an evil means, to an end.

    I get that Mr. Lewis staunchly defends academic freedom, but those who are free are required to weild it responsibly, taking care to do no harm to others. Otherwise, academic freedom becomes another idol. There are many books that question the Gospels and the orthodox narrative of Jesus and Mary from authors of diverse backgrounds in a manner while certainly provoking, still not hostile to the faith and morals of Catholics we such, such as “Our Lady of the Lost and Found,” Beverly Donofrio’s “Looking for Mary,” or Gloria Anzaldua’s writings on the subject of who she thinks Our Lady of Guadeloupe is. There is somewhere out there a book by a Protestant having apparitions of Mary who tells her that she had nine kids after Jesus. So many books better suited for critical analysis without having to use pornographic text as as means of challenging the Catholic Mary narrative.

    The problem is the pornography, not because religious people think “sex is dirty” but because what makes something pornographic is not the awe over the sexual nature of humanity, but the objectification of persons through language and images intentionally designed to shock and desensitize and corrupt. It turns most people from viewers into voyuers, which is not many degrees from becoming predators. We cannot fight sexual abuse with any real meaning if we cannot figure out ways to keep the general viewing of pornography out of social exposure for the sake of its victims as well as the moral safeguarding of viewers. Sure, there are people trained to have the heavy burden of viewing these things in order to fight crimes and identify victims, such a task is still damaging to the soul. And just because the victim is a person Catholics believe to be in heaven and important to salvation history doesn’t make her any less than a victim than Elizabeth Smart or the victims of clergy sexual abuse. A woman, a mother, a human being was debased sexually in the book in question.

    Perhaps you can stretch the otherwise impermissible “Lolita” to expose the unreliable narrator that makes a fictional girl out to be a seductress, a common lie among sexual predators, but surely we can see how general society needs not to read the diaries of NAMBLA members in order to think critically about how toxic and harmful sex abuse of children is. But Mr. Lewis has a lot of explaining to do if he thinks that “The Kingdom” can be stretched for a good purpose.

  • Laura Pittenger

    Bravo! Well said.

  • Jill Z

    I think you actually need to read the text in question before you publicly express an opinion like this (though not exactly, as you will see in my following statement). There is a significant difference between encountering and considering viewpoints that may challenge your own and reading/viewing pornography. While I understand why Dr. Lewis might want his students to read a book like this, the choice of this actual book is problematic. After hearing about this situation I took to investigating the book itself instead of just addressing the statements i read about it. It is pretty directly pornographic and if one is trying to be obedient to the teachings of the Church there is no way to excuse reading or viewing something of that nature. If your purpose is to learn about the worldviews of others so as to better understand and love the people around you and yet you have to do something that is inherently bad (which reading/viewing pornography is) to do so, you cannot do that thing, even if the intention for the action is good. So I think the problem here is the fact that many people writing about this issue are trying to demonize what they see to be the other side. Doesn’t seem like Dr. Lewis was malintentioned, and perhaps being absorbed in the world of literature on a scholarly level he is rather numb to such things, but judging by the actual content of this book it seems like a pretty big oversight on his part.

  • Armed Citizen

    yikes, catholic!

  • fractal

    Oh, come on.

    You don’t think Catholics watch porn?

    PS—paragraphs make one readable.
    Get some.