Updated: Nov. 19, 2012 at 2:02 PM EST to include a statement from Dr. Charles Camosy, the organizer of the panel discussion featuring Peter Singer, and to include more information about the panel.
NEW YORK, November 19, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Days after popular American conservative pundit Ann Coulter was disinvited from Fordham university amidst accusations that she is too “hateful”, the world’s most notorious promoter of infanticide, Dr. Peter Singer, was welcomed at a conference at the university, the Jesuit order’s premier university on the east coast.
Fordham hosted Dr. Singer as the main attraction at a one-day conference titled, “Conference with Peter Singer: Christians and Other Animals, Moving the Conversation Forward.” In addition to Singer, the panel discussion featured R.R. Reno, a Professor of Theological Ethics at Creighton University, and editor of First Things, David Clough, Professor of Theological Ethics and Department Chair, University of Chester, and Eric Meyer, Fordham Doctoral Candidate in Theology.
The event stirred controversy, coming days after the university’s Republican group canceled a scheduled appearance with Ann Coulter in response to a scathing letter from Fordham’s president, Fr. Joseph McShane. In that letter the priest had called Coulter “hateful and needlessly provocative,” and described her work as “aimed squarely at the darker side of our nature.”
Fr. McShane had said that Coulter’s appearance would only barely be tolerated by the university for the sake of “academic freedom.” When the College Republican group responded to the criticism by rescinding Coulter’s invitation, Fr. McShane wrote in response, “Allow me to give credit where it is due: the leadership of the College Republicans acted quickly, took responsibility for their decisions, and expressed their regrets sincerely and eloquently.
“Most gratifying, I believe, is that they framed their decision in light of Fordham’s mission and values.”
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In a post advertising the conference with Peter Singer, Fordham’s official blog described the Princeton philosopher as “most influential philosopher alive today” and “the intellectual heft behind the beginning of the animal rights movement in the 1970s.”
The moderator of the Singer conference, Dr. Charles Camosy, a Fordham theologian who describes himself as “a pro-life Christian ethicist,” defended his decision to invite Singer in a statement e-mailed to LifeSiteNews.com, pointing out that the other members of the panel disagreed with Singer’s views.
“The conversation was fantastic, and a rich, prophetic Christian theology was on full display in a public setting in front of non-Christians in a beautiful and important way,” said Camosy.
Camosy has defended Singer in the past and invited him to lecture in his ethics classes. In an article titled, “Peter Singer is not the Antichrist,” Camosy compared Singer to the late Pope John Paul II. Camosy said he “likes” Singer personally. Though Singer is “pro-choice” on infanticide and “the numerous and complicated issues related to abortion,” and “attacks many of the vulnerable populations Christians are called to defend,” Camosy described him as “friendly and compassionate” and sounding “an awful lot like Pope John Paul II.”
“He is motivated by an admirable desire to respond to the suffering of human and non-human animals, and an equally admirable willingness to logically follow his arguments wherever they lead,” Camosy wrote. He quoted Pope Benedict XVI in his recent encyclical Caritas in Veritate to defend his collaborations with Singer, saying that Christians should engage in “fraternal collaboration” with non-believers. Camosy has written a book on Singer, “Peter Singer and Christian Ethics: Beyond Polarization,” which he says shows “that the disagreements between us are remarkably narrow”.
The Cardinal Newman Society, a Catholic student group that monitors the adherence to Catholic doctrine of the Church’s universities in the U.S., commented that Pope Benedict has never advocated “hosting an advocate of heinous acts on a Catholic campus for a conference seeming to celebrate his work.”
“There is also something quite disturbing about Camosy inviting a dangerous provocateur into the classroom to prey on students who may be unprepared for such dialogue. Better to engage Singer’s ideas with careful and moderated analysis in the light of Truth, and never a hint of respect for what Singer espouses,” the watchdog group said.
Camosy, however, said that pro-lifers should “look at the history of Christians engaging with those that think differently than we do,” citing Thomas Aquinas’ use of Aristotle, who Camosy pointed out also supported infanticide. “To suggest that Christians should not support these kinds of academic discussions is precisely the kind of anti-intellectualism which keeps so many good people from taking the pro-life movement seriously, and this does serious damage to our ability to protect vulnerable prenatal (and postnatal) persons in our culture,” he said.
Camosy also said that “despite being the world’s most important expert on animal ethics, [Singer] was not paid by Fordham nor were his views promoted.”
In the pro-life world Singer is notorious for espousing some of the most extreme anti-life positions anywhere in academia. He is most famous for his rejection of the notion of inherent dignity, and therefore the personhood, of all human beings, and his promotion of abortion and infanticide at parents’ discretion and euthanasia of disabled people. His appearances in Europe are often interrupted by protests from disability rights groups.
His Preference Utilitarianism holds that the right to life is tied to a human being’s capacity to hold preferences, to experience pain and enjoy pleasure. He summarised his outlook in an editorial in The Scotsman, saying, “Membership of the species Homo sapiens is not enough to confer a right to life.”
As Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics, Princeton University, Singer has positioned himself as the leading light in modern secularist bioethics and was described by the New York Times as the “greatest living philosopher”. In 2004 he was recognized as the Australian Humanist of the Year by the Council of Australian Humanist Societies, and in June 2012 was named a Companion of the Order of Australia for his services to philosophy and bioethics.
He strongly advocates euthanasia, particularly for people with dementia, and sterilizing most of the human race to save the environment. He has said that some great apes are more “persons” than human infants, believes that animals can give consent to having sex with humans, and complains that Christianity “discriminates” against animals. The media’s gentle handling of Singer is evidenced by the fact that despite his insistence that it is acceptable to murder infants, he is best known as the founder of the “animal rights” movement and for his book Animal Liberation which is the founding document for extremist animal rights groups like PETA.
The Cardinal Newman society noted in June this year that Singer offered a solution to the conflict over Catholic universities being forced to provide contraceptives for employees. He argued that President Obama’s contraceptive mandate “does not prevent Catholics from practicing their religion,” and suggested that Catholics simply close their universities. Catholicism, he said, “does not oblige its adherents to run hospitals and universities.”
Fordham was founded in the 1900s and was given over to the Jesuit order. It is now a private university governed by a lay board of trustees that describes it as being “in the Jesuit tradition.”
To contact Fr. McShane with concerns: Joseph M. McShane, S.J., President, Fordham University Room 107, Administration Building Rose Hill Campus 441 E. Fordham Road Bronx, NY 10458
(718) 817-3000 President@fordham.edu