By Kathleen Gilbert

SAN DIEGO, August 22, 2008 ( – Although the Catholic University of San Diego (USD) came under fire for reversing their decision to appoint a radical feminist to an honorary chair in Theology, it has stood firm, and now two opposing petitions either supporting or attacking the decision are gathering support.

Thomas Peters of American Papist, with fellow blogger Brian McDaniel of the Ora et Labora blog, has organized a petition to support the University in its decision. To sign it go to:

The controversy began when the USD Department of Theology and Religious Studies published on the USD website its choice to elect Professor Rosemary Radford Ruether, an eco-feminist who refers to God as the feminine “Gaia” and supports abortion and contraception, to the Monsignor John R. Portman Chair in Roman Catholic Theology for 2009-2010 academic year. Ruether was expected to teach one undergraduate course and deliver the annual Portman Lecture as part of her honorary position. reported the decision last month and published Ruether’s history of anti-Catholic teaching along with the Catholic University’s contact information, prompting concerned readers to urge Catholic University not to bestow the honor on Ruether. (

A week later, USD Assistant Vice President for Public Affairs, Pamela Gray Payton, contacted via email and stated that the decision was reversed “upon review of the specific purpose” of the honorary chair, which was established in 2000 as a “sign of the Catholic character of the University.” (

News of the extraordinary reversal reached 32 different newspapers across the country. Although Payton told the Associated Press (AP) that the University was not influenced by outside groups. AP coverage noted that published their article the same month that the University later announced the reversal. editor John-Henry Westen told the AP that the affair was “a happy ending that a Catholic university was willing to stand up for Catholic rights,” adding that it was “unfortunate, but hopefully in the future people will do their homework a little better. She was very public about her positions.”

USD administrators reaffirmed their choice against honoring Ruether Thursday, despite protest from faculty and others who signed a petition criticizing the decision as an insult to Ruether and an ill omen for “academic freedom.”

Though protesters cite Benedict XVI’s address to Catholic educators during his papal visit to the United States in April to support their advocacy of such freedom, they omit the Pope’s admonition that “Any appeal to the principle of academic freedom in order to justify positions that contradict the faith and the teaching of the Church would obstruct or even betray the university’s identity and mission.”

The Cardinal Newman Society pledged its public support of USD’s resolve stating, “On behalf of our 20,000 plus member base, dedicated to the renewal of Catholic higher education, the Cardinal Newman Society publicly supports the resolve of the University of San Diego administration to not re-extend the offer to Ruether,”

See previous coverage by

Catholic University of San Diego Changes Mind – Rejects Radical Non-Christian Feminist For Theology Chair

Catholic University of San Diego Honors Radical Non-Christian Feminist With Theology Chair