Monday May 17, 2010

Marquette Prof: Why was Lesbian Sociologist Offered Job in the First Place?

By James Tillman

MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin, May 17, 2010 ( — Marquette University has seen much controversy erupt over its retraction of a job offer last week to sociologist Jodi O’Brien over her sexually explicit writings. But according to Christopher Wolfe, emeritus professor at Marquette University and director of Thomas International Center, the uproar has been over the wrong thing.

“The question that should be asked is not why Marquette President Father Robert A. Wild backed off the hiring,” Wolfe writes, “but how in heaven did the hiring ever occur in the first place?”

In a May 10 column for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Wolfe points out that O’Brien’s writings included an article “which alternated turgid post-modernist prose with imaginative lesbian sex vignettes and dialogue, including gender-bending and domination.”

The graphic imagery, as reported, was the reason Marquette University president Fr. Robert Wild cited for withdrawing the offer to O’Brien to become dean of the Marquette College of Arts and Sciences. Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki reportedly influenced the final decision, which sparked a furor on Marquette’s campus from advocates claiming discrimination against O’Brien because she is openly lesbian.

But the problem with O’Brien’s position, Wolfe continues, runs deeper than her vulgarity.

“If trendy post-modernism is a qualification for being a dean, that would explain it, but why should it be?” he writes.

“The premise of her writing on sexuality,” writes Wolfe, “is that sex is ‘socially constructed’ and cybersex is especially fluid, since people can try on many different sexual personae.” But the problem with theories of social construction that “assume that there are no fixed ‘natures’ of things that determine what they are,” he continues, “is that they are self-contradictory.”

“If everything is socially constructed, then the theory of social construction is socially constructed – we have no reason to think it says anything about reality itself,” he said.

And this, Wolfe says, means that hiring O’Brien as dean would not merely conflict with Marquette University’s commitment to the Catholic Church; it also would conflict with Marquette’s commitment to reason.

“Many people (understandably) will be up in arms about the fact that Marquette even considered hiring someone whose fundamental personal and scholarly commitments are so completely at odds with Catholic doctrine,” writes the professor. “But an equally important question is why Marquette would consider hiring someone whose ideas are so ungrounded in reason.”

The more serious problem for Marquette to face, he says, is that the university “has over the years built up a faculty that takes [O’Brien’s] fashionable scholarship seriously, that its search committee recommended her and that the president initially signed off on her appointment.”

He concludes that it is not merely “the Jesuits who built up Marquette over decades, to foster the pursuit of truth in light of the Catholic faith, who are turning in their graves.

“Anyone who cares about the serious pursuit of truth at all should be shaking their heads.”

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Uproar after Catholic Marquette U. Rescinds Job Offer to Homosexualist Prof