Theology chairman’s same-sex wedding begins ‘flood’ of challenges to Catholic identity
July 8, 2015 (CardinalNewmanSociety) -- The Episcopalian marriage of Fordham University’s theology chairman to his same-sex partner, just one day after the Supreme Court’s marriage ruling, begins a new flood of challenges to Catholic identity that most Catholic colleges and universities are unprepared to face, warns Cardinal Newman Society President Patrick Reilly.
“Even if a Catholic college leader wants to uphold Catholic teaching on marriage, the persistent embrace of dissent and opposition to the Church at many Catholic universities makes it highly unlikely that the law will now permit them to uphold moral standards for professors,” Reilly said.
“The fact that a theology chairman at a Catholic university apparently waited for the Supreme Court’s ruling to publicly affirm his disregard for Catholic teaching is a sign that the sky has opened, and wayward Catholic universities are about to face a flood of consequences following upon decades of inconsistent Catholic identity.”
Dr. Patrick Hornbeck II was declared married at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in Manhattan, according to The New York Times. Critics immediately questioned how the University expects Catholic theology to be sincerely “taught in a manner faithful to Scripture, Tradition, and the Church’s Magisterium,” as required by the Church’s constitution on higher education, Ex corde Ecclesiae, particularly when the head of the theology department openly disregards Church teaching on marriage and sexuality.
Hornbeck, who also teaches medieval and reformation history at Fordham, had previously made his views on gender identity and homosexuality known despite his position in the theology department. He recently led a discussion on “Sexuality and the Church” for Fordham alumni, addressing issues of same-sex marriage and gender identity, as reported by the Observer. The student publication stated that Hornbeck viewed gender as a socially constructed subject in which the Church has no teaching and has therefore chosen to remain silent.
However, Pope Francis has not been silent on the matter of marriage or gender identity. The Holy Father recently reflected on “God’s original plan for man and woman as a couple,” during which he described marriage and family as the foundation and “masterpiece of society.”
In April, Pope Francis addressed problems with “gender theory” and urged acceptance of sexuality as male and female in line with official Church teaching:
As we all know, sexual difference is present in so many forms of life, in the long scale of the living. However, only in man and in woman does it bear in itself the image and likeness of God… Man and woman are [the] image and likeness of God!
… Modern and contemporary culture has opened new areas, new freedoms and new depths for the enrichment of the understanding of this difference. However, it has also introduced many doubts and much skepticism. For instance, I wonder, for example, if the so-called gender theory is not also an expression of a frustration and of a resignation, which aims to cancel the sexual difference because it no longer knows how to address it. Yes, we risk taking a step backward. The removal of the difference, in fact, is the problem, not the solution. To resolve their problems of relation, man and woman must instead talk more to one another, listen more to one another, know one another more, love one another more.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches regarding sexual identity that “man and woman have been created… in their respective beings as man and woman” and that “‘being man’ or ‘being woman’ is a reality which is good and willed by God.”
Last year, Dr. Hornbeck spoke at the University symposium “Who Am I to Judge? How Pope Francis Is Changing the Church,” but it is unclear if he attempted to reconcile the views of Pope Francis and the Church with his own. Also the editor of “More than a Monologue: Sexual Diversity and the Catholic Church,” Hornbeck is a regular writer and speaker on LGBTQ approaches to Christianity. In 2011, The Cardinal Newman Society wrote a report exposing the “More than a Monologue” conference, which took place at both Fordham and Fairfield University, as “a well-orchestrated attempt to undermine the Church’s doctrine.”
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Hornbeck’s Fordham faculty page states that he has received grants to study “the legal, ethical, and theological dimensions of the relationship between lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons and the American Catholic Church.”
Fordham’s senior director of communications Bob Howe was recently asked whether the University is concerned about Hornbeck’s recent opposition to Catholic Church teaching. Howe told Aleteia that same-sex unions are “now the law of the land, and Professor Hornbeck has the same constitutional right to marriage as all Americans.”
“While Catholic teachings do not support same-sex marriage, we wish Professor Hornbeck and his spouse a rich life filled with many blessings on the occasion of their wedding in the Episcopal Church,” Howe reportedly stated. “Professor Hornbeck is a member of the Fordham community, and like all University employees, students and alumni, is entitled to human dignity without regard to race, creed, gender, and sexual orientation.”
The Cardinal Newman Society reached out to Howe to clarify his statement and ask what policies were in place to assure faithful Catholic theology is handed on to students. No response was received by the time of publication.
In May, Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Fla., stated that Catholic families have a “right to know” which theology professors teach in line with the Catholic Church. If those Catholic institutions cannot assure that its theology professors have obtained the academic mandatum or faithfully impart Catholic doctrine, then families should look to more faithful Catholic institutions, he suggested.
Not alone in his plea, Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport, Conn., noted that faithful Catholic education is even more essential in reclaiming the steadily declining millennial generation. The fact remains, the bishop continued, that Catholic colleges are uniquely placed to address the indifference found in the millennials whose views can be summarized by the phrase, ‘I am spiritual, but I am not religious.’
This stance has also been echoed by The Catholic University of America’s new provost, Dr. Andrew Abela, who stressed the responsibility of Catholic colleges to hire those who can faithfully teach the truths of the Catholic Church.
“It’s important to hire faithful Catholic faculty because we have, as a Catholic university, a certain view of reality laid out in the Apostles’ and Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creeds,” he explained to the Newman Society. This Catholic understanding of the world is promoted and maintained then, he said, “by hiring professors who share it.”
Reprinted with permission from The Cardinal Newman Society.