Campus speakers: why they matter
May 6, 2016 (CardinalNewmanSociety) -- Bill Clinton. Cecile Richards. Joe Biden. Wendy Davis.
What do they have in common?
For us, it’s this: Catholic colleges this spring have invited these public figures to enjoy prominent campus platforms and public honors, despite their public opposition to Catholic teaching on abortion and marriage.
Why does this matter? Because it’s a betrayal of the mission of Catholic education and a scandal. It concerns not only The Cardinal Newman Society but also, apparently, bishops and pro-life leaders who have spoken out against the colleges' choices.
Any college, if it is to fulfill its mission, must seek and teach truth. But an authentic Catholic college has far more to
It is right for a Catholic college to embrace academic freedom and dialogue as means of discovering truth, and the college should also respect the rights of conscience, helping students form their behaviors and understanding by the free encounter with truth. But the members of a college community, as well as invited guests, still have the responsibility to communicate in a reasonable manner with the genuine intention of seeking
This is why
Recently, two of the most prominent Catholic institutions in the country, the University of Notre Dame and Georgetown University, have allowed speakers on campus to publicly advocate for the murder of unborn children through abortion.
This month Notre Dame plans to bestow its most prestigious award for American Catholics, given “in recognition of outstanding service to Church and society,” to Vice President Joe Biden — an individual who has spent his long political career opposing the moral teachings of the Church. And Loyola Marymount University will honor former President Bill Clinton at its commencement this Saturday, despite his public record of scandal, immorality and support for the destruction of innocent human life.
Catholic colleges compromise their Catholic identity and potentially harm the spiritual well-being of their students when they give honors and platforms to those whose public statements and actions may cause scandal. College administrators send a message to the public that worldly success and popular opinion are more important to their institutions than fidelity to Christ and His Church. And they send a message to students that it’s acceptable and even praiseworthy to unrepentantly oppose the Church’s moral teachings.
Because the Church identifies certain actions as gravely sinful and intrinsically evil, it’s appropriate that emphasis
As Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., Bishop Kevin Rhoades stated in response to Notre Dame’s intention to honor Biden, Catholic colleges risk giving the impression “that one can be ‘a good Catholic’ while also supporting or advocating for positions that contradict our fundamental moral and social principles and teachings.”
And there must be a clear understanding of the differences between serious moral concerns and what constitutes dissent from Catholic teaching. For instance, abortion is intrinsically evil in every circumstance. With regard to the death penalty, immigration policy,
As the U.S. bishops stated in Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility, “(I)t is essential for Catholics to be guided by a well-formed conscience that recognizes that all issues do not carry the same moral weight and that the moral obligation to oppose policies promoting intrinsically evil acts has a special claim on our consciences and our actions.”
Catholic colleges have a distinct mission apart from secular institutions to seek and teach truth “animated by the spirit of Christ.” This includes the truth that all human life has dignity and must be respected and defended from the moment of conception.
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Dissent from this truth of the faith — taught by Christ and His Church — should never be actively fostered by Catholic college administrators,
The prominent abortion advocates cited above are not the only ones that have been honored by Catholic colleges. These honors go back decades now, including in the 12 years since the U.S. bishops specifically forbade Catholic institutions from honoring those who “act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles” in their document Catholics in Political Life.
The bishops stated in the document: “It is the teaching of the Catholic Church from the very beginning, founded on her understanding of her Lord’s own witness to the sacredness of human life, that the killing of an unborn child is always intrinsically evil and can never be justified. … Failing to protect the lives of innocent and defenseless members of the human race is to sin against justice.” And they emphasized that those who formulate law “have an obligation in conscience to work toward correcting morally defective laws, lest they be guilty of cooperating in evil and in sinning against the common good.”
One-sided presentations from those who actively lead students, and our culture, away from the truth of the faith by spreading a false morality are not educational or conducive to teaching truth on Catholic college campuses. To prop up and honor those who actively publicly reject the truth of the faith sows confusion and dissent, not a strengthening of critical thinking and spiritual growth.
Views opposing Church teaching can and should be heard and debated on Catholic college campuses. But this should be done in
Reprinted with permission from The Cardinal Newman Society.