Finally, a story about a Catholic university taking a stand for Catholic values. And look what happens. Not surprising, but still dismaying. I just hope the university doesn’t buckle.
A University of San Diego decision rescinding a prestigious position to a Catholic feminist theologian has thrust it smack in the middle of a national debate over academic freedom versus adherence to [C]hurch teachings. [Versus! Since when?]
Faculty and Roman Catholics are divided over USD’s decision to withdraw the appointment of Rosemary Radford Ruether to an endowed chair. At issue is Ruether’s position on the board of directors for Catholics for Choice, an abortion rights organization. [“Catholics for Choice” indeed! Catholics and Catholic universities have the right to choose faculty who are actual Catholics, not Catholic dissenters (note: there is a difference!). And presuming the donor was a Catholic, they have a right to have their endowed chair held by an actual Catholic.]
Two national women’s religious groups have sponsored a petition with more than 2,000 signatures demanding that she be allowed to assume the post.
USD is standing by its decision. [Let’s hope it stays that way!]
“Her public position and the symbol of this chair are in direct conflict,” said USD spokeswoman Pamela Gray Payton. “This chair is a powerful, visible symbol of Roman Catholic theology, and in Roman Catholic theology abortion is disallowed.” [In a truly free and sane world, that would be the end of the discussion.]
. . .
Ruether, 71, is concerned about the decision’s effect on academic freedom.
“It appears to me that some right-wing group has put pressure on the university,” she said. [That must be it! After all, Catholics who expect their theologians to be Catholic are such Nazis! Really, that statement alone would make me show her the door if I ran that university. What nonsense!]
The position, the Monsignor John R. Portman Chair in Roman Catholic Theology, involved coming to campus three days a week, teaching a course, giving a public lecture, and mentoring junior faculty during the fall 2009 semester, said Lance Nelson, chairman of the Department of Theology and Religious Studies.
. . .
“She’s a widely respected scholar in the field,” Nelson said. “She’s done seminal work on Christian feminism, social justice [except for the unborn!], and the relationship between religion and ecology.”
. . .
Fifty USD faculty members have signed the petition demanding that USD reverse course. [Sounds like there are already dissenters in the ranks.] The petition was sponsored by the Women’s Ordination Conference, which advocates for female priests, deacons and bishops; and the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual, a multireligious feminist educational center with Catholic co-founders. [And these people should have any say in a Catholic university because…??? They’re just more dissenters, and they have no right to it!]
The petition asks for USD either to apologize and honor the offer or allow Ruether to deliver a campus lecture on academic freedom. [Whose academic freedom? Those who want a Catholic theology professor to teach Catholic theology?]
“Rosemary Ruether is like the godmother of the feminist theologian movement,” said Linda Pieczynski, spokeswoman and past president of Call to Action, a nonprofit Catholic organization that advocates on church reform issues and is endorsing the petition. “It’s just criminal to disinvite her from the University of San Diego.” [Oh come now! According to what code of law? Somebody needs to get a grip.]
. . .
During a visit in April to Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., Pope Benedict XVI advised Catholic college educators not to allow scholarly pursuits to depart from Catholic doctrine.
“Any appeal to the principle of academic freedom in order to justify positions that contradict the faith and the teaching of the [C]hurch would obstruct or even betray the university’s identity and mission,” he said. [Again, this should be the end of the discussion.]
. . .
USD’s Monsignor John R. Portman Chair in Roman Catholic Theology was established in 2000 through a $2 million bequest. It was named after Monsignor Portman, who became the founding chair of the department in 1967.
According to the university’s Web site, “Chair holders are to be distinguished theologians who think from within the Roman Catholic tradition while exploring and expressing the tradition in contemporary contexts.” [Seems pretty clear to me.]
. . .
Ruether doesn’t see a conflict between her two roles.
“First of all, what people are doing in their personal life has nothing to do with what you’re going to teach,” said Ruether, adding that she had no plans to speak on campus about abortion. [That holds true if you regard Catholicism as something you do, rather than something you are. Which seems to be the case for some allegedly-Catholic theologians. It becomes a job instead of a living, and lived, faith.]
If she cares so much about academic freedom, why doesn’t she do the honest and just thing and teach at a Protestant school? There’s surely plenty of them that would love to have her, and she wouldn’t have to suffer so criminally at the hands of Catholic Nazis. I work at Southern Methodist University, and they’ve got Charles Curran as their professor of moral theology and “human values.” Obviously, you couldn’t pay me to study theology there, but if that’s what the Methodists want, who am I to object? Academic freedom is not the issue. Not in the way these dissenters would have us believe.