Catholic Wars

To the editor:

Any essay, like this one [Anne Hendershott, “Taking the Catholic Out of Catholic Universities,” Autumn 2017], that labels “gender studies,” “diversity studies,” and so on as “politically correct fads” loses credibility. Those departments or programs are especially needed at Catholic colleges because Catholicism has such a long history of oppression of women, shaming of gay people, and collusion with political regimes that brutalize poor and nonwhite people all over the world. You can keep the traditional Catholic emphases on intellectual rigor without giving up commitments to inclusion. American Catholicism has always had a different relationship to issues such as birth control, abortion, and LGBTQ rights because in the U.S., we do have principles of individual autonomy and civil rights. Those principles are not antithetical to Catholicism. There is not only one Catholic identity.

Isabel Whitebird

To the editor:

We need to do away with single-sex schools and educate people in the heterosexual life. Many public schools do this better than Catholic ones. Also, let priests marry and women become priests. Jesus raised the status of women; the Vatican belittles them. We must stop trying to run the social lives of people and instead emphasize Christian love and kindness. The message of love is the best antidote to abortion and homosexuality and true to the basic Judeo-Christian dogma.

Jarod Smith

Anne Hendershott responds:

Both Isabel Whitebird and Jarod Smith would be at home on the majority of today’s secularized Catholic campuses. Most on the faculty and the administration at these schools would agree with them. For example, on many campuses—contrary to official Catholic teachings—faculty members lobby for reproductive rights, access to marriage for same-sex couples, and women’s ordination. Clubs supporting “reproductive justice” are entrenched on many of the most prestigious Catholic campuses in the country; and women’s ordination is demanded.

A few years ago, there was even a female law professor at the University of San Diego, Jane Via, who got herself illicitly ordained by an illicit female bishop. The only problem is that the Church can never recognize her as a priest. The all-male priesthood is a magisterial teaching—it can never change. Christ ordained the first apostles—all men—to the priesthood. We do not know why, but in understanding official Church teachings, we, as Catholics, have to form our beliefs and behaviors on the revealed word of God. We are not free to “invent” the priesthood according to our own contemporary values and norms—just as we are not free to change Catholic teachings on the sanctity of life from conception to natural death, or marriage as a union between a man and a woman. All these are magisterial teachings of the Church. Catholics are supposed to believe in them—and Catholic colleges are supposed to teach what the Catholic Church believes is true.

Whitebird is correct—unfortunately—in stating that there is not only one Catholic identity. Catholic colleges have spent the past two decades defining down what it means to be Catholic. On many of these campuses, students never learned what the Church truly teaches about the dignity of women, the love between husband and wife, and the respect that must be shown for all life, at all stages—especially for the most vulnerable among us. Many students will sadly never learn that a true Catholic identity for a Catholic college or university is one that is based upon revelation—not on human expectations.


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