Tension at Catholic colleges

The church finds itself mired in controversy lately, and Catholic colleges and universities are seemingly not exempt from the mess. Inside Higher Ed takes a look at a few Catholic schools where questions of Catholic identity, access to health care, and other emotive issues are causing discord:

Who could have guessed that the big debate on Roman Catholic campuses in 2012 would be over contraception?


For years, Catholic colleges have endured periodic debates over speakers who favor abortion rights. But despite Catholic teachings forbidding the use of birth control, contraception has hardly been on the table in a public way -- until this year.

Fueled by the debate over a new rule requiring employers, including religious colleges, to offer insurance coverage for birth control, campus controversies gained national attention. Among them are a decision at Xavier University in Cincinnati to deny insurance coverage previously offered to faculty members, and a faculty revolt at John Carroll University in Cleveland, where faculty members urged the college president to stand up to the bishops orchestrating opposition to the policy.

At the same time, perennially contentious issues were flaring, gaining new relevance (and airtime) from the contraception debate. Anna Maria College, a small Catholic college in Massachusetts, rescinded its offer of an honorary degree and a keynote commencement speech to Victoria Kennedy, widow of Senator Ted Kennedy, after the local bishop objected to Victoria Kennedy’s support for gay marriage and criticism of the church for denying communion to politicians who favor of abortion rights. And at the University of Notre Dame, where the outcry over another commencement speech three years ago -- President Obama’s -- still lingers, faculty are pushing the administrators to do more on gay rights.

It all could make you wonder: What’s happening to Catholic colleges these days?

For many, the answer is “nothing new.” Questions about whether Catholic colleges are Catholic enough have raged since at least the late 1960s, when a group of college presidents, led by the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh of Notre Dame, issued a seminal statement calling for "autonomy and academic freedom in the face of authority of whatever kind, lay or clerical," for Catholic universities. In fact, relations between colleges and the church are better now than they have been for decades, said Michael Galligan-Stierle, president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.

Read the full article here.

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Jack Barry
6 years 10 months ago
Amy  -  
20,000 citizens agreed with you and signed a petition that was delivered to Bp. McManus, although without evident effect on him.  One of his early motives was apparently to avoid scandal.  His success in doing so is questionable, given the newfound fame of ''a small Catholic college in Massachusetts''.  If he had done nothing, it is highly likely that no one but students and parents of Anna Maria would have ever heard of the commencement and its speeches.  Strategic foresight appears to be in short supply in some bishops.  http://www.telegram.com/article/20120427/NEWS/104279741/1116
Carlos Orozco
6 years 10 months ago
Carlos Orozco
6 years 10 months ago
What's debatable about having in Catholic higher education clear messages on issues such as gay "marriage" and denying communion to politicians who support the practice and funding of abortion (those politicians must be in a hurry to condemn their eternal soules to Hell). In spite of all the problems that effect the world, we can at least give thanks to God that the choice between Good and Evil is becoming ever clearer when we discern with Christian conscience.

Rick Fueyo
6 years 10 months ago
Those issues are very debatable.  in fact, i would venture to say that many Catholics would love to debate gay marriage  it is the hierarchy that does not wish to debate the issue, likely in recognition of the fact that many if not most well formed consciences reach the opposite conclusion.  The hierarchy simply ties to mandate an identity that most cannot identify with because it is unjust, inhumane and indefensible.  The Church will suffer on the issue.  It is a debate it cannot win, because it is wrong. 
John Hayes
6 years 10 months ago
Victoria Kennedy will be the main speaker at the Boston College Law School Commencement.

Only 50 miles away but in a different diocese. No sign of any objection from Cardinal O'Malley.


Amy Ho-Ohn
6 years 10 months ago
The incident at Anna Maria College was indefensible. If the bishop wished to exercise his (justifiable) power to veto commencement speakers, he should have informed the college ahead of time, so they could submit their list for approval before issuing invitations.

To allow them to invite a speaker, then compel them to disinvite her is unbelievably crass. It seems clear either he took pleasure in publicly insulting Senator Kennedy's widow or expected to enhance his appeal to politicized elements in his church by doing so. 
Mister Heche
6 years 10 months ago
...some bad news on contraception:

Today's news story from Reuters: "Women overestimate effectiveness of Pill, condoms."

Story here:

Given this bad news, here is a very relevant and thought-provoking piece on the subject of women, sexuality, and contraception written by Jennifer Fulwiler:


Here is an excerpt:

"...it is only the Catholic Church that is willing to tell women unpopular truths about human sexuality. Only the Catholic Church dares to remind us that the human sexual act always carries the potential to create new human beings, and that we're setting ourselves and our future children up for disaster when we disregard this most fundamental of truths. It may not be convenient. It may not be what people want to be true. But it is true. And knowing the truth is always a prerequisite for freedom.

And so I find it ironic when contraception is said to allow anyone to live "freely." Secular culture assures women that they can go ahead and engage in the act that creates babies, even if they are not ready to be mothers. They are handed contraception, and told to forget all about the possibility of parenthood. Then, when the contraception fails, as it so often does, they find themselves feeling trapped, perceiving that their only escape is through the doors of an abortion facility. This, to me, does not look like freedom..."

John Hayes
6 years 10 months ago
Mister H,

The purpose of that Reuters article is to advise doctors to recommend IUDs and implanted contraceptives instead of birth control pills and condoms in order to reduce the liklihood of pregnancy to be below 1%. Because they are long-lasting, they avoid the problem of people not using pills and condoms all the time. As they say, with "typical use" (woman doesn't always take the pills on schedule), the pregnancy rate may be 9% rather than the 0.3% rate if she always takes the pills on schedule). 

"The hormonal IUD, sold under the brand-name Mirena, can prevent pregnancy for five years, while the copper version, sold as ParaGard, is effective for about 10 years. The contraceptive implant (Implanon) works for three years.
It's estimated that between 0.2 percent and 0.8 percent of women who use an IUD will have an unplanned pregnancy within a year. The rate is just 0.05 percent with a contraceptive implant.
The advantage is that unlike birth control pills and condoms, the IUD does not rely on perfect use.

 With the Pill, the pregnancy rate with "typical use" is about nine percent per year. With condoms, it's between 18 and 21 percent.
"We need to do a better job of educating the public - women and men - on the failure rates with typical use," said Eisenberg, of Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine.
People also need to know, he said, that IUDs and the contraceptive implant are the most effective type of reversible birth control. (Surgical sterilization is also close to 100 percent effective, but it's permanent....)
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has said that IUDs and implants should be offered as "first-line" options for most women, because of their effectiveness and safety."


Of course, the Church disapproves of all of the types of contraception mentioned in the article. That is a moral argument.

However, I don't think the article supports the purely secular argument that people shouldn't use contraceptives because they aren't effective. Perhaps I misunderstood the point you were trying to make. 

For more failure rates, see: 

Bob Baker
6 years 10 months ago
The bishops are certainly to blame - they have failed in their teaching authority that they alone possess.  Schools that insist on calling themselves Catholic but ignore the Magisterium put themselves squarely on-trial. This may be partly because these schools seem to think that there aren't enough Catholic instructors who know how to teach?
Inviting speakers who also ignore Church teachings, so-called "lavender graduation ceremonies," gay clubs, and petitions/op-ed pieces, etc, all in open defiance to the Church teachings are not Catholic.  Just because the bishops have turned a blind eye to their surroundings doesn't mean that the Church has changed its positions after two thousand years.  Just because the few "demand" change doesn't mean that it is right.
Get over it! If you can't or won't, become a Protestant or some other religion that is more to your liking.


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