Saturday, June 26, 2010

Another Voice on Jodi O’Brien From the Philosophy Department

A comment, appended to an essay by Matt Wion, is one of the more cogent things we have seen on the Jodi O’Brien fiasco, in which a rogue Search Committee almost got an outspoken lesbian candidate hired as Arts & Sciences Dean at Marquette.
I would add two points to your fine analysis.

1) The question of what is core to Catholic theology is one that Catholics need to decide. I, you, and Dr. O’Brien really need to stay out of it. Suppose that, internally, the Church decides that traditional teachings concerning family are stable and central to Catholic ethics. Suppose that we find such teachings ethically reprehensible. Then we should leave the university. A parallel situation: for a while the Mormon church had a racist theology. Were I on the job market then, I would not be able to teach at Brigham Young in good conscience. But why should a Jew be the one to say what is authentic LDS teaching?

2) I think that if MU had offered the position to a gay activist arguing for his position from within the Catholic intellectual tradition -- someone like Mark Jordan -- this would have been a courageous move, and I’d be out there with the protesters if the appointment were rescinded. But MU has been moving away from being grounded in this tradition (one I honor and learn from). The O’Brien appointment was double pronged stick in both of the eyes of MU’s Catholic identity -- its historical intellectual tradition, and Catholic teachings. Her scholarship represents that of nontheistic mainstream scholarship in the humanities -- where values are human creations, grounded neither in nature nor the Divine. And it takes her places where she attacks teachings apparently central to the church -- such as the natural basis of the family. Her appointment as dean was the reductio ad absurdum of the idea that scholarship at MU should be indistinguishable from that at secular universities. The most public face of Arts and Sciences would have been one whose scholarship encourages Catholics to invent their own sexual identity and accept fluid family arrangements for children.

I suggest that MU find a wealthy donor to allow it to offer her an endowed chair for a couple hundred thousand a year, and then find a traditional Catholic intellectual as dean. Such a move could bring everyone together and heal the damage.

Owen Goldin
Dept. of Philosophy
Of course, we don’t think that O’Brien deserves any sort of endowed chair. Indeed, her scholarship would not even merit tenure at Marquette -- although some politically correct department like Sociology would probably give that to her.

But the temptation to try to buy off the campus gay lobby with more “programs” and courses on “human sexuality” (taught from a pro-gay perspective) will be great. Indeed, Fr. Wild has suggested he would do just that.

Such would be foolish indeed. When you have won a battle at substantial cost, you don’t turn around and surrender.

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Blogger John Pack Lambert said...

The claim that the Mormon Church had a racist theology is both false and especially ironic coming from a Jew. Jews for centuries tried their hardest to exclude all except a certain few from the religion and proclaiming themselves the chosen people is inherently a policy that can sound racist to outsiders. The Church policy of not ordaining those of African descent is not the same as a racist theology. The Mormon Church explicitly endorsed the Civil Rights Act.

This is also what I would call an argument from attack. BYU requires all faculty to agree to refrain from alcohol, tobacco, coffee and tea use as well as sex except with someone of the opposite sex to whom they are married. BYU also does not grant tenure because it seeks a more coherent intelectual message than some universities. Lastly the BYU Philosophy department was a part of the religion department and only open to Mormons until the 1970s, so this Jew would never have been given such an offer. In fact it is highly unlikely that any non-Mormon would be offered a post in BYU's philosophy department, it happens rarely in any department but with the connections of philosophy and religion is very rare. If it was done it would not be to someone who tried to make morally equivalent race and sexual orientation.

2:23 AM  

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