Marquette Theology Professor Critiques University’s Gender Regime
Working in my Marquette office one afternoon in the spring of 2010, I heard unusual sounds coming from the normally quiet lawns outside my window. I was surprised to see a modest assembly of students and professors preparing to march in protest. Against what? Minutes later, an email arrived informing me that the university’s then-president, Robert Wild, S.J., had voided a contract extended to Jodi O’Brien to join us as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Though the contract had already been signed, Fr. Wild—perhaps under external pressure—decided that O’Brien, a partnered lesbian whose research included queer studies, was not an appropriate choice to represent our mission and identity.And that, indeed, is what has happened.
Although an ordinary person with a passing knowledge of the moral teachings of the Catholic Church would think such a decision obvious, the department chairs in the college soon gathered and voted almost unanimously to censure Wild’s decision. The press, meanwhile, demanded an explanation. On the defensive, the university allegedly paid a considerable sum in order to break the contract. Officials were soon exercising themselves to demonstrate their concern for equitable treatment of gays and lesbians. The university would initiate projects, courses, conferences, and the like to explore issues of sex and gender! The clear implication was that change would come, though slowly. Marquette would get with the sexual-liberation program so that something like the O’Brien affair would never happen again.
Since 2010, the campaign for sexual diversity at Marquette has advanced rapidly. Last year, the university announced the expansion of the former Gender and Sexuality Resource Center (established in the wake of the O’Brien dustup) into two new initiatives: a Center for Gender and Sexualities Studies and an LGBTQ Resource Center. How much funding has been increased has not been disclosed. We also now have an Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, which offers faculty and staff awards for excellence in, yes, “diversity and inclusion.” Again, how much this will cost hasn’t been revealed. We do know, however, that funds have been promised to support the development of new courses that advance the cause. A faculty fellows program in diversity is also in the works.. . .
“Diversity” and “inclusion” are vague and uncertain terms that can mean almost anything. Here at Marquette they have become code for challenging Catholic sexual morality and pushing forward a gender ideology that denies that human beings were created as male and female in the image of God. Attempting to instill communal meaning through the new quest for diversity, Marquette news releases breathlessly announce that the struggle for civil rights begun by Martin Luther King Jr. is now being fulfilled here by the campaign for the inclusion of sexual minorities.
Meanwhile, recent announcements from university leaders indicate that they are increasingly comfortable affirming LGBTQ ideology. Their language remains cautious about explicitly endorsing revisionist accounts of sexuality and the human person. It is nevertheless clear that Marquette’s leaders do not share the grave concerns about LGBTQ theory expressed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and other representatives of the Church’s magisterium.By all means read the entire essay.
Senior officials endorse LGBTQ programs without qualification, casting doubt on their readiness to affirm Church teaching. In fact, the level of enthusiasm for LGBTQ causes casts doubt on their willingness to tolerate anyone who thinks otherwise.
Imagine, for example, a new freshman who has recently completed an invigorating course on John Paul II’s Theology of the Body in her parish. After orientation week at Marquette, will she feel free to express her newfound understanding of the nuptial meaning of the body? Or will she fear that her words will be treated as exclusionary and hateful?
I’m afraid the questions answer themselves. The problem with the new inclusion, of course, is that it’s not inclusive, nor can it be. It is simply a new way of defining sexual morality that masquerades as a bureaucratic, therapeutic project of “inclusion.” At Marquette, it’s clear that this project seeks to displace traditional Catholic accounts of sexual morality.
Aside from the bureaucratic motives of University officials, one might think that the new gender regime is just the result of “tolerance.” Why be unkind to people who are gay or lesbian, or transgender, or even gender queer?
The problem with this is that tolerance is a two way street. Gays and lesbians, for example, have a right not to be demeaned or derided. But they don’t have a right to demand affirmation of their sexual activity from anybody else. Such a demand is itself intolerant.
In a genuinely Catholic university, gays and lesbians should hear Church teaching about sexuality taught. It should be taught respectfully, and nobody has to agree with it, but wanting it censored is intolerant.
For example, the National Catholic Register reported that at Marquette:
At least one theology faculty member teaching about Genesis in his classroom received a [harassment] complaint, after a student who had two fathers objected to the classroom presentation of the Church’s teaching of marriage.It’s clear who was intolerant here.
Inclusion for Only SomeOf course, for the inclusion crowd, challenging the faith of Catholic students is fine. Late last semester, one member of a group of Concerned Catholics reported “a student who told him of a professor who has made slurs against the Church e.g. mocking the idea of Mary’s virginity etc. in class.”
Actual mocking should be out of bounds at Marquette, although dissent from Catholic teaching is protected by academic freedom. But if a majority of the faculty overtly dissent from Catholic teaching, Marquette should cease calling itself Catholic.
Likewise, saying things to which black students might take exception is forbidden, but berating white students about their “white privilege” is just fine. So is bashing white males.
Thus the use of words like “tolerance” and “inclusion” by the campus left is downright Orwellian. Genuine tolerance would mean tolerating Catholic views on sexuality (and indeed criticism of such views). Genuine tolerance would require that gays have no more right to demand affirmation of their sexual activity than Republicans have to demand that all Democrats convert to Republican political views.
Genuine “inclusion” would demand acceptance of the idea that Marquette has a right to be genuinely Catholic, just as this or that private liberal arts college has a right to be secular.
It is, in fact, the campus left that is most intolerant and exclusionary.