Marquette Warrior: Marquette and the Heretical Dan Maguire

Monday, November 07, 2005

Marquette and the Heretical Dan Maguire

Every so often, somebody writes to Marquette’s President, Fr. Robert Wild, to complain about Theology Professor Dan Maguire, the strongly pro-abortion, pro-“gay rights” and pro-euthanasia darling of the secular left. The implicit (and sometimes explicit) demand is that Maguire should be fired.

The Administration, of course, has a “Dan Maguire form letter” that is now also a “Dan Maguire form e-mail.” A couple of people have written Marquette and gotten the form response, and then shared the response with us. So we are passing it along:
Let me respond to your recent message regarding Dr. Daniel Maguire, who is a Professor of Theology here at Marquette University. Let me attempt to explain to you some of the facts regarding Dr. Maguire’s presence at Marquette.

At the time he was hired by Marquette University (c. 1971), he was a nationally renowned ethicist, having taught at the Catholic University of America for several years. He had left the priesthood but had done so in the proper manner, having petitioned for and received formal laicization. At the time of his appointment, he had published no positions contrary to formal Catholic teaching, and the same situation was the case when he was granted tenure shortly afterwards.

Tenure, you have to understand, is a property right strongly protected in law. While you seem to suggest that it would be easy enough for us to get rid of Dr. Maguire if only we had the will to do so, I can assure you that it is not.

For many, many years Marquette University has granted its faculty, as a part of the formal contractual relationship, academic freedom as generally understood in American higher education. This means, among other things, that the university ceded the right to discipline or terminate tenured faculty on the basis of the content of their teaching or publishing. Such academic freedom is a necessary prerequisite for any serious academic institution, and there is no Catholic university of standing that does otherwise. Indeed, this tradition in university life goes back to the 13th century, a time when in Europe the only universities that existed were Roman Catholic. Accordingly, faculty are not only allowed, but are expected and encouraged to follow the evidence of their own minds in research, teaching, and publishing, subject only to the criticism of their peers.

After he had acquired tenure at Marquette, Dr. Maguire, in pursuit of his academic discipline, arrived at, published, and enunciated positions regarding certain matters that are not totally consonant with formal Church teaching. Since he is tenured and since he, in other respects, performs well as a scholar and teacher, the university has no legitimate grounds for his removal.

Many find it difficult to understand the apparent incongruity in Dr. Maguire’s presence on the faculty of an institution that unreservedly and enthusiastically avows itself as Catholic. However it is just that, an apparent incongruity. It is simply an instance of what must be done when an institution makes a commitment to academic freedom. And that commitment, a value in itself, is also a necessity if an institution wishes to be taken seriously as an academic enterprise in the United States today. You should know that Dr. Maguire teaches no courses to students that are required. His classroom is available only to students who have successfully completed the introductory theology course and who elect to enroll in his advanced classes. Within and apart from the university he is expected to and does identify his personal opinion as such.

I would note that I see no way of resolving these problems that people have with Dr. Maguire. I simply know that I will follow in the footsteps of former Marquette President Fr. John Raynor regarding Dr. Maguire’s presence at Marquette and accept his right as a tenured professor to speak out even while personally disagreeing with certain of his positions, especially in terms of their conformity to Catholic teaching and/or their civility and good sense.

I also find it useful to recall that even Jesus did not have a perfect group of disciples. That is why it is important to remember that Dr. Maguire is only one of about forty professors in our Theology Department. Those who would condemn these men and women as a group must also condemn Jesus’ whole group of apostles for the misdeeds of one of them. For my part, that flies in the face of everything we know that Jesus, and our Church as well at His behest, has taught us.

If you wish, you may write directly to Dr. Maguire to make your thoughts known to him. He may be addressed in care of the Theology Department at Marquette, Post Office Box 1881, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53201-1881.

That said, may our good and gracious God bless you and those who are dear to you. Please remember our work in your prayers as you are remembered in ours. Thank you for your concern for your Alma Mater.


Robert A. Wild, S.J.


Marquette University
We, in fact, find this to be a rather good letter that makes a cogent case.

We strongly encourage conservatives to support academic freedom. Aside from principled reasons, there is the simple fact that conservative faculty are the ones most likely to be fired if the principle is eroded.

We also, however, welcome an occasional attack on academic freedom from the right. The simple reason is that, if the academic left feels entirely secure in its freedom, it will quickly junk the whole notion of academic freedom for conservatives. Freedom of speech for conservative students in college campuses is already in precarious shape. Academic freedom for conservative professors could be next. Unless the academic left thinks that it may be at risk too.

We think that conservative Catholic alumni have some dandy reasons to be disappointed in Marquette. Secular political correctness dominates several academic departments. The University has allowed the gay lobby full recognition in the form of the Gay/Straight Alliance, a University Ministry that pushes the gay political agenda, and an Admissions Office that recruits at “Gay Pride” events.

People who are concerned with the Catholic character of the University should get clear on the areas in which the University has been derelict, and those in which the University has done the necessary thing in protecting academic freedom.


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