Monday, April 20, 2009

Kristine Maloney, Spokeswoman for Holy Cross College in Worcester, Massachusetts: Advancing a false understanding of academic freedom

In a Catholic News Service article entitled "Catholic identity debate*," Kristine Maloney, spokeswoman for the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, advances a false understanding of academic freedom. Responding to criticisms over some of the speakers who have appeared at that institution and whose positions and views have been contrary to Catholic teaching, Ms. Maloney was quoted as having said, "We really don’t think these criticisms are fair, especially when they come from special interest groups...that try to force everyone into a very narrow version of Catholic teaching that doesn’t always fit within the depth of the Catholic traditions...We don’t see a conflict with our Catholic identity if we have a speaker on campus who may have views that are in conflict with Catholic teachings....We’re committed to a Jesuit tradition which doesn’t suppress educational issues and intellectual debate."

Nice try Kristine. But your argument doesn’t wash. The late Fr. Vincent P. Miceli, who was a classically-educated Jesuit scholar and a brilliant philosopher, explained that, "The trouble with this understanding of academic freedom is that it takes for granted as a truth what is a falsity, indeed a complete illusion, namely, that academic freedom is absolutely immune from any reasonable bounds, limitations or restrictions. No human freedom is absolutely immune to restriction. Freedom is no longer freedom when it is reduced to being the unhindered pursuit of one’s whims and desires. This is especially true of freedom exercised in the field of philosophy where conflict with the authentic and infallible teachings of the Church is foreseeable. A true understanding of academic freedom, therefore, is in order so as to distinguish it clearly from academic license.

Academic freedom derives from the rational nature of man. It is rooted in the intellectual activity of man whereby he is called to a dominion and stewardship of the universe through a conquest of truth. Positively, then, academic freedom is a generous guarantee to the unimpeded access to the evidence of truth in any given science. Thus, academic freedom is always bounded by the canons and axiomatic truths of each discipline of learning. Thus, again positively, academic freedom is both purposive and responsible. It has its own built-in rules; its requirements are conditioned by pre-defined directions towards the truth of its particular science. The moral right to academic freedom arises from the inviolability of the proper action necessary to its scientific achievements of truth, founded on man’s connatural inner dynamism of the human intelligence’s hunger for truth. Negatively, academic freedom means at the very least the immunity from unreasonable restrictions, both from within and from outside the academic community, of the right to communicate the results of one’s researches through lectures and publications, and the right to be immune from unreasonable restriction in the pursuit of the teaching profession.

We are now in the position to ask, ‘How is academic freedom violated?’ Scholars, scientists and philosophers hold that whenever one of their members ventures consciously and freely to teach as truths doctrines that contradict the clearly established dogmas or unconditional truths of their disciplines, then such a member of the university is abusing his academic freedom, putting it at the service of stupidities or known falsehoods instead of using it to advance the horizons of truth. Now every science has its dogmas, theology, philosophy and all the natural sciences. Dogmas are not only the ultimate answers to some fundamental questions; they also prompt further questioning and research, leading thus to enlarged, more profound truth....a Catholic university that allows professors and lecturers to attack the authentic teachings of the Church, whether they are infallibly defined or not, is not faithful to the best canons of scholarship, nor to the Church or its own students who have a right in justice to receive the divinely revealed truths in their pristine purity." (The Antichrist, pp. 166-167).

For Ms. Maloney, faithful Catholics who insist with Pope John Paul II that "the right of the faithful to receive Catholic doctrine in its purity and integrity must always be respected" (Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor, No. 113), are trying to "force everyone into a very narrow version of Catholic teaching." This charge is particularly ironic since the College of the Holy Cross, like many other Catholic institutions which have devaluated the faith, has become enslaved to a narrow (and conceptually flawed) notion of academic freedom. And why have these institutions sold out to secularism? Again, Fr. Miceli, S.J., explains: "Gradually, over the years the essential purpose of the Catholic university has been radically changed. Lusting after secular academic excellence, huge student bodies, expensive science complexes, notoriety, publicity, political clout and financial power, the leaders of Catholic universities somehow lost sight of the unearthly purpose and spirit of the Catholic university. Thus, in today’s Catholic university, intellectualism is preferred to Catholicism; scientism to faith, relativism to truth, immanentism to transcendence, subjectivism to reality, situationism to moral integrity and anarchism to authority. The essential purpose of the Catholic university has de facto been changed, despite the lip service that is still paid to the original Catholic ideal. Conduct flows from convictions and when the conduct is consistently depraved [Such as allowing controversial plays like the Vagina Monologues, my note] it is because the convictions have been corrupted. For example, Judas, forerunner of the Antichrist, had radically changed his deepest convictions about the person and mission of Christ before he sold his Lord for thirty pieces of silver. No virtuosity at contorted rationalization can mask the massive turning away from the Catholic ideal that has taken place in the Catholic universities of the United States. The light and love of the world have made tragic advances against the light and love of Christ." (The Antichrist, p. 161).

Holy Cross officials, who have succumbed to such contorted rationalization, may believe that there is no conflict between a university’s Catholic identity and having speakers on campus whose views and positions are in conflict with Catholic teaching. But Cardinal Newman would have disagreed:

"It is no sufficient security for the Catholicity of a university, even that the whole of Catholic theology should be professed in it, unless the Church breathes her own pure and unearthly spirit in it, and fashions and moulds its organization, and watches over its teaching, and knits together its pupils, and superintends its actions....It cannot but be that if left to themselves, they will, in spite of their profession of Catholic truth, work out results more or less prejudicial to its interests. Nor is this all: such institutions may become hostile to the revealed truth in consequence of the circumstances of their teaching as well as of their end. They are employed in the pursuit of liberal knowledge, and liberal knowledge has a special tendency, not necessary or rightful, but a tendency in fact, when cultivated by beings such as we are, to impress us with a mere philosophical theory of life and conduct, in the place of Revelation....It is not that you will at once reject Catholicism, but you will measure and proportion it by an earthly standard. You will throw its highest and most momentous disclosures into the background; you will deny its principles [such as the authentic meaning of academic freedom, my note], explain away its doctrines, rearrange its precepts, and make light of its practices, even while you profess it....This intellectualism first and chiefly comes into collision with precept, then with doctrine, then with the very principle of dogmatism.." (John Henry Cardinal Newman, The Idea of a University, Image Books, N.Y., 1959, pp. 223-225).

How prophetic Cardinal Newman was.

In its Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian, No. 40, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith tells us that, "The Church ‘is like a sacrament, a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men’ (LG, 1). Consequently, to pursue concord and communion is to enhance the force of her witness and credibility. To succumb to the temptation of dissent, on the other hand, is to allow the ‘leaven of infidelity to the Holy Spirit’ to start to work." Faithful Catholics understand this. And they understand what Pope John Paul II meant when he said (in his Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor, No. 113) that: "While exchanges and conflicts of opinion may constitute normal expressions of public life in a representative democracy, moral teaching certainly cannot depend simply upon respect for a process: indeed, it is no way established by following the rules and deliberative procedures typical of a democracy. Dissent, in the form of carefully orchestrated protests and polemics carried on in the media, is opposed to ecclesial communion and to a correct understanding of the hierarchical constitution of the People of God. Opposition to the teaching of the Church’s Pastors cannot be seen as a legitimate expression either of Christian freedom or of the diversity of the Spirit’s gifts."

Dissent in the Church leads to polarization and destroys peace within the Church. Faithful Catholics who refuse to accept a dissenting view must resist it for the sake of restoring an authentic peace, a peace which Pope John XXIII taught: "is not completely untroubled and serene; it is active, not calm and motionless. In short, this is a peace that is ever at war. It wars with every sort of error, including that which falsely wears the face of truth; it struggles against the enticements of vice, against those enemies of the soul, of whatever description, who can weaken, blemish, or destroy our innocence or Catholic faith." (Ad Petri cathedram, AAS 51 (1959) 517, PE, 263.93).

In the Catholic News Service article, Chaz Muth describes the Cardinal Newman Society, which works to restore a Catholic identity at many institutions which have become Catholic in name only, as a "self-appointed watchdog group." This is really quite insulting and betrays a profound ignorance of who the lay faithful are. In his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici, No. 9, Pope John Paul II reminds us that: "Through Baptism the lay faithful are made one body with Christ and are established among the People of God. They are in their own way made sharers in the priestly, prophetic and kingly office of Christ. They carry out their own part in the mission of the whole Christian people with respect to the Church and the world." John Paul reminds us in the same document that "Because the lay faithful belong to Christ, Lord and King of the Universe, they share in his kingly mission and are called by him to spread that kingdom in history" (No. 14). The lay faithful who make up the Cardinal Newman Society are not "self-appointed watchdogs." They are members of the Mystical Body of Christ who, individually and collectively, have been called by Christ to promote and defend His kingdom in history. This vocation is not only a right but a duty. Hence we read in canon 212 of the Code of Canon Law that, "In accord with the knowledge, competence and preeminence which they possess, they [the Christian faithful] have the right and even at times a duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church, and they have a right to make their opinion known to the other Christian faithful, with due regard for the integrity of faith and morals and reverence toward their pastors, and with consideration for the common good and the dignity of persons."

I call upon the College of the Holy Cross to admit that it has succumbed to a false understanding of academic freedom. Until it does, and until the Church once again "breathes her own pure and unearthly spirit in it," the College of the Holy Cross will never be authentically Catholic. She will only be an earthly counterfeit.

* This article may be found in the April 17, 2009 edition of The Catholic Free Press, p. 5.


Ellen Wironken said...

Paul, what a powerful post. Kristine Maloney's distorted idea of academic freedom is obviously welcome at the CFP. But this post totally refutes it. Thank you!

Ted Loiseau said...

In Ex Corde Ecclesiae (From the Heart of the Church) Pope John Paul II said that, "it is evident that besides the teaching, research and services common to all Universities, a Catholic University, by institutional commitment, brings to its task the inspiration and light of the Christian message. In a Catholic University, therefore, Catholic ideals, attitudes and principles penetrate and inform university activities in accordance with the proper nature and autonomy of these activities. In a word, being both a University and Catholic, it must be both a community of scholars representing various branches of human knowledge, and an academic institution in which Catholicism is vitally present and operative." (14).

Catholicism is not "vitally present and operative" at Holy Cross. Not as long as this false notion of academic freedom reigns there.

Truly sad.

Stewart said...

Notre Dame is experiencing the same woes:

Notre Dame students, alumnae: It's OK for president to be speaker

Posted Apr 19, 2009 @ 12:18 AM

Controversy hasn’t been in short supply since President Obama accepted the University of Notre Dame’s invitation to be its main commencement speaker next month and to accept an honorary law degree.

But graduating seniors from the Springfield area, even those who disagree with Obama’s pro-choice views, are amped for a visit from the president.

“I think the invitation was appropriate,” said Leo Rubinkowski, 22, of Springfield. “It speaks well of the university.

“There are a lot of people who take issue with the invitation, but I don’t think (Obama) is going to pound policy into people’s heads.”

“He’s coming to celebrate with us,” said Michelle Hall, 22, also of Springfield. “We’ve worked hard for four years, and this is supposed to be our day.”

Hall, a graduate of Sacred Heart-Griffin High School, said she’s heard of some students who are skipping out on their commencement because they don’t believe a Catholic institution like Notre Dame should be honoring Obama, a proponent of abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research.

“Some are deciding not to go, but it’s a personal choice,” Hall said.

A mechanical engineering major, Hall said she has “no problem” separating her views as a Catholic and endorsing Obama as the commencement speaker.

“I’m hearing him speak as the president, not someone who is pro-choice,” Hall said.

“I stand in line with Catholic social teaching (against abortion),” said Rubinkowski, an SHG graduate who plans to pursue film studies at the graduate level at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. “But one of the things that distresses me is that this has dissolved into a single-issue argument.

“(That argument) doesn’t represent what I think the university produces as far as moral depth.”

Many local Notre Dame alumni support the Obama invitation, though some draw the line at giving him an honorary degree.
“Notre Dame is not part of the Catholic hierarchy and does not define Catholic doctrine as far as the church is concerned,” noted Tom Londrigan, a 1959 graduate.

“You can’t make those decisions for other people. You can’t dictate religious moral doctrine to people not of your faith.”

Londrigan said Catholic leaders who have spoken out, such as Cardinal Francis George of Chicago and Bishop John D’Arcy of the Ft. Wayne-South Bend diocese, should tend to their own flocks.

“(Notre Dame president, the Rev. John Jenkins) isn’t taking orders from the cardinal or the bishop,” Londrigan said. “It’s not helped by turning this into a political football. You’re going to polarize people.”

Dr. James McDermott said he understands the school’s invitation, but added that “it’s hard to get past Obama’s voting record” on abortion while a member of the Illinois Senate.

“Whether it’s intended or not, there’s an anointing when you give someone an honorary degree,” said McDermott, a 1982 graduate. “That’s an affirmation of who he is and what he stands for.”

Peter Garvey of Springfield believes Notre Dame isn’t compromising its Catholic principles by inviting Obama.

“Many thoughtful Catholics and Notre Dame graduates voted for Obama for president very aware of his pro-abortion position,” said the 1978 graduate. “There’s no doubt (in my mind) that Obama’s position on abortion is abhorrent, but I don’t think his coming to Notre Dame is an endorsement of that position.

“I’d be cited among those glad to see him coming to Notre Dame, but the one question I’d ask is: Do you have to give him an honorary degree?”

“It’s a non-event to me,” said Patrick Reilly of Springfield, Class of ’60. “The ruling bodies are free to invite whoever they want.”

Obama won’t be the first politician to rankle Notre Dame supporters, according to Reilly. Death penalty foes greeted President George W. Bush at the 2001 commencement. New York Gov. and would-be presidential candidate Mario Cuomo, a Catholic, said Catholic politicians could be anti-abortion and uphold the law of the land in a 1984 address at the South Bend campus.

In a column that appears in this week’s edition of Catholic Times, Springfield Bishop George Lucas says Notre Dame is sowing confusion “where there is clarity in Catholic teaching on the sanctity of human life and the evil of abortion.

“We are not being unreasonable,” Lucas adds, “when we expect the value of human life to be a central focus of a Catholic university.”

E-mails from The State Journal-Register to the communications office of the Peoria Catholic Diocese seeking clarification of Bishop Daniel Jenky’s position on the Obama matter went unanswered. Jenky’s diocese covers part of the newspaper’s northern readership.

Jenky is a member of the Congregation of the Holy Cross Fathers, the order that runs Notre Dame. In 2003, he was elected a fellow and trustee of the university.

Kaitlin Moredock, a Springfield native and first-year student at Notre Dame’s law school, is taking a different approach. Moredock, through the Notre Dame Action Coalition, is putting together a speakers forum aimed at undergraduates that focuses on Catholic teaching and political engagement.

Life issues, religious freedom and the philosophy of Catholic universities are some of the topics being taken up by Notre Dame professors, said Moredock, an SHG and University of Dayton graduate.

“(Obama’s coming to Notre Dame) exposes the different ways Catholics can be engaged in politics,” she said. “It begs the question: Can you be pro-life, then vote for someone like Obama?”

Rather than protesting Obama’s appearance, Moredock said, energy should be put into “reaffirming the dignity of life central to the Catholic faith.”

Hall said pro-life issues “are still relevant on Catholic campuses,” perhaps more so because of Obama.

“There should be opinions exchanged on these issues,” she said. “Maybe that dialogue will open up more.

“In the long run, I’ll be lucky enough to have had the president of the United States speak at my college commencement. That’s the exciting part of this.”

Steven Spearie can be reached at or 622-1788.

Commencement speakers at Notre Dame:

*Dwight D. Eisenhower (1960)

*Jimmy Carter (1977)

*Ronald Reagan (1981)

*George H.W. Bush (1992)

*George W. Bush (2001)

Franklin D. Roosevelt and Gerald R. Ford received honorary degrees.

Stewart said...

This is ridiculous. If the Worcester Diocese is not actively engaged in promoting New Age - like the Commission for Women linking to Joyce Rupp's website and inviting her as a guest speaker - it's allowing the promotion of homosexuality at FSC's "Newman Center" or dissent from other groups such as Pax Christi. What, if anything, is Bishop McManus doing to address these problems?

George-2009 said...

I have tried writing the Bishop on several occasions but I never received any response. Does he care?

Anonymous said...

Those "special–interest groups" that Holy Cross' Kristine Maloney criticizes as "try(ing) to force everyone into a very narrow version of Catholic teachings" include the complete body of U.S. bishops in their 2004 document, "Catholics in Political Life," which says that "the Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions"--as well as almost three dozen bishops who have made individual statements asking Notre Dame to rescind its invitation to Obama and also more than 300,000 people who have signed petitions such as that of the Cardinal Newman Society requesting the same.

Margaret said...

I'm not sure Holy Cross can be called Catholic any longer. Parents should opt to send their children to a more faithful institution of higher learning. For example, Magdalene College in New Hampshire or Franciscan University at Steubenville etc. I don't hold ot much hope for any improvement at Holy Cross and the Bishop doesn't really seem to care.

Henry said...

Georgetown To Honor Pro-Abort Catholic and Vice President Joe Biden

By James Todd

Georgetown is honoring Vice President Biden tomorrow. Biden is a Catholic that supports abortion rights. Washington DC - April 21, 2009 - Georgetown is honoring Vice President Joe Biden tomorrow at a Symposium Celebrating the 15th Anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Biden will receive the Legal Momentum Hero Award.

Geoergetown’s decision to honor Biden, on the heels its acquiescence to the White House’s request to cover the IHS symbol at Gaston Hall last week when President Obama spoke, combined with the current imbroligio over President Obama’s scheduled commencement speech and honorary degree at Notre Dame, is certain to cause more outrage among Catholics.

Biden’s honor tomorrow is problematic on several fronts. It violates the USCCB document "Catholics in Political Life" from 2004. This document directs Catholic schools not to honor pro-abortion politicians. Moreover, unlike the situation at Notre Dame with President Obama where some have argued that the USSCB statement doesn’t apply because Obama isn’t Catholic – Biden clearly is. Lastly, the award tomorrow commemorating the Violence Against Women Act represents a patent hypocrisy: Abortion is a violence against women, but Georgetown has decided to honor the Vice President who is pro-abortion and therefore by definition, supports this violence against both women and their unborn children.

Our Catholic institutions are selling out to the secular society. I don't hold out much hope for the Church in the United States. Not with Catholics voting en masse for Obama and the universities kneeling before the world.

MichaelTD said...

Unfortunately too many institutions priding themselves on a so-called Jesuit tradition are led by deep seated homosexuals who cannot carry their burden. So they try and drag others down to promote a sense of solidarity in dissent.

Paul Anthony Melanson said...

The reason I quoted so extensively from Fr. Vincent Miceli, S.J. is that 1. His refutation of a false notion of academic freedom is excellent; and 2. He was a brilliant Jesuit philosopher who was educated in "the Jesuit tradition." Ms. Maloney's idea of "Jesuit tradition" is a chimera.

I'm here should Ms. Maloney care to debate the point. But I won't be holding my breath.

Michael Cole said...

I sent this post to Ms. Maloney a couple of days ago. She never did respond. It wasn't "convenient" to do so I guess.

Eric Levan said...

It is interesting that Kristine Maloney has suddenly lapsed into silence. One would think that she would want to defend her assertion that criticism of Holy Cross College has been "unfair."

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