Monday 22nd January 2018

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They Won’t Stop With Marquette. Or Georgetown. Or Notre Dame.

January 9, 2018 Frontpage No Comments

By SHAUN KENNEY

It was George Will that offered me the most succinct definition of American patriotism, that being a certain assent to a specific creed: that human beings were endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these were life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Marquette University — a Jesuit institution that has seemingly forgotten its inheritance — finds itself embroiled in a First Amendment case where a 41-year tenured professor, John C. McAdams, finds himself the target of the caprice of a graduate teaching assistant who, after advising a Catholic student at a presumably Catholic institution that opposition to same-sex marriage was “homophobic” and commanding conformity to the secular religion of the day, managed not only to get McAdams disciplined by Marquette University, but McAdams lost his tenured position and was removed from the university altogether. The graduate teaching assistant had disallowed the Catholic student from expressing opposition to same-sex marriage in her class and then, in a discussion afterward, told him to drop the class. McAdams defended the free speech rights of the pro-marriage student on his blog. (See Breitbart News, April 1, 2016 and George Will’s current column on the subject.)
McAdams has been unemployed ever since. The graduate student in question has moved on to greener pastures at the University of Colorado to write her dissertation about animal rights, of all things.
As a columnist, George Will’s forte is a firm, commanding tone that enforces a sort of intellectual rigor. Certainly, as a private institution Marquette is permitted to hire and fire as it pleases when it pleases. Just one small problem for Marquette. Its contract with tenured faculty not only protects free inquiry, but prohibits any threats of dismissal from being exercised to induce conformity, making this much more a matter of contract law rather than of academic freedom.
Yet the lower courts ignored the contract altogether, setting up a future challenge at the Wisconsin Supreme Court which most observers (even on the political left) believe McAdams should win easily.
Should.
Yet once again, Catholics find themselves in a condition where Catholic institutions with a Catholic charter, presumably under the guidelines of Pope John Paul II’s Ex Corde Ecclesiae and under the guidance of Catholic priests — Jesuits no less — with Catholic professors who, though no longer required to take the Oath Against Modernism are not permitted to openly reject Catholic teaching in an effort to provide Catholic parents the surety that their Catholic students will be receiving a Catholic education, find all of this flipped on its side by another reality altogether.
Once again, a Catholic institution acts in defiance of not only its own principles — Marquette’s mission statement claims it is a Catholic institution “committed to the unfettered pursuit of truth” — but in defiance of the Jesuit charism, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, and the Magisterium itself.
From the secular side of the equation, it is very easy to see this as an instance of free inquiry and academic freedom. From the Catholic side of the equation, precisely what should Marquette’s alumni believe the institution represents anymore? The faith of our fathers or the secular religions of the modern age?
Precisely which side is deploying inquisitors? Whose mob is braying for whose blood? All for the crime of upholding with force of argument the very values upon which Marquette University stands? Surrendering to those who would rather use the argument of force?
Wisconsin’s Supreme Court will determine the legal merits of the McAdams case. One hopes that McAdams will indeed find justice. Yet for Catholics who must observe this hijacking of yet another Catholic institution to the secular gods, where precisely is the breaking point? At what point do Catholic priests and bishops decide the Faith of our Fathers is worth defending in the public square?
To date, it is the Catholic lay faithful who are performing the work of a bloodless white martyrdom. Each day seems to bring some fresh outrage that no other faith — sacred or secular — would long endure. Looking to the priests and bishops is scolded as clericalism; taking matters into our own hands is scolded as division. Our liturgy changes, our values shift, and even our English translations of the Nicene Creed are altered and then altered again.
They won’t stop with Marquette. Or Georgetown. Or Notre Dame.
As parents and grandparents, we have the luxury of distance. It is argued by those in the game of swaying public opinion that only 3 percent of the population needs to be willing to engage in an issue in order for it to become mainstream. Merely 400 active individuals are enough to swing opinion online.
Catholics make up 25 percent of all Americans, yet of the younger generation only half are choosing to practice their faith in some form at all — the rest apostatize, and it’s no small wonder why this is. After all, why should they sacrifice for a faith where our own bishops and priests refuse to stand firm on even the most basic elements of what the Catholic Church professes to be true?
Of course, there are tremendous bishops and priests in America. An entire generation fed on truth and led by the example of Pope John Paul II is rising right now, the vanguard just now in their 40s. Like Gideon’s Army, there is a faithful remnant willing to fulfill Tertullian’s admonishment that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.
Some may fear this. Certainly administrators do.
Yet Pope Leo XIII was correct in Sapientiae Christianae that Catholics were born for combat, and the greater the vehemence the more assured the triumph. Neither worldly nor spiritual as if this were a choice, but both worldly and spiritual in the vision of Kingdom of God so rightly argued by Romano Guardini.
Marquette University owes itself and its students a more honest product. A graduate of a Catholic college or university should carry the fire — not just for themselves but for their families, friends, colleagues, parish, and society. As George Will notes in his current column, surely the students and alumni of Marquette — not to mention, the Wisconsin Province of the Society of Jesus — will get to answer this question in a much more firm and unique way than we can.

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In an effort to keep the barn cats out of the house, my wife caught her index finger in a door. The door now becomes yet another item in the household that might count as a blood relative; once again the nefarious schemes of the barn cats to invade our household were temporarily thwarted. The finger, we speculate, is more than likely broken.
Thus my wife nobly sacrifices a digit in the defense of our home. It seems fitting. Cats have nine lives; some people now have nine fingers. Personally, I’d rather keep the fingers and let the cats wander inside for half a minute before throwing them back outside. Principiis obsta.
Such is our sense of humor that I was dared to include her pyrrhic victory in this week’s column. Worst case scenario? I could find myself sleeping on the couch for a few days, which is like camping — just with all ten fingers.

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Of course, I am succeeding (but not replacing) the inestimable Mr. James K. Fitzpatrick for the First Teachers column. Please feel free to send any correspondence for First Teachers to Shaun Kenney, c/o First Teachers, 5289 Venable Rd., Kents Store, VA 23084 — or if it is easier, simply send me an e-mail with First Teachers in the subject line to: svk2cr@virginia.edu.

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