Sunday, August 24, 2008

Catholic school defends denial for pro-choice prof

Here is the update on the situtation at USD.

SAN DIEGO—University of San Diego administrators rejected faculty efforts Thursday to restore a prestigious teaching position to a theologian who is a prominent figure in an abortion rights organization.
The Catholic school withdrew its appointment of Rosemary Radford Ruether in July because she serves on the board of Catholics for Choice.

Administrators reaffirmed that decision Thursday despite a petition with more than 2,000 signatures, including 54 faculty members, organizers said. The petition asked the school to restore the offer or allow Ruether to visit campus for a week and give a lecture on academic freedom.

"We are deeply concerned by this turn of events both because it is insulting to Professor Rosemary Radford Ruether and because of what it portends for academic freedom in a Catholic institution," the petition reads.

The 7,000-student university defended its decision to withdraw its offer for the Monsignor John R. Portman Chair in Roman Catholic Theology for the upcoming fall semester.

Ruether accepted the offer in the spring, but the previous dean of the College of Arts and Sciences failed to get approval from the provost as he should have, said school spokeswoman Pamela Gray Payton said. The provost should have made the offer, based on the dean's recommendation.

"Her position on the (Catholics for Choice) board is obviously very much in contrast with Roman Catholic theology and, from our perspective, did not seem appropriate for this chair," Gray Payton said. Ruether, 71, is a visiting professor of theology at Claremont Graduate School, a prolific author and a columnist for National Catholic Reporter. She taught previously at Garrett Evangelical Seminary in Evanston, Ill.

Ruether said the dispute reflects a larger debate in Catholic institutions about how to treat hot-button issues, including gay and lesbian rights and ordination of women priests.

"There's just a huge conflict going on between whether people can discuss controversial issues or whether you can only give the official position," she said.

U.S. bishops have increasingly emphasized a duty of all Catholics to oppose abortion. In 2004, responding partly to the presidential election, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops warned that Catholic schools should not honor or give any platform to "those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles."

Pope Benedict XVI took up the issue in his visit to the United States earlier this year. He told leaders of America's Roman Catholic colleges and universities that academic freedom has "great value" for the schools, but it does not justify promoting positions that violate the Catholic faith.

Ruether's appointment drew sharp criticism from anti-abortion activists after it was announced on the university's Web site., which was founded by Toronto-based Campaign Life Coalition, wrote in July that Ruether has "a rather undisguised rejection of and antipathy toward Christianity, especially the Catholic Faith."

John-Henry Westen, editor of, welcomed the reversal.

"It's a happy ending that a Catholic university was willing to stand up for Catholic rights," he said Thursday. "It's unfortunate but hopefully in the future people will do their homework a little better. She was very public about her positions."

University of San Diego was not influenced by outside groups, Gray Payton said. The anonymous donor of the $2 million university chair did not offer an opinion, she said.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My wife is a USD grad. They've been wandering in the wilderness for many years, if you know what I mean. Perhaps they can make their way back to the Catholic faith.

It's a small step, but maybe the first of many for the Toreros.