Hugh F. Lena, the Provost of Providence College, has announced that a debate between John Corvino, a noted proponent of same-sex marriage, and Sherif Girgis, one of the co-authors of the book, What Is Marriage?: Man and Woman: A Defense (see CWR’s June 26th review) will take place next spring. This follows on the heels of Dr. Lena’s cancellation of an appearance by Corvino at Providence. In his message, posted on September 25th for Providence faculty, staff and student, Dr. Lena stated
The Administration’s decision to cancel the event had nothing to do with Dr. Corvino. We were concerned, rather, that the event had strayed from what had originally been proposed – a presentation of philosophical and legal arguments in support of same-sex marriage by Dr. Corvino opposite a presentation of opposing arguments by a similar person of national repute.
As most of you know, Dr. Dana Dillon, a highly respected and accomplished member of our Theology Department, was asked at the last minute to participate in the event. She graciously agreed to do so. However, the Administration felt that it was unfair to ask Dr. Dillon, a theologian, to debate opposite someone who would be presenting philosophical and legal arguments, not theological ones. Just as our cancellation of the original event had nothing to do with Dr. Corvino, neither did we mean to imply that Dr. Dillon was incapable of debating the issue. I apologize to Dr. Dillon if our intent was not clear or was misinterpreted in any way. Along those same lines, I also want to apologize to Dr. Christopher Arroyo who was instrumental in working to organize the event and who continues to be engaged in its rescheduling. In hindsight, we should have announced that the September 26 event was merely being postponed, not cancelled, until we could be sure that it went forward in the format in which it was originally proposed.
As Anne Hendershott noted in a post two days ago on this blog, Dr. Lena has been roundly criticized from both inside and outside the Providence campus for his refusal to allow a pro-same-sex marriage presentation take place without a proper response:
Some on the faculty at Providence have protested the decision. According to an article published earlier this week in The New York Times, Fred K Drogula, president of the faculty senate at Providence, said he could not find a college policy dictating that every lecture must have an equal opposing viewpoint. Further, Drogula said it was “inappropriate” to invoke the bishops’ document, “Catholics in Political Life,” because it applied primarily to politicians.
Professor Drogula is wrong about that. The bishops’ document clearly states: “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” (emphasis in original).
Providing Professor Corvino a platform without an opposing voice on Catholic teachings on same sex marriage would suggest that Providence supports same sex marriage—something that is contrary to Church teachings. The Providence Provost made the right decision.