Dr. Lena and Providence College made the right decision

The decision by Hugh F. Lena, the Provost of Providence College—a Catholic college in Rhode Island—to cancel a lecture in support of same sex marriage has infuriated some on the faculty.  While the Provost offered to reschedule the lecture to be sure that an opposing viewpoint on authentic Catholic teachings on marriage could be presented, he cited a document published by the American bishops in 2004, “Catholics in Political Life,” to support his decision.
The lecture was to be given by John Corvino, chairman of the Philosophy department at Wayne State University in Detroit, and author of a new book, What is Wrong with Homosexuality? (Oxford University Press, 2013). Covino has given the lecture on many college campuses throughout the country, including some Catholic college campuses.

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.
But, what is even more interesting is that The New York Times reported on this story at all. The Times does not usually become concerned with regional stories like this. But, it is likely that publishing such a story gave Times reporter Laurie Goodstein yet another opportunity to discuss (and spin) the controversial interview with Pope Francis that was published last week in America. In her article on Providence situation, Goodstein reminded readers that Pope Francis warned Catholics to refrain “from frequent condemnations of homosexuality, abortion and birth control, and emphasizing mercy and love.” Her piece was the perfect opportunity for Goodstein to reiterate how “obsessed” too many conservative Catholics supposedly are on these issues. In the incendiary—and misleading—title of Goodstein’s previous Times article, readers learn that “Pope Says Church is ‘Obsessed with Gays, Abortion, Birth Control.” In fact, the Pope never said that at all.
The truth is that Pope Francis never said that any Catholics were “obsessed” with same-sex marriage and abortion.  Steven Greydanus of the National Catholic Register has pointed out that the only time the word “obsessed” is used in his interview is when Pope Francis said:  “The Church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.” And the Times changed its headlines on the story at least twice, as Greydanus quips, using “an inflammatory headline, a more moderate one, and then a crazy, go-for-broke moonbat insane headline.
It seems likely that The New York Times may be more obsessed with the Catholic Church’s teachings on these issues than most Catholics. At least Dr. Lena is upholding Church teaching, even while misinformation and confusion abounds in the newsroom.

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About Anne Hendershott 101 Articles
Anne Hendershott is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio.  She is the author of The Politics of Envy (Sophia Books, 2020)