Wednesday, June 10, 2009

USF Prof: “Calling USF a Catholic school is like Saying Hillary Clinton is a Carmelite Nun"

The (Jesuit) University of San Francisco is on the cover of the June 12, 2009 "Catholic San Francisco" newpaper:

"USF honors dissenting South African bishop"
By Michael Vick"

The headline refers to the honoring of Bishop Kevin Dowling of South Africa, but the article itself brings overdue attention to USF's "Catholic character." "A Shepherd's Voice" first reported this story back on May, 3, 2009, when USF announced this year's commencement speakers, and we covered it again on May 23 and May 24, following the commencement exercises. There is not much in the article that will be news to our regular readers, but that it is being reported on the cover of the Archdiocesan newspaper is new, and welcome.

"Jesuit Father Stephen Privett, president of the University of San Francisco, stirred up controversy May 22 with his presentation of an honorary degree to a South African bishop who has defied the Vatican by promoting the use of condoms in some cases...."

"Bishop Dowling first drew public attention in 2001 when a reporter asked him his opinion on condom usage to fight HIV. His response drew the ire of the papal nuncio to South Africa and his own bishops' conference, though Bishop Dowling has received no official reprimand and continues to serve as bishop in good standing."

From the 2001 statement of Bishop Dowling that Mr. Vick is referring to:

"Abstinence before marriage and faithfulness in a marriage is beyond the realm of possibility here. The issue is to protect life. That must be our fundamental goal.' Drawing attention to the especially difficult plight of women in the traditionally male-dominated societies of his diocese he continued, 'My passion is for the women. I'm in that corner.' About the African people, he says, 'They must use condoms,' maintaining his stance despite the Vatican’s continued opposition to such a policy”. Emphasis added. That sounds like His Excellency does not have much faith in his flock.

When we heard Bishop Dowling was to be honored, we asked: "Dare we say that Bishop Dowling is being honored because of this position, not in spite of it?"

Lo and behold, when Lilian Dube, Assistant Professor of Theology and Religious Studies at the University introduced him she directly referred to his statement on condom use, and praised him for his "courageous stance." More from the CSF story:

"The university is no stranger to controversial speakers and events. San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, a vocal proponent of same-sex marriage, was its May 23 graduate commencement speaker.

And when Harris was introduced by Jeffrey S. Brand, the Dean of USF Law School, he said: "She represents the best of what this great University is all about."

In defending the University's actions, Fr. Privett said:

"The Jesuit said Catholic universities should provide the Church with a forum for changing society constructively through conversation.

'Catholic universities show the country a more engaging model of change than the defensive ‘We won't talk to anybody who doesn't agree with us' model,' Father Privett said. 'The gospel calls all of us to be a leaven in society. You can't leaven society if you stay in a drawer.'"

Standing alone, the first statement is true. That is what Catholic universities should do. But Fr. Privett is implying that that is what USF does. But If USF wanted to provide the Church with a forum for changing society, why is it a "Catholic" University with no graduate program in Theology? What they do is to provide society an opportunity to change the Church.

The second statement is a straw-man. The objection is not to USF's speaking and acting, but to the content of USF's speech and actions. As for avoiding the 'We won't talk to anybody who doesn't agree with us' model, why, whatever did happen to the Ignatius Institute?

Fr. Privett badly need some new material.

But at least one professor at USF has had just about enough:

"Others, including at least one USF professor, believe the school’s Catholic character has eroded under Father Privett’s leadership. Philosophy professor Raymond Dennehy said the dialogue Father Privett said he hopes to encourage is presented in a one-sided manner on campus, with most guest speakers dissenting against Church teaching.

“Dialogue is having speakers both pro and con,” Dennehy said. “This is giving an award, and you can bet your bottom dollar that (USF) would not do that if (the speaker) were anti-gay marriage.”

He's correct, and USF has had no trouble honoring those who are pro same-sex "marriage." The USF School of Law has twice honored the attorneys who brought the case which overturned Proposition 22 back in June 2008--and which has resulted in 18,000 counterfeit "marriages" being recognized by the state of California.

"Dennehy said the university has set out to form a Catholic identity separate from the Church’s teaching on issues like abortion and homosexuality, citing examples like the invitation of Pelosi and the appointment to head of campus ministry of Jesuit Father Donal Godfrey, an outspoken proponent of gay-friendly theology."

Fr. Donal Godfrey, SJ Executive Director of Campus Ministry at USF,
attending the 2003 San Francisco Gay Pride Parade. (photo courtesy Most Holy Redeemer Parish website)

Professor Dennehy continued:

“Calling USF a Catholic school is like saying Hillary Clinton is a Carmelite nun,” Dennehy said. “USF has chosen to go its own way, and there is no one here to stop them. What is Catholic teaching? What is the so-called ‘institutional Church’"

Posted by Gibbons J. Cooney


Anonymous said...

There is only one solution . . . suppress the jesuits a la Pope Clement.

Gabriel Austin said...

Father Privett is being disingenuous [50 cent word for deceitful]. There is no possibility of dialogue at a commencement exercise. Indeed, commencement means going forth into the world. By that time, the students should have learned what they should learn.
All this is just the Jebbies trying to make themselves important. They ain't

Anonymous said...

I want to thank my one time prof Raymond Dennehy for introducing me to Logic, which was food and drink to me at the time and which has served as a foundation of my intellectual growth ever since my freshman year at USF. He rocks.