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Stay consistent with criticisms

| Sunday, February 13, 2005

Writing in the Feb. 10 issue of the South Bend Tribune, Bishop John D’Arcy objects to the University of Notre Dame’s “Queer Film Festival.” Bishop D’Arcy complains that presenters at the symposium “have a history of … openly opposing church teaching” about the morality of homosexual acts. He further claims because the seminar does not include presentation of Catholic teaching on the issue of homosexuality, the rights of the Catholic Church are violated and the rights of parents of Notre Dame students who find the seminar offense are violated as well (he does not mention the rights of Notre Dame students themselves – perhaps he doesn’t think students have relevant rights?).

As the bishop is surely aware, Notre Dame hosts a wide variety of seminars, workshops and speaker series each year. Many, though not all, of these events are devoted to topics on which the church has a specific position. Some events focus exclusively on Catholic teachings. Others include Catholic teaching in dialogue with other views. And still other events do not include any presentation of church teaching. Events of all of these kinds are well advertised, attended by those interested in the topics and contribute to the diversity of intellectual discussion on campus.

Why does Bishop D’Arcy not speak out about any of the dozens and dozens of other events each year which do not present the teaching of the church? Why does he not speak out against other events featuring speakers who openly oppose various church teachings? My own department sponsors a variety of events concerning matters about which the church has an official position, including a variety of topics in ethics, issues concerning the metaphysics of the human person and various topics in philosophical theology. At many of these events, church teaching is not a part of the event and, furthermore, featured speakers present viewpoints in sharp opposition to church teachings. We certainly do not require that church teaching be presented at every event. Do these events violate the rights of the church and parents of students? Do they constitute an abuse of academic freedom? Where is the outrage of the bishop? One can only wonder why the bishop is silent about these matters except when homosexuality is a topic. Perhaps the bishop thinks the issue of the morality of homosexual conduct is centrally important to his church in a way that, for example, life and death decision making, justice, salvation and the nature of Christ are not?

Ted A. Warfield

associate professor

Philosophy department

Feb. 11