Thursday, April 24, 2014

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Providence College Withdraws Speaking Invitation to Same-Sex Marriage Advocate

Providence College has canceled a lecture featuring a same-sex marriage advocate who bills himself as “the gay moralist.”

Providence’s provost, Hugh F. Lena, reportedly cited the U.S. bishops’ document “Catholics in Political Life,” which states that “Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles” in cancelling the scheduled lecture by Wayne State University philosophy professor Dr. John Corvino, according to The New York Times.

Corvino’s appearance at Providence had, according to Corvino, been co-sponsored by nine departments and programs including the Black Studies Department, the Development of Western Civilization Program, The Feinstein Institute, the Global Studies program, the Philosophy Department, the Pre-Law Program, the Public and Community Service Department, the Sociology Department and the Women’s Studies Program.

In the past, Corvino has called Church teaching on sexuality, “Stubborn, perhaps–even foolish – but consistent” and bemoaned, “If only the Pope could see the weakness of his own stance.”

He said of then Pope Benedict XVI:

“Upon his election as pope, Benedict described himself as ‘a simple and humble laborer in the vineyard of the Lord.’ It is hard to recognize humility in a man who insists that anyone who rejects his particular religious worldview must therefore endorse relativism and egoism. It is still harder to recognize it in someone who now claims to speak directly for God.”

Dr. Corvino has debated the issue of same-sex marriage on campuses, including Catholic ones such as the University of Notre Dame, but this event was reportedly originally scheduled for him to speak alone. Just last week, organizers of the event added Dana Dillon, a theologian at Providence College, to present a response to Dr. Corvino’s lecture. 

But Lena told the Times that he believed the event was too one-sided and that it could be rescheduled in the future as a balanced debate. Lena, according to The New York Times, said that College policy “dictates that that both sides of a controversial issue are to be presented fairly and equally.”

Corvino seemed to taunt the provost in a post on his own website, saying, “It also does not speak well of Provost Lena’s confidence in his philosophy and theology departments that he believes that no one there can persuasively articulate the Catholic position on marriage with a week’s notice.”

This decision has predictably caused some outrage.

Fred Drogula, a history professor and president of the faculty senate at Providence, called Lena’s decision “inappropriate” because the bishops’ document cited by Lena applied mainly to politicians.

Corvino, on his website, also called Provost Lena’s invocation of “Catholics in Political Life” “misplaced,” because he claimed the document only applies to politicians. “By contrast, I am an academic speaker,” he said.

But Dr. Corvino explicitly told the Times he was excited about speaking at Providence, not as an academic pursuit but as a public policy advocate. He reportedly said, “I want to convince them that same-sex marriage is not only possible, but is also a good thing, for the couple and good for society at large.”

The bishops have not regarded the portion of “Catholics in Political Life” which bans honors and platforms for those who oppose Catholic teaching as applying only to politicians. Last year, Bishop Robert McManusof Worcester, Mass., cited the document in opposing Anna Maria College’s invitation to Victoria Kennedy, widow of Sen. Edward Kennedy but not herself a politician. In 2009, then-Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., boycotted a dinner honoring abortion-rights advocate Kerry Kennedy. And the prior year, Bishop Lawrence Brandt of Greensburg, Penn., opposed a campus lecture by law professor Douglas Kmiec, because he “distorts Catholic teaching by making it synonymous with his own personal views.”

Catholic Education Daily is an online publication of The Cardinal Newman Society. Click here for email updates and free online membership with The Cardinal Newman Society.

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