Pope Francis is the latest unwitting pawn to be used by dissident Catholic educators to attempt to justify policies and beliefs that are against the Church’s moral teachings.
While the pope clearly has not changed any Church teaching, some professors at Catholic colleges, many in the media, and others are pretending he did. They are attempting to cast in a negative light the recent actions taken by some Catholic colleges to strengthen their catholicity, according to Insider Higher Ed.
Last month, Pope Francis said, “I am no one to judge,” in response a question about priests with a homosexual inclination. He also warned against Catholics being “obsessed” with Church teachings on contraception, abortion and sexual matters at the expense of charity and mercy.
In a recent lead, The New York Times attempted to use the pope’s comments as a counterpoint to Loyola Marymount University considering dropping elective abortion coverage from its health insurance policy. They wrote:
Not three weeks have passed since Pope Francis said the church had grown “obsessed” with abortion, declaring, “We have to find a new balance.” But on the campus of Loyola Marymount University, overlooking this city’s west side, a fight over abortion now threatens to rip the school asunder.
This attempt to put distance between the pope and some Catholic colleges isn’t just occurring in the media, however. Some Catholic college professors are attempting the same.
"It's somewhat strange, given the pope's recent comments about not getting caught up in that kind of minutiae," said Nora Murphy, associate professor of psychology at Loyola Marymount University, of an attempt to drop abortion coverage from the insurance plan.
Similar lines of thought have been witnessed on other Catholic college campuses as well. One signatory on a petition urging Santa Clara University to maintain abortion coverage for school faculty and employees, wrote, “Framing this decision [to drop abortion coverage in the university’s health insurance policy] in the context of the inspiration that is going through the Catholic Church by Pope Francis's leadership is particularly cynical.”
Fred Drogula, professor of history at Providence College, said he believed the timing between Providence College’s decision to cancel a pro-same-sex marriage speaker and the pope’s comments was “very unusual.”
"We did think it was somehow incongruous with Catholic colleges normally being willing to engage with people," he said, adding that the more open approach suggested by the pope "doesn't seem to be what the administration is doing here."
John Corvino, the same-sex marriage advocate whose appearance was cancelled by Providence and later rescheduled as a debate, said in a statement, “Pope Francis, the Catholic Church’s new leader, has been justly celebrated for his welcoming tone toward gays and lesbians. Notwithstanding my abrupt dis-invitation, I remain hopeful that Providence College may soon better reflect that tone.”
Michael Galligan-Stierle, president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, told Inside Higher Ed that the recent actions by Catholic colleges to embrace their Catholic identity are very much in line with the pope’s recent comments. “Pope Francis is reexamining how the Church demonstrates gospel values in contemporary society,” he said. “Following his lead, Catholic colleges and universities are reexamining how they more clearly demonstrate their commitment to gospel values today.”
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