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Should Catholic School Offer Homosexual "Marriage" Course?

06/04/2010 Comments (41)

That’s the question that the board of regents of Seton Hall University is asking itself.

You see, one of their associate professors—W. King Mott—is scheduled to teach a course on homosexual “marriage” this fall.

According to The Setonian,

A course on gay marriage will be offered by the Women and Gender studies department next semester at Seton Hall University.

W. King Mott, an associate professor of political science and a member of the Women and Gender Studies program, will teach the course.

The class is not an advocacy course, according to Mott. Rather, it teaches the issue of gay marriage from an academic perspective.

“It is one thing to say ‘I am for or against gay marriage,’” Mott said. “It’s another to actually understand the issue.”

The course will teach various cultural perspectives of marriage, such as Eurocentric and Asian views, Mott said.

The course will also include an analysis of the contemporary political situation regarding gay marriage, such as Proposition 8 in California. Additionally, it will include a look at which states allow and prohibit gay marriage and what that means, Mott said.

Finally, students taking the course will write an analysis on gay marriage from a perspective they choose after they have been educated on the issue.

Also according to The Setonian,

Mott, however, does not think it is unusual for a Catholic university to offer a class such as this one.

“The best schools offer controversial classes,” Mott said. “The class is not about advocacy, but about studying the issue from an academic perspective. It’s about awareness.”

Mott said he did his own research for the class, and he also writes and publishes on queer theory.

Queer theory is the “academic study of anything from an outsider’s point of view,” Mott said.

It is not just about homosexuals, but can involve anything from civil rights to women’s rights.

This is not the first time a class has been offered at Seton Hall incorporating aspects of queer theory.

Mott has also taught classes on political movements of the 20th century, which includes LGBT movements and women’s movements.

However, this is the first time a class exclusively considered “queer” has been offered on campus, Mott said.

Depending on student responses the class may be offered in future semesters.

Not so fast.

It isn’t only student response that will have a role in determining whether the course will be offered in future semesters . . . or in the coming one.

According to Newark Archbishop John J. Myers,

As the shepherd of the Archdiocese of Newark, I am responsible for maintaining the Catholic identity of all Church institutions and organizations within the Archdiocese, and for ensuring authentic and orthodox Catholic teaching in all educational institutions and parishes. That responsibility extends to our Catholic elementary and high schools, to our parish religious education programs for both adults and children, and to the Catholic colleges and university operating within my jurisdiction.

Recent news that a course on same-sex marriage is proposed for the fall schedule at Seton Hall University troubles me greatly. 

The Church teaches - and has continued to teach for two millennia - that marriage is a union of man and woman, reflecting the complementarity of the sexes.  That teaching precedes any societal connotation of marriage, and is based on natural law.

This proposed course seeks to promote as legitimate a train of thought that is contrary to what the Church teaches.  As a result, the course is not in synch with Catholic teaching.

And there’s more to the story. New Jersey’s Star-Ledger, writes concerning the professor scheduled to teach the course,

Mott, who is gay, has clashed with the church and university officials before. In 2005, he was demoted from his post as associate dean of Seton Hall’s College of Arts and Sciences after his letter challenging the church’s view on homosexuality was published in The Star-Ledger.

School officials objected to Mott signing the letter with his Seton Hall title, causing confusion about whether he was speaking on behalf of the university. The letter said the church unfairly scapegoats gay men for the clergy sex abuse scandal.

Faculty members protested Mott’s demotion, arguing school officials violated his academic freedom when they punished him for writing a letter. But Seton Hall’s provost upheld the demotion and Mott, who has tenure, remained on campus as a prominent professor.

He currently serves as the chairman of university’s faculty senate and as one of 12 members of the search committee looking for Seton Hall’s next president.

So it’s interesting that when the board of regents met Thursday, that they neither reached decisions on whether to allow the homosexual marriage course to go forward nor announced a decision on whether to hire the sole “remaining finalist” to be the university’s next president—the remaining finalist being a longtime friend of Myers.

“Who is that?” you ask.

It’s Msgr. Stuart Swetland.

Swetland, a Navy veteran and Rhodes Scholar, was raised a Lutheran and converted to Catholicism. Ordained in 1991, he has been a local parish priest and spent more than a decade as director of the Catholic student centers at Bradley University and the University of Illinois.

He is also the host of “Catholicism on Campus,” a show on the religion-themed cable television network EWTN.

So interesting things are happening on the campus of Seton Hall University.

Just how neutral do you imagine the proposed course would be? And should a Catholic school be offering a “neutral” course on an intrinsic evil (or rather, in this case, an intrinsic impossibility that involves an intrinsic evil)?

What are your thoughts?

Filed under academic freedom, catholic schools, homosexual "marriage", homosexuality, john myers, king mott, seton hall university, stuart swetland

About Jimmy Akin

Jimmy Akin
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Jimmy was born in Texas, grew up nominally Protestant, but at age 20 experienced a profound conversion to Christ. Planning on becoming a Protestant pastor or seminary professor, he started an intensive study of the Bible. But the more he immersed himself in Scripture the more he found to support the Catholic faith. Eventually, he entered the Catholic Church. His conversion story, "A Triumph and a Tragedy," is published in Surprised by Truth. Besides being an author, Jimmy is a Senior Apologist at Catholic Answers, a contributing editor to This Rock magazine, and a weekly guest on "Catholic Answers Live."