MANASSAS, Va. — The Cardinal Newman Society has released the most comprehensive report to date on the extent to which Catholic campuses have embraced contemporary trends that Pope John Paul II has called the culture of death.
The Register received a preliminary copy of the report, “The Culture of Death on Catholic Campuses: A Five-Year Review.”
More than eight months in the making, the 50-page report carefully documents the various inroads made by advocates of abortion, contraception, euthanasia and sexual promiscuity at Catholic colleges since 1999.
It focuses on seven different subject areas. They include student activities and internships, campus speakers and honorees, college officials and employees, health services, college websites, abortion advocates targeting college students, and the play “The Vagina Monologues.”
Much of the information provided in the report was collected by the Cardinal Newman Society in the normal course of its activity. For example, the society provides an annual list of inappropriate commencement speakers and makes available a resource of alternative appropriate Catholic speakers. The document lists nearly 200 cases where inappropriate public figures were asked to lecture or receive special honors at Catholic colleges.
Monica Hellwig, president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, strongly objected to the report. “The speakers that they object to, almost all of them, are people who are personally against abortion but have hesitation about legislation that they think cannot be enforced in a pluralistic society,” she said. “They have difficulty balancing the rights and the autonomy of a woman against the rights of the fetus.”
But both Pope John Paul II and the U.S. bishops have also addressed the issue. On Dec. 5, 2002, the Pope spoke of the Catholic character of abortion-promoting universities.
“Clearly,” the Holy Father said, “university centers that do not respect the laws of the Church and the teachings of the magisterium, particularly in the areas of bioethics, cannot be endorsed with the character of a Catholic university.”
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has also said as much.
“No Catholic college or university can promote abortion, period,” said Cathy Cleaver Ruse, director of planning and information for the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities. “Norms adopted by the U.S. bishops and approved in 2001 by the Holy See require Catholic schools to commit to be faithful to the teachings of the Church.”
Some of the incidents recorded by the Newman Society include appearances by NARAL Pro-Choice America president Kate Michelman at Boston College's law school, radical feminist Gloria Steinem at Fairfield University and National Organization for Women president Kim Gandy at Loyola University of New Orleans.
St. Anselm College hosted seven pro-abortion candidates for its final debate before the New Hampshire Democratic primary in January, and presumptive nominee Sen. John Kerry gave a major economic address at Georgetown University in April.
Shock and Dismay
The co-author and lead researcher on the report, Erin Butcher, has been at work compiling the data since September.
“As a recent Catholic convert, I am shocked and dismayed by what we found within Catholic institutions,” Butcher said. “I hope that appropriate steps will be taken to clarify colleges' Catholic identity one way or the other.”
The complete report will be posted on the organization's web-site (www.cardinalnewmansociety. org) and will also be distributed to U.S. bishops, college presidents, trustees, faculty, Catholic lay leaders and the media.
“By putting all of the information in one place, we hope to galvanize nationwide support for the genuine renewal of Catholic colleges,” said Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society and a co-author of the report.
The student activities and internships section of the report documents instances where Catholic campus newspapers have refused to accept pro-life advertisements and inserts as well as cases where Catholic colleges have funded pro-abortion student clubs and offered internships with pro-abortion organizations.
In 2003, for example, College of the Holy Cross in Wocester, Mass., and Loyola University of Chicago refused to accept a paid insert from Human Life Alliance that promoted chastity and opposed abortion. The report also cites Boston College law school's student activity fund for supporting the pro-abortion law student club, the Reproductive Choice Coalition, and the psychology department at the College of St. Scholastica and the department of sociology at DePaul University for offering internships at the local Planned Parenthood office.
Following the California Supreme Court decision regarding contraceptive coverage, the Cardinal Newman Society conducted a telephone survey of human-resources personnel at the 13 Catholic colleges in California.
Despite the U.S. bishops' “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services,” which forbid the promotion of or participation in contraception and warn against cooperating with other services that violate Catholic teaching, the report documents that at least nine Catholic colleges' employee medical plans in California pay for contraceptives. They include Dominican University of California, Loyola Marymount University and the University of San Diego.
The report also documents cases where Catholic universities refer students to organizations such as Planned Parenthood. For instance, Nazareth College's campus ministry recommends students “serve” as Planned Parenthood “clinic escorts,” according to the Newman Society report.
Georgetown University's web-site referred students to local abortion clinics, it said. In December 2002, the Register reported on the University of San Francisco's web-site directing students to two abortion businesses and a non-Catholic abortion counseling center rather than to the eight pro-life pregnancy-resource centers and maternity homes located in the city. The website failed to provide a link to the Gabriel Project at St. Ignatius Church located on the University of San Francisco campus.
As a result of the publicity, the University of San Francisco, as well as Georgetown University and Boston College, removed their offensive web pages.
But students are also endangered by health services that do not comply with Catholic teaching by referring students to Planned Parenthood and other resources for contraceptives and abortion, the report claims. It says “emergency contraception,” an abortifacient, is made available to students by the College of Santa Fe, N.M., and Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Mo.
Cardinal Newman Society also claims to have identified several college officials and faculty members with ties to culture of death organizations including the Death With Dignity National Center, the Compassion in Dying Federation and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Pro-abortion politicians on the faculties of Catholic colleges include Carol Moseley Braun at DePaul University, Geraldine Ferraro at Georgetown University and Leon Panetta at Santa Clara University.
“The Cardinal Newman Society has questioned student activities,” Hellwig said. “For the Cardinal Newman Society the big issues continue to be the sexual issues. The big issues for the Church now are the social-justice issues — what is happening to the poor in our country and the world and the violence that has erupted around the world.”
Hellwig also questioned the Cardinal Newman Society's authority.
“It's never been clear what authority the Cardinal Newman Society claims, because they are not directly connected with a college and are not represented on the bishops' or presidents' committee that deals with the colleges,” she said.
“We're not looking to have authority over the schools,” Reilly responded. “We as Catholics bow to the legitimate teaching authority of the Church and we're asking Catholic colleges to do the same.”
Ten bishops serve as ecclesiastical advisers to the Cardinal Newman Society. Among them is Scranton, Pa., Bishop Joseph Martino. Although he was unable to comment on the Cardinal Newman Society's report, he told the Register he “supports full, authentic and explicit Catholic identity in all Catholic schools and [is committed] to working insistently on that goal.”
While few have seen the report, preliminary reaction to it has been strong.
“Catholic universities, as institutions with their origin at the heart of the Church, have an obligation to uphold the culture of life,” said Tom Harmon, director of membership and campus leadership with the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. “With the evidence from this report, though, it seems that not only is the resolve of these institutions to stand for the [unborn] weak but that many of them are actually bastions of the culture of death.”
“It is providential that this report is coming out at this time while the courtroom trials continue on partial-birth abortion,” said Father Frank Pavone, president of Priests for Life. “On campus, people are always talking on the level of abstractions. That's where the disconnect is. My challenge to those who would justify these things on campus is that they read those courtroom transcripts where abortion doctors are describing abortion in sworn testimony.”
Although the Cardinal Newman Society report is filled with disheartening news, Harmon remains hopeful.
“Through the work of faithful Catholics among the students, administrators, faculty and alumni of these colleges as well as the work of organizations like the Cardinal Newman Society and a lot of prayer,” he said, “perhaps Catholic universities will be persuaded to rejoin the battle for the culture of life.”
Tim Drake writes from St. Cloud, Minnesota.
- May 2-8, 2004