Friday, December 5, 2014

Can you recommend a good Catholic University?

Dear Rev. Know-it-all,

Can you recommend a good Catholic University?  Little Leroy has finally decided to leave home. He is only 53 and has never been away from home, and so of course we want send him to a good Catholic College where he will be safe and his brain will not be fried by strange new ideas. 

Louie and Alma M. Whiffenpoof

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Whiffenpoof,

My sainted mother always said if you haven’t anything good to say then say nothing at all.   (Imagine the sound of crickets chirping)……………………As for new ideas? Very few Catholic institutions of higher learning, so called, have had a new idea since 1965.

I remember my college days at Crayola University here in Frostbite Falls.  I took a philosophy course offered by Dr. Siegfried Hansen. He said, “Zuh great Kvestion of 20th zenchury philosophy…” In English that is “The great question of 20th century philosophy is….. ‘Why is there something instead of nothing?’” 

I raised my hand and said “Because there is no nothing! Nothing cannot 'be' by definition.”  To which he responded, “Wrong!”  and continued his lecture pacing back and forth expounding in a soothing monotone. I dropped that class like a bad habit. 

In our times education has gone from bad to worse in most places, especially in the liberal arts. I know. I am an aging hippie who taught at a university for 25 years. Don’t ask questions. We young radicals asked the questions and figured out the right answers that our parents and teachers were hiding from us. You young folks don’t have to ask any questions. We tenured revolutionaries will tell you what to believe.

I have just heard a wonderful example of this enlightened attitude that I and my Aquarian generation have tried to instill in younger minds, now middle-aged, who are teaching minds yet younger than they how to petrify their own brains.

It seems that a male studentgot into it with his ethics instructor, Cheryl Abbate,   when she made a list of ethical questions on the blackboard regarding philosophy and modern political questions such as gay rights, gun rights, and the death penalty.

 “We had a discussion on all of them – except gay rights,” reported the student.  “She erased that line from the board and said, ‘We all agree on this.’” 

End of discussion. 

After class he told the teacher that he thought they should have included the issue of gay rights. Long story short, she told him that, “You can have whatever opinions you want but I will tell you right now – in this class homophobic comments, racist comments, sexist comments will not be tolerated,” she said. ‘If you don’t like it, you are more than free to drop this class.” The student dropped the class.

“I understand that other people have very different views than I do and that’s understandable, but when a student is not allowed to have an open discussion in a discussion-type class on a specific issue because it’s regarded as homophobic – that really irks me,” said the student. 

The teacher defined ethical behavior in such a way as to restrict speech in a university classroom, a Catholic University classroom. Years ago I wrote an article about the transvestite beauty contest at DePeter University, a local Frostbite Falls Catholic University. The event was featured on the front page of the student newspaper. The gala event ended with a drag ball in one of the university dormitories on campus. The president of the school called me upset, not that I had questioned the wisdom of having such an event at a Catholic University, but that I had made the event public and upset one of his donors. It was not important to the reverend father that he was raising funds under false pretenses nor that he was allowing behavior inappropriate to life at a Catholic institution. He was simply upset by the bad publicity. The most astonishing part of my conversation was that he insisted that he could do nothing about it, neither the full-color full cover picture of a very scrawny boy in a wig, makeup and a rather skimpy women’s bikini bathing suit, nor the transvestite dance in a university-owned dorm, because of (get this) academic freedom. 

I don’t know if DePeter University still has the transvestite beauty contest and drag ball, but they do now offer a minor in queer studies. I wonder if the reasons for Catholic teaching about same-sex teaching are highlighted and clearly explained in this bold, new academic department. (By the way I am not making any of this up, except for the name of the school, whose real name I bet you could never guess.)  

This, I believe, is the heart of the matter. Academic freedom in some places means the freedom to discuss only what the new pseudo-orthodoxy demands. The same academic freedom that allows behavior which for two thousand years has been thought contrary to the Gospel prohibits discussion of what has been perceived for the same twenty centuries as the obvious meaning of the Gospel.  

This is crazy. To say that the academic freedom permits boys to think they are girls but forbids other boys to say they think that is bizarre. It is just as bizarre as saying that sex has nothing to do with the birth of children; just as bizarre as saying hormone shots and mutilation will turn a man into a woman or vice versa; just as bizarre as pretending that ejecting a student with a varying opinion from class is a form of tolerance.

If you look at human physiology, the nature of gender is quite clear. If you look at the political correctness of our time and the convoluted definition of academic freedom that forbids students to express the teachings of the Church in a Catholic university philosophy course in this age of new-speak tolerance, it is clear that we are a religious culture that has lost its mind and lost its way. We no longer have the right to call ourselves Catholic — that is universal — because we have cut ourselves off from those who have gone before. We live only in the present age, not the past and the future. Unlike our Lord, we are no longer the same “yesterday, today and tomorrow.” We are just a fad. We may be modern, but we can no longer claim to embrace the fullness of humanity.  We cease to be Catholic in the most basic sense.

Human beings have experienced sexual dysfunction since Adam and Eve left the garden, but as far as I know this is the first generation to define dysfunction as normal. The only people not welcome in church are those who have not sinned and thus have no need of a savior. People with their moral shortcoming and their disordered appetites are welcome in the church; the embrace of Christ extends to all, except to those who say I have not sinned. For a Catholic sin is not the greatest problem. The greatest problem is a refusal to recognize sin in oneself. This kind of pride is called hubris and it invites disaster.  

This aging hippie recalls an old Bob Dylan song from 50 years ago “A hard rain’s a gonna’ fall.”

Rev. Know-it-all

P.S. To my fellow ageing hippies, “Power, brother” (I mean I hope your electric scooter has enough battery power. Keep on truckin’)

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