• September 1, 2014

Marquette U. Professors Criticize Withdrawal of Job Offer to Lesbian Scholar

Marquette University has withdrawn an employment offer it made to a prospective new dean for its College of Arts and Sciences, provoking sharp criticism from several faculty members who see the move as a blow to academic freedom and diversity at the Jesuit institution, according to news reports.

The rejected hiree, Jodi O'Brien, is a sociologist at Seattle University and a lesbian who has written about gender and sexual-identity issues. A Marquette University spokeswoman said the withdrawal of the job offer to Ms. O'Brien was not about the quality of her scholarly work or her sexual identity, but about how some of her writings related "to Catholic mission and identity," the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

Nancy E. Snow, a philosophy professor, told the newspaper she believes the move was "all about her sexual orientation" and was motivated by administrators' fears of upsetting donors.

In an e-mail message to the Journal Sentinel, Ms. O'Brien confirmed that she had been offered the position at Marquette and had accepted it, "but there was an intercession by the president before my appointment was announced officially."

Marquette's president, the Rev. Robert A. Wild, was not available for comment. Members of the search committee that had recommended Ms. O'Brien and one other candidate as finalists said Father Wild and the university's provost, John J. Pauly, had met with them on Wednesday and told them they had failed to scrutinize Ms. O'Brien's scholarly works adequately.

Stephen L. Franzoi, a professor of psychology who was also on the committee, disputed that characterization of the panel's work. He told the Journal Sentinel that the committee had advised senior administrators not to choose Ms. O'Brien if the university was not willing to support her, if her sexual orientation or her scholarship became targets of criticism. "To say now that we were not careful enough is ludicrous," he said. "They should have been prepared to defend their choice."

Comments

1. tappat - May 07, 2010 at 07:48 am

Shocking! But it is Marquette.

2. jffoster - May 07, 2010 at 09:01 am

Braveaux à Marquette. Of course their real error was in having let this appointment have gotten this far.

3. lee77 - May 07, 2010 at 09:12 am

I was surprise to see that the most recent story in the 'Past Coverage' sidebar was over 10 years ago!

4. 11301218 - May 07, 2010 at 09:29 am

I am an alumnus of Marquette. If it is to maintain
its identity as a Catholic, Jesuit institution, it
must maintain its commitment to Catholic values.
I am astonished that the candidacy had progressed
as far as it did without her background having
been properly vetted. The candidate may have been
quite suitable in a secular setting, but Marquette
has a different history and ethos than the
University of Wisconsin. Its about time that
Marquette did more than lip service to its
religious heritage.

5. cplantin - May 07, 2010 at 09:41 am

Yeah, you wouldn't want to let the top candidate actually start working if it turned out that she was a homosexual! That'd be perverted and would never be allowed by the Catholic Church with its long history of no homosexuals in its ranks. Yes, the identity of a human being must be quashed if is sinful in the eyes of an instution that has historically invaded and pillaged half of the western world in the name of a mythological being. Actually, the question is why would Prof. O'Brien WANT to work at Marquette? She is much better off avoiding that place at all costs.

6. dyslexic - May 07, 2010 at 09:44 am

Fr. Wild deserves a lot of praise for building MU during his tenure but this is another example of how his leadership goes tone deaf at times.

7. themoth - May 07, 2010 at 09:58 am

Catholic values, religious heritage? Rediculous. If these are the "values" being exampled at MU, I'll have a new view of alumni and faculty from there. Next time a grant application, article for review, or grad school application from an MU alumnus/faculty crosses my desk, perhaps I should just dismiss it, despite its valor, on account of my right to discriminate against bigots.

Discrimination against people because of their sexual orientation (or skin color, or ethnic background) in the name of God is an argument that does not hold water-- theologically, academically, spiritually, OR ethically.

O'Brien will be an asset to wherever she ends up. Marquette's discriminatory decision will do nothing but hurt them in the end.

8. uwfoundation - May 07, 2010 at 10:12 am

It should be noted that Seattle University is also a Jesuit institution, which suggests that their notion of the Catholic tradition is wider and more inclusive than the version permitted at Marquette.

9. frankschmidt - May 07, 2010 at 10:42 am

There is a fundamentalist Catholic society whose mission is to purge non-Vatican thought from Catholic colleges and universities (http://www.cardinalnewmansociety.org/). Marquette under its current, soon-to-retire President seems particularly sensitive to their screechings.

I say this as a disappointed but not surprised alumnus and (possibly former) donor.

10. frankschmidt - May 07, 2010 at 10:47 am

One more thing - Marquette's webpage states that they don't discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. Will they have to change that?

11. catholicgal - May 07, 2010 at 12:38 pm

It might be a good idea to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church to get a better sense of its actual teachings and not just hearsay. I applaud presidents of Catholic institutions who are simply being true to Catholic teachings and their institutional mission. There are several different issues here and it makes sense to go with the primary one. You can't please everyone. You can't run a school by self-selected committees.

12. johnfarley - May 07, 2010 at 01:33 pm

This kind of crap is what drove me out of the Catholic church. I saw a news story yesterday that just 15% of Catholics between 20 and 30 now attend mass weekly. Keep this up and it will be down to 0%. Between this and the sex abuse scandal, I think the Catholic church has become as corrupt as Wall Street or any other human institution you can think of. And as #10 points out above, they don't just discriminate, they lie about it and say they don't.

13. 22286593 - May 07, 2010 at 02:11 pm

For the sake of everyone involved, I hope Professor Jodi O'Brien lands a deanship at another Jesuit university and then does a wonderful job. For all the anti-Catholic morons who commented, I'm at a Jesuit institution where a gay man (an ex-Jesuit to boot) is a Dean, a Vice President is a lesbian, and two of the department chairs and one of the Associate Deans play for the other team. As a non-practicing Catholic, I'm generally ambivalent about the church--for every good the church does, there's something bad (I take this to mean that the Catholic Church is, after all, another institution built by human beings). However, I feel the need to defend it when people attack it with a totalizing sense of righteousness based on a monolithic view of the church and its members. Unlike most Protestants who think of their religion through a corporate, voluntary membership, most of us Catholics think of our religion through the lens of family--in my eyes, Professor O'Brien and her serve to Seattle University makes her part of my family and any injustice to her is an injustice to me.

14. princeton67 - May 07, 2010 at 02:48 pm

1."...academic freedom and diversity at the Jesuit institution": that's a paradox.
2. Perhaps if LaSalle offered the post to a scholar of pedophilia rather than lesbianism??? (more in keeping with actual Church identity)

15. mufac - May 07, 2010 at 03:43 pm

Please, don't confuse the actions and opinions of Marquette's president with those of its faculty and students. The search committee that recommended Dr. O'Brien to the President (and warned him multiple times, as news media have reported, that he would have to be prepared to defend her scholarly record and sexual orientation to those who objected) was made up of faculty and one alumnus. And faculty and students, who have been both shocked and ashamed by President Wild's actions, have been vigorously protesting the rescinding of the offer to Dr. O'Brien.

16. mmessner - May 07, 2010 at 03:47 pm

I had heard that Marquette was hiring Jodi O'Brien for a dean's position and was really impressed with their judgement. Rarely in my memory has a university administration shifted so quickly from looking smart and forward-looking, to revealing themselves to be bigoted dodos.

17. greymonkey - May 07, 2010 at 06:19 pm

My heart goes out to the candidate and also the search committee and the faculty who supported this candidate. Dean's Searches require a lot of commitment, and to have a search committee go through so much and then to intercede and block the hire at the administrative level-- what a blow for shared governance. A thoroughly disgusting turn of events on all sides.

18. jffoster - May 08, 2010 at 07:15 am

It sounds like the faculty and search committee were at best beset with tunnel vision and at worst, fools. And "shared governance" does not mean "faculty with an agenda always get their way".

19. mignon - May 08, 2010 at 09:48 am

I am shocked that, even on an academic forum, people have views like those expressed by jffoster. The issue is not whether "faculty get their way." The issue is academic freedom: if the Cardinal Newman Society (which is not synonymous with the Catholic Church) is allowed to dictate who is hired, fired, and promoted, then it will have a chilling effect on our research and our credibility.

20. jffoster - May 08, 2010 at 01:39 pm

Mignon seems to have Marquette, a Jesuit Roman Catholic University, confused with the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. And we're talking about hiring a Dean, not an obscure ink-still-wet-on-diploma Assistant Professor.

21. new_theologian - May 08, 2010 at 08:27 pm

The seething hatred for the Catholic Church expressed in the majority of the comments on this page is truly shocking, though not surprising. It's odd that, somehow, that's considered acceptable, but merely not hiring someone because she practices and justifies a range of actions that the Catholic Church has taught for two millennia to be immoral, inheriting their position from Judaism, where it can be traced back several thousand more years, is not.

We can call the Catholic stance on human sexuality "bigoted," but actually attempting to understand it through a theological lens in which the metaphor of sexuality stands at the heart of God's self-revelation is another, and much more difficult matter. It actually challenges us to think rather than just react against, and hate, our Catholic interlocutor.

Likewise, we can call the Catholic stance on human sexuality "hypocritical" because Catholic people, even those in authority, do not always act in conformity to their belief system, but this is also the easy and dull-minded way out. Do we actually think the Church takes her stand because she sees herself immune from the practices she condemns? Of course she doesn't; she takes her stand in spite of what she sees in her own ranks. That takes courage.

Indeed, the Catholic worldview actually has a built-in vehicle for self-critique in the form of the dogma of original sin and fallenness; and she employs a sacramental economy which includes not one, but three distinct sacraments employed to forgive sins (baptism, reconciliation, and unction). Catholics, who have three sacraments used to forgive sins, actually do sin on occasion, demonstrating that the sacramental economy actually makes sense. It would be odd, indeed, for the Church's theology not to be reflected in her sacramental life.

That said, yes, there are Catholics who commit sins, even in the sexual arena. That's what fallenness is all about. And sexual sins are among the most difficult to resist, and the easiest to fall into. In that sense, they also among the most forgivable, even while they remain among the most serious.

So, we can either change our worldview to suggest that sexual sins are not actually sins, or we can admit that they are sins and allow ourselves to be challenged and critiqued by our own teaching. Which option is more hypocritical?

Now, when someone is hired to work at a Catholic institution, there is an expectation (or there ought to be) that the person support the mission of the institution, conceived in connection to its religious identity. That means that we cannot, in word or deed, present an affront to that mission, which is never merely academic, and from which the Catholic worldview can never be bracketed. I know full well that many Catholic institutions have collectively lost sight of the religious dimension of their missions, but those that manage to find their way back should be applauded.

22. honore - May 08, 2010 at 10:14 pm

Just another example of fake tolerance and acceptance so common in our society today, but this disgraceful scenario is wearing a jeweled crown, flowing silken robes which have protected legions of pedophiles for centuries and today also preaching abstinence in 3rd world countries where unwanted pregancy rates are only eclipsed by the rates of starvation and illiteracy. How socially responsible.

The decision reversal is no suprise...Marquette continues to be a provincial, ol' boy dominated institution where token administrative nods are given to women, minorities and non-catholics.

Suggestion to all Gay alumni...WRITE public letters to the President (to be published in the Wisconsin State Journal, the campus paper and the Milwaukee Sentinel and pledge to NEVER contribute a dime to Marquette, to NEVER serve as a recruiting agent and to NEVER set foot on campus again. And then DEMAND that your named be removed immediately from the alumni donor call list.

Very little will change on that campus that sits arrogantly in the middle of a ghetto, but you will at least maintain your integrity and support a woman who applied, succeeded in being chosen for the job and yet was subjected to discrimation, degradation and public humiliation.

How "christian" of Marquette.

23. academicwanderer - May 08, 2010 at 10:30 pm

At least Marquette was willing to consider hiring a woman. I work at a small Catholic school that just hired four new deans, due to a change in administrative structure. Not one was a woman. Lots of qualified women candidates, but few were interviewed. Our male Provost and male President (the latter of whom doesn't even SEE women) evidently needed to maintain the administration as a boys club.

I've been to Milwaukee -- Seattle's a lot nicer. And, I'm sure Dr. O'Brien will eventually find an institution that appreciates what she has to offer. (I'll be it will be run by nuns...)

24. rlaud - May 08, 2010 at 11:22 pm

I'm not at all surprised at this, except for the fact that it was handled in such an amateur, clumsy fashion. The Jesuit talent and preference for underhanded silence is well known and never ceases to amaze me.

The Jesuits talk about the compatibility of reason and faith, academic freedom, and diversity as the cornerstones of their mission, but frankly it's all talk and part of their re-branding strategy. (Take a look at a recent back issue of "Conversations," the magazine of Jesuit Higher Education on the development of the Jesuit "brand.") Working at a Jesuit institution, I've seen women, gays, Jews, and blacks as the only candidates rejected for tenure on the most ridiculous grounds (and often after extremely unscrupulous behavior on the part of the administration). On the other hand, the Jesuits are quite loyal to their own (even those who leave the order): gay Jesuits are tolerated and advance quite rapidly (see comment 13 about the gay former Jesuit who is now a Dean; at least one Jesuit college has a gay president). Professor O'Brien's appointment would have sailed through had she been a man who had completed a year or two of the novitiate.

25. new_theologian - May 08, 2010 at 11:53 pm

Pure bigorty. No one is interest in even trying to deny it. The commentators here simply hate the Catholic Church. You're not even interesting in checking your facts. I would hope for more from academics. Look, no one denies that sins have been committed by Catholics, even within the hierarchy of the Church. But the inconvenient truth is that Catholic priests are far less likely to be sex-offenders than are teachers in public schools, dentists, or Protestant ministers. The incidence is much lower within the ranks of the Church than it is in the general population.

Moreover, VERY few sex-offending priests are pedophiles in the strict sense. The vast majority are hebephiles or euphebophiles, whose preferences for pubescent and post-pubescent youth happen to be homosexually aligned. I'm not saying this to justify their actions, of course, or to suggest that they are somehow not serious, but to point out a distinction that bears upon the psycho-sexuality of the offenders. If we understand that psycho-sexual dynamic, we can better understand how these individuals ended up in the ranks of the Church to begin with--and I assure you, the Church has pretty well got that figured out just about now and is taking aggressive steps to change things for future generations.

Of course, we can pretend that our hateful prejudices are accurate, and we can forget that, rather than protecting child molesters for centuries, as one historically ignorant commentator suggests, the Church was actually renewing the minds of a formerly pagan world, so as to liberate eleven-year-old girls from predatory marriages, and creating a system of canon law that would enable priests to offer sanctuary to women fleeing forced marriages, even to royals, on the grounds that they did not consent.

But, no, if we are bound and determined to see the Catholic Church as evil, there is simply nothing to be said. It does not matter that sisters and nuns had, for centuries, exercised professional competencies that evaded women of the non-Catholic world until the last few decades. But perhaps we could just take a few moments to look around and ask ourselves if women and children generally have better lives in Catholic societies or in non-Catholic ones. How about homosexuals? Sure, we can find abuses if we look, but let's crunch the numbers. In what society do you really want to take your chances as a member of any one of these groups?

Oh, one more thing for those more interested in facts than bigotry. Abstinence does tend to prevent sexually-transmitted diseases. It's scientifically demonstrable. And since the Church has no coercive authority, if the issue is the worry that people might actually heed the Church's advice, the worry must really be that people might not have sex where there is a moral impediment to doing so. But if the worry is that this practice will not prevent the transmission of disease, then it can only be because the disease is thought not to be sexually-transmitted in the first place, in which case, all the condoms in the world won't keep you safe.

26. tucker12 - May 09, 2010 at 08:03 pm

Please do not throw out the hard working faculty equally disgusted by the recent events at our institution. If not blatant discrimination or disregard for academic freedom, then worse. That is the President sold the integrity of the institution, faculty and students to the highest unhappy demanding donor. Regardless of the reasoning, in rescinding an offer to a qualified candidate shared governance has been trampled, the search committee has been thrown under the bus as being incompetent and frankly the morale of the majority of faculty has been crushed. We are in shock and disbelief. Perhaps naively, we submitted the best candidate in an open and honest forum only to have her accepted, welcomed and then later secretively rejected. It is important to separate the present institutional leadership from the outstanding faculty, students and staff that in pursuit of the open discourse and moving our university forward, selected the best candidate, put forth Dr. O'Brien and continue to support her. Students and faculty alike have protested the sudden change by the President. As a faculty member I am embarrassed by these events, but I can not lose sight of the great students and colleagues that are not bigots, that live just lives, accept and embrace our differences as important and value the dignity and worth of all on our campus. If this issue is not resolved I will, like many, be looking elsewhere for employment. We collectively look to the Board of Trustees to quickly reverse this blind decision and restore our institution. I have been proud to be a part of Marquette and we are all fighting to save it!

27. new_theologian - May 09, 2010 at 08:40 pm

In response to Tucker 12 in post 26, I have to say that, while I understand the point about process, and how inviting a process only to override its outcome is poor for morale, in general, I would also suggest that the process does include final presidential approval, and the right of an institution to safeguard its mission along its religiously-affiliated lines, even where others, along the way, failed to do so. If the institution has not been consistent in that regard in the past (and I happen to know that Marquette has not, in fact), that is not an excuse for remaining inconsistent now. Still, it does help us to understand how so broad a constituency of the institution now fails to see how hiring an open lesbian is not compatible with an institution's Catholic identity. If that makes the institutional identity "bigoted," I might just say that, again, this calls into question the mission-fit of the objector as well as the candidate, since it simply makes no sense to say, from WITHIN the Catholic mission, that a perennial moral teaching of the Church is a matter of bigotry and thus of sin (since bigotry is a sin). A person can hold that view, but not from within an authentically Catholic missionary framework.

That said, mission-fit is a perfectly sound reason to reject a candidate at any institution, no matter its affiliation. If a candidate's conduct would serve to undermine the mission of the institution, then the candidate should not work there. That's why I can't work at a Muslim college or at a Baptist college. It's why I could not, and would not want to, work at Planned Parenthood. Why is that so difficult to understand and respect? There is more to being qualified for a deanship at a Catholic university than mere academic and administrative expertise.

28. softshellcrab - May 10, 2010 at 10:17 am

Hurrah for Marquette. I don't know if the Marquette rejection was based on the stated reason ("...how some of her writings related 'to Catholic mission and identity,' ") or whether it was because of her homosexuality which is directly in opposition to Catholic belief. Either way, I fully support them 100%. Good! This is a Jesuit institution. It's high time to see institutions having some backbone. As the previous poster says, " mission-fit is a perfectly sound reason to reject a candidate ". Amen. I am just dying to see the Catholic Church get some backbone and start fighting and standing up for its core beliefs. Where were all the bellyachers posting here a bout stifling other beliefs, when the Toronto university wouldn't allow Ann Coulter to come and speak recently? I applaud Marquette for showing some backbone.

29. goxewu - May 10, 2010 at 11:24 am

Re #20:

"We're talking about hiring a Dean, not an obscure ink-still-wet-on-diploma Assistant Professor."

Presumably, Prof. Foster would be OK with Marquette's hiring an out lesbian Assistant Professor. But if there's to be no interior glass ceiling for gays and lesbians--e.g., gays and lesbians can be promoted to tenured Associate Professor, but no higher (or maybe even just renewed once as Assistant Professors, but no higher)--that gay or lesbian "obscure ink-still-wet-on-diploma Assistant Professor" would have to be promotable to Dean--accomplishments in research, teaching and university service meriting it.

And re a couple of remarks within the 1300 words in new_theologian's comments (my main brief against theologians is that it always takes them so many words to explain the number of angels who can dance on the head of a pin):

The recent pronouncements by the Pope, the ongoing apoligies by church officials regarding pedophiliac sexual abuse, the recent resignations over sexual abuse of of high-ranking and powerful-within-Vatican-circles clergy, the billions of dollars paid out by dioceses in the U.S. alone to settle claims of pedophiliac sexual abuse, the study--commissioned the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops--by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice a few years ago revealing the startling percentage of priests who've been accused* of sexual abuse, and the continuing cascade of news stories in reputable media outlets concerning pedophiliac sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, rather indicate a matter that's more prevalent inside the Catholic Church than it is in American society as a whole. (Otherwise, the Church itself is making a mountain out of a molehill.)

"That's why I can't work at a Muslim college or at a Baptist college." The use of "can't work" here instead of "won't work" indicates that new_theologian would be OK with, say, Baylor University refusing to hire him on the grounds of his being a Catholic. So, let's stand this situation on its head: If it's OK for a Catholic university to refuse to hire an academically qualified candidate because of that candidate's secular views, then it should be OK for a secularized private university to refuse to hire an academically qualified Catholic candidate whose religion-oriented views don't "mission-fit" the secularized private university's. Sauce for the goose, no?

Finally, the history of the Catholic church (which emphasizes actual daily practice over legalistic adherence to texts) relative to sexuality, un-celibate clergy, homosexuality, abortion, etc., has been, at the very least, checkered.

30. jffoster - May 10, 2010 at 01:04 pm

Re opening of Goxewu (2), actually no I wouldn't -- not if openly practicing. But I don't expect as much "vetting" for a new Asst. Prof as we would expect for a Dean. And most new Asst P's lives aren't necessarily as public as Deans' can become.

31. new_theologian - May 10, 2010 at 01:42 pm

In response to goxewu, let me concede, first, that I, and perhaps most theologians, are, indeed, verbose. But, whatever.

Second, the statistics are available, with varying degrees of accuracy, of course. John Jay College of Criminal Justice was involved in a study of the matter for which the Catholic Church volunteered its own records. By the way, to date, the Catholic Church is the only religious institution that offers data on this question, for the past eight years, has been publishing statistics of accusations ranging from "sexual talk" to actual abuse, in its annual audit. Can anyone match that?

In any event, the estimates range between 4% and 5% of priests having been involved in accusations of sexual abuse between the years of 1950-1992, the years covered by the study. Keeping in mind that sexual abuse is almost exclusively a male-perpetrated offense, the proper comparison is to the general male population, where the best estimates are between 5%-10% (with 5% being the favored end of the range)of males being perpetrators of sexual abuse. The government's own studies show a much higher rate of abuse by public school teachers.

The fact remains that the Catholic Church is still the safest place on earth for a child. But the Church is big. We have over a billion people. That means, worldwide, somewhere in the neghborhood of about 400,000 priests. We are speaking of currently living priests, not dead priests from fifty years ago, so we have to be careful how we count abuse numbers being reported today against the current priestly population. I know goxewu is an honest interlocutor, so I have no doubt she would want to keep that nuance in mind. Anyway, if we compare abuse numbers against this number in today's audits, we will find that, while there is a numerically large number, it is a relatively small number when compared to the general population. It needs to be smaller, of course, and the Church is working on it.

Now, that said, I have no interest in poo-pooing this problem away. (I can't believe I just said, "poo-pooing".) But it is understandable that an institution of which more is expected, morally, should receive greater scruitiny. That's one reason why we hear so much about the Church. But the other part of the matter is the sort of vitriole we find manifest in this blog (and I'm not talking about goxewu, who may not think much of the Catholic Church but does not, to me, seem to be motivated by hatred). Reporting of the problem is distorted by editorial judgments made through the lens of hatred. I'm sorry, but that's the truth as far as I can determine when I weigh the actual facts against the picture being painted.

So the Church has a problem, and she is right to try to fix it. But she has a lot of problems, and she is right to try to fix them all, as far as that is possible in a fallen world. The action taken at Marquette is one of those attempts (and before anybody jumps to conclusions, I am NOT suggesting that O'Brien has ever abused children--don't even go there).

That said, goxewu presents the challenge to me of whether it would be acceptable for me to be excluded from a secular university. I would say that this would depend upon what they understood by their secular identity. If they meant "secular" in the sense of "atheistic," then I would expect that they would discriminate against me. And, while I would object to their worldview, I would not object to being discriminated against by them, given the worldview they espoused. But if by "secular" we mean, non-sectarian, then I may or may not object to being discriminated against. It would depend upon what the position was, and what would be expected of me as a person in that position. I might agree with them that I would not be a good fit. If I was expected to teach "religion" in a way that put all religious perspectives on the same plane, I would find that, at best, stultifying. At worst, it would not really fit with my own vocational sensibilities, so I would not blame them for not hiring me. It would be like the typical biologist, today, having to remain silent on evolution in order to teach at a particular institution. Without attempting to open that can of worms, I think everyone would acknowledge that most biologists would not find themselves able to bracket so important a tenet of their own thinking about the question at hand, and would admit that, for the position being advertized, they would not be a good fit.

In fact, I must say that it is very rare for me to see a posting at a secular or state school that really fits my own vocational identity. I find that disappointing, and a kind of annoying, but I understand the issue.

32. tucker12 - May 10, 2010 at 02:54 pm

We collectively agree that any institution has the right to use "mission fit" to select, direct and guide the selections of their faculty, staff and adminstration. In fact, it was for this reason that when the candidate was nominated, a strong statement from the search committee accompanied the recommendation saying if you do not feel the instution can support her research or her positions then do not offer her the position. In support of that option, a second candidate was nominated. However, the university SELECTED Dr. O'Brien, OFFERED her the position, negotiated with her and after several weeks, she ACCEPTED the position. She has then come to town on more than one occassion to find housing. Then and only then, was the offer RESCINDED. We are now told that a. the search committee didn't do its job (WRONG, based upon her topic, she was aggressively vetted), b. new information arose making it difficult to now support her (Wrong, also described in the selection process, nothing new was presented).
So what has changed? Her sexuality and her research agenda were well defined, vetted and scrutinized PRIOR to offering her the position. Open and frank conversations were held prior to making her an offer. After she accepts, the position is then rescinded. This is the issue. In fact, I do not think that had she not been offered the position in the first place that there would be an issue. Folks would have been disappointed but moved on with a new Dean in place. But to offer and rescind is a different story. No discussion, no return to one of the strongest theology departments in the country for an opinion on catholic teaching or conflicts, no new manuscript, position or writing appeared that was NOT previously available, discussed, reviewed or publicly presented. Nothing. Just rescind the offer. Sure sounds to many of us that this is not a school deciding about fit since she fit but now she doesn't. That she "fit" at one Jesuit school but not at this Jesuit School. It makes one wonder whether the decision to rescind the offer was more financial (is there an angry donor?) and that is the reason people on campus are upset. We have no information on which to make an informed decision as it is, well being discussed behind closed doors.... or shall we say being kept in the closet.

33. new_theologian - May 10, 2010 at 04:15 pm

Tucker 12 makes a sympathetic case. I am willing to concede--in fact, I have no basis to doubt what he says--that the process was followed and then later simply overridden. And it may well be that an angry donor got his way. But, I stand on the following: given the way the term "Catholic" is applied to institutions of higher learning in the Church's own governing document, "Ex Corde Ecclesiae," which is considerably more "open" than other well-known traditional articulations, such as Newman's "The Idea of a University," I simply fail to see how anyone could reasonably think that being an openly-practicing lesbian is mission-compatible in the position of dean.

Even the question strikes me as absurd. We have articulated building codes, for example, and, in the face of them, no one would ever suggest, "well, in our estimation, this design, featuring power lines running directly through the center of a swimming pool, appears to be the best proposal, but, of course, if anyone has a problem with this, might we suggest this alternative instead." You just can't run power lines through a swimming pool. And if, at some other Jesuit building site, someone did it in the past, it was a code violation there, too.

So, to Tucker 12, I say, yes, consistency in administrative policy and practice is important. Administrative arbitrariness is a reason institutions have been denied accreditation in the past, and for good reason. Anyone who has ever been the victim of it knows why it is wrong, and how it harms the institution. In this case, it also harmed an individual who was unjustly misled as to her future, and seriously inconvenienced. That was wrong to do. But consistency in an institution's identity is also important; and everyone at the institution must be willing to safeguard it at every stage of every process. That includes being clear about what it means to be a "Catholic" institution of higher learning, if that is the sort of institution at which one has agreed to work.

That said, Catholic identity is not a matter of opinion or of the institution's own self-understanding, because, in the Catholic Church, there are canonical relationships between the Magisterium and any institutions that would presume to call themselves "Catholic." These relationships are defined by standards the Church's Magisterium has the right to establish, and "Ex Corde Ecclesiae" is the present articulation of that set of standards. Some may not like those standards, but they are what they are, and they would unquestionably preclude hiring an open lesbian as a dean, however nice a person and however excellent a scholar and experienced an administrator she may be.

34. dank48 - May 10, 2010 at 05:03 pm

The Church's (and other churches') doctrine on homosexuality is indeed based on the Judaic formula, with some help from Saul of Tarsus aka St. Paul. Of course, they all have the right to believe what they believe about homosexuality, but it's striking how seldom, verging on never, anyone notes what the Founder of the Church had to say on the subject, if the gospels are to be trusted: not one single word.

35. new_theologian - May 10, 2010 at 05:37 pm

That's right. Jesus did not address the issue in any direct way, but wherever he did speak about sexuality it is clear that he presumed the normative understanding of heterosexuality. He spoke of bridegrooms and brides, and men marrying women, and sexual relations in the context of marriage (again, only referenced along heterosexual lines). It is fair to say that the issue does not come up in his preaching because it was not a matter of dispute at all, while it was for Paul, as he was receiving formerly gentile converts into the Judeo-Christian covenant. We know that the practices in the ancient pagan world often differed on matters of sexual propriety from the standards affirmed in Judaism. In any event, since Judaism and Christianity both presume heterosexual normativity explicitly, it is safe, even from a purely academic rather than covenantal perspective, to hold that Jesus of Nazareth, who was vocal in other matters where he had sought to reconsider teachings and practices but said nothing on this point, did not seek to reconsider the matter. Indeed, his discussions about marriage are enough, from within the Catholic tradition, to understand him to be raising matrimony to the dignity of a sacrament--a point that Paul seems also to hold in Ephesians 5, on the basis of his self-disclosure according to the typology of the Bridegroom (the New Adam over-against the New Eve).

36. contemplative - May 10, 2010 at 09:45 pm

new_theologian you really are new. Is the mission of the Catholic university to promote heterosexuality, marriage, and sexual orientation? I doubt you will say yes. So how is the mission affected by a person's sexual orientation. She is not being hired to comment on her views of Catholic teaching on sexual orientation. She is being hired to be a Dean. There is nothing in that job description that requires that she articulate her views on sexuality. Your argument is the same kind that was used to justify racism 100 years ago. Grow up and realize that you are not the only Catholic in the Catholic Church. there are many good Catholics who think differently than you do. The fact is that sexual orientation is irrelevant to her ability to perform the position. Just like her gender is also irrelevant. And her hair color. And if you think she is the only sinner in the Catholic Church wake up. Everyone is a sinner. Are you going to stop hiring people who smoke and have addictions to poetry and addictions to being right all the time. What about self-righteous people like yourself. Jesus was really against self-righteous people. Should we not hire them either since that is also against the mission of the Catholic University? Give me a break. This is discrimination pure and simple and is not the first time Marquette has been involved in discrimination. By the way, the Catholic position on sin is that of original sin, hence everyone is against the Catholic mission. Boy if that goes, let us not even let students attend because they are sinners too.

37. johnnybravo - May 10, 2010 at 10:57 pm

Contemplative, you suggest that new_theologian is a theological neophite (one who is new to the profession and doesn't really know what he is talking about). I can assure you that new_theologian is a seasoned theologian and scholar, who knows the Catholic theological and moral tradition thoroughly. He is absolutely right in everything he says about the Church's teaching on human sexuality, on the biblical foundation of that teaching, and of the importance for someone occupying such a pivotal position as Dean of Arts and Sciences to one whose stated beliefs and personal lifestyle are not at odds with the Catholic faith.

You said "She is not being hired to comment on her views of Catholic teaching on sexual orientation. She is being hired to be a Dean." First of all, she is NOT being hired (thank God). Second, she has publically contradicted the Church's teaching on human sexuality; this is why her candicacy was scuttled. Third, if you think that her radically anti-Catholic views on human sexuality will play no role in her judgment as dean, then you are truly naive, to say the least.

You also said, "Your argument is the same as that was used to justify racism 100 years ago." That is nothing but a thinly-eiled ad hominem argument, as if to say that if new_theologian takes the traditional Catholic view on human sexuality, then new_theologian is as bigoted as a racist. What a pathetic way to argue.

You accuse my colleague of being "self righteous." By your understanding of self-righteous, St. Paul was self-righteous. Moses was self-righteous. Anyone who adheres to the received teaching on human sexuality is self-righteous. Jesus undoubtedly held to the traditional view of human sexuality, as new_theologian very ably demonstrates. I suppose he too was self righteous.

My friend, you need to go away for a while and read some genuine Catholic thought. Start with the Church Fathers and the Medieval contemplative writers. And don't forget John Paul II's Theology of the Body.

38. new_theologian - May 11, 2010 at 12:02 am

Contemplative has obviously not read my previous posts, so I would just ask him to go back and take a look at what I have to say about the pervasiveness of sin in the world, and in the Church. I do think, though, that the obvious error in the reasoning of contemplative and many other commentators, is that one simply cannot equate discrimination against people on the basis of sexual activity and discrimination against people on the basis of race or hair color. Sexual activity is a matter of moral action, in an area the Catholic Church regards as "grave matter," and concerning which the Catholic Church discerns a very thoroughly worked out meaning framework bound up with her understanding of God's self-revelation. Race and hair color are universally attested within the Catholic tradition to be ontologically and morally irrelevant. In fact, the Church regards this sort of discrimination as heretical. In the Eastern Orthodox Communion, "phyletism" is the technical term for a closely-related heresy, associating the Church with a particular race or ethnicity.

That said, we can easily turn the table on the analogy. Someone who lives a life of moral action in grave matter in public contradiction to the teaching of the Church is not qualified to be dean at a Catholic institution in much the same way that a racist is not qualified to be a dean at the same institution. The sin is not the same in itself, of course, but, in either case, we have a person publically representing a Catholic institution who publically contradicts the moral teaching of the Church in grave matter. That is a matter of public scandal and a consistently recognized reason in Catholic tradition to disqualify a person from a position of that type.

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