Some Of My Favorite Things

Friday, July 09, 2010

"Shut Up!' They Explained

Professor Kenneth Howell has been fired from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign Department of Religion because he dared to teach - in a course dedicated to the exploration and explanation of Catholic theology - that according to Catholic belief, homosexuality is wrong.

Welcome to academic freedom in the 21st century!

It mattered not that Dr. Howell has won several awards for excellence in teaching from that same august institution. He has spoken ill of the dead (morally dead, anyway), and so must be punished!

Now, this by itself would not be particularly big news.
Universities are renowned for their hatred of things Catholic.
What a lot of people don't realize is that, for over 60 years, the UIUC campus has hosted the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship Conference. The largest conference of its kind in the world, once every three years evangelical Christians from across the nation gather at UIUC for short summer courses that discussed how best to evangelize the nation and the world to Christianity. The last conference was in 2009. The UIUC happily rented classroom, auditoria and dormitory space to these evangelical Christians with nary so much as a whimper. They did, after all, at least embrace contraception with open arms.

Money has reasons which ethics knows not.
Apparently, however, ethics eventually triumphed because it looks like UIUC has kicked out the IVC, who ultimately had to relocate a short way down the road to St. Louis. If you can dump the income from 16,000 evangelical Christians, then dumping one Catholic professor should be easy. It has the added bonus of potentially scaring all the other Christian faculty into silence.


According to my sources, Dr. Howell, upon being notified of his dismissal, went back to the Newman Center and told the sad tale. In recognition of the terrible narrow-mindedness shown by UIUC, the Newman Center patted the good doctor on the back, commiserated with him for a few moments, then fired him as well.

Why?
Well, because he had been hired to teach UIUC courses, and now that the horse had thrown the rider, there was no need for the rider, you see.

Dr. Howell reportedly pointed out that the classes could still be offered through the Newman Center, if they were accredited through a Catholic college and the credits were then transferred back to UIUC - a reasonable solution, if you were really interested in accurately teaching Catholic theology on campus.

"No, oh NO!" replied the Newman Center, "That would NEVER do!"

The plan was then pitched to the Bishop's office - the good Bishop Jenky and his lay woman chancellor.

"No, oh NO!" replied the bishop's office, "That would NEVER do!"

And so it is, dear readers, that Dr. Kenneth Howell has to rely on the good offices of a Protestant legal defense fund because his own department at the UIUC refused to endorse academic freedom, the Newman Center saw nothing Newman-like in Dr. Howell's presentation, and the bishop's office saw no reason to employ or even to support a Catholic professor who accurately teaches Catholic theology.

Oh, did I mention?

Bishop Jenky is from Notre Dame (founded by the CSC), is himself a CSC (Congregation of the Holy Cross), and is himself a fellow of that fine institution. It may also be of mild interest that he is one of the men who stayed conspicuously silent when Barack came calling for his Ph.D. in law last year.

What a COINCIDENCE!

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Welcome to the fairy kingdom.

Jordanes said...

The plan was then pitched to the Bishop's office - the good Bishop Jenky and his lay woman chancellor. "No, oh NO!" replied the bishop's office, "That would NEVER do!"

That's a complete distortion of what Dr. Howell said. He wrote:

"I then consulted with our Diocesan lawyer, Mrs. Patricia Gibson, to see if the St. John’s Newman Center could sue the university for breach of contract. Mrs. Gibson, kind in spirit and articulate as regards the law, told me that unfortunately the university had made very careful provisions to protect itself and so would not be liable in a law suit. I am still consulting with other lawyers about possible legal action on the grounds of the first amendment."

Nothing about pitching a plan to offer courses through the Newman Center, only a legal consultation to see if the Newman Center had grounds to sue for breach of contract.

It's understandable that you wouldn't be happy that Bishop Jenky did not speak explicitly about the Notre Shame Obama debacle (though he did publicly speak implicitly about it, saying all he could say without resigning as an advisory Fellow, and I know he and others in his order worked behind-the-scenes), but that's got nothing to do with these events, and there is no foundation for your insinuation that Bishop Jenky couldn't care less about what has happened to Dr. Howell.

Hopefully Dr. Howell will be able to successfully sue the U of I's pants off for this violation of his freedom of religion and freedom of speech, even if it can't be a breach of contract suit.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

"I then reiterated... we work together to have courses on Catholicism taught at the Newman Center that could be accredited by a Catholic university and that could be transferred into the University of Illinois for credit. ... Monsignor Ketcham said that he had no interest in such a plan."

Jordanes, if you want to hold that the content of these two days of conversation was completely unknown to the chancery office, you are free to make that argument.

We've both worked in chancery offices.

My sources tell me otherwise and so does my experience. If bishop wanted this to happen, it would happen. We both know that.

Anonymous said...

Alliance Defense Fund has more Catholics in leadership than you might think . . .

Mar said...

Steve Kellmeyer said: If bishop wanted this to happen, it would happen. We both know that.

Or as Ezra Pound put it: Wisdom resides less in means than in the affirmation of ends. If there is the will to attain the end, the means will be found.

Jordanes said...

The fact remains that you have distorted what Dr. Howell said. There is no evidence that Dr. Howell's suggestion was ever pitched to the bishop's office.

Jordanes, if you want to hold that the content of these two days of conversation was completely unknown to the chancery office, you are free to make that argument.

Thanks. You, however, are not free to claim that "the content of these two days of conversation was fully known to the chancery office" and that Bishop Jenky rejected the idea. According to Dr. Howell, it was Msgr. Ketcham who rejected his proposal.

If bishop wanted this to happen, it would happen.

Sure -- but you don't know that Bishop Jenky doesn't want it to happen, or that he's given thought to the proposal Dr. Howell made to Msgr. Ketcham.

Whatever your anonymous source may or may not know, or may pretend to know, we do have this statement from the "Save Dr. Ken" Facebook group:

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

There have been many questions regarding the involvement of the Diocese of Peoria and the St. John's Catholic Newman Center in this situation. No public answers have been given because, for contractual and legal reasons, neither party or its representatives is permitted to speak about the situation in any public or official capacity.

However, I received information that the Catholic Diocese of Peoria is involved; Bishop Daniel Jenky is both distraught over it and seeking to communicate with the University of Illinois to restore the privilege that the St. John's Catholic Newman Center has had to teach courses in Catholicism on campus.

Your support, and continued prayers for all who are involved in this matter, remain greatly appreciated. As I have said before, I trust my bishop—the fullness of Christ in our diocese—to do what is necessary and proper in response to this attack on the Church, and I encourage you to do the same.

I remain, as always, your servant in Christ-

-Trisha Tan
trisha.m.tan@gmail.com
630-740-8455

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Jordanes,

The fact remains that you can't read.

Re-read the essay.
I never said that Dr. HOWELL said it. I said "my sources" said it.

You don't know who my sources are, and I'm not telling you.

Howell was paid for out of a diocesan fund - an episcopal fund. That means the bishop's fund.

If the bishop LIKED this arrangement, he would have made sure that it continued in some way, shape or form.

In fact, the bishop INHERITED this arrangement and now finally has an excuse to TERMINATE it.

So he did.

If he liked it, he would have told the pastor at Newman Center (which is NOT a parish, so the pastor doesn't even have the same canonical rights that a normal pastor would) to CONTINUE the program. Instead, he set Howell out to dry in the sun.

If you want to pretend that Bishop Jenky didn't know about this option or couldn't implement this option, you are saying that the bishop is incompetent in his own diocese.

So, take your pick - either the bishop is incompetent or he shot Howell in the back along with UIUC, but you CANNOT hold that he is guiltless for this man's unemployment.

David Volk said...

"though he did publicly speak implicitly about it..."

What did Bishop Jenky say about the Notre Dame scandal, implicitly or otherwise? I live in the Peoria Diocese, and was aware of no public expression from our bishop on the matter.

Anonymous said...

Glad they fired him. He went too far:

"Teaching a student about the tenets of a religion is one thing," the student wrote in the e-mail. "Declaring that homosexual acts violate the natural laws of man is another. The courses at this institution should be geared to contribute to the public discourse and promote independent thought; not limit one's worldview and ostracize people of a certain sexual orientation."

Steve Kellmeyer said...

"Declaring that homosexual acts violate the natural laws of man is another. The courses at this institution should be geared to contribute to the public discourse and promote independent thought; not limit one's worldview and ostracize people of a certain sexual orientation."

How does learning about natural law - a worldview that is virtually unknown in many circles today - NOT contribute to the public discourse, oh Brave Anonymous?

Firing Howell definitely limit's everyone's worldview and ostracizes a professor of a heterosexual orientation.

The problem with sodomites is, they don't think clearly. If they did, they wouldn't engage in sodomy.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad they fired him, too. Sounded like a prick. Just like Steve.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Isn't it fascinating that sodomites like to accuse people of being the male sexual organ?

This self-hatred is a major driver of the problem of sodomy.

Jordanes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jordanes said...

What did Bishop Jenky say about the Notre Dame scandal, implicitly or otherwise? I live in the Peoria Diocese, and was aware of no public expression from our bishop on the matter.

It was his editorial in the 12 April 2009 Catholic Post, "The right to life and Easter."

http://www.cdop.org/post/PostArchiveArticle.aspx?PublicationID=47&ArticleID=865

This was a remarkable statement, since he never writes editorials for the diocesan paper (it might be the only one he's ever written since coming to Peoria), and he wrote it during the heat of the Obama Notre Shame controversy. It signalled (and was intended to signal) to his fellow CSCs and the Notre Dame administration what he thought about their honoring so dishonorable a person as Barack Obama. I was been told by someone who knows that Bishop Jenky could not have said anything more explicit without first cutting his ties to Notre Dame -- he instead has been intent on working with those in his order who are appalled at the disorders at Notre Dame and are working from within to restore and shore up ND's Catholic identity. Personally I disagree with his decision, but I understand why he has taken this course of action.

Jordanes said...

The fact remains that you can't read.

Nice. If you can't bring yourself to maintain the barest modicum of respect and decency, then you need seriously to consider taking a break from public commentary and debate.

Re-read the essay. I never said that Dr. HOWELL said it. I said "my sources" said it.

No, you never said your sources said it. Re-read the essay.

Anyway, even if you had said so, it would be irrelevant. You agree with what the source of your rumor says, and have argued that the rumor is correct even though there is nothing to support the rumor.

You don't know who my sources are, and I'm not telling you.

Your sources on this matter are persons who do not have their facts straight.

Howell was paid for out of a diocesan fund - an episcopal fund. That means the bishop's fund.

True, but irrelevant.

If the bishop LIKED this arrangement, he would have made sure that it continued in some way, shape or form.

The arrangement cannot continue without the U of I's cooperation.

In fact, the bishop INHERITED this arrangement and now finally has an excuse to TERMINATE it.

He didn't do a thing to terminate the arrangement -- that was all the U of I.

If he liked it, he would have told the pastor at Newman Center (which is NOT a parish, so the pastor doesn't even have the same canonical rights that a normal pastor would) to CONTINUE the program. Instead, he set Howell out to dry in the sun.

So the diocese should continue to pay someone to do a job he has been forbidden to do? The diocese wants the old agreement with the U of I restored and preserved -- that's the goal. If that can't be reached, then alternative, less ideal arrangements can be considered.

If you want to pretend that Bishop Jenky didn't know about this option or couldn't implement this option, you are saying that the bishop is incompetent in his own diocese.

If you want to pretend you know all that much about what Bishop Jenky knew or when he learned it, go right ahead. You're doing nothing but speculating and guessing based on rumors.

So, take your pick - either the bishop is incompetent or he shot Howell in the back along with UIUC, but you CANNOT hold that he is guiltless for this man's unemployment.

"Guiltless"? So people have an inalienable legal and moral right to work for the Diocese of Peoria?

You once told me that we have a moral obligation not to impute evil motives or level grave accusations of sin in the absence of good evidence.

Jordanes said...

The fact remains that you can't read.

Nice. If you can't bring yourself to maintain the barest modicum of respect and decency, then you need seriously to consider taking a break from public commentary and debate.

Re-read the essay. I never said that Dr. HOWELL said it. I said "my sources" said it.

No, you never said your sources said it. Re-read the essay.

Anyway, even if you had said so, it would be irrelevant. You agree with what the source of your rumor says, and have argued that the rumor is correct even though there is nothing to support the rumor.

You don't know who my sources are, and I'm not telling you.

Your sources on this matter are persons who do not have their facts straight.

Howell was paid for out of a diocesan fund - an episcopal fund. That means the bishop's fund.

True, but irrelevant.

If the bishop LIKED this arrangement, he would have made sure that it continued in some way, shape or form.

The arrangement cannot continue without the U of I's cooperation.

In fact, the bishop INHERITED this arrangement and now finally has an excuse to TERMINATE it.

He didn't do a thing to terminate the arrangement -- that was all the U of I.

If he liked it, he would have told the pastor at Newman Center (which is NOT a parish, so the pastor doesn't even have the same canonical rights that a normal pastor would) to CONTINUE the program. Instead, he set Howell out to dry in the sun.

So the diocese should continue to pay someone to do a job he has been forbidden to do? The diocese wants the old agreement with the U of I restored and preserved -- that's the goal. If that can't be reached, then alternative, less ideal arrangements can be considered.

If you want to pretend that Bishop Jenky didn't know about this option or couldn't implement this option, you are saying that the bishop is incompetent in his own diocese.

If you want to pretend you know all that much about what Bishop Jenky knew or when he learned it, go right ahead. You're doing nothing but speculating and guessing based on rumors.

So, take your pick - either the bishop is incompetent or he shot Howell in the back along with UIUC, but you CANNOT hold that he is guiltless for this man's unemployment.

"Guiltless"? So people have an inalienable legal and moral right to work for the Diocese of Peoria?

You once told me that we have a moral obligation not to impute evil motives or level grave accusations of sin in the absence of good evidence.

Jordanes said...

Some updates from the "Save Dr. Ken" Facebook Group:

First, this note from Msgr. Ketcham followed by the Diocese of Peoria's July 15 news release:

Many of you have inquired of the upsetting news of the University of Illinois’ supposed dismissal of our Professor that we employed to teach Catholic courses on campus for University credit. The Catholic Diocese of Peoria felt that it would be irresponsible to react too quickly making a public statement without first giving the University of Illinois the chance to speak with us. It wasn’t until July 10 that we finally heard from the University, and the Diocese of Peoria will be speaking with the University early next week. St. John’s Catholic Newman Center (SJCNC) and the Catholic Diocese of Peoria firmly proclaim all the truths of the Catholic Faith! Dr. Ken Howell was primarily employed by SJCNC to teach Catholic courses on campus for University credit and we will seek to lobby for him to continue to do that and for the Catholic cause on campus. Please find attached the Diocesan Statement regarding this matter. Also, please pray for the success of the Diocese’s meeting with the University of Illinois.

*****

NEWS RELEASE
The Catholic Diocese of Peoria
July 15, 2010

“Diocese of Peoria to Meet with University of Illinois Officials Over Termination of Catholic Professor”

For Immediate Release

PEORIA - The Diocese of Peoria has confirmed that they will be meeting with University of Illinois officials to discuss the termination of Catholic Professor, Kenneth Howell, who had taught courses in the Department of Religion. St. John’s Catholic Newman Center at the University of Illinois employed Professor Howell to teach the Catholic courses at the University under a previous arrangement with the University. Howell was informed at the end of the spring semester that he would no longer be allowed to teach in the Department of Religion.

The Chancellor of the Diocese of Peoria, Patricia M. Gibson, stated, “The Diocese has been seeking contact with the University of Illinois since the time we were informed of the decision to terminate Professor Howell. Only last week did the University contact the Diocese to arrange a meeting. The University has given us every assurance that they intend to continue to offer Catholic courses in the Department of Religion. They have also indicated that they are open to a discussion concerning who will teach these courses in the future.

“The Diocese has had direct contact with the President of the University of Illinois, who has reiterated that academic freedom is at the core of their teaching and he is willing to have a review of this action so that all the details related to this situation can be investigated.

“The Diocese of Peoria is committed to pursuing this matter and looks forward to cooperation from the University of Illinois so that a just resolution can be obtained.”

*******

Then, this excerpt from Trisha Tan's July 20 note:

1) Representatives from the Catholic Diocese of Peoria met this morning to discuss the situation with officials of the University of Illinois. Although the details of this meeting remain strictly confidential for legal reasons, the early evidence suggests that we may have reason to be--for the time being--VERY cautiously optimistic. However, since the University has yet to decide on its actions, it's important now more than ever that public pressure remain on University officials, while the meeting is "fresh" in their minds, so to speak.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

a) What I wrote is there for all to read. Let the reader decide.

b) if you think the opinion of the one who supplies the salary for a position isn't relevant to whether that person stays employed, we have very different understandings of reality,

c) I know of no reason why a Newman Center job whose funding and location is entirely controlled by the diocese would be dictated by the UIUC.

d) The only people who have fired Howell is the Newman Center. As UIUC has pointed out, THEY haven't fired him yet - he still retains the rank of adjunct professor.

e) Bishop did and still does have an alternative, the alternative Howell described, which is to continue to offer the classes through the aegis of a Catholic university, and then transfer credits back to UIUC. Newman center has the space for the classes (that's where the classes have historically been offered, after all) and the ability to do this, all that lacks is the will.

f) It is a decidedly odd thing to open negotiations with someone who has threatened to fire your employee by you yourself first firing the employee, then staying silent for several weeks before beginning to discuss the situation with your benighted opponent.

The Bishop seems more interested in making sure UIUC is dealt with justly than he is in making sure Dr. Howell is dealt with justly.

Bishop allowed an orthodox Catholic, Dr. Howell, to be immediately dismissed, but refrained from talking with the pagan UIUC administration for weeks out of regard to their tender feelings.

And it obviously puts him in a position of strength with UIUC to fire Howell while the UIUC hasn't yet.

Oh, wait, I mean exactly the opposite.

Bishop has done to Howell what even the pagans haven't done to Howell yet. Yeah, go ahead and defend that one.

Finally, it is pleasant that Bishop began talks with UIUC after 5000 people signed up for Howell's Facebook support page. It is heartening that our leaders, the bishops, seem to be following the laity's lead on so many issues.

It is unfortunate, however, that they seem not to actually accomplish anything on these same issues. Whenever the laity lead on something, a few bishops feel morally compelled to publicly yell and point, but ultimately, the laity always lose. Funny that, wot?

Let us hope that it is different in this case. I hold no particular expectation that it will, but it would be lovely to be wrong.

c matt said...

Declaring that homosexual acts violate the natural laws of man is another

Apparently, this is where the student (or friend of student) was mis-informed. Howell was not teaching, nor did he state, that homosexual acts violate the natural laws of man. He was hired to teach Catholic theology, which states homosexual acts violate the Natural Law, which is the law of God, not man. The student (or his friend) are free to disagree that homosexual acts are unnatural. The only requirement of the prof as I understand was that they accurately know and understand Catholic teaching ion the subject, not that they have to agree with it at all.

It would be no different than taking a course on Marx and being tested on his understanding of man's relationship to the state - a fair professor would require that you accurately understand what he believed, and show that understanding by correctly identifying that teaching, but not that you need to agree with it.

How many leftist professors would be that fair?