Appeasing the gods of social justice and identity politics now overrides a Catholic university’s commitment to Catholicism itself
It is now indisputable: Black Lives Matter are rapidly becoming the one absolutely holy and inviolable interest group on American college campuses, a favoured priesthood of living saints who must be protected from blasphemy and offence at all costs.
There really is no other way to describe the privilege enjoyed by this organisation following the news that DePaul University in Chicago – a Catholic institution – recently banned a poster produced by the DePaul College Republicans because their catchphrase “Unborn Lives Matter” is supposedly deliberately provocative and hurtful to the delicate Black Lives Matter snowflakes.
I repeat: the president of a Catholic university actively suppressed the free speech of his own students because they dared to publicly support traditional Catholic teaching on the sanctity of life and the rights of unborn children – which might have offended a group of people who are supposedly concerned about racial justice, not abortion rights.
Campus Reform reports:
The DePaul College Republicans chapter has been censored yet again, this time over promotional flyers proclaiming that “Unborn Lives Matter.”
According to University President Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, the club was forbidden from using the flyers because they were “bigotry…under the cover of free speech,” meant to “provoke” members of the Black Lives Matter movement.
DePaul College Republicans Vice President John Minster told Campus Reform that his group wanted to use the “Unborn Lives Matter” flyers to draw members to their club meetings, but had to submit the design to the Office of Student Involvement for approval.
OSI Director Amy Mynaugh was out of town during the approval process, however, and the design proposal made it all the way to President Holtschneider.
Holtschneider not only declined to approve the flyers, but sent a letter to the entire university body explaining that the pro-life posters constituted “bigotry” and were not considered free speech.
The letter from President Holtschneider reads in part:
DePaul is a private Catholic institution, and we also are part of the academy. By our nature, we are committed to developing arguments and exploring important issues that can be steeped in controversy and, oftentimes, emotion. Yet there will be times when some forms of speech challenge our grounding in Catholic and Vincentian values. When that happens, you will see us refuse to allow members of our community to be subjected to bigotry that occurs under the cover of free speech. In fact, you have seen this in past months, as we have declined to host a proposed speaker and asked students to redesign a banner that provokes the Black Lives Matter movement.
Some people will say that DePaul’s stance unfairly silences speech to appease a crowd. Nothing can be further from the truth. As we experienced last spring, it’s not difficult to agree that there is a difference between a thoughtful discussion about immigration and a profane remark about Mexicans scrawled in the Quad; or between a panel on racial climate and a noose — a powerful symbol of violence and hatred — outside a residence hall. In both recent cases, the first, we encourage; the second, we abhor.
Because co-opting a topical phrase to express support for the Church’s pro-life stance is apparently “provocative” – the “provocation” outweighing the moral question at stake in the eyes of DePaul University.
And putting up a poster declaring that “Unborn Lives Matter” – the clearly stated and strongly affirmed position of the Catholic Church, the institution with which DePaul is inseparably affiliated – is not a statement of moral purpose, but is instead deemed the equivalent of a “profane remark about Mexicans scrawled in the Quad”.
The letter continues:
If you read DePaul’s Guiding Principles on Speech and Expression, you will see that our Vincentian values were in the forefront six years ago when these guidelines were developed. Though a group of your own DePaul colleagues are giving them a fresh look for updates, the current guiding principles still apply. I encourage you to read the entire document to gain a better understanding of the balance between our values and speech. In particular, I ask you to reflect on these sentences: “We accept that there is a distinction between being provocative and being hurtful. Speech whose primary purpose is to wound is inconsistent with our Vincentian and Catholic values.”
Disagreements will happen on important issues—many that are personal to members of our community for whom race, immigration, gender disparities, religious beliefs and economic privilege are more than conversation topics; they are part of an inescapable lived experience. Students and others will almost certainly continue to explore and seek the exact limits of our tolerance for free expression when that expression is meant to cause distress. Certainly, everyone is allowed to have their opinions on these topics. I simply ask when you are expressing your opinion that you respect the difference between a reasoned discussion and words whose primary purpose is to wound. I also ask that the university community refuse to “rise to the bait” in those moments when speech may become uncomfortable or even exasperating, but falls within the bounds of the academy’s commitment to full and robust debate.
Because hurt feelings are far more important than abortion. And the omniscient president and administrators of DePaul university can look clearly inside the human heart and discern whether a given student intends to provoke, offend or hurt when determining their right to speak.
This is ludicrous. Holtschneider made no attempt to speak with the DePaul College Republicans before censoring their poster and banning it from campus – he high handedly presumed to know what motivated them to speak out in favour of the rights of the unborn, and then publicly find them to be morally deficient and their motives cynical. That is effectively the judgment on their character that Holtschneider passed by revoking their right to express themselves – that they are Evil Racists more interested in “provoking” certain members of the black community than witnessing to their faith and speaking their consciences.
The National Review rages:
As a private, Catholic university, DePaul is not explicitly obliged to respect students’ free-speech rights like a public university would be. But it is disturbing that the university would choose not to do so, and even more disturbing that DePaul’s administration justified their decision by invoking the university’s “Catholic values.” It is hard to believe that the phrase “Unborn Lives Matter” is in violation of a Catholic university’s values when, in fact, this phrase ought to embody them.
This is not the first time that DePaul’s administration has been confused about the proper application of its Catholic guidelines. For instance, one of the university’s 2016 commencement speakers was Martin Castro, chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, who in his professional capacity has advocated same-sex marriage and radical gender theory, and opposed religious-freedom legislation that would have enabled Catholic institutions to uphold their values. DePaul was also found to have referred students to jobs and internships at Planned Parenthood, and to have promoted social-media posts celebrating the Supreme Court decision recognizing same-sex marriage nationwide.
While it is the university administration’s prerogative to take these actions — even though they openly conflict with established Church doctrine — it is appalling that the same administration would invoke its Catholic principles to ban pro-life flyers from campus. It is evident that Holtschneider and his staff are intent upon silencing conservative student voices, even if they must wield their Catholic identity as a cudgel to do so.
It is particularly depressing that the SJW snowflakes of DePaul have their grubby hands on the university’s Guiding Principles on Speech and Expression – we can safely assume that the next version of this document will be even more restrictive, and prioritise the feelings and “identities” of coddled students even more strongly over the imperative for debate and the quest for truth. Which will be some achievement, considering the current version already draws a specious “distinction between being provocative and being hurtful.
But one can only be so angry at the students themselves. As this blog has explored repeatedly, these thin-skinned students are very much a product of their environment and their upbringing. They are the result of Everyone Wins A Prize schooling, parental paranoia about a child abductor lurking on every corner and the endless, nauseating praise for the most pedestrian of accomplishments and the corrosive idea, inculcated at every stage of their academic lives, that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will kill me stone dead”.
Far more to blame are the adults – the liberal college professors now struggling to stay ahead of their students in the race to be ever more strident, intolerant and authoritarian in response to ideas they dislike, and the spineless university administrators who would sooner collaborate with the new regime and stab academic freedom in the back than push back against their millennial masters.
But special criticism has to be levied at the leader of a Catholic educational institution – somebody with Reverend in their title – who prioritises the prickly feelings of Black Lives Matter (and their proprietary sense of ownership over the phrase “[insert interest group] lives matter”) over and above the Church’s teaching on a core social issue.
I happen to be Catholic myself. Personally, I do believe that All Lives Matter. I believe that life begins at conception, and that therefore abortion inherently means the taking of a life. But I also believe that this is also sometimes the lesser of two evils, or an understandable choice in an impossibly difficult situation. As well as the commonly given exceptions – rape, incest, the life of the mother – I believe that abortion should be a legal, safe and much, much rarer. And part of making abortion much rarer must surely involve easier access to (and education about) contraception. One of the best ways to stop new lives being discarded before they begin is to prevent the hideous situation from arising in the first place.
I recognise that all of the above places me in conflict with the church’s teaching, and that is something which I have to wrestle with. I’m reasonably sure that I am right, and that my viewpoint will be vindicated and adopted by the Church in the fullness of time, but that doesn’t lessen the sense of unease at being out of communion with my religion on such an emotive issue.
But here’s the difference: I don’t expect external authority figures to step in, suppressing the free speech of others to prevent my guilty conscience from being pricked. Nor do I expect them to do so because the language they choose to use in affirming traditional Church teaching “appropriates” the name of another cause I happen to care about, or which impacts me. I can think and write what I want – I have no business limiting the freedom of others to do the same.
And students at a Catholic university, of all places, should be free to affirm Catholic teaching through articles, peaceful protest and harmless posters without fear of censorship by craven university authorities – spineless, degenerate cowards who would sooner suppress freedom of speech and publicly reject their own religion’s teaching than risk the slightest offence to their new deity: the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics.
Bigotry “under the cover of free speech”? That is to be DePaul University’s sneering, dismissive and hostile attitude toward young conservative Catholics who dare to affirm the teachings of their faith?
People of faith should pray for the censored College Republicans (whether or not you agree with their cause), and for DePaul University. Because religion counts for nothing if it has to disregard doctrine and bend the knee to social fads and new secular shibboleths.
And I don’t know how much longer the academy can plausibly survive the continued ruthless letting of its most vital lifeblood – the right to free speech.
Top Image: National Review
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