“The candidate was simply too Catholic”…

 

For the past several decades, an ideological battle has been transpiring somewhat “beneath the radar” at religiously-affiliated universities and colleges throughout the United States. What’s being contested is control of what an institution’s “religious affiliation” means in the conduct of educating young adults.

In many institutions, the battle has focused upon controlling  of the board of trustees. Conservatives and liberals have vied for control to appoint presidents who will enact their religious views campus wide. Once the president is appointed, the focus of battle then shifts to the appointment of administrators—provosts, deans, and department chairs—who are intimately involved in hiring new faculty and granting/rejecting tenure and promotion in the professorial ranks. Of course, the overall objective is to control what students will experience of an institution’s religious affiliation in classrooms and through on-campus activities.

As this battle has been playing out most recently at Erskine College in South Carolina, the institutions’ Board of Trustees was concluding a presidential search when the board’s choice—a Christian college vice president—withdrew from consideration. Why? He was Baptist not Presbyterian.

Some background:

  • Erskine is a small liberal arts college, the only one affiliated with the Associate Reformed Presbyterian (ARP) denomination. ARP is a branch of the Presbyterianism that’s closer in beliefs to the many evangelical Christian denominations, meaning that Erskine tends to be more “conservative” than other, more “liberal” Presbyterian colleges.
  • In the past, Erskine’s board has hired presidents who were not ARP members. But, the board has never hired a non-Presbyterian.

What makes this particular candidate’s withdrawal noteworthy is that Erskine has been caught in a cultural struggle for years. At issue is how closely Erskine will adhere to a conservative worldview that treats the Bible as history and as a guide for all academic subjects and campus conduct.

According to Inside Higher Ed, this particular battle has been brewing since 2010—about the same time Erskine’s board was involved in a previous presidential search—as ARP conservatives began bringing pressure to bear upon Erskine’s board. Some alumni, students, and faculty members—who value Erskine’s liberal arts tradition—have been chagrined.

As the current presidential search was nearing its conclusion, ARP Talk—a blog that has led the criticism of Erskine’s board and administration in recent years for what ARP conservatives believe is the institution’s deviation from church teaching—took the institution to task. As reflected in a post about the now-failed search, what Erskine’s conservatives want this time around is a president who will:

  • affirm the inerrancy of the Bible;
  • affirm the historicity and special creation of Adam;
  • work to maintain and strengthen the institution as an “agency” of the ARP denomination;
  • address sexual impurity on campus; and,
  • take fiscal responsibility by reducing the draw on the endowment to 5% immediately.

These are sound, conservative religious, moral, and economic principles, the first four of which fly in the face of how liberals today define the term “liberal arts tradition” while the fifth means cutting programs and, potentially, faculty positions.

For decades, similar litmus tests—but from the opposite direction—have been administered in the nation’s Catholic universities and colleges. Boards and officials in the religious orders sponsoring those institution have been carefully vetting candidates for presidencies—whether religious or lay—for their religious ideology. The objective is to appoint liberal Catholics. Then, once  a president is appointed, this litmus test is applied even more stringently at the Provost and Dean levels, so these upper- and mid- level administrators will implement that agenda, protecting academic freedom and use their ideological agenda to guide decision making concerning all academic subjects and campus conduct.

As for Erskine’s failed search, ARP Talk states:

They put a good and honorable man through an unnecessary ordeal and in an untenable position! In all fairness, this candidate possesses a charismatic personality, a warm evangelical testimony of faith, and many admirable leadership skills. And the gentleman is not faulted because he is a convinced Baptist. A little background search on the Internet reveals his theological convictions, and he is forthcoming in what he believes. We can only wish he were Presbyterian in his theological convictions.

At too many of the nation’s institutions of Catholic higher education, the statement could be shortened considerably: “The candidate was simply too Catholic.”

 

 

 

To read the Inside Higher Ed article, click on the following link:
http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/06/02/erskine-struggles-find-president-who-meets-its-religious-requirements#ixzz33TnuZwNg 

To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, Omnibus, click on the following link:
http://www.richard.jacobs.blog.com/omnibus.html

23 Responses to “The candidate was simply too Catholic”…

  • “As reflected in a post about the now-failed search, what Erskine’s conservatives want this time around is a president who will:
    • “affirm the inerrancy of the Bible;”
    .
    Holy Scripture is the Truth and inerrant. The translation and interpretation may be heretical. Who is interpreting?
    .
    •”affirm the historicity and special creation of Adam;”
    .
    The soul of Adam and of all human beings is created and ensouled at fertilization of the human egg. The rational, immortal human soul is Christ’s kingdom “not of this world.” If man’s body came from the ape through evolution, man’s body is guided through evolution by Divine Providence. The human person is an individual substance of a rational nature. Reason and Faith are united in the human being. Man’s rational nature admits of man’s immortal human soul and of his Creator. Faith in his Creator is man’s rational nature’s response to God and man’s own body and soul.
    .
    • “work to maintain and strengthen the institution as an “agency” of the ARP denomination;”
    .
    Evidence of cooperation and loyalty.
    .
    • “address sexual impurity on campus; and,”
    .
    The human person is created in moral and legal innocence, a virgin. It is the duty of the state to protect the person’s sovereignty and innocence. Any money from the state, given or loaned to individual students can only be used to promote this protection “and to secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” From the Constitution’s Preamble, the unchangeable purpose of our Law of the Land.
    .
    • “take fiscal responsibility by reducing the draw on the endowment to 5% immediately.”
    .
    I do not know about things like this but I do know that thrift, wisely exercised, provides for the next generation.

  • Only a short few years ago (4 to be exact), I was invited as a candidate to a well-known SF Bay Area institution of higher learning for an introductory interview for a position. The meeting with the faculty department head went very well, then, no followup. I later found out through a contact that wondered why that the department head candidly commented to him, “Well, he is a very capable candidate. But I just don’t know how him being a practicing Catholic will work with our institutional environment here.” Unbeknownst to me, the outline of my Carmelite scapular he discerned peeking out behind my tie and silhouetted against my white shirt (he told my friend and contact that he recognized it), and that was enough for him to make up his mind.
    Next interview I will be a shoo-in: I will be wearing a Muslim taqiyah (skullcap) and jubba dishdasha (cassock-like outer attire).

  • Interesting statement: “address sexual impurity on campus”. Note that it is not worded as a lofty positive goal to be reached, but rather as a real negative problem to be countered. Practical motives often work better than idealism.

  • Motley – I’ve spent most of the afternoon slamming people online that I disagree with. So at the risk of slamming someone I agree with, are you sure that this was the best possible headline for this article?

  • Affirm the inerrancy of the Bible
    .
    “For all the books which the Church receives as sacred and canonical, are written wholly and entirely, with all their parts, at the dictation of the Holy Ghost; and so far is it from being possible that any error can co-exist with inspiration, that inspiration not only is essentially incompatible with error, but excludes and rejects it as absolutely and necessarily as it is impossible that God Himself, the supreme Truth, can utter that which is not true.” Providentissimus Deus, Pope Leo XIII
    .
    Affirm the historicity and special creation of Adam
    .
    When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains that either after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which, through generation, is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own.” Humani Generis, Pope Pius XII
    .
    Work to maintain and strengthen the institution as an “agency” of the ARP denomination
    .
    “Teachers and administrators, whether in universities or schools, have the duty and privilege to ensure that students receive instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice. This requires that public witness to the way of Christ, as found in the Gospel and upheld by the Church’s Magisterium, shapes all aspects of an institution’s life, both inside and outside the classroom. Divergence from this vision weakens Catholic identity and, far from advancing freedom, inevitably leads to confusion, whether moral, intellectual or spiritual.” Meeting with Catholic Educators, Pope Benedict XVI
    .
    Address sexual impurity on campus
    .
    No adultery (Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18)
    No lusting after another (Matthew 5:27-28)
    No fornication (1st Corinthians 6:9-10, 15-20)
    No homosexuality (Romans 1:18-32; 1st Corinthians 6:9-10)
    .
    Take fiscal responsibility by reducing the draw on the endowment to 5% immediately.
    .
    “Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.” Romans 13:8

  • Steve Phoenix.

    Funny but sadly true.
    Our Lady of Mt. Carmel will never let you down.

    Thanks for your story.
    (Muslim attire next time…No way :) )

  • Thank you, Paul W. Primavera for your scholarship. It is indeed necessary. I was referring to when the NAB was printed without the Lord’s Prayer reading “Our Father Who art in heaven” and had to be revised as the NABRE.
    .
    “Holy Scripture is the Truth and inerrant. The translation and interpretation may be heretical. Who is interpreting?”
    .
    The Catholic Church is the interpreter of Holy Scripture. One can see how off the Mark the Muslims have the Koran.

  • Recent events at Notre Dame make sense in the light of Motley Monk’s
    article. In 2011 a Notre Dame Trustee and alumnus Roxanne Martino was
    discovered to have a long history of substantial contributions to pro-abortion
    groups Emily’s List and the Chicago Foundation for Women (which partners
    with Planned Parenthood). Martino later resigned her trusteeship.
    .
    In May of this year, a new member of the Notre Dame Board of Trustees,
    alumnus Katie Washington, was shown to have been the co-author of a 2012
    editorial in the Baltimore Sun criticizing US Catholic bishops resisting
    the HHS mandate, calling contraception and ‘women’s health care’ a “human
    right” and dismissing the bishops’ 1st Amendment arguments against the
    mandate. (Notre Dame is currently suing for exemption from the HHS mandate
    its newest Trustee is advocating…).
    .
    In the cases of Martino and Washington it was Catholic watchdog groups like
    the Cardinal Newman Society and the Sycamore Society who did the due
    diligence on the Trustees. Notre Dame administrators either did not care to
    find out, or didn’t feel those backgrounds disqualified those Trustees from
    their appointments.
    .
    As a Sycamore Society representative recently said, “it is hard to believe that,
    after the embarrassment of the appointment as Trustee of a contributor to
    the pro-choice cause a couple of years ago, the Notre Dame board would
    misfire again with the appointment of a public opponent if the university’s
    and the Church’s stand against the abortifacient/ contraceptive mandate.
    Ms. Washington should have the good grace to resign or the Board should
    force her to”.

  • It would be interesting to examine the charters of these Catholic institutions.

    In Scotland, we had the famous case of Bannatyne v Overtoun ([1904] AC 515) where a small minority of the Free Church (the “Wee Frees”) successfully claimed the whole property and endowments.

    Some of the dicta would appear to apply equally well to a university, mutatis mutandis, as the lawyers say.
    Thus, Lord Halsbury LC allowed “the right of any man or any collection of men, to change their religious beliefs according to their own consciences” but insisted that “when men subscribe money for a particular object, and leave it behind them for the promotion of that object, their successors have no right to change the object endowed,” for “there is nothing in calling an associated body a Church that exempts it from the legal obligations of insisting that money given for one purpose shall not be devoted to another.”
    Lord Alverstone CJ was unable “to support a judgment which would deprive the persons, forming a minority, of their rights, simply on the ground that they are unwilling to become members of a body which has not only abandoned the fundamental principles of the Church to which they belong, but supports a principle essentially different from that on which the Church was founded.”
    Lord Robinson did not believe that “in giving to the Free Church, the pious founders of the Free Church were knowingly giving to a Church, one of whose inherent qualities was that she could alter her essential principles. Neither history nor law makes this out.”
    The Lord Chancellor quoted a memorable phrase of Sir William Smith in the Irish Case of Dill v Watson (1836) 2 Jo Ex Ir 48.) that a body free to change its beliefs would be “a church without a religion.”
    After all, every law student will have read in the Institutes “A theft takes place not only when anyone removes the property of another for the sake of appropriating it, but, generally speaking, when anyone handles another’s property against the consent of the owner. Therefore, whether a creditor makes use of a pledge, or a depositary of property left with him, or whether he who received an article to be used, employs it for some other purposes than that for which it was given, he commits a theft; for instance, if anyone has received silver to be used where friends are invited to supper, and takes it away with him out of town; or where anyone to whom a horse has been lent for the purpose of taking a ride, removes it to a greater distance; and the example which the ancients mentioned in this case was that of one who took the horse into battle.” (IV 1 6)

  • Pinky:

    To your question, “So at the risk of slamming someone I agree with, are you sure that this was the best possible headline for this article?,” I don’t know. There were other headlines that I could have used, but I did think this one particular headline captured the idea of the post best. After all, the Erskine candidate wasn’t Presbyterian enough (in fact, a Baptist who may have been more aligned with the ARP’s values than those of the majority of U.S. Presbyterian denominations). Moreover, conservative applicants for administrative positions at most U.S. Catholic institituions are viewed with suspicion as “too Catholic.” So, in the end, the explanation given for the conservative candidate’s non-hiring is that “The candidate was simply too Catholic..,” the subtext being that person would wreak havoc on the institution by insisting upon doctrinal and liturgical fidelity. Couldn’t have that, now, could we?

    TMM

  • The same discrimination of being “too Catholic” has been in practice at Catholic high schools and grammar schools. I’m not talking about conservative ideologues, but simply being faithful to the Magisterium (and forsake you if you mention it) is a red flag. Much of our lower level teachers are marginal or non-practicing Catholics and former public school employees getting an extra post retirement income. From my experience most have a job in mind, not Catholic education. So disagreeing with Catholic teaching, in practice if not word, is not a problem for them or their administrators.

  • Ridiculing the Pope and the Sacraments, especially the Sacrament of Penance, is par for the course for anti Catholicism in some Catholic institutions. Two-thirds of the student body and one half of the faculty walked out when Cardinal Arinze spoke against homosexual behavior. Sodomy 101

  • Mary De Voe — what college was that? Notre Dame?

  • Michael P-S true : Sir William Smith in the Irish Case of Dill v Watson (1836) 2 Jo Ex Ir 48.) that a body free to change its beliefs would be “a church without a religion.”
    People are giving up so much and not realizing it, perhaps as a group we are just out of the habit or ability to think very deeply.

  • FBTL, I think Mary De Voe might have been referring to the time Cardinal Arinze
    spoke to the Georgetown graduating class of 2003. His Eminence said, in part:
    .
    “In many parts of the world, the family is under siege. It is opposed by an
    anti-life mentality as is seen in contraception, abortion, infanticide and
    euthanasia. it is scorned and banalized by pornography, desecrated by
    fornication and adultery, mocked by homosexuality, sabotaged by irregular
    unions and cut in two by divorce”.
    .
    One member of the faculty was so outraged by this part of the Cardinal’s speech
    that she walked off the stage. Within days, the Dean received a letter of protest
    signed by 70+ Georgetown faculty. Newspaper reports state that a large
    number of students chose to walk out during the Cardinal’s address.
    .
    One interesting thing I read about the fallout surrounding Cardinal Arinze’s
    speech was the response of one Ed Ingebretsen, a Georgetown professor of
    English. He posted an apology on the Georgetown email subscription list “on
    behalf of Catholics” for the Cardinal’s “insensitive remarks”, calling them “un-
    Christian”. So i spent a couple of minutes on Google to find out about the
    professor– who, it turns out, was ordained a Catholic priest in 1982, but
    since 2000 he’s been an official with something called the “American Catholic
    Church”. Oh, and there are yelp reviews for all the times he’s officiated at
    gay “weddings”.
    .
    So, while Cardinal Arinze is evidently too Catholic for most of Georgetown,
    Professor Ingebretsen appears to be just ‘Catholic’ enough… *sigh*

  • FBTL: “Mary De Voe — what college was that? Notre Dame?”
    .
    Sorry, FBTL. That was Georgetown, the same college that covered Christ’s initials at the request of Obama; embracing secularism.

  • Clinton: Excellent. Thanks for the review.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour:

    ““when men subscribe money for a particular object, and leave it behind them for the promotion of that object, their successors have no right to change the object endowed,” “
    .
    Currently, The ACLU and The Freedom From Religion Foundation are trying to remove the cross atop a veterans cemetery on Mt. Soledad. Given their piece of property as a grave, the fallen soldiers have earned their piece of property by laying down their lives for freedom. They are martyrs for freedom. And “their successors have no right to change the object endowed.”
    .
    “After all, every law student will have read in the Institutes “A theft takes place not only when anyone removes the property of another for the sake of appropriating it, but, generally speaking, when anyone handles another’s property against the consent of the owner.”
    .
    These men gave their lives for that cross. The cross is theirs. If the atheist chooses to believe that he ceases to exist after death that is his choice, not ours.

    “Therefore, whether a creditor makes use of a pledge, or a depositary of property left with him, or whether he who received an article to be used, employs it for some other purposes than that for which it was given, he commits a theft; for instance, if anyone has received silver to be used where friends are invited to supper, and takes it away with him out of town; or where anyone to whom a horse has been lent for the purpose of taking a ride, removes it to a greater distance; and the example which the ancients mentioned in this case was that of one who took the horse into battle.”
    .
    The atheist exists, and therefore the atheist must be tolerated. Atheism is unconstitutional. The cross belongs to the soldiers and the soldiers’ memory.

  • The new world order, which is consistent with atheistic materialism, not Christianity, serves to deny the personhood of the son or daughter residing in their mother’s womb, while reordering man as an object of sexual desire/orientation, in direct violation of God’s Commandment regarding lust and the sin of adultery.

  • This does not change the fact that we should work together in regards to our due diligence. It is often difficult to judge whether a particular person supports our Catholic Faith and Mission, and when they do not, we have an obligation to explain, clearly and concisely, how a particular teaching of Christ’s Church is a reflection of authentic Trinitarian Love.

  • How about a principal telling a teacher that he was “too conservative” a Catholic because he believed and conveyed to his students the Church’s Magisterium? The principal, who received a theology degree from a Jesuit school, knew little of the Faith and suppressed and belittled Catholic efforts in the classroom (have you ever heard anyone say that a classroom looked “too Catholic” or a principal having an abysmal lack of knowledge Catholic prayers or halting the school-wide praying of the Angelus, etc, etc?). The diocesan education office, who installed this principal without an open call for applicants, of course ignored the problem, which predictably resulted in the school closing a short time later.
    At another place, most of the staff were not Catholic who, in fact during an in-service with other schools, belittled our Faith and greatly embarrassed the school. Complaints to the hierarchy of the school fell upon deaf ears.
    Too Catholic? It seems just being a practicing Catholic is too much and unwelcome in our schools.

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