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The Firing of Dr. Kenneth Howell

Dr. Kenneth Howell was an adjunct professor in the Department of Religion at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Congratulated by the university for excellence in teaching in the Fall of 2009, he was recently fired for affirming, in an e-mail to the students of his "Introduction to Catholicism" course, the teaching of the Catholic Church on homosexuality. According to The News-Gazette:

In early May, Howell wrote a lengthy e-mail to his students, in preparation for an exam, in which he discusses how the theory of utilitarianism and natural law theory would judge the morality of homosexual acts.

"Natural Moral Law says that Morality must be a response to REALITY," he wrote in the e-mail, obtained by The News-Gazette. "In other words, sexual acts are only appropriate for people who are complementary, not the same."

He went on to write there has been a disassociation of sexual activity from morality and procreation, in contradiction of Natural Moral Theory.

The offensive e-mail was forwarded by an irate student to university officials, and the rest is history. It appears that he was fired from the Newman Center as well. At this point the diocese does not seem to be standing behind him, but according to an update on a Facebook page in support of Dr. Howell, Bishop Jenky is trying to get him re-instated. There are stories here, here, here, here, and here.

So, let's not expect any more tolerance from the Tolerant Ones. I am reminded of Msgr. Benson's "Lord of the World" in which the humanitarians turn on a dime from gentle doves to ferocious persecutors, the logic being that the intolerant Catholics must be eliminated to create a tolerant world. Don't get me wrong - the firing of a Catholic university professor is far from red martyrdom - though, perhaps, not quite as far as it seems.

Comments (123)

I'm guessing the student would have missed the question on the exam. What was the student doing in an Intro to Catholicism class? Apparently, the administration can't read the title of the course, either.

The Chicken

Is there a reason you decided not to link to Dr. Howell's E-mail itself, or the student's E-mail complaining about Dr. Howell? The 9th paragraph of Dr. Howell's E-mail looks pretty sketchy to me. Probably not enough to fire anyone over, but the complaint from the student mentions numerous incidents in class as well; perhaps the University investigated that and found some basis for the complaint the student made?

MC, actually, Howell expressly states that he told the students they didn't have to agree with the views he expressed. In other words, it would have been perfectly possible for a student in answer to such a question to say something like, "Natural law theory implies that..." or "Catholic teaching is that..." without affirming the views himself. Any parent with children going into college knows that such a distinction is crucial. Not to be too incendiary, but how many professors who teach the chemicals-to-man-no-guidance-nuh-huh version of Darwinism would allow similar qualifications in answers? How about professors who teach global warming? And so on and so forth.

I've read the email, and while no natural law advocate myself, I can affirm that Howell's position is sensible, measured, and coherent. His is a good presentation of natural moral law. It is full of cogent explanation and example. It fairly considers both natural moral law and competing views. If he was fired for his email, then the firing is monumentally unjust, period. But if there is more to the story than the email, as Aaron intimates, then I withhold judgment -- but only if the university did not transgress Howell's academic freedom.

We are told that Howell's academic sin is hate speech, this email being the purported evidence. But that email is not hateful in any way. Indeed, it carefully separates the action from the actor and shows how opposition to an action is not opposition to a person -- much less hatred. Howell is articulating and explaining traditional Roman Catholic morality, not hating. As a protestant, I can affirm that the Catholic church, while opposing homosexuality, has historically proven itself quite sympathetic and spiritually supportive to homosexuals, sometimes even raising them to positions of highest eminence. The Catholic church is not hateful on this point. But it does affirm that such activity is contrary to human nature, and says clearly why it thinks so.

One wonders, if an Islamic instructor taught a course on Islamic morality and articulated his own adherence to it on issues like jihad and stoning, would that instructor be fired for hate speech against Jews, Christians, secularists, and feminists?

Michael, can you provide a link to the entire e-mail? Google isn't turning it up quickly for me. Thanks.

Aaron Boyden, here's what the Dean is quoted as saying:

the e-mails sent by Dr. Howell violate university standards of inclusivity, which would then entitle us to have him discontinue his teaching arrangement with us."

That's pretty clear.

The current liberal spin on this seems to be that it is inappropriate for a professor to tell students that he agrees with a position he is teaching about. What balderdash. Let's try that in a philosophy class with naturalism! Um-huh. The professor should just keep it absolutely dark what his own position is, because otherwise the poor students might feel pressured to agree with him. How about a course in women's studies? How about a sociology course where students are being taught that homosexuality is normal? What a joke. Throughout the secular university today students are continually bombarded with situations where their professors make it _extremely clear_ that they are advocating their own position in a particular course, and students are just expected to deal with the pressure this creates. As long as the position is pro-homosexual, naturalist, feminist, or some other variety of liberalism or of "facts" that secularists approve of, nobody even _thinks_ of raising a hue and cry about this. But let a Catholic professor make it clear that he agrees with the Catholic Church in a course *on Catholicism*, and this is supposed to be some sort of violation of his role as a professor.

I found it. Here is the whole text of Dr. Howell's e-mail:

http://www.news-gazette.com/news/religion/2010-07-09/e-mail-prompted-complaint-over-ui-religion-class-instructor.html

And here is paragraph nine:

One example applicable to homosexual acts illustrates the problem. To the best of my knowledge, in a sexual relationship between two men, one of them tends to act as the "woman" while the other acts as the "man." In this scenario, homosexual men have been known to engage in certain types of actions for which their bodies are not fitted. I don't want to be too graphic so I won't go into details but a physician has told me that these acts are deleterious to the health of one or possibly both of the men. Yet, if the morality of the act is judged only by mutual consent, then there are clearly homosexual acts which are injurious to their health but which are consented to. Why are they injurious? Because they violate the meaning, structure, and (sometimes) health of the human body.

So, what, again, is supposed to be the problem here that makes it only "probably not enough to fire a person over"? Is it the fact that he _does not get graphic_? (The "sketchiness.") So, we have to be graphic in our sexual descriptions in order to advocate natural moral law theory in a course on Catholicism? (By the way, this is a family site. Graphic discussions aren't allowed here, either, yet as thinking adults, to use Dr. Howell's phrase, I think we can manage to discuss these topics without graphic description.)

Again, if the problem is supposed to be that Howell makes it clear that he agrees with the views he is explaining, that is plainly laughable. Feminists are allowed to be open feminists in courses on feminism. Naturalist philosophers are allowed to be open naturalists in courses on naturalism. Atheists are allowed to be open atheists. That a Catholic professor can't openly show his own support for Catholic teaching while teaching a course on Catholicism is ludicrous.

Here is the student complaint:

http://www.news-gazette.com/news/religion/2010-07-09/e-mail-complaint-student-about-ui-religion-instructor.html

It is obvious that the student regards the e-mail as typical of the sorts of "inflammatory" remarks Howell is alleged to have made in class. I find nothing about this student complaint that indicates that Howell actually did anything inappropriate, nor is it alleged in the e-mail cited from the Dean that instances of, for example, bullying students in class to agree with him have been investigated regarding Howell. What is absolutely clear from this student complaint is that the student regards it as "appalling" that Howell should be permitted to teach the sorts of things in the e-mail, that he regards _that_ as being somehow unprofessional, that _that_ is the complaint against Howell--that he actually believes the Catholic positions on these matters and that he explained it at length in a way that by the very nature of the subject matter and liberal views on the subject matter would be regarded as "beyond the pale" by liberals. Too jolly bad.

By the way, this is exactly what philosophers concerned about the new APA policy warned about when we opposed the APA policy on schools that "discriminate" on the basis of homosexual acts--namely, that there would be discrimination in hiring, firing, etc., against those who take the traditional moral position on homosexuality, that this view in itself would be regarded as beyond the pale to the point that it was cause for termination.

Anyone who cannot see that Howell's firing is an example of exactly that is a fool or a deceiver--of himself and/or of others. I make no apology for saying that.

It is quite clear that, to college administrations, the underlying purpose of the "Department of Religion" at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the vast majority of colleges/universities, is to anaesthetize the progressive mind, lest it be stimulated by reality.

Imagine everything in reverse.

Suppose the LGBT center on campus has a director who teaches adjunct in the philosophy department, and because of an arrangement with the university he teaches one course every semester, "A Philosophical Introduction to Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies." The professor is a good teacher and tells the students that they do not actually have to agree with him, but because he is an honest and forthright teacher, the professor says that these are his views. Over the course of the semester several students write him concerning his views, and he proceeds to dialogue with them in a variety of email notes in a candid though respectful manner. One of the students, a devout Catholic, expresses offense about comments made by the professor. In a lecture and several email notes the professor asserted his belief that the Catholic view of human sexuality is mistaken, disordered and ultimately harmful to gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgenders. Even though the professor is respectful, offers reasons for his position, reminds the student that he need not agree with him, etc., the student complains to the Dean that he feels "excluded" from the university community because of the professor's comments. The student also makes the point that the message sent to him is that Catholics are not welcomed as full participants in the life of the university. The Dean is moved by this complaint and does not renew the professor's contract. He offers these grounds: "the e-mails sent by the professor violate university standards of inclusivity, which would then entitle us to have him discontinue his teaching arrangement with us."

When I was in college (79-83), I was told by my professors, who ranged from liberal to Marxist, that at the university I would hear and read things that would challenge what I learned at home and church. In fact, my favorite professor, Randy Sheldon (a Marxist sociologist), called it "culture shock."
But, as Randy would sometimes put it, if you disagree with your professor, your job is to offer contrary arguments, and it is the duty of the professor and your fellow students to answer you with reasoned respect, even if they find your views as troubling as you find theirs.

This was the animating spirit of university life that drew me to it. It was not a place for crybabies or bullies. It was a place for serious men and women willing to undergo mutual interrogation in a climate of brutal honesty in which recrimination for holding controversial views was worse than being wrong.

The aggrieved student in the Howell case is the product of a generation of institutional coddling that rewards intellectual immaturity if it can feign personal offense.

Excellent comment, Frank. I would add that, as you imply, this intellectual immaturity is rewarded only for selected groups. Obviously, the hypothetical Catholic student in your example would be told to get over it. Plenty of secular professors really do engage in or imply the possibility of retaliation upon those who disagree with them, as we saw in the bullying of graduate students and young professors who signed the APA counterpetition last year.

The complaining student writes "it should be noted that my friend and I were both brought up Catholic" and "I didn't go to Notre Dame for a reason." A personal grudge?

The function of these actions is clear: Ban traditional views from positions of influence, then deem them beyond the pale because nobody in influence holds them.

University of Toledo administrator Crystal Dixon was fired two years ago for arguing against same-sex "marriage" in the local paper. A black woman, she objected to the comparisons of gay liberation and the civil rights movement. Her words were similarly well-reasoned and charitable, which is no defense.

Perhaps some Catholic students at the U of I could follow Dr Beckwith's recipe in order to expose the university's hypocrisy.

Michael Bauman regarding the Church’s position toward homosexuals:

As a protestant, I can affirm that the Catholic church, while opposing homosexuality, has historically proven itself quite sympathetic and spiritually supportive to homosexuals, sometimes even raising them to positions of highest eminence. The Catholic church is not hateful on this point.

Are you sure, Michael, that you as a protestant know what you’re talking about?

Pope St. Pius V regarding sodomites in the clergy:

That horrible crime [sodomy], on account of which corrupt and obscene cities were destroyed by fire through divine condemnation, causes us most bitter sorrow and shocks our mind, impelling us to repress such a crime with the greatest possible zeal. . .

Therefore, wishing to pursue with greater rigor than we have exerted since the beginning of our pontificate, we establish that any priest or member of the clergy, either secular or regular, who commits such an execrable crime, by force of the present law be deprived of every clerical privilege, of every post, dignity and ecclesiastical benefit, and having been degraded by an ecclesiastical judge, let him be immediately delivered to the secular authority to be put to death, as mandated by law as the fitting punishment for laymen who have sunk into this abyss. [emphasis mine] (Constitution Horrendum illud scelus, August 30, 1568)


The sodomites know this is war. St. Pius V knew it too. If the former are not eradicated from the university, they will be the ones doing the eradicating. It's that simple.

Perhaps some Catholic students at the U of I could follow Dr Beckwith's recipe in order to expose the university's hypocrisy.

My brother was a post-doc at U of I and I was accepted to graduate school, there (I went someplace else). U of I is no off-the-deep-end university. Inclusivity is an excuse made at many universities. They are inclusive of everything except people who disagree with them. It is a con-game. It shows a deterioration in intellectual courage. A really "inclusive" environment would accept any opinion. Are they relativists or are they terrorists? In any case, they are extremists.

That being said, U of I is home to perhaps the best and most orthodox Newman Center in the country. Catholicism is strong at the university. It seems to be the administration who are cowards.

The Chicken

I want to, as the saying goes, strongly dissociate W4 and all its bloggers from George R's apparent recommendation of the death penalty for homosexual acts.

One wonders, if an Islamic instructor taught a course on Islamic morality and articulated his own adherence to it on issues like jihad and stoning, would that instructor be fired for hate speech against Jews, Christians, secularists, and feminists?

If I were the administrator, I would fire him in a heartbeat. The question could then be reversed, would such a firing be discriminatory against traditional values, even if he gave well-reasoned, measured, and coherent arguments for his viewpoint?

Lydia,

With respect to the death penalty and sodomy, I was merely pointing out the facts: The Catholic States at that time had a death penalty for sodomy, and the Catholic Church approved of it. Do you dispute these facts? Should W4 "strongly disassociate" itself from these facts?

As for my opinion that sodomites should be eradicated from the university, I was certainly not suggesting that the death penalty be employed as the means. All that's required is their removal from the institution. A simple "Sod off, fruitcake" should suffice.

We could also make an exception for marxist sociologists. After all, we wouldn't want Frank Beckwith's "favorite professor" to fall under the purge.

But in all seriousness, none of this is ever going to happen, of course. The war is over. The enemy has won. It's only a mopping up operation now.

George, the Catholic States aren't commentators on a blog I write for (not to mention the fact that I'm not Catholic anyway) and aren't advocating the dp for sodomy on such a blog, so I don't have to associate or dissociate myself with anything the Catholic States said or did, insofar as states can say or do things.

But I do appreciate the clarification.

Step2, the example wasn't meant to suggest (I assume) that advocacy of stoning is actually on a par with advocacy of the position that homosexual acts are contrary to the natural law. Do _you_ think the latter is on a par with the former?

The complaining email read:

Many times, my friend (whom I wish to remain anonymous) said

The bolded part should have disqualified it from serious consideration.

George,
You know was well as I do that there is a world of difference between what they say and what they do. What they do is, in fact, laudable on many counts. What you have copied above is not. They do not, and should not, subject homosexual priests to the death penalty. Indeed, they do something quite in contrast to that: They make some of them cardinals, even popes.

For clarification, Lydia, by "sketchy" I did not mean "lacking in detail" but rather "morally questionable." I apologize for using the potentially misleading slang term.

I appreciate the clarification, Aaron, but of course I don't agree that there was anything morally questionable about the passage in question. In any event, is every opinion that is "morally questionable," expressed by a professor, automatically even to be considered a _possible_ ground of termination? Perhaps at a very narrowly defined confessional school, though even there I think _some_ dissent should be allowed on _some_ moral matters (say, drinking alcohol). At a state school, the question of terminating Howell on the basis of this e-mail should not even have been considered for a moment.

I exhort all of you to write Gov. Quinn and call his office regarding this unjust firing of Dr. Howell. I have never seen such blaant maliciousness against an outstanding citizen and professor in Illinois. I am also trully embarass for its scandal and such aversion would be permitted to stand. Gov. Quinn has an active role in the university's board of trustees and I am sure he can stimulate a remedy to resolve immediately this foolishness.

I exhort all of you to write Gov. Quinn and call his office regarding this unjust firing of Dr. Howell. I have never seen such blaant maliciousness against an outstanding citizen and professor in Illinois. I am also trully embarass for its scandal and such aversion would be permitted to stand. Gov. Quinn has an active role in the university's board of trustees and I am sure he can stimulate a remedy to resolve immediately this foolishness.

Winkyb wrote:

I exhort all of you to write Gov. Quinn and call his office regarding this unjust firing of Dr. Howell...

You might also try writing to the University itself:

publicaffairs@illinois.edu


They have a lot to learn about academic freedom and, dare I say, inclusivity.


"This was the animating spirit of university life that drew me to it. It was not a place for crybabies or bullies. It was a place for serious men and women willing to undergo mutual interrogation in a climate of brutal honesty in which recrimination for holding controversial views was worse than being wrong."

And yet, even in the early 1980s, it would have been unacceptable to advocate all sorts of things at a public university. The question is how we get to the point where certain views become unacceptable in polite company. As an example, note the quick response to even the possibility that one of our fellow commentors was advocating the death penalty for homosexual acts. Miscegenation also comes to mind.

Most folks are likely unaware of the natural law arguments on same sex behavior. Those who find them peculiar (to say the least) should have more confidence in their own arguments and the ability of most others to figure things out.

Those who rail against tenure should consider that Dr. Howell was an Adjunct.

I'm not one of those who rail against tenure, btw. I do note, grimly, that Dr. Howell was an adjunct, and I was also speculating this morning over the breakfast table about what would have happened had he been tenure track but not yet tenured. It really isn't very hard to figure out, I think. ("We're sorry, Ken, but the committee wasn't able to give you a good rating on your fourth-year review...")

Quite possibly but it has occurred to me that if Robbie George and John Finis are "acceptable and respectable" for teaching much the same sort of things as Dr. Howell, then not renewing his contract seems really lame.

Oh, come. If Robert George were a young, untenured professional today, he would be very unlikely to get either a job or tenure at a school like U-I Champaign. Unless we imagine him in a different incarnation with a specialty in something entirely different--like, I dunno, philosophy of mathematics.

All,

I do hope you go pop over to Aaron's blog, where you'll find we have been visited by someone who thinks Ed's book is a "long-winded defense of superstition and bigotry."

Aaron,

I hope you hang around and continue to contribute to the discussion -- I suspect you will learn and thing or two.

Jeff:

I looked at Aaron's review and I saw, as you correctly noted, that he claims that Ed's book is a defense of "superstition and bigotry." That brought this question to mind: what is precisely wrong in believing in superstition and bigotry? Now, of course, I think it is wrong, for reasons having to do with the true nature of man, that our rational powers are ordered toward the truth, that acquisition of the truth enhances our likelihood of being virtuous, and being virtuous is our proper end (short of our final proper end, the beatific vision). Moreover, because of the true nature of man--as rational moral agent--I cannot treat my fellow human beings in any old way I please. I am obligated to treat them with dignity and respect because beings of that sort, those who possess true moral worth and intrinsic dignity, are entitled to that treatment.

That is, final and formal causality best accounts for our intuitions on what constitutes improperly formed beliefs as well as how we should treat our fellow human beings.

I am anxious to read how Aaron grounds these intuitions in those metaphysical views he finds congenial to his own philosophical project.

Frank

Here's the ADF's letter to the university officials:

http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/ADF-Letter.pdf

I do hope that Dr. Howell is re-instated, of course, but I have deep reservations about framing this as a First Amendment issue. Conceptually, certain kinds of speech ought to be censored, and an educational institution should have some freedom to censor, discipline, hire and fire in accordance with its mission and values. The problem here is not so much that Dr. Howell's free speech was violated, but that truth is being persecuted in a specifically Catholic context.

Of course, in the 21st century United States we have the tools we have. I suppose that means we should not hesitate to use them. Nevertheless, the same tools are even more effective when used against the Church, so Catholics ought not get too comfortable with them.

It's interesting to read some of the quotations they have from jurisprudence alleging that the First Amendment protects professors' academic freedom in the classroom. I hadn't actually been aware of those precedents. It seems to me that it does make a difference whether the school is public or private. It is at least more plausible that the first amendment would apply to public colleges or at least to colleges that accept federal money.

It would seem to me that there is an even stronger case for employment discrimination on the basis of religion, which is of course against federal law but also no doubt against Illinois state law, and, I would imagine, against local ordinances as well. (It certainly is in my city.)

Michael Bauman:

They do not, and should not, subject homosexual priests to the death penalty. Indeed, they do something quite in contrast to that: They make some of them cardinals, even popes.

Popes? Which popes? Can you name names?

Lydia:

Most of these First Amendment precedents are the results of decisions during the days of the "Red Scare" and the Vietnam War Protests. They occurred at a time when the Left could afford to defend an expensive understanding of freedom of speech. Now that they run the universities and much of the media, it's a bit different. They don't like that freedom of speech, or even freedom of religion, may mean that their ideological opponents will be able to respond on a level playing field. Hence, the creation of this ahistorical fiction called "political liberalism," whose purpose is to support philosophical exclusionary rules on the pretense of expanding rights. It is, of course, not the same as Liberalism, which has a much more noble pedigree. PL was concocted in the 1980s by a small group of intellectuals who saw that their only hope of winning the culture war was to marginalize certain types of policy proposals a priori. Thus, if you want to ban abortion, you can only do so if the citizens whose liberty you seek to limit (pregnant women) would find your proposal reasonable. Of course, they don't. So, your position is illiberal. Of course, Gay marriage is tougher, since the institution of it would result in severe limitations in the lives of religious citizens. In that case, religion needs to be diminished as a purely private activity that has no right to touch on those things that the state has deemed its appropriate domain. This is why the charge of "bigot" and that it stick is vital to this cause. Here's why: If the religious citizen, like the pregnant woman, is "reasonable" in rejecting gay marriage, then the state may not force that citizen to embrace or support it or terminate his employment if he dissents (see the Howell case). But that would mean that gay marriages would likely never be fully accepted by a sizeable percentage of the public. That is not a desirable consequence for proponents of PL. So, they have to change the rules again. They have to narrow what counts as "reasonable comprehensive doctrine" to exclude religious or philosophical beliefs that may cause people to doubt the moral permissibility of homosexual acts.

Political Liberalism a philosophical farce. And the Howell case is the first of many cases that will demonstrate this.

"Of course, Gay marriage is tougher, since the institution of it would result in severe limitations in the lives of religious citizens."

No, it would result in the hurt feeling and outraged sensibilities of those citizens but isn't that the price of living in a free society (see LM's post on certain Muslims in Dearborn who are also allergic to freedom)? Strange how one who wishes that Dr. Howell continues to have access to his forum (and income) has no problem denying others their privileges and immunities.

All we see here is that folks on both the right and left choke on the sweet air of freedom if its their ox that's being gored. I have no doubt that at some point in the relatively near future natural law assertions as to the nature of human sexuality are going to be as acceptable as the defenses of other peculiar institutions. Until then a hundred flowers should be able to freely bloom.

"Most of these First Amendment precedents are the results of decisions during the days of the "Red Scare" and the Vietnam War Protests. They occurred at a time when the Left could afford to defend an expensive understanding of freedom of speech. Now that they run the universities and much of the media,"

Folks who actually know the history of those times will recall how conservatives back then were always describing universities as liberal, left wing, communist, etc.

I want to, as the saying goes, strongly dissociate W4 and all its bloggers from George R's apparent recommendation of the death penalty for homosexual acts.

I would, with respect, ask for a reserve clause making an exception for priests who sodomize little kids.

The combination of priesthood (i.e. an exalted position of trust) and deep trauma to the innocence of the vulnerable young creates an extremely intense aggravation to the crime.

"Popes? Which popes? Can you name names?"

George, For starters, here's a few:

John XII, Benedict IX, John XXII, Paul II, Sixtus IV, Alexander VI, Julius II, Leo X, Julius III

The combination of priesthood (i.e. an exalted position of trust) and deep trauma to the innocence of the vulnerable young creates an extremely intense aggravation to the crime.

I imagine the experience for the child is much the same whether perpetrated by priest, fireman or public school teacher. If you're going to execute such people, kill them all.

@Michael Bauman: What source do you use to rehabilitate Infessura so that his charges against some of those popes carries force?
Your list also has a grab-bag feel: John XII is widely considered a horrendous man, but sodomy was not among the (many) charges brought against him as far as I know. What's the generic (or specific) source you used for that list?

Michael,

What can I say? You are completely shameless.

Alexander VI?(!)

If he wasn't a heterosexual, there never was one.

Pre-60s and post-60s liberalism are different, Al. Remember that Marcuse said that tolerance didn't need to be extended to those on the Right. The "new" Left has this idea in its blood, even if they don't know Marcuse from Neiman-Marcus. Hence the attempts to silence conservative speakers at universities, shut down conservative radio, etc. The end always justifies the means with these folks.

I imagine the experience for the child is much the same whether perpetrated by priest, fireman or public school teacher.

Bill, I was just trying to point out that a trusted adult using homosexual acts as cruel and inhuman way of damaging the affective integrity of a child is a far, far worse crime than simply engaging in homosexual acts by consenting adults. Requiring a far, far greater punishment.

No, it would result in the hurt feeling and outraged sensibilities of those citizens but isn't that the price of living in a free society (see LM's post on certain Muslims in Dearborn who are also allergic to freedom)? Strange how one who wishes that Dr. Howell continues to have access to his forum (and income) has no problem denying others their privileges and immunities.

Al, you seem to have a large gap in your understanding of the English language, and of history. In the English language, the word "marriage" does not refer to a concept large enough to encompass a man and a man uniting for whatever purpose. There may be, by some new legerdemain, some possible word that encompasses both man/man unions and man/women unions without distinction, but that term is not the English term "marriage". The state does not create the language, it does not own the language, and has no authority to force upon the populace a fundamental change in terms. The language pre-exists the state, the language provides the ground for meaning of all the expressions that identify the state's powers, and those powers don't include the right to change the meaning of the language out from under the culture.

If the state has any interest in marriage such that it prescribes conditions and sets forth statutory privileges, this state interest follows after and rests on a pre-existing order, a social consent to marriage as a social institution that holds its own rights and privileges apart from law. The state does not create the institution and does not own the institution, and has only a limited right to constrain or modify the institution. Virtually nowhere in America has society at large accepted the fundamental change in the institution of marriage that gays want, first, before state authorities (mainly, bureaucrats and judges) stepped in and mandated such changes. But they had no authority to do so.

It is one thing for a Christian to have "hurt feelings" because he happens to have neighbors who are in a gay "union", whereas it is quite another to require a Christian employer to pay benefits to a non-employee gay "partner", or require a Christian couple letting a room in their house make it available to a gay couple, or to require a Christian school to hire a gay teacher. The change in laws and judicial decisions affects a heck of a lot more than hurt sensibilities, and you are being somewhat blind to suggest it.

If the state has the primacy of origin and authority over some legal privilege, and seeks to grant that privilege to a certain class of people that it didn't formerly grant the privilege, perhaps the state has that authority. But most of the issues that are coming up are not specifically state-owned privileges (such as my examples above). Therefore, what the state is mandating in these cases goes beyond just changes in a free society.

George,
Notice how the conversation has gone:

I defended the Catholic church against the charge of anti-homosexual bigotry aimed at it by those who opposed and fired Howell. I also said that the Catholic church has sound reasons within its natural moral law argument. I said further that it not only is not a bigoted institution, it actually ministers to the souls of homosexuals, even sometimes incorporating them into its ministry.

You say I don't know what I'm taking about and quote a text that the Catholic church does not follow in this regard, a text in favor of executing homosexual priests.

I reply that the church not only does not execute homosexual priests, it sometimes actually promotes them to the highest ecclesiastical positions on earth.

You are offended and demand names.

I give you names, to which you respond with shock and insult, and say that one of those I named was a heterosexual, as if heterosexuals have never practiced homosexuality -- as if bisexuality were a historical fantasy.

Do check again on the names I gave you. I've done my homework, George. Do yours.

The Nyssan asked you for a specific source, Mr. Bauman. Why not give it? I checked out one of the popes (which is all the time I'm willing to put into it), Leo X, and aside from Wikipedia's mention of a scurrilous accusation, there is no evidence that he was homosexual.

What's really amusing is the way you introduced the subject: "...the Catholic church, while opposing homosexuality, has historically proven itself quite sympathetic and spiritually supportive to homosexuals, sometimes even raising them to positions of highest eminence." Sounds as though the electors got together and said, "Hey, this guy's queer. Let's make him pope."

Of course, I'm sure you didn't mean it to be taken that way.

Leave aside the issue of sources for a moment and assume that each pope on Michael's list practiced homosexual acts among their documented crimes and sins. All of them are at the centers of major controversies and corruption, opposed by at least powerful factions if not the majority of the Church, and either deposed or roundly condemned.

They make for an excellent sample of villainous popes, the various and interesting political scandals that make up parts of the Church's history, and the struggle the Church has had in living out its divine mandate while being an institutional force in the world.

But portray a boy's club that systematically promotes homosexuals? However true that may or may not be of the modern Church in the western world, that list just doesn't provide the footnotes for such a claim.

Papal villainy is a fascinating topic to me, and I would genuinely like to see Michael Bauman's sources on this claim of his.

Al, like most liberals, is a master at insinuating ridiculous moral equivalences. Viz. He implies that for a Christian to refuse to do or to object to doing all the various things required for recognizing homosexuals as "married" and for treating homosexual unions as normal (paying partner benefits, calling the other person a "spouse" or "husband" on pain of lawsuit or firing, placing children for adoption with homosexual couples, and on and on) is relevantly similar to _arresting_ Christians for talking to Muslims on a public street. If we were to make a parallel (though it would be rather artificial), the parallel would be to arresting homosexuals for standing on a street and calmly discussing their views on homosexuality with passersby who approach them to engage in dialogue--which is what the missionaries did in Dearborn. As far as I know, no conservative is proposing such arrests.

For those of you interested in sources, names and documentsregarding the boy's club, read Randy Engel: "The Rite of Sodomy - Homosexuality and the Roman Catholic Church". Also, for more recent events: Fr. James Chevedden's death and the Jesuit Residence in Los Gatos, California. Ms. Randy Engel is very Catholic, and she cares what happens to the Church.

It is strange how mystified or obtuse so many of you are regarding what is so objectionable about Howell's e-mail. Check out paragraph 7:

"If two men consent to engage in sexual acts, according to utilitarianism, such an act would be morally okay. But notice too that if a ten year old agrees to a sexual act with a 40 year old, such an act would also be moral if even it is illegal under the current law. Notice too that our concern is with morality, not law. So by the consent criterion, we would have to admit certain cases as moral which we presently would not approve of. The case of the 10 and 40 year olds might be excluded by adding a modification like "informed consent." Then as long as both parties agree with sufficient knowledge, the act would be morally okay. A little reflection would show, I think, that "informed consent" might be more difficult to apply in practice than in theory. But another problem would be where to draw the line between moral and immoral acts using only informed consent. For example, if a dog consents to engage in a sexual act with its human master, such an act would also be moral according to the consent criterion. If this impresses you as far-fetched, the point is not whether it might occur but by what criterion we could say that it is wrong. I don't think that it would be wrong according to the consent criterion."

Here Howell is saying that the principle for permitting homosexual relations between adults implies the permissibility of pedophilia (with a willing and informed 10 year old) and bestiality (with a willing and informed dog!). Leave aside how stupid these comparisons are for a second and just think about what it is like to be on the receiving end of this kind of commentary. It may be difficult for you to do, so imagine the following kinds of claims, which are structurally similar (and, I stress, just as stupid): "If you believe in a Christian God you must believe that you are morally required to kill nonbelievers," or "You're support of the military implies that you are a Nazi." Being told that central elements of your identity imply you support murderers and Nazis is pretty serious. Murderers and Nazis are loathsome beings. As are child molestors and folks who abuse animals. So you might see how being analogized to such lowlifes would be offensive.

That his e-mail was undoubtedly offensive does not imply that he should be fired. But some of you seemed at a loss about what was so offensive about the e-mail, so I thought I would pipe in with this explanation.

I suppose the fact that it is lousy argumentation and not just offensive is technically irrelevant, but it might be helpful to point out just where the mistake is in this kind of reasoning. In each of the cases -- Howell's, and the ones about God and the military -- the principles believed to endorse or permit the activities in question (homosexual acts, believing in God, supporting the military) -- are clearly not the actual principles endorsing or permitting the activity. Rather, they are overbroad caricatures of principles (roughly, views like "whatever people consent to is okay", "nothing is more important than believing in God," and "always follow orders") that no one holds in such unspecified, vague forms.

Now this reasoning, moreso than the offensiveness of his remarks, taken together with all of the other mistakes and lousy arguments he makes in this message, I think, speak very strongly in favor of his dismissal. I would bet that any serious natural law philosopher would be embarrassed by Howell's e-mail. And if this is what he is willing to put in writing, imagine how bad the classroom discussion must be!

"I would bet that any serious natural law philosopher would be embarrassed by Howell's e-mail."

Mirabile dictu, we just happen to have one among us. Care to comment, Ed?

(Personally I think that Howell is absolutely correct, and that you are misunderstanding his argument, Justin, in the same way that so many pundits misunderstood Sen. Santorum when he said something similar a few years back.)

We could ask Frank Beckwith what he thinks, too.

I gather the latest spin from the philosophical left is, "Quick! Distract attention from the obviously purely ideological nature of Howell's firing as evidenced directly by the Dean's own words."

Yeah, pay no attention to that ideological totalitarianism behind the curtain.

Justin, I agree that the examples would be offensive if taken as you point out. And I have no doubt that they would be taken that way in some cases. However, I believe that these particular examples were used precisely because they are ones in which we can all agree are morally objectionable.

The point being, there is a need to find a criteria for judging the morality of sexual acts that go beyond such things as mutual consent, pleasure, and attraction because each one of these falls short since they all lead to acts that are generally accepted as immoral.

He used extremes because all we have left are extremes.

What I mean is this: one of the points of his email was to illustrate how a person with a utilitarian worldview might frame an argument. He used the examples of pedophilia and bestiality because these are the few sexual practices still considered taboo. Almost every other sexual practice--masturbation, fornication, adultery, pornography, homosexuality, contraception, abortion--which once were considered harmful, disordered, or sinful are now commonplace and acceptable to a large part of our society. If he had argued (from a utilitarian viewpoint) in favor of any of these practices, it would have diminished the effect as he would have been "preaching to the choir." In other words, most of his students would have no problem with these practices anyway. So he had to go to extremes because at this point in time, that's all we have left.

And regarding the extremes, for those people with a utilitarian mindset, it's only a matter of time before the extremes get more extreme. For example, bestiality and pedophilia may still be considered wrong, but they are perceived wrong more on a gut level than on an intellectual one. While most people may feel they are wrong, they couldn't make a good argument to explain why. So in a world dominated by a utilitarian/relativistic worldview, all we need is a group like NAMBLA gaining public sympathy and political strength, and before you know it, pedophilia will soon become a "right" and soon after an acceptable practice. I don't think we're far from that right now. We may pretend pedophilia is an extreme, but it is not. We have Planned Parenthood, public schools, and the media doing everything in their power to encourage children to become sexually active. Are we so stupid to think that these children will not become sexually active with adults?

I've been saying that very thing about pedophilia for a long time, Janet. My bet would be that the attempt will be made to do it in a roundabout way, i.e., by a push to lower the age of consent.

One thing to notice about Howell's employment arrangement is that he was hired by the St. John's Newman Center--that is, the Catholic Church--and his salary was paid by the St. John's Newman Center--that is, the Catholic Church--and that he was not vetted or hired by the Religious Studies Department. This strikes me as a dubious arrangement. If the shoe was on the other foot, if the (say) Political Science Department had a longstanding arrangement with GLAAD whereby GLAAD, not the PolySci Department, would hire and pay someone who is openly gay to teach sections of Introduction to Gay Politics in which she openly advocates for controversial gay-friendly political positions, you guys would probably be pretty upset about it. (Just to be clear, so would I.) (And just to be clear, it is not at all obvious to me that this was a "good" or legal firing. Adjuncts can be fired without cause, but it doesn't follow that they can be fired for just any cause. And without following any procedures or being subject to bureaucratic oversight as required by due process.) (And just to be clear, I also think it is obvious that the email does not constitute hate speech.)

In any case, I, too, am very interested in what some serious natural law philosophers have to say about the philosophical competence of Howell's account of the Natural Law Theory of morality. Because his treatments of such concepts as utilitarianism, consent, and informed consent are not too accurate.

He can't literally have just been employed by the Newman Center, or the department and the university would have had no power to fire him. The Newman Center was providing the money, but in my experience, even when some outside source (such as a grant or a center) provides the money, the department has personnel selection power. It seems that this must have been the case here, since the chairman had the discretionary power to fire him.

Hi Dr. McGrew,

The employment arrangement was highly unusual. The initial agreement was reached decades ago; there had been an attempt to phase it out in the sixties, but leaders of the Catholic Church successfully lobbied to prevent this. Details can be found in this article in Inside Higher Ed. Howell was neither nominated, vetted, nor his salary paid, by the Religious Studies Department. And there is, of course, some controversy as to whether the chair actually had the discretionary power to fire him, at least under the circumstances.

For those interested in a bit of the background, Dr. David Delaney (who also worked for the Newman Center and taught a few courses before he was dismissed by the Religious Studies dept. a few years ago) wrote a nice summary of the history of the Newman Center's relationship with the University here:

http://cosmos-liturgy-sex.com/2010/07/14/they-finally-won-background-on-ken-howells-firing/

They Finally Won: Background on Ken Howell's firing

On December 9th 1919 the faculty Senate and the Board of Trustees approved an arrangement with these centers. This allowed the Guild to teach Catholic courses for university credit under the supervision of a university appointed committee.

Truthfully, Mr. Zero, I don't think that article is as clear as it could be on the question you're raising. What does the word "nominates" mean that it keeps using? Does that mean that the Newman Center presented the department with a suggested teacher for the course which the department could accept or reject? Look, I know a little bit from the inside about how academic departments work. A department _definitely can_ have a faculty member "wished on" the department by someone outside--usually, university administration. Here's one such scenario: A university has a "program" that is not housed in any department. Women's Studies is one such example at some schools, but there can be others. All who teach in this "program" are housed in other departments individually but are not hired initially by those departments. Higher administration hires, say, a feminist philosopher to be the new head of the Women's Studies program and, because her degree is in philosophy, higher admin. then twists the arm of the philosophy department (even if feminist philosophy is something that department has no interest in offering) to house her in their department. Now, the bottom line in that case is this: The department _can_ say no but is usually considered to be ill-advised to do so. In the case I'm outlining, the reason is that higher admin. might be angry and take revenge in some other way. That's how university politics works. In the U. of Illinois situation, I doubt very much that the department of religious studies was obligated to house Ken Howell. In fact, since McKim fired him, they obviously _weren't_ so obligated. But in the current financial situation, they were probably considered ill-advised to look in the mouth the gift horse of outside money (and outside money is much prized) for teaching warm bodies for credit in the department. In the end, they decided to say no anyway, because of Howell's politically incorrect views and e-mail.

And that's why I think the entire Inside Higher Ed. article is a red herring and, like some other comments above, an attempt to distract attention from the actual reason that Howell was fired, a reason that the Dean has made completely evident and that no honest person should be in any doubt about. And that reason does raise academic freedom issues. We really shouldn't let the university change its story at this point or let the spinmeisters distract us from what really happened. Anyone who thinks that a regular, department-hired, tenure-track (notice I didn't say tenured) professor would not be in similar danger if he took a similar position and taught it is fooling himself.

Hi Dr. McGrew,

I don't think that article is as clear as it could be on the question you're raising. What does the word "nominates" mean that it keeps using? Does that mean that the Newman Center presented the department with a suggested teacher for the course which the department could accept or reject?

I see what you're saying, but this is a side issue. Suppose that the most charitable interpretation of Howell's employment arrangement is true. Then suppose that GLAAD had an identical arrangement with the Political Science department. At the very least, it would be one in which it is GLAAD's idea that this particular person is the professor, GLAAD pays her salary--not the department, the person admits to serving as an advocate for controversial gay-friendly political positions, and she badly misrepresents competing ethical and political views in email communications with her students. See how that wouldn't be very good? See how it wouldn't be much better if the department had a positive attitude towards the person or the arrangement?

"He implies that for a Christian to refuse to do or to object to doing all the various things required for recognizing homosexuals as "married" and for treating homosexual unions as normal..."

1. "paying partner benefits." For public agencies there are already circumstances that some might object to - benefits to unmarried opposite sex couples and for Catholics that would include divorced persons who have remarried without an annulment. For private companies this is a cost of doing business and isn't material anyway.

2. "calling the other person a "spouse" or "husband" on pain of lawsuit or firing." Bill is married to Sam, Lydia, objecting to SSM can refer to Bill's husband as "Sam" and just what is Bill going to do? This is simply a phony objection.

3. "placing children for adoption with homosexual couples." As opposed to keeping said children in the foster care system on the public dime and having them homeless at 18? Besides singles, straight or gay can adopt in most jurisdictions (see previous point). Another phony issue.

4. "and on and on." Still waiting for a real issue not based on mere ideologically based outrage.

5. "is relevantly similar to _arresting_ Christians for talking to Muslims on a public street." No, we don't get to pick and choose which rights we will allow which group or persons to have. Persons (persons, not Christians - we really need to lose the special pleading) dwelling in the United States have the right to due process of law and may not be denied the equal protection of the laws. That goes well beyond, but obviously includes, the First Amendment issues in
Dearborn.

At the intersection of personal relationships and the law same sex couples face the exact same circumstances as do opposite sex couples under family law and there is no rational reason why they should be denied access to that body of law. Equal protection means folks in similar circumstances are treated in a similar manner.

You (Christian or not) disagree and we are free to do so and there goes that objection.

On another note, BL also has also noted the general incompetence in the email. His point that his firing would have been justified on that basis is well taken - the reasoning in the email is really bad. The university however chose to use a basis that is destructive of academic freedom.


Al, the issues I've mentioned aren't "phony" seeing as real people and organizations really have been fired, sued, etc., for refusing to go along on them.

Mr. Zero, whether the arrangement was in some academic sense "bad" is really beside the academic freedom issue. Suppose that your hypothetical GLAAD person were fired for "violating inclusivity" by suggesting that, say, Catholic natural law theory is deeply immoral. That would be a reason that is (as even our friend Al admits) "destructive of academic freedom."

And as I've already pointed out, universities are full of such arrangements in which faculty are wished on departments from outside the department. The department usually (as obviously here) has an opportunity to refuse, but that refusal is more or less discouraged by higher administration depending on the circumstances. In this case it's entirely plausible that firing Howell and ending the relationship with the Newman Center had previously been discouraged on economic grounds given the popularity of the courses. In that case, the Dean's e-mail would be a "green light" indicating that higher admin. was now willing for the department to forgo the cash and would not punish the department for doing so. Again, welcome to university politics. There is nothing more "bad" about the arrangement with Howell than there is with arrangements all over the country (which "Inside Higher Ed" isn't complaining about) in which people who teach "environmental studies" or "Africana studies" or "women's studies" are housed in other departments. And in some cases, those people are hired as _fully tenured faculty_ by the administration, so if the department gives in and agrees to house them at the outset, they can't even get rid of them later!! Hence, if you're worried about the academic independence of the department, you should be far more worried about those cases than about the case of an adjunct subject to firing at any time. And the pressure departments face directly from administration to house the faculty in these trendy programs can be considerable, whereas in this case Ken Howell was chosen by the Newman Center, who didn't have direct power to, say, refuse to allow the department to hire anyone for the next five years, as would a dean! No, I don't think there was anything terribly "bad" about the arrangement with the Newman Center strictly on grounds of the independence of the department. Department chairmen have these sorts of decisions to make all the time. Sorry, but that one just doesn't fly and is, again, a distraction from what actually happened.

"Al, the issues I've mentioned aren't "phony" seeing as real people and organizations really have been fired, sued, etc., for refusing to go along on them.

Who has been fired or sued successfully for refusing to call a spouse what another wishes them to be termed?

Any woman for whom this is an issue can arrange a private adoption. The welfare of the child and public policy will (and should) trump sectarian doctrine and prejudice once we move to the level of organizations.

You have yet to mention an issue anywhere near the level of damage that is incurred when folks are denied equal access to the law.

whether the arrangement was in some academic sense "bad" is really beside the academic freedom issue.

Did I deny this? No, I did not. I explicitly said I agree with you on the academic freedom issue.

Suppose that your hypothetical GLAAD person were fired for "violating inclusivity" by suggesting that, say, Catholic natural law theory is deeply immoral. That would be a reason that is (as even our friend Al admits) "destructive of academic freedom."

Did I deny this? No, I did not. I explicitly said I agree with you on the academic freedom issue.

And as I've already pointed out, universities are full of such arrangements in which faculty are wished on departments from outside the department.

Nevertheless. The circumstance in which Howell was "wished on" the Religious Studies Department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaigne is a naked conflict of interests.

There is nothing more "bad" about the arrangement with Howell than there is with arrangements all over the country (which "Inside Higher Ed" isn't complaining about) in which people who teach "environmental studies" or "Africana studies" or "women's studies" are housed in other departments. And in some cases, those people are hired as _fully tenured faculty_ by the administration, so if the department gives in and agrees to house them at the outset, they can't even get rid of them later!!

The St. John Newman Center is not "another department." It is a wing of the Catholic Church. And Howell was not hired by the administration, he was hired by a wing of the Catholic Church.

Hence, if you're worried about the academic independence of the department, you should be far more worried about those cases than about the case of an adjunct subject to firing at any time.

I very much am worried about those cases. For a variety of reasons, I am far more worried about them than I am about Kenneth Howell. I was talking about Kenneth Howell because he (and his employment arrangement) is the topic of this discussion.

whereas in this case Ken Howell was chosen by the Newman Center, who didn't have direct power to, say, refuse to allow the department to hire anyone for the next five years, as would a dean!

According to the IHE article and the Cosmos-Liturgy-Sex post linked to a couple of posts above this one, the Newman Center has had discretion to select and pay for the instructor of Introduction to Catholicism since 1919. 91 > 5.

I don't think there was anything terribly "bad" about the arrangement with the Newman Center strictly on grounds of the independence of the department.

I know that, but that wasn't really the question. The question was about an arrangement in which the PolySci department and GLAAD had a similar arrangement. I am open to using your understanding of the Howell facts. The question was, would there be something wrong with the GLAAD arrangement? Because I think there would be, and I kind of think you think there would be. If I'm wrong, I hope you'll let me know.

Al, I have a post on a man fired for refusal to acknowledge a homosexual "marriage" here:

http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2009/11/speak_now_or_forever_hold_your.html

And as you know, Catholic Charities in Boston was forced to choose between shutting down and offering children to homosexual couples for adoption. No, these are real-world issues, not phony issues. That's why homosexual activists care about them. You seek to minimize them when and where that is convenient for you.

But I'm not sure that this is on-topic anymore.

The St. John Newman Center is not "another department." It is a wing of the Catholic Church. And Howell was not hired by the administration, he was hired by a wing of the Catholic Church.


Well, no, it isn't a "wing" of the Catholic Church, but let that pass. In any event, you misunderstood the point. The analogue to the Newman Center would be the Women's Studies program. The "other department" would be whatever department housed the faculty member--in this case, Religious Studies. "Other" there means "other than the bunch that actually selected the faculty member"--that bunch being the Women's Studies program or the Newman Center. See?

The fact that Howell was not hired by higher admin. is actually a point that makes his case relatively unobjectionable from the perspective of departmental independence. When a faculty member is hired by higher admin. and then wished on the department, the pressure on the department to accept the faculty member is particularly strong. In this case, money was really the only issue--namely, that they stood to lose the outside funding for courses offered in their department if they refused the selected adjunct faculty member. They didn't have to worry so much about offending higher admin.

The circumstance in which Howell was "wished on" the Religious Studies Department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaigne is a naked conflict of interests.

A conflict of interests for whom? For Howell? Is it your position that the only or the best way for a vulnerable faculty member to be academically "pure" is for him to be beholden to no one but his department and his chairman? If that's your position, my response is, "Hahahahahahaha! Boy, are you naive!!!" Please. The fact that Howell could have been (I suppose) fired by the Newman Center as well as by his chairman, Prof. McKim, hardly means that he was somehow academically corrupted. The Newman Center wasn't about to fire him; it was McKim he had to worry about. It was the academic department that was putting the pressure on him to alter his position on or shut up about an issue he was teaching about on pain of firing. The only "conflict" was between his "interest" in being employed by the department and his own actual perception of and clear teaching of what he believed to be, you know, true. Which is supposed to matter in academic contexts. Or so I thought. If anyone was trying to corrupt him intellectually and get him to change his tune, it was the department! If anything, I think it rather sad that he claims to have offered McKim to refrain from teaching about homosexuality in future classes as a condition of continued employment. _That_ should be considered "bad" to anyone who cares about the marketplace of ideas.

As for your question about the hypothetical GLAAD arrangement, I would take it that the department's _acceptance_ and _continuation_ of the arrangement was a sign of the department's continued interest in promoting a homosexual political agenda. That would be "bad" in the sense that I think that a bad agenda, that I doubt that there would be any academic value in such a class, and that I suspect that a professor who taught under such an arrangement would indeed penalize his students for disagreeing with him. I think there is academic value in classes on Catholicism taught by orthodox Catholics. That I have no similar suspicion of bullying about Dr. Howell is a result of my own evaluation of the relative ruthlessness of homosexual activists vs. orthodox Catholics. If you disagree, too bad. But I wouldn't criticize the arrangement on the grounds of the academic independence of the department, which is my understanding of the grounds of criticism being brought up in the Inside Higher Ed article to which you linked.

So, since the university wants to have a course called Introduction to Catholicism (one supposes), are they going to hire a person who doesn't hold to the teachings of the Catholic Church to teach the course? Are they going to hire someone who white washes the teachings of the Church? Why should any honest person want to take such a class? If a university cannot teach the truth about something, said university should be shunned for intellectual dishonesty.

As for placing foster children with same-sex parents, to even argue this point shows a decision to place all ideologies as equal. Clearly, they are not. To say that law of man trumps or is even equal to the law of God shows exactly why a course like Introduction to Catholicism is needed. I am afraid that the next person to teach the course will treat Catholicism in the context of comparative religions. Sad.

The Chicken

The analogue to the Newman Center would be the Women's Studies program.

I know you think that, but you're wrong. The Newman Center is not an academic unit, as Women's Studies Departments typically are. It is a religious unit. They don't have a strictly academic mission. They have a religious mission. They are not funded by the University. They are funded by a Catholic organization.

As for your question about the hypothetical GLAAD arrangement, I would take it that the department's _acceptance_ and _continuation_ of the arrangement was a sign of the department's continued interest in promoting a homosexual political agenda. That would be "bad" in the sense that I think that a bad agenda, that I doubt that there would be any academic value in such a class, and that I suspect that a professor who taught under such an arrangement would indeed penalize his students for disagreeing with him.

Oh. That's what I think, too. Except that the RS department was not especially accepting of the arrangement and had attempted to dissolve it several times. And that the "quality" of the agenda is less relevant than its place in an academic curriculum--in that it has no place there. And that the academic value of the course is directly affected, in a negative way, by the presence of the political agenda.

I think there is academic value in classes on Catholicism taught by orthodox Catholics.

I totally agree. But in order to be sure that the class is of genuine academic value, the instructor ought to have been hired by the relevant academic unit, not a Catholic organization, and also not employed and directly funded by that Catholic organization in his capacity as the instructor. I think that someone teaching such a class in those circumstances is highly likely to have a religious agenda. And even if Howell did not consciously or purposely promote a religious agenda, the characterizations of competing ethical viewpoints and concepts (e.g. utilitarianism, consent, and informed consent) as he stated them in the email evince an agenda. They are extremely inaccurate. I have no reason to think it was deliberate. I'm sure it was not deliberate. But that doesn't make the characterizations fair--they are unfair. (It's also possible that this stems not from his religious affiliation but from incompetence. The arrangement is nevertheless problematic because, as you point out, of the high likelihood of the class being used to promote an agenda and the low likelihood of the class being of academic value.)

I don't think that religious agendas are "bad" exactly, but there is no place in a class taught under the imprimatur of a Religious Studies department at a public nonsectarian university for such an agenda. That is the conflict of interest, Dr, McGrew. The conflict is between Howell's roles as an agent of the Catholic institution who hired him and signs his checks and of the academic unit whose courses he was teaching.

Now, could somebody weigh in on the quality of Howell's discussion of Natural Law Ethics?

Mr. Zero, if you think a Women's Studies program is a more legitimate and respectable purveyor of academic content than a Catholic Newman Center, you and I are simply light-years away from each other. And of course my whole point was that any such arrangement has to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. I think the GLAAD arrangement you mentioned would result in trashy courses. I think most of Women's Studies involves trashy courses. I don't think the Newman Center arrangement resulted in trashy courses. (By the way, true story: A professor I know once saw a highly paid, fully tenured Africana Studies professor _yelling_ at his class that the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers are in "Africa! Africa!")

In today's university, filled to the brim with shallow, trendy, politically loaded junk and outright disinformation (see above on the Tigris and the Euphrates), I strongly suspect that Howell's courses were islands of intellectual meat. That you think otherwise just shows how little common ground we share on such questions.

if you think a Women's Studies program is a more legitimate and respectable purveyor of academic content than a Catholic Newman Center, you and I are simply light-years away from each other.

I don't know much about what goes on in Women's Studies departments. But I know this: Women's Studies departments are academic units, not political or religious organizations, that are answerable to Deans, Provosts, and University Presidents.

(By the way, true story: A professor I know once saw a highly paid, fully tenured Africana Studies professor _yelling_ at his class that the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers are in "Africa! Africa!")

That is, of course, not a story about a Women's Studies department. It is also a stunningly ignorant remark, if it was meant to be taken literally. And if so, and if it is representative, the professor is not competent. So what? Am I supposed to learn that Women's Studies is academically illegitimate on the basis of this third-hand anecdote? Am I supposed to learn that Africana Studies is illegitimate? Am I supposed to learn that there's nothing irregular Howell's employment arrangement?

I strongly suspect that Howell's courses were islands of intellectual meat

I don't have enough information to know whether Howell's courses were intellectually or academically respectable. The portions of the email that I have the expertise to evaluate don't inspire much confidence.

The issue is made more complicated because, judging from the admittedly slender reed of evidence we have to go on, Howell seems incompetent. From reading the comments I get the sense that some people will automatically think this judgment about Howell is owed to his aim of teaching about natural law theory and other Catholic ideas. This is not true at all. As Mr. Zero rightfully and repeatedly points out, Howell gets utilitarianism wrong in a very elementary way, and his comments on consent are ridiculous. There is also the mistake pointed out in my earlier comment upthread. And he seems to think that repeating and capitalizing the word "real" substitutes for an argument for natural law theory. Some commentators in this thread have come to his defense, of both his e-mail ("absolutely correct" says Rob G) and of his courses ("islands of intellectual meat" says Lydia). And while I know that philosophy is one of those topics that everyone thinks they are good judges of, it is not (see, for example Janet Selby's nonsensical reference above to something she calls the "utilitarian/relativistic worldview"). So I am not surprised that no philosophical experts in natural law have come to his defense.

People who really care about the intellectual side of Catholic thought are the ones who should be the most upset about someone incompetent teaching their ideas. They should want people who are as lousy as Howell seems to be fired. Unfortunately, many of these people apparently believe Howell was fired out of some kind of anti-Catholic bias (or p.c. oversensitivity), and have rushed to his defense. But let's be clear about what is worth defending: the idea that no one should be fired because of anti-Catholic bias. Not Howell's cruddy arguments and explanations.

Oh, it was meant to be taken literally. My point, Mr. Zero, is that "studies programs" are often highly politicized and not intellectually respectable, and that the fact that they are answerable to deans, provosts, and presidents is worth nothing in telling us about their intellectual value. How have you interacted significantly with the academic world and not realized this? Even faculty themselves, even plenty of _left-wing_ faculty, are not under the illusion that "being answerable to provosts, presidents, and deans" is some sort of seal of academic legitimacy and merit! Far from it.

I'm not a "specialist" in natural law theory qua theory, but having re-read Howell's e-mail it seems to me that there is nothing embarrassing about it as an introduction to the issues. He makes it quite explicit that he is dealing with a popular version of utilitarianism and that he is continuing a discussion begun in class. Hence he is addressing the issues at the level where he has found the students to be. In popular discourse consent often _is_ taken as sufficient as a moral disinfectant. And indeed, even among many intellectuals I must say I find myself hard-pressed to think of any act that they would consider absolutely wrong (!) if engaged in by one or more consenting adults. Suicide would perhaps be an even better example here. One might have thought that self-destruction would be a bridge too far to be cleansed by adult consent, but not so. Ask many-a ethics professor. Howell's one slip was in not saying in so many words that advocates of the consent criterion would say that children and animals definitely cannot give meaningful consent, though he does imply as much regarding children. In any event, his argument at that point was that _if_ you take consent to be a sufficient criterion for the legitimacy of a sexual act, then you have no sufficient principled reason, etc. This would be akin to arguing that _if_ you are a divine command theorist, then if God commands you to be a suicide bomber, you have no principled reason to reject this. And he makes it clear by a transitional phrase that his main point, which I think he makes quite well, is the contrast between any utilitarian ethics and an ethics based in the objective nature of reality as "inscribed," as it were, in human nature and the human body. In other words, even if one rejects pedophilia on the grounds that children cannot give meaningful consent, consent is still the criterion being invoked, and there is still a huge contrast between this type of ethics and a deontological natural law ethics. The e-mail seems to me to be a useful introductory level, brief, and intellectually provocative discussion of the issues, which is not without value and is apparently all that it is intended to be for the students at the stage of education at which he has found them and is teaching them.

One should keep in mind as well that the email is not some stand-alone document. It is a response to student questions as they studied for an exam, and serves as a continuation of class discussion and readings to which we are not privy. I'd be in all kinds of serious trouble if such responses of mine were taken to be the end-all and be-all of my teaching! This link might have some added insight or links to more; I haven't followed this thread carefully, and I apologize if the discussions in this link have already been brought into play, but I found it interesting:

Hmm; I don't know why the link didn't show with my comment. It's to a post by David French at NRO's education weblog, entitled "Further Update on Prof. Howell: the University Spins" -- about two or three posts down at the weblog. I'll try the link again:

http://www.nationalreview.com/phi-beta-cons/231222/further-update-professor-howell-university-spins

My point, Mr. Zero, is that "studies programs" are often highly politicized and not intellectually respectable,

Obviously, you're not saying that the politicization and lack of intellectual reputability of what you call "studies programs" licenses the religiousization and lack of intellectual reputability of classes on Catholicism taught in Religious Studies departments at nonsectarian public universities. What I can't understand is why we are talking about this at all. What we are talking about is a religious organization that hand-picks and pays its own professor to teach religion classes in a government-funded public university with no religious affiliation.

What if the campus Islamic center had hired a practicing muslim to teach Intro to Islam? What if they were also paying the person? What if that person openly advocated for Islam in the classroom? What if that person presented absurd caricatures of Christian ethical views in order to demonstrate the superiority of Islamic morality? Do you really think you'd have no problem with this?

and that the fact that they are answerable to deans, provosts, and presidents is worth nothing in telling us about their intellectual value. How have you interacted significantly with the academic world and not realized this? Even faculty themselves, even plenty of _left-wing_ faculty, are not under the illusion that "being answerable to provosts, presidents, and deans" is some sort of seal of academic legitimacy and merit!

Perhaps I was unclear. I did not claim that this answerability confers automatic intellectual respectability. It does indicate an absence of the sort of conflict inherent in the Howell arrangement, and is why a Women's Studies department is unsuitable to play the role of the Newman Center in the analogy.

And the absence of such answerability indicates a lack of intellectual respectability.

By the way, since you care about this, Mr. Zero, I would assume that if Howell could be fired by the chairman he was as answerable as _any_ adjunct is to provosts, deans, and college presidents.

Once again, this is just a situation where an adjunct was chosen by a group outside the department but where the department had to be agreeable or they could fire him. The only thing that is a bit unusual about it is that he is "only" an adjunct. In my experience, it is more common for far more prestigious faculty to be chosen by someone outside of the department--and often, someone with less competence than the department has in the ostensible academic area in which the person will receive tenure, etc.--which makes the situation more objectionable from the perspective of a real check on the person's competence, since such a prestigious person will be around for a much longer time if the department caves in and agrees to take him in the first place. I don't understand why you don't "get" this. So, no, Howell's position was not particularly irregular in terms of his being selected by people without the specialization that the department is presumed to have and then being housed by a department that didn't get to use their presumably specialized knowledge to select him in the first place. That happens not infrequently in the university.

I would assume that if Howell could be fired by the chairman he was as answerable as _any_ adjunct is to provosts, deans, and college presidents.

Again, it is far from clear that this firing was legal. It is currently subject to an independent review, and it seems quite likely that the chair overstepped his bounds.

Once again, this is just a situation where an adjunct was chosen by a group outside the department but where the department had to be agreeable or they could fire him.

This is false. The department has attempted without success to dissolve this relationship several times over the past forty years.

No, you're wrong. And the Alliance Defense Fund documents this from the agreement with the university. To wit:

Individuals will be proposed for adjunct faculty status by the Newman Foundation, and shall hold appropriate scholarly credentials and shall be reviewed and approved for adjunct status according to the standard procedures for such positions. The faculty members and courses shall be subject to the same review and supervision by the Program for the Study of Religion as apply to all courses and members of the Program’s faculty. In turn, the adjunct faculty affiliated with the Newman Foundation shall have the rights and privileges accorded all faculty holding the same positions.


http://blog.speakupmovement.org/university/freedom-of-speech/update-on-the-university-of-illinois-and-professor-kenneth-howell/

The only sense in which people within the department "attempted" to dissolve the relationship but failed was a political one (here I refer to university politics). The post linked above written by a professor who _was successfully fired_ from the same type of position Howell held (did you read it?) makes this clear. It was a matter of the department's and administration's agreeing and having sufficient unity and will simply to deem all the adjuncts actually presented to them to be unacceptable. The independent review over legality has to do with the _academic freedom issue_ (which is relevant to legality via a first amendment claim) not with legality on grounds that somehow the department literally had to continue employing whomever the Newman Center presented to them, world without end, amen. You are simply mistaken on this one.

In any case, I, too, am very interested in what some serious natural law philosophers have to say about the philosophical competence of Howell's account of the Natural Law Theory of morality. Because his treatments of such concepts as utilitarianism, consent, and informed consent are not too accurate.
Now, could somebody weigh in on the quality of Howell's discussion of Natural Law Ethics?
the characterizations of competing ethical viewpoints and concepts (e.g. utilitarianism, consent, and informed consent) as he stated them in the email evince an agenda. They are extremely inaccurate.

Mr Zero, you keep repeating that his argument was wrong so why don't you take a stab at explaining why? And if you can't explain why, what's your basis for thinking he is wrong?

p.s. I would like an answer other than because it is "offensive." That's not an answer that explains anything.

"Not Howell's cruddy arguments and explanations."

I don't see the "cruddy arguments." It seems rather obvious to many of us that men and women are ordered toward sexual unions and that other sorts of unions are not consistent with the proper function of our sexual powers. Although I can see why someone would disagree, but it's certainly not something "crazy" to believe.

And it seems obvious that if "utility" is the ground of your moral theory that even "consent" is inadequate, since utility could be maximized even if people don't consent to things done to them or if they are forbidden from doing certain things. For example, Obamacare would require that people by health insurance without their consent. And, apparently, it is based on utilitarian grounds: greatest good for the greatest number.

If a post-pubescent minor is the sovereign of his or her own sexual powers--as Planned Parenthood no doubt believes since they resist parental consent laws and its promotion of graphic sex-ed to kids--then it seems that sexual liberationists should extent their understanding of "consent" to 13-years-old. In fact, that's precisely what sexual liberationists want: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jacob-m-appel/embracing-teenage-sexuali_b_409136.html

Lydia is clearly correct Mr. Zero. Ask yourself this question:
Would a women's studies program at an AAU school hire a woman who is a prolife Catholic who defends an all-male priesthood and the church's magisterium on every moral issue? (Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, who recently died, does not count, since she converted long after she held the women's studies chair at Emory).

No way.

Ask yourself this question;
Would Princeton University today offer Robert George tenure as it did in 1997?

Not on your life.

The days of ideological diversity for the good of the whole is gone (if it ever even existed).

If your concern is with bad arguments, then why is that Leftists who behave badly in culture war issues get rewarded: see M. Nussbaum and the Duke 88.

It's so damned corrupt. And you know it.

The post linked above written by a professor who _was successfully fired_ from the same type of position Howell held (did you read it?) makes this clear.

The post contains an excerpt from an agreement between the university and the Newman center, which you have also quoted. It says that Newman Center adjuncts must have the same credentials and rights and be subject to the same sorts of review as regular adjuncts. It does not say that the department has veto power over the hiring. It does not indicate what procedures the Newman Center must follow in making the hire. The fact remains that the decision to hire Howell was not the department's, it was the Newman Center's. The Newman Center is not an academic unit, it is a religious organization. It hired him and it was paying his salary. And it was not in the department's power to end this arrangement.

None of your remarks touch the issue concerning the propriety of the arrangement. I remain curious about your opinion concerning the Intro to Islam classes paid for by the Islamic center and taught by its hand-picked instructor.

Mr Zero, you keep repeating that his argument was wrong so why don't you take a stab at explaining why?

Howell writes that, "One [problem for utilitarianism] is that to judge the best outcome can be very subjective. What may be judged good for the pregnant woman may not be good for the baby. What may be judged good for the about-to-cheat-husband may not good for his wife or his children." This is false. That an action might be good for one person while being bad for another is not an objection to utilitarianism; it is an obvious fact that all utilitarian theories acknowledge and embrace.

Howell also claims that an ethical theory based on consent would imply that sexual activity between a 10-year-old child and a 40-year-old man is morally permissible, provided that the child consented. He points out that he is talking about morality, not the law, presumably to avoid an objection based on age-of-consent laws. In any case, he is wrong. His remarks ignore the factual basis for such laws: that young children cannot meaningfully consent to sexual activity with adults. For one thing, they are (by definition) not sexually or emotionally mature enough to understand what they are consenting to, what risks are involved, etc. For another thing, they are unlikely to be savvy enough to avoid being exploited by the adult. For another thing, typical versions of utilitarianism attach little intrinsic importance to consent; according to these theories, pedophilia is wrong because of the deep and lasting psychological trauma such actions cause.

Howell also claims that an ethical theory based on "informed consent" rather than regular consent would imply that sexual activity between a human and a dog is morally permissible. This is also false. Strictly speaking, 'informed consent' is redundant; if you weren't informed about what you "consented" to, you didn't consent. As it is used by people who study ethics, though, "informed" consent implies a more formal and possibly stricter standard than does "regular-old" consent. And if human children aren't emotionally sexually mature or intellectually sophisticated enough to be able to meaningfully consent to sexual relationships, then dogs can't, either. Dogs are less able to comprehend the various relevant facts than are human children.

In each case, there is a lot more to it than just this. This is just the tip of the iceberg. But Howell's analyses are wrong in extremely basic ways. They are not competent.

That an action might be good for one person while being bad for another is not an objection to utilitarianism; it is an obvious fact that all utilitarian theories acknowledge and embrace.
This is what he's pointing out. In the abortion case, too bad if you are the baby.

I understand the "consent" problem.

Do you think his email would have been less offensive if he had used actual utilitarian arguments put forth by ethicists? For example arguments in favor of euthanasia, infanticide, and animal rights insteal of the examples of bestiality and pedophilia?

The consent argument is immaterial, since the "age of consent" is purely arbitrary and as such has no moral standing apart from its legal basis. This seems to be the upshot of Howell's argument -- utilitarianism/consequentialism cannot ever really say that a given "consentual" sexual activity is wrong per se. It may be wrong right now for an adult male to have sex with a 13 y.o. girl, but if the law were changed tomorrow to lower the age of consent to 13 it would no longer be wrong. Of course this applies to a 13 y.o. boy as well.

As far as animals go, do we have to get their "consent" to kill them for food? How about surgeries for animals for veterinary purposes? Tieing them up in our backyards? Since we obviously don't, it doesn't seem outlandish to suggest that one would not need its consent to have sex with it either, even if the animal is "hurt" by the experience.

Zero, I don't know where you are getting this nonsense about its not being in the power of the department to end the arrangement. You don't seem to get that the quotation says the Newman Center _proposes_ the person and that then the person is subject to _approval_ according to "standard procedure." You don't understand that "standard procedure" means the department has to agree and can say no? You know, it _is_ standard procedure that departments hire their own adjuncts! The meaning of the agreement is extremely clear. You also haven't acknowledged that you blundered when you implied that the current pull-back and appointment of a review committee by the university has something to do with this notion that the chairman has no authority to fire him. That's false. That isn't what the review committee is about at all. The university expressly says that it concerns academic freedom. Neither Howell nor his supporters nor the university is saying that it was literally not legally in the power of the department to fire him because he was employed only by the Newman Center. The legality question that is causing the pause and review by the university concerns academic freedom, period, and that is what ADF is threatening to sue over.

And the adjunct who was successfully fired some years ago as a result of a review process by the department, he just went tamely because he and the department and the university all just didn't realize that it wasn't legally in the power of the department to fire him? But you have figured this out even though all the principle people actually legally involved on both sides didn't get it? Oh, and when that same adjunct initially almost wasn't hired because of a complicated review process made up by the department, and when he argued with the department that the process they had set up was unfair and got them to reconsider and give him another chance, he should have just sued instead, because the department _had_ to accept him once he was proposed by the Newman Center? The department had no legal power to refuse, but he and the department all just didn't realize this and thought the department had to agree to his hiring, had the right to evaluate him before agreeing, and could say no?

It's rather amusing that it's now in the interests of Howell's opponents and leftist spinmeisters to make the bizarre claim that he literally can't legally be fired by the university--not merely that he can't be fired for the reason he actually was fired for. The attempt to distract from the academic freedom issue is blatant. Presumably his own lawyers are denying this claim that he literally couldn't be fired by the department just because they don't want to admit that Howell was part of some academically dubious Catholic control-freak arrangement? So they and Howell are sacrificing the really legally strong part of his case to hide the real legal nature of the situation and emphasize academic freedom instead?

As I said before, in answer to your question, I don't think there was anything inappropriate about the arrangement in itself. Whether such an arrangement--where a person is paid for and initially proposed from outside the department--is good or bad in the end depends entirely on the concrete situation. I said that already. Some departments chafe at such things in the abstract. They feel that it's pushy on someone else's part to try to "bribe" or pressure them to take on a faculty member initially proposed from outside the department. Sometimes it works out so that the department is happy with it--happy to get the money and the courses taught, sometimes happy with the person. In some cases it could work out so that the students were well-served even though the department agreed only reluctantly. And in this case I don't think those details were such as to make the arrangement academically problematic in itself.

Zero, I don't think you did read this article, because it does not actually contain the money quote (which should settle the matter) from the agreement with the university. But here it is:

http://cosmos-liturgy-sex.com/2010/07/14/they-finally-won-background-on-ken-howells-firing/

Notice that it traces the entire history of the relationship. Under the most recent agreement, the religion department subsumes the faculty and they are simply adjuncts. Hence, the department can refuse to hire them and they have power to fire them. That's exactly what happened to the professor who wrote the column (he almost wasn't hired by the department, and in the end he was fired), and that's why he didn't even consider suing. The Newman Center paid for his courses, but the department was his employer in the sense of having the power to agree or not to the hiring and to fire if he were deemed not competent by the university's own procedure of evaluation. Had the department done the same thing with Howell, they would be rid of him now without recourse for him. The only reason they are being forced to reconsider is because they were unwise enough to make the violation of his academic freedom quite clear.

This is what he's pointing out. In the abortion case, too bad if you are the baby.

Not necessarily. If utilitarianism is true, then these harms and benefits can be compared. And if the harm to the fetus is greater in absolute magnitude than the benefit to the mother, assuming no one else would be affected, utilitarianism implies that the abortion would be wrong. Utilitarianism has no uniform implications about the morality of abortion. It does not imply that all abortions are morally permissible. And the mere fact that the abortion might benefit the mother and harm the baby is not an objection to utilitarianism. The recognition that this sort of thing is possible is the basis of utilitarian reasoning.

Do you think his email would have been less offensive if he had used actual utilitarian arguments put forth by ethicists?

Possibly, provided he understood those arguments and presented fair and accurate interpretations of them. I don't think that there's anything wrong with presenting an alternative moral theory (though utilitarianism probably isn't the most fair choice; it's not popular, and most people find it completely unbelievable because of the problems with justice) and raising difficulties for it.

It's rather amusing that it's now in the interests of Howell's opponents and leftist spinmeisters to make the bizarre claim that he literally can't legally be fired by the university--not merely that he can't be fired for the reason he actually was fired for. The attempt to distract from the academic freedom issue is blatant.

Take a deep breath. Go back and read my first post in this thread. I agree with you about the academic freedom issue. I didn't claim that he couldn't be legally fired at all. I claim that the Newman Center's role in hiring him in the first place is improper. I think that sectarian religious organizations have no business in playing a central role in the selection process for professors who will be teaching classes about that religion at a nonsectarian public university. I think that whether the religious organization is affiliated with the Catholic Church or with the Islamic faith. I think this applies to political organizations, too. I find it extremely difficult to believe that you, the person who thinks that Muslims should not be allowed in America at all, would have no problem with a Campus Islamic center funding a class in islam through the Religious Studies department, playing a central role in the hiring of the teacher, and hiring a teacher who presents unfair and ridiculous mischaracterizations of, say, Natural Moral Law theories of ethics in order to demonstrate the superiority of Islamic morality. If something like that happened, you would not be saying, "academic freedom." You would be saying, "Not ready for civilization," and "can we please stop letting them in the country, now, please?"

Mr. Zero, give yourself a break, man. Remember: http://xkcd.com/386/

I didn't claim that he couldn't be legally fired at all.

You shouldn't say stuff like that when your comments are sitting right there for anyone to read and quote:

There is this:

Again, it is far from clear that this firing was legal [Note that you are implying that this was because of the nature of the arrangement, not for academic freedom reasons]. It is currently subject to an independent review, and it seems quite likely that the chair overstepped his bounds. [In other words, that the chairman likely didn't have the authority to fire him, because of the nature of the arrangement.]
The fact remains that the decision to hire Howell was not the department's, it was the Newman Center's. The Newman Center is not an academic unit, it is a religious organization. It hired him and it was paying his salary. And it was not in the department's power to end this arrangement.

But actually, you see, it was. Just as it was their decision whether to hire the other professor (which was why they put him through an initial evaluation procedure and almost didn't hire him). Just as it was in their power to end that arrangement with the other professor, and they did in fact fire him. And if they wanted to end the arrangement with the Newman Center altogether, all they had to do was to deem _all_ the professors the Newman Center proposed to be unacceptable. If they had simply done it more smoothly and with a more professional appearance of evaluating Howell's abilities (as they did with the other adjunct) rather than in the way that they did, and if the dean had kept her mouth shut about "inclusivity," they would be all done now.

I don't know why this is so hard for you to understand.

As for some sort of Islamic arrangement, I would object to that for reasons _having to do with the fact that it was an Islamic arrangement_. (For example, probable sympathy for terrorism, etc.) Not because an arrangement whereby an outside entity "plays a central role" in selecting the professor is intrinsically academically wrong. How many times do I have to say this? Everything depends on the individual details of the situation. You seem to want to pin some sort of contradiction on me, and you can't do it. See, content matters, and I'm not afraid to say that. I don't try to do everything at the level of pure, contentless, formal structure.

And I like the unheralded move from "the chairman overstepped his bounds" in firing Howell and "it was not in the power of the department to end this arrangement" to the mere statement that an outside entity "played a central role in the hiring." Whoopee. Big deal. See, Mr. Zero, once you admit that this is just a matter of some entity outside the department "playing a central role" in hiring, but that the department does have veto power initially (in other words, can refuse the person selected) and can fire the adjunct like any other adjunct, then you're going to have trouble making out that this arrangement was so "irregular." Because actually, as I already discussed and don't want to repeat and repeat, such arrangements are not terribly uncommon, and many of such arrangements, unlike Howell's, lock the department in once it agrees initially by giving the person tenure immediately. And you're going to have to admit that the department _did_ have the power to end the arrangement, contrary to what you have said.

The Diocese - through the Newman Center - only sends candidates for Catholic Religious Studies positions. The University holds all other relevant rights - meaning they screen and choose the candidate they deem eligible/fitting etc. The professor is then held to all other requirements/standards put forth by the department.

As to the money - the diocese pays the salary but my question is who keeps the tuition generated by these classes?

The input of the diocese benefits that students at UI in the sense that anyone taking a class on Catholicism can actually learn what the Church teaches and not some watered-down-politically-correct-liberal spin on Catholicism. I think that's good thing and I wouldn't mind if the classes on religion had a similar backing from a credible source.

And I like the unheralded move from "the chairman overstepped his bounds" in firing Howell and "it was not in the power of the department to end this arrangement" to the mere statement that an outside entity "played a central role in the hiring." Whoopee.

The chairman did overstep his bounds. We agree on this, I thought. Whatever else may be going on in this case, the fact that the chair fired Howell is not evidence that Howell could be fired, because it was wrong of the chair to fire him. Of course, it doesn't follow that Howell could never be fired under any circumstance, but I didn't say that. That's something that you made up.

It was not in the department's power to end the arrangement. The "arrangement," to be clear, is the arrangement whereby the Newman Center nominates and pays the person who teaches intro to Catholicism. My evidence for this fact is that they tried and failed to end the arrangement several times over a forty year period. Even if they fired another guy, Howell eventually ended up in the job, and he ended up there by being nominated and payed by the Newman Center. And the idea that this is a "move"--that I was inferring that it was not in the department's power to end the arrangement from the fact that McKim did not have the specific power to fire Howell for the specific offense he fired him (is attempting to fire him?) over--is another thing you made up.

And an outside entity, the Newman Center, did play a central role in the hiring. Furthermore, the Newman Center is not an outside entity simply in virtue of being outside the department or outside of the College of Arts & Sciences, but in virtue of being outside the university. They are an independent religious organization with a religious mission sponsored by the Catholic Church. Whoopee, indeed.

As for some sort of Islamic arrangement, I would object to that for reasons _having to do with the fact that it was an Islamic arrangement_. (For example, probable sympathy for terrorism, etc.) Not because an arrangement whereby an outside entity "plays a central role" in selecting the professor is intrinsically academically wrong. How many times do I have to say this? Everything depends on the individual details of the situation.

There's nothing in the text I wrote that guarantees that the Islamic-funded class on islam or the GLAAD-funded class on gay politics would be any worse than what Howell was doing. I stipulated that the arrangement would involve exactly what Howell was doing and nothing more. I know that the details matter. But here's what's interesting. You object to the Islamic teacher of Intro to Islam because you think he would say things you think are morally objectionable (sympathy for terrorism, etc), and you also think you're some kind of defender of academic freedom.

I, on the other hand, think that Howell ought to be able say whatever he wants, even if I find it morally objectionable (that homosexual behavior is wrong, etc), so long as he is fair, accurate, and as impartial as he can be. I don't think there's anything wrong with him being Catholic, or revealing to his students that he is Catholic, or revealing to his students that he endorses the arguments he presents. What I object to in Howell's behavior is his incompetent presentation of the opposing viewpoints he considered, and his use of these incompetent presentations in an argument for the moral superiority of the Catholic moral view. The fact that Howell was apparently unfair, inaccurate, and partial is no surprise, since the arrangement that led to his being in the classroom greatly decreased the odds that a fair and impartial professor would be hired. I don't see why this is so hard for you to understand. Ultimately, what matters is the quality of the teaching, and allowing partisan organizations to pick and pay for the person who does the teaching damages this goal.

Come on. You're a smart person. You know this stuff.

Well, see, I don't think that teaching that terrorism is legitimate is worthwhile academic content. So a school shouldn't set up such an arrangement in the first place. Because of Islam. Again, I object to Islam because it's Islam, not because it's a religion. I would object to the arrangement you suggest not for some abstract reason having to do with entities--even religious entities--outside the university nominating people for positions but for a concrete reason having to do with problems with Islam.

And you know quite well, or could if you would let yourself admit it, that when you suggested that the chairman "overstepped his bounds" you meant something having to do with the nature of the arrangement, not simply a violation of Howell's academic freedom. The nature of the arrangement was the context of the discussion. You also said that the department did not "vet" Howell, but actually, the evidence of quite a bit of "vetting" in the other adjunct's appointment (which I still can't tell if you've read about) is that the department did have at least the opportunity to "vet" Howell, whether they chose to take that opportunity or not. And if they felt they hadn't "vetted" him thoroughly enough at the beginning of the arrangement, they could have done what they did with the other adjunct--namely, "vetting" him while he was being a teacher there and getting rid of him if he didn't come up to academic standards. If, as you said, the department didn't "vet" him, that's simply negligence on the department's part, not a feature of the arrangement, as you implied that it was.

The truth is, you exaggerated the degree of control the Newman Center had over the position and the supposed absence of options open to the department, and you are simply not admitting that now. You seem utterly unaware of how department and university politics work, which shows in your vague references to "trying to end the arrangement for forty years" without any apparent understanding of the timeline and trajectory I have already referred to whereby, as of 2000 or 2001, the department actually got complete formal, legal freedom to reject all nominees from the Newman Center. Perhaps you are simply unaware of the fact that such things can be difficult to summon the political and departmental will to do, but believe me, that's the truth. Especially given the economic situation. Much that goes on in a university context involves things like inertia, bluff, psychological guessing, etc. As in, "It will look extreme if we simply say that all of these nominees are incompetent, and the administration might not like it, because it will involve turning down premium outside dollars. Besides, Howell seems to be a good, hard-working teacher, he's been doing this job all this time, and I'm not really sure we have a good enough pretext for saying he's incompetent." Etc. That's how faculty and chairmen think. That's how these things work. That's business as usual in a university. But that is not the same thing as some sort of illicit outside control of the position.

Lydia,
After reading Zippy’s latest ode to censorship and authoritarianism, along with George R’s Vatican approved declarations on "eradication", I am unwilling to claim Dr. Howell's remarks do not lead to a very slippery slope. Although I will give you some credit for your modest attempt to defend free speech in Zippy's post.

By the same token, Step2, you could say that _any_ statement or implication that some action is wrong, unnatural, or what-have-you--whether from the left, right, or center--"leads to a very slippery slope." That is to say, anyone with strong beliefs about right and wrong _could_ in theory be persuaded to suppress speech that contradicted those beliefs. In the Howell case, it's pretty amusing that you should connect his e-mail with the statements of completely different people to conclude that Howell's beliefs are on the "slippery slope" to censorship, etc., while ignoring the elephant in the room--namely, that it was Howell who got fired for what he wrote, said, and advocated, not someone on the other side of the issue!

...you could say that _any_ statement or implication that some action is wrong, unnatural, or what-have-you--whether from the left, right, or center--"leads to a very slippery slope."

I think unnatural implies a good deal more than being wrong. In my experience it is a gateway to the galaxy of pollution concepts that includes abomination, poisonous, damned, contagious, etc. I too have been guilty of using that tactic, but I try to only use it on rare occasions.

...it was Howell who got fired for what he wrote, said, and advocated, not someone on the other side of the issue!

I realize that, I'm only saying that the PC "tyranny" didn't call for his arrest or the dystopian torment George R. would approve of. If you are determined to have a culture war, I wouldn't hyperventilate over minor injuries.

Where would you put "bigoted" in that list, Step2? How about "phobic" (i.e., mentally ill)? How about some of the unprintable things that people with what Malkin calls "Bush derangement Syndrome" have said? (I just saw today a quotation from a forthcoming article in a _law journal_ which argued against toleration for Christianity if it would make people more likely to vote for George W. Bush, whom the author characterized as a "monster.") Face it, people on the left have plenty of very strong words for people on my side of these culture war issues, if that's what's bothering you. And are acting on them, again and again and again. The ADF is litigating a whole _suite_ of cases in which young people have been threatened with being kicked out of counseling or social work programs if they do not change their views on the morality of homosexual acts.

I hold no brief for George R.'s views in this area, and as you know, he approves of the civil government's physically persecuting Protestant heretics, so obviously I'm not "down with" his notion of the ideal state.

Why should everybody who believes, as I do, in a culture war and who is on the "right" of that culture war be taken to approve of the arrest and/or execution of people who disagree with them? I've certainly never advocated that.

Lydia:

Why should everybody who believes, as I do, in a culture war and who is on the "right" of that culture war be taken to approve of the arrest and/or execution of people who disagree with them? I've certainly never advocated that.
Nor I. In fact a significant theme of the discussion Step2 refers to is that the censorship/free-speech relation is not a single or simple thing, but describes a whole spectrum or cluster of things. Off the top of my head, in addition to there being all sorts of types of speech given a subject matter ("I believe prostitution should be legal" in a blog post vs "Hey Honey, looking for a good time?" in a car window, for example), we can abstract to a spectrum of encouragement or sanction: social repercussions socially repressed (in all sorts of possible ways), social repercussions legally repressed (ditto), social repercussions permitted and present, social repercussions legally encouraged, legal repercussions. Within legal repercussions the variations are virtually infinite: it could mean fines, tax status consequences, denial of permits (or leases or all sorts of different rights) of various sorts, eligibility to hold various offices, jail time, you name it.

The bottom line is that the "right to free speech" religion collapses a whole vast area of life into an abstract simplification which bears no relation to reality: thus PC tyranny as a concomitant feature of a society which lies to itself about speech and its relation to authority.

Where would you put "bigoted" in that list, Step2?
Right in the middle. According to former members of the Klan, which I think we agree is based on bigotry, one of their core beliefs is that the physical touch of a black person is pollution.

How about "phobic" (i.e., mentally ill)?
Please, please tell me you aren’t comparing homophobia to an irrational, uncontrollable fear. Not when you are constructing all these reasons to support your reaction.

Face it, people on the left have plenty of very strong words for people on my side of these culture war issues, if that's what's bothering you.
I don’t disagree, every partisan including myself likes their daily dose of outrage. Yet you will not see me try to defend Peter Singer or Noam Chomsky either. They both maintain the façade of civil discourse; but that doesn’t change the fact they are advocates and apologists for very extreme positions. This is a roundabout way to get to what is bothering me: Why is an ultra-traditionalist Christian like George R. wrong to suggest what he did? He’s got multiple biblical passages to back up his condemnation; he’s got an old papal edict; the only things in his way are modern law and modern theology, both of which he considers heretical.

Why should everybody who believes, as I do, in a culture war and who is on the "right" of that culture war be taken to approve of the arrest and/or execution of people who disagree with them?

It might be connected to Malkin writing a book entitled In Defense of Internment. That is the barest tip of the iceberg if you really want to go there.

Step2:

Why is an ultra-traditionalist Christian like George R. wrong to suggest what he did?
Because there is such a thing as, you know, the truth, and he isn't in possession of it on the salient points.
... Malkin writing a book entitled In Defense of Internment.
So Lydia McGrew is Michelle Malkin? Really?

Please, please tell me you aren’t comparing homophobia to an irrational, uncontrollable fear.

I'm telling you that the use of the term is obviously intended to imply that the illness, irrationality, etc., are on the part of those who hold traditional positions on sexual morality. The term "homophobia" was coined to stigmatize traditional morality as a form of "phobia." Of course _I_ don't agree with this. I'm pointing out the extreme nature of the term.

It's certainly true that even a secular, non-sectarian college is not going to, and should not, consider every possible type of content to be academically valuable. If someone wants to offer a course in the metaphysics of Donald Duck, he should be told nix on it. If someone wants to teach that the earth is flat and that the sun goes around it in geology class, he should be told that he is not academically competent in his field. Nobody truly believes that all ideas are equal in value and in legitimate academic respectability. But it is manifestly bizarre to hold that Howell's positions as taught in a course on Catholicism, of all things, are such that they have no place in the academy. Common sense has simply been lost.

Of course _I_ don't agree with this. I'm pointing out the extreme nature of the term.

Fair enough, sorry for misunderstanding. When I've used it previously I didn't expect the term to convey the idea of uncontrollable fear, like a real phobia. However, there is definitely an implication of irrationality. A rough outline for making that accusation goes like this:
1. I find something that is different from what I'm used to.
2. That difference alone is upsetting.
3. I'll accept a reason to vilify it, but I also reject the full consequences of that reason i.e. that any sex act intending to avoid procreation is unnatural.

That is pretty interesting, Step2.

So in your usage of the term "homophobia" (correct me if I am wrong), it only applies when a person rejects traditional sexual morality on contraception and, at one and the same time, understands homosexual acts to be immoral? A consistent adherent to traditional sexual morality is not a homophobe, in your usage?

I would agree that the composite position is irrational, taken in total. No question that there are large numbers of "social conservatives" who fail a consistency test on sexual morality; a point I've made myself any number of times.

There are two problems with using the term "phobia" as a descriptor though. The first problem is that the position is objectively right on the question of the morality of homosexual acts: that it is wrong on some other question isn't really pertinent to the labeling exercise (not that I expect you to agree to the premise).

The second and more telling one though - and a point on which I think we ought to be able to agree - is that a phobia is not an irrational position, it is an overblown fear. It is a fear which may be irrational inasmuch as it judges a threat or risk to be larger than it is in fact, but is not necessarily irrational per se: I am sure any number of acrophobes have died by falling from a height, for example. A phobia is, often as not, a perfectly reasonable fear blown out of proportion.

And I would probably, in that context, agree that a person who was fixated on homosexuality and homosexuality alone as the greatest and only threat to civilization is a homophobe; even though he is right to understand homosexual acts as objectively immoral and their public acceptance as a threat to the common good. The problem for leftists polemicists though is that when used accurately the term doesn't describe all that many actual people; and the people it does describe we would probably both agree to have ... issues.

And that is the reason why - the only reason why - leftists use the term: to portray everyone who disagrees with them as having ... issues. Often as not, of course, this is projection on the part of people who themselves have ... issues.

And as Zippy says, there aren't all that many people (in fact, I can't think of any) who think that "homosexuality and homosexuality alone [is] the greatest and only threat to civilization..."

After all, there are so many threats to civilization to choose from...

"The term "homophobia" was coined to stigmatize traditional morality as a form of 'phobia.'"

This comment may apply to any given individual or not but the use of the word "phobia" in this case partly stems from the uneven application of those traditional moral values by folks who hold policy positions that are often characterized as homophobic. Newt Gingrich is one of many who could serve as poster persons for this phenomenon and things like serial adultery and the international sex trade are typical of the issues.

Again, on a personal basis, if one is more upset about a small number of individuals having access to a body of law that arguably applies to them than having a senator or president who regularly dumps his wife for a younger model or has disturbing fetishes with the opposite sex then is is hardly unreasonable to assume that something more than "traditional morality" is involved.

If one wouldn't vote for folks like Newt or Vitter (to name just a couple of many) then the term "homophobic" may not apply.

Also the term "homophobia" would certainly seem to apply to that subset of individuals who, while highly critical of the "gay agenda," have failed to come to terms with their personal issues.

With some federal-governmentphobia may apply more than anything else.

So according to Al, one has an irrational and exaggerated _fear_ of homosexuals if one doesn't have what Al considers to be a consistent set of priorities vis a vis heterosexual sin and voting. I don't buy it.

If someone irrationally conflates inconsistency with fear, does that make the person a reasonophobe?

"If someone irrationally conflates inconsistency with fear, does that make the person a reasonophobe?"

Maybe, but rather than drifting into ad hominem why not explain how I'm being irrational in assuming that there are likely reasons driving the inconsistency. I consider it reasonable to assume that reasons may differ from one person to another and more than one reason may be at play within an individual.

For example, besides an honest and consistent revulsion at sin, we might have the friend/enemy distinction at work.

"So according to Al, one has an irrational and exaggerated _fear_ of homosexuals if one doesn't have what Al considers to be a consistent set of priorities vis a vis heterosexual sin and voting. I don't buy it."

Of course you don't and that is besides the point. Repeating that an inconsistency exists is merely begging the question. I am only pointing out that there are reasons for the inconsistency. With the present issue under discussion partisan identification may trump ones values or there may be some psychopathology at work or maybe something else or maybe a combination.

If one considers personal corruption and serial adultery as immaterial as to how one votes and, at the same time, gets exercised over the extension of certain rights to a small number of anonymous folks then one either has rational reasons for the distinction independent of any theologically driven moral values unique to the despised group or something else is at play.

What is clear from your wording is that traditional moral values are not the only factors under consideration. Would it not be proper to lay all ones cards on the table?

If one considers personal corruption and serial adultery as immaterial as to how one votes

I, personally, don't think these are immaterial at all. You'd be very surprised at how often I don't vote, Al, and at how stringent my criteria are. I just disagree with your attempt to rescue the term "homophobia" even when applied to people who _would_ vote in the way that you describe. Which is not to mention the fact, which you should know very well, that as the term is in fact used--throughout society, by activists on the homosexual side, all over the place on the left--it is by no means restricted to people who fulfill the specific criteria you give but rather is applied to everybody who believes that homosexual acts are wrong and unnatural, that homosexual desires are objectively disordered, and that these facts have legitimate public policy consequences.

So in your usage of the term "homophobia" (correct me if I am wrong), it only applies when a person rejects traditional sexual morality on contraception and, at one and the same time, understands homosexual acts to be immoral?

It applies to intent, not contraception, although contraception clearly falls within the scope of intent in this case. To use Lydia's phrasing, I don't buy the notion that NFP is something besides intentional avoidance of procreation. It may be "open to life" or whatever the slim justification is, but it is pure self-deception to think they aren't intentionally avoiding pregnancy while making efforts to do exactly that.

The second and more telling one though - and a point on which I think we ought to be able to agree - is that a phobia is not an irrational position, it is an overblown fear.

It can be both, especially when the irrational position is supported by an overblown fear. Look, it isn't a term I throw around that often, the only time I specifically remember using it was against Dr. Beckwith, and he really does freak out about homosexuality evidenced by his constant comparisons to every sexual deviation he can think of. Finally, a person doesn't have to think it is the greatest threat to civilization or something like that to accurately be called a homophobe, they only have to think it is a far, far greater sin than non-procreative hetero sex.

Step2:

I don't buy the notion that NFP is something besides intentional avoidance of procreation.
I don't either. NFP is (sometimes, when it is not used to conceive) abstinence from sexual acts as a means to avoid procreation; and "avoidance of procreation" (the intended end) isn't an act at all, let alone an intrinsically immoral one.

Or are you suggesting that one can be a moral deontologist only out of irrational fear? Irrational fear of what, exactly?

Look, it isn't a term I throw around that often, ...
Nor should you, in my view, since it either (1) applies to so few people as to be irrelevant, or (2) is a transparent slur, the use of which accomplishes nothing so much as to telegraph "hey, I'm using transparent slurs rather than reasoned argument".

NFP is (sometimes, when it is not used to conceive) abstinence from sexual acts as a means to avoid procreation; and "avoidance of procreation" (the intended end) isn't an act at all, let alone an intrinsically immoral one.

If it isn't a sex act, it obviously cannot be one intending to avoid procreation. Problem solved.

Nor should you, in my view, since it either (1) applies to so few people as to be irrelevant, or (2) is a transparent slur, the use of which accomplishes nothing so much as to telegraph "hey, I'm using transparent slurs rather than reasoned argument".

It does apply when your "argument" consists of comparing homosexuality to bestiality, like Beckwith did, which you would never do in a billion years if talking about a heterosexual couple using contraception.

Step2:

If it isn't a sex act, it obviously cannot be one intending to avoid procreation. Problem solved.
Exactly. NFP involves choosing not to engage in a sex act, and there isn't anything intrinsically wrong with choosing not to engage in a sex act. As you say, problem solved.
It does apply when your "argument" consists of comparing homosexuality to bestiality, like Beckwith did, which you would never do in a billion years if talking about a heterosexual couple using contraception.
You overestimate me. I would compare them to the extent they are comparable, and inasmuch as both are intrinsically immoral sexual acts they are comparable.

NFP involves choosing not to engage in a sex act, and there isn't anything intrinsically wrong with choosing not to engage in a sex act.

Wait a second. Are you under the impression that couples using NFP are practicing total abstinence until they are ready to get pregnant? Granted, some percentage could be, but you think that is the typical procedure for fertile couples? NFP as I've always understood it permits intercourse while the woman is believed to be temporarily infertile, thereby making it a sex act intentionally chosen to avoid procreation.

You overestimate me.

Wouldn't be the first time.

NFP does not involve a sex act intentionally modified in a way which prevents procreation. It involves choosing to abstain from permissible sexual acts. Choosing to abstain from non-obligatory acts is not - by definition is not - intrinsically immoral.

But it isn't my intention here to use my iPhone to engage in a lengthy debate with the intransigent over the deontology of NFP, which is really a red herring. Even if the deontogy I defend were _wrong_ (which it isn't), that wouldn't undermine what I've said about polemical use of the slur "homophobia".

Because there is such a thing as, you know, the truth, and he isn't in possession of it on the salient points.

On which salient points, pray tell, do I lack possession of the truth?

Step2, I consider it an "unnatural act," an objectionable act which I do not want taking place in public and I do not want me or my children exposed to, for two men to hold hands romantically with one another. I do not think this about a man and a woman. Since the issue of contraception does not arise in this context, you are going to be hard-pressed to make your favorite parallel. I suppose that, in your opinion, this makes me a homophobe. This is not a surprise, but I would simply add that I consider that opinion to be a good deal more extreme and objectionable a characterization than Dr. Howell's initial, in my opinion accurate and metaphysically informative, reference (which started this whole sub-thread) to homosexual acts themselves as unnatural!

"Step2, I consider it an "unnatural act," an objectionable act which I do not want taking place in public and I do not want me or my children exposed to, for two men to hold hands romantically with one another."

It is certainly your right to feel that way and to express those feelings. Just what are you willing to do to those two men should they "hold hands romantically with one another"?

Depends. I'm all in favor of restoring the rights of businessmen to control the use of their businesses. Ideally, I should be able to ask them to stop or leave my establishment if I am a business owner or manager, and that includes theaters, etc. That's one good idea right there. But I'm not entirely closed to public behavior ordinances allowing for small fines that would cover such behavior. I'd have to think about them. Ideally, if discrimination were allowed across the spectrum of private business, of employment, etc.--that is, if people who behaved in such ways were not a protected class and not believed to be one (sometimes they are believed to be a protected class even when they are not)--such ordinances would probably be unnecessary and might be unwise.

~~~your "argument" consists of comparing homosexuality to bestiality, like Beckwith did~~~

I'd ask the defenders of homosex if there's any reason, other than the consent issue, that bestiality is wrong. In other words, if a sheep could say 'yes', would it then be okay to boff him/her?


George:

On which salient points, pray tell, do I lack possession of the truth?
All sorts of doctrinal and factual issues, as demonstrated, for example, in this thread. Your whole approach to doctrine is just flat wrong, and I rather suspect you are a sedevacantist though I do not recall if you have confirmed or denied that in particular.

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