Abortion Vote Exposes Rift at a Catholic University

LOS ANGELES — Not three weeks have passed since Pope Francis said the church had grown “obsessed” with abortion, declaring, “We have to find a new balance.” But on the campus of Loyola Marymount University, overlooking this city’s west side, a fight over abortion now threatens to rip the school asunder.

Connect With Us on Twitter
Follow @NYTNational for breaking news and headlines.
Twitter List: Reporters and Editors
Trustees of the Jesuit university will decide on Monday whether to remove coverage for elective abortions from the faculty and staff health care plans. The coming vote has exposed a deep rift over just how Catholic a Catholic university should be in the 21st century — and how to maintain that distinctive Catholic identity amid growing diversity on campus.

Religiously conservative professors and alumni argue that as the proportion of Catholics on campus — in the student body and on the faculty — has fallen in recent years, the university has lost touch with its Catholic identity. They have leaned hard on university officials to re-establish a more prominent role for Catholic doctrine at the university, starting with eliminating insurance coverage for abortions.

But the potential end of abortion coverage has sent a collective shiver through much of the faculty, who fear that it could also signal the end of an era in which non-Catholics have been wholeheartedly welcomed by the university and professors have enjoyed the academic freedom to teach theories that do not necessarily accord with Catholic doctrine.

Both sides, however, have come to view Monday’s vote as symbolic of a battle for the university’s soul.

“Loyola Marymount has always represented tolerance, diversity and a welcoming atmosphere where we can exchange ideas openly,” said Laurie Levenson, a professor at the law school. “If this represents a shift in what it means for Loyola to be a Catholic university, and being a Catholic university now means exclusion, I think Loyola would lose something very special. It could dramatically change who’s attracted to the university and what faculty want to be involved.”

Christopher Kaczor, a philosophy professor who described himself as a “faithful Catholic,” agreed that it was potentially a turning point in the university’s history.

“Part of the university’s mission is to promote justice,” Professor Kaczor said. “And in the Catholic tradition, abortion is considered a justice issue. So to say the university supports justice and then also pay for abortions is a contradiction.”

Loyola Marymount is hardly the only Catholic university wrestling with questions about its religious identity.

Across the country, the percentage of faculty members who are Catholic has been dropping for years, as nearly a third of Americans raised Catholic have left the church, prompting some colleges to aggressively recruit Catholic professors.

At Notre Dame in 2009, protests over President Obama’s appearance on campus, because of his support for abortion rights, led to more than a dozen arrests. Boston College, meanwhile, tried to ban students from distributing free condoms in dorms this year.

While Catholics still make up at least 70 percent of the student bodies at Boston College and Notre Dame, only about half of incoming freshmen at Loyola Marymount identified themselves as Catholic this year. The percentage of Catholics on the faculty here has fallen well below 50 percent, according to university officials’ estimates. Students said there were few reminders that they attended a Catholic university at all, aside from the glistening white church at the center of campus or the occasional cross on a classroom wall.

And in 2010, David W. Burcham, a Presbyterian, was appointed president of Loyola Marymount — the first non-Catholic president of any Jesuit university in the country, according to school officials.

David Luke, an alumnus, said Loyola Marymount’s drift away from its Catholic roots has reached a crisis point.

This year, Mr. Luke helped found an organization called “Renew LMU,” which has pushed the administration to enroll more Catholic students and hire more Catholic faculty members (in 1990, Pope John Paul II issued a directive that at least half the faculty members at Catholic universities should be Catholic). Mr. Luke said that support for human life was central to Catholic teachings and that only professors who are against abortion should be allowed to hold certain posts on campus, like director of the Bioethics Institute.

“We are concerned about the overall Catholic character,” Mr. Luke said. “Secular faculty are welcome on a Catholic campus, but it’s incumbent on those faculty to inform themselves of Catholic teaching and show some amount of respect.”

Read more:


How can any Catholic University call itself Catholic if its principles and tenets are not in agreement with Catholicism?:shrug:

I think it’s time for Loyola Marymount University to decide if they want to remain a Catholic university or become a “Nonsectarian - founded Jesuit Catholics” university (like some of Ivy League schools now called themselves nonsectarian, but acknowledge their original protestant founding).

Same with the other Catholic Universities which have a student body and/or facility of lots of non-Catholics.

The fact that having abortion coverage has to be decided on, shows there are problems t Gongoza university. That is supposed to be a Catholic university and as a Catholic university not having abortion coverage should be the position the university takes.

:doh2: And LMU had been my second choice… After seeing this and the one about USD with their “drag shows” it looks like I’ll really be counting on getting into Thomas Aquinas College, which is a wonderful place but very small.

The EDUCATION at LMU is awesome. Take a look at the grad school placements for med and law school compared to Aquanis. Remember that we want our kids to also graduate from college with high academic standards as well as having learned how to make concrete moral decisions as an adult. If you are afraid that your Catholic moral code will be destroyed by attending a secular university or a Catholic university that has many non Catholic faculty and students, then you are not mature enough to go away to college. When you go to work after college and grad school, it is in the REAL WORLD! :wink:

When you go to work after college and grad school, it is in the REAL WORLD!

It’s quite a stretch to describe a secular college as the “REAL WORLD”. I can regularly sleep in late, then show up to class in a t-shirt and basketball shorts. While I don’t drink, I know a fair number of people who habitually binge drink. None of that is going to get you very far in the workplace

Well, LMU made the choice to open its student body up to everyone (not just traditionalist Catholics). By signing up, students were under no expectation to follow the Catholic Church’s teachings on contraception. Thus, LMU has no right to force its students and faculty to adhere to these rules.

This school has every right and DUTY to act Catholic! Don’t like it, leave. Don’t follow the duty of being Catholic then this school will cease being a Catholic institution; much like the Arizona Hospital that chose to perform an abortion, it is no longer a Catholic hospital.

Being Catholic means something, live a moral life or stop “acting” as though you are Catholic.

I meant moral code in the sense of staying Catholic and developing a well formed conscience. If you want to attend a university with a dress and behavior code then may I suggest BYU - I understand there are even rules concerning length of hair for men!!:eek:

Good on them! This isn’t a “feel good” school, it’s for Catholic education!

Might I assume by ‘Progressive Catholic’ you might link best with that political nature which for me describes a rather socialist/progressive/liberal slant?
You are mixing up the issue of being Catholic with forcing others to follow your tenets.
Every Catholic institution has the right to refuse to pay for insurance that covers such things as contraception/the morning after pill/abortion; sinful acts according to Catholic teaching. It is not a matter of one being Catholic in attending a Catholic school but it does, or at least should, not allow those who do not follow the Catholic faith to be permitted to undermine the schools basic charter of faith. :tsktsk:

That would at least be honest.

Oh please. Listen to yourself would you? Are you seriously arguing that organizations must choose between policies of:

  1. Only people just like us are permitted here, or:
  2. We not only welcome participation of those not just like us, but our central values matter so little to us that we’ll pay for things morally abhorrent to us if you want them!

You can’t conceive of:
3. As a catholic institution, we welcome those of other faiths and worldviews, but ask in return your respect for our identity and mission as a catholic institution.

Imagine yourself in 1850. Would you honestly expect a Quaker school to provide housing for the personal slaves of it’s wealthier students? Would accepting non-Quakers have made them honor-bound to participate in slavery? Of course not. You’d laugh at anybody who suggested something so silly.

Then it goes both ways. Any secular institution has “made the choice to open its student body up to everyone” (not just secularists). “By signing up, students were under no expectation to follow” secular principles. Thus, secular institutions have “no right to force its students and faculty to adhere” to rules such as speaking out loudly and publicly against abortion, homosexuality, etc.

Non-Catholic students and faculty were not forced to chose to attend or work at a CATHOLIC university either. Catholic education has ALWAYS had Evangelical element to it. That’s why Catholic schools & universities have always allowed non-Catholics to attend.

It’s pretty simple, LMU (and other similar schools) must choose to remain Catholic or become nonsectarian.

I used to be “progressive” and more “liberal” with my political views. I used to believe that society should be based on ethics, not morals (a concept I learned at a secular university). However, I have realized that while societies based on strict morals can become too fanatical (Israel & the rest of the Middle East for example); societies based on just ethics can become too immoral (USA and other so called “Western” countries).

The idea of “I am not going to impose my morals on someone else” is an ethical one. It’s also the one that atheists use over and over again. It’s “Sola Scriptura meets atheistic views.” I’ve realized that societies cannot let ethics supersede our morals. We do need both, but our ethics must be shaped and rooted by our morals.

If Catholic Universities don’t base their policies on “Morally shaped Ethics;” how can we expect the world leaders to do the same? Ethics is about finding compromises WITHOUT violating one’s morals. That’s why you can’t base everything on ethics alone.

I don’t see where LMU has prevented any faculty or students from going to their corner drug store and buying whatever they want.

The seem free to purchase as many condoms or pills as they want, so no one is forcing anyone to adhere to anything.

I’m sure non-Mormon students at Brigham Young Univ. are likewise free to buy a beer at a local tavern as well. No one would be enforcing Mormon values on them They would be silly if they expected BYU to pay for it though or even have it available on campus, would you not agree?

Actually, not so much. According to their admission guidelines:

Comprehensive Admission Review (What we look at…)

Every new freshman applicant undergoes the following review process:

The first consideration in the review process is the ecclesiastical endorsement. Each applicant must be endorsed by his or her ecclesiastical leaders as one who is worthy to attend BYU and is living in harmony with the Honor Code and the Dress and Grooming Standards (BeSmart.com/honorcode). Applicants who are not members of the LDS Church need to be interviewed by an LDS bishop.

Source: saas.byu.edu/tools/b4byu/sites/b4/?new-freshman/acceptance-criteria2/

So you have to be following their code prior to arrival at BYU and throughout your time there-a beer on a night out would be grounds for discipline. What you are talking about is someone closing the existing campus bar-apples and oranges. BYU made it clear what the requirements are and what is acceptable before people applied.

There’s been no such faith/code requirement at LMU, and, while they have every right to begin implementing this sort of thing, it would be reasonable to provide a grace period to those currently attending to finish their studies under the current regulations, while incoming students are subject to the new rules (and informed of such).

That way, everyone can make informed decisions about their attendance, and in less than 4 years, everyone is following the same rules. Something similar could be done with faculty, with possibly a slightly longer timeline.

They are under no obligation, however, to fund coverage of it. When Obama tried to force me to cover Contraception for my employees I dropped the benefit.

Perhaps you should examine your own perception that attending an authentically Catholic school (like Thomas Aquinas) necessitates the acceptance of lowered academic standards. It’s not immediately clear why reading the books written by Newton and Galileo is an inferior method of learning than reading books about the books they wrote.

The textbooks for the four years at Aquinas can all be purchased as a set. It’s called the “Great Books of the Western World” and I’m reasonably sure a familiarity with the knowledge they contain constitutes an acceptably high academic standard.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.