Harvard’s Catholic Voice

Deal W. Hudson

I thought I knew something about Catholicism in Ivy League schools such as the venerable Harvard University. For example, if you wanted a Harvard professor outspoken about the Catholic faith you called Dr. Mary Ann Glendon of the Harvard Law School, or for the social justice perspective, Fr. J. Bryan Hehir, now the national head of Catholic Charities.

But it turns out I was wrong.

Harvard, it seems, has at least ten other professors who want to be heard “as Catholics”–at least where the future of Cardinal Law is concerned.

In its March 2 edition, England’s leading Catholic magazine, The Tablet, reported that “ten prominent Catholics on the faculty of Harvard University have called upon the Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Bernard Law, to resign over his handling of a child abuse scandal…”

Did you know that there were ten “prominent Catholic” professors at Harvard? I didn’t. But I guess if you are a professor at Harvard you’re “prominent” by definition.

Over the last twenty years, there have been quite a few public controversies of particular concern to American Catholics, but strangely, this band of committed Catholic professors was not heard. For example, I don’t recall hearing from them when former President Clinton vetoed the partial-birth abortion amendment–twice.

One of the “prominent professors,” a lecturer in English literature, Professor Robert Kiely, said they “feel scandalized and betrayed” by the archdiocese’s failure to protect children over the past 20 years. “Some of us have become accustomed to being embarrassed by the actions and words of the hierarchy,” the professor says.

Let me provide a translation: We Harvard faculty, who have long dissented from the Church’s teachings on much issues-including abortion, birth control, the male priesthood-have been offended, and now it’s pay-back time.

The biggest irony of all is that these “faithful” Harvard Catholics accuse the cardinal of giving comfort “to those who despise the Church and see it as a fossilized institution of repression, secrecy, and hypocrisy.” This is, of course, what Catholic dissenters do all the time, whether they do it at Harvard or at a Call to Action chapter meeting.

I spoke to a Catholic undergraduate at Harvard University who said it was interesting that these “Catholic professors” are “coming out of the woodwork all of the sudden – professors who’ve had no interest in the health of the Catholic church for the past 20 years. This is simply a wonderful opportunity for dissenters to advance their own agenda.”

He also told me that Catholic bashing has now become a popular sport at Harvard, where regular meetings are being held to discuss Cardinal Law and the pedophile scandal.

Regardless of what anyone thinks about what should be done in the Archdiocese of Boston, or what should have been done, it’s abundantly clear that those who want to attack Church teaching are taking full advantage of this scandal.

But let’s look on the bright side. Now there are ten Harvard professors we can call on for support when the partial-birth abortion ban starts moving through Congress later this year.

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