Liberal bias on Catholic campuses prompts conference to help students fight back
NATHAN RUBBELKE – SAINT LOUIS UNIVERSITY
NOVEMBER 27, 2015
For conservative Catholic high school students, a Catholic university would logically seem the perfect place for them to comfortably express their values while in college. Yet, it seems the exact opposite is true.
Stories upon stories keep coming out of Catholic universities that have many questioning the extent of the liberal bias at these proclaimed Catholic institutions.
A few snapshots include Loyola University launching a pagan student club, students at Le Moyne College demanding a Catholic Archbishop be disinvited as commencement speaker, and Saint Louis University removing a statue of a priest praying over American Indians for the sake of political correctness.
An article from the Cardinal Newman Society last month also spotlighted how more than a handful of Catholic universities hosted LGBTQ events for the month of “OUTober” while ignoring “Respect Life” month.
The liberal bias has apparently gotten so bad that one prominent conservative group felt prompted to host a conference to help conservative students at Catholic universities fight back against it. Earlier this month, Young Americans for Freedom hosted “Standing Up for Faith & Freedom: How to advance conservative ideas at Catholic schools” for the first time.
“Leftists on campus twist the concept of ‘social justice’ to advance a radical agenda that includes income redistribution, government control of health care, radical environmentalism, and special ‘rights’ based on race and ever-expanding sexual classifications,” the conference’s online flier stated.
The two-day conference, attended by both Catholic high school and college students, focused on providing guidance to students on how to fight back against the left’s agenda on social justice at their respective campuses. Attended by about 25 students, the conference included eight speakers, whose topics ranged from student activism and social justice to the pope and the church’s authority.
While the speakers touched on different topics, conference attendee Dylan McCloskey told The College Fix that the speakers shared a theme that Catholic universities “are really going against their main message and that catholics really should be conservative.”
Expanding on that theme, McCloskey, a freshman at Saint Louis University, added that the conference sought to highlight how “the message of Jesus Christ is more of a conservative message all across the board and how liberal media is skewing it to be liberal and for catholic schools to be liberal.”
McCloskey was one of five SLU students to attend the conference. When asked what specific liberal biases the group brought up at the conference, he said he mentioned his university’s reaction to a Ferguson-related protest held on campus last year.
The university came under fire last year when it allowed the protesters to take over the university’s Clock Tower for six nights in a protest that included an upside down American flag and what many considered anti-police rhetoric. It came under even more scrutiny when it announced it had plans to erect a monument to commemorate the protest.
Learning how to interact with liberals on campus is the most important lesson he took away from the conference, McCloskey said.
“You can be friendly to people that don’t believe the same thing as you do. That’s the best way to be conservative on a campus where you’re the minority.”
Yet, he also pointed out that keeping one’s faith is just as important as winning the ideological battle on campus.
“As one of the speakers said, it’s more important to have your faith than your ideology,” McCloskey added.
While the conference was mostly attended by college students, it also included a few high schoolers. One was Joe Ballard, a senior at Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose, California.
While he’s attended a Catholic high school for nearly four years, Ballard is not a Catholic himself. He saw the conference more as an opportunity to learn about the Catholic Church than about learning to fight against liberal bias.
“I thought it was a great opportunity to learn about the catholic church and learn about the issues from both sides,” Ballard told The Fix. “I felt like I got a lot of it, mostly because I learned a lot more about how Catholic Church works and [its] hierarchal structure.”
Ballard was hesitant to say whether his own Catholic high school has a liberal bias, but did jokingly add “it is California.”
Ballard said he felt the conference was not overtly political and instead “was more about what the church believes and teaches” and how to use those teaching to explain one’s conservative views.
As an example, he mentioned how the conference provided its attendees with specific passages of the Church’s main teaching authority, the Catechism, that would bolster conservative viewpoints and arguments.
Ballard said a great point was made by Dr. Christopher Mannion, whose conference speech he described as discussing the idea that “social justice can exist without the government force” and that “as as a catholic, you should feel the need to do that in your heart.”
Ballard said he has applied to only a couple Catholic universities, but conceded there is “going to be liberal bias wherever I go, most likely.”
Calling the conference a major success, YAF spokeswoman Emily Jashinsky said the organization hopes to host future seminars for students at religious institutions.
“We received glowing feedback from the students and speakers and felt it was an important step to take in doing more to prepare students for the distinct strain of liberal bias they encounter at Catholic schools,” Jashinsky said.