Adam Cassandra / June 30, 2016
Although the U.S. bishops rightfully called it “shocking,” the Obama administration’s refusal last week to enforce federal law against California’s abortion mandate was calculated and predictable. California accomplished what the Obama administration could not with the HHS mandate: full coverage of abortions in employee health plans, even at Catholic churches and institutions.
Even more shocking is the ensuing silence by many leaders and faculty members at California’s Jesuit universities. They should be vigorously fighting this attack on their religious freedom and Catholic integrity.
But their public silence, too, is calculated. It is a capitulation not only to the tyranny of the state but also to the moral depravity of many of their professors. For years, many faculty members at Loyola Marymount University and Santa Clara University have lobbied for abortion coverage in their health care plans, without apparent moral qualms about facilitating a heinous act of evil.
More than any hidden fault line beneath California’s surface, these professors are at fault for crumbling the foundations of their Jesuit universities. Their denial of life for even the tiniest, innocent children — and now the silent acquiescence of their leaders — further undermines the Catholic identity of universities that already have all but abandoned the pretense of affirming the Catholic faith.
That has not always been the case; LMU and Santa Clara once stood strong against the horror of paying for insurance coverage to abort children. Back in 2013, both universities decided they wanted to remove abortion coverage from their health care plans. But the move prompted an outcry from faculty members at both Catholic colleges.
As The Cardinal Newman Society reported in October 2013: “About 80 faculty and staff members at Loyola Marymount University (LMU), including many in the theology department, affixed their name to a full page advertisement in the student newspaper, the Los Angeles Loyolan, urging the administration of the Jesuit University to continue providing coverage for abortion in its healthcare plan.”
The New York Times also reported on the advertisement and quoted an LMU professor, saying that the University’s attempt to distance itself from supporting the destruction of human life through abortion represented her “worst fears about teaching at a Catholic university.”
Last week, dozens of faculty members signed a full-page advertisement in the student newspaper, The Los Angeles Loyolan, urging the trustees to maintain abortion coverage. Privately, professors without tenure expressed concern that they could scuttle their careers if they spoke up; some have started looking for other jobs.
“For a lot of us, it looks like some of our worst fears about teaching at a Catholic university are coming true,” said Anna Harrison, a tenured professor of Christian history.
Like other Jesuit schools, Loyola Marymount has welcomed scholars of all faiths. Condoms are not distributed on campus, but professors have been free to post stickers advocating abortion rights on their office doors. A performance of “8,” a play about the fight for same-sex marriage in California, was held on campus last year, over objections from religious conservatives.
Professor Harrison feared that Monday’s vote could mean the end of that free intellectual exploration.
“If teachers are going to become more cautious and less creative in the classroom, then it’s the students who will lose out,” she said. “We don’t want faculty who are afraid to embrace the complexity and richness of the subjects they’re teaching.”
An LMU sociology professor reportedly stated that the fact “that [abortion coverage] was even up for debate was a complete shock to most of the people I know on campus. What it’s doing is to institutionalize discrimination.”
At Santa Clara, Professor Nancy Unger scoffed at the general idea that her Catholic college should strive to follow Catholic teaching in its operation. She wrote in opposition to the University’s move to drop abortion coverage:
Santa Clara faculty and staff are not members of a Catholic parish. They are employees of a large corporation. Many fear that this denial of comprehensive abortion coverage is part of a wider effort to allow private employers to impose their religious beliefs on employees, denying a raft of health care services from abortion and contraception to vaccines.
baby-in-wombSanta Clara’s faculty senate voted to reinstate abortion coverage in their health plan in 2013, citing the manner in which the decision was made by the University. But one faculty member said the vote also showed “enormous disagreement” with the decision to eliminate abortion coverage.
The faculty outrage at LMU and Santa Clara against efforts to eliminate abortion coverage prompted the California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) to conduct “an in-depth analysis of the issues surrounding coverage for abortion services under California law.” DMHC subsequently mandated in August 2014 that insurance providers in the state require all abortions to be covered as a “basic health care service(s).”
The new mandate violated an existing federal law against being forced to cover abortions in health plans: the Weldon Amendment. Several objections were filed with DMHC — including one by the Newman Society — but the state of California refused to reverse course. The only other recourse was to petition the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights for relief, but as noted earlier, the Obama administration decided that the Weldon Amendment doesn’t protect private religious entities.
The government’s insistence that it can violate the religious freedom of Catholic institutions is extremely concerning. But the fact that Catholic colleges like LMU and Santa Clara employ numerous faculty and staff members who have no apparent concern for protecting the Catholic identity of these colleges very disturbing as well — especially when the employees are openly expressing support for abortion.
The Catholic Church teaches that abortion is “gravely contrary to the moral law,” and formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. Further, “A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae.”
Ex corde Ecclesiae, the apostolic constitution on Catholic universities, notes the role of all teachers in protecting the Catholic identity of universities, and states:
The identity of a Catholic University is essentially linked to the quality of its teachers and to respect for Catholic doctrine. … All teachers and all administrators, at the time of their appointment, are to be informed about the Catholic identity of the Institution and its implications, and about their responsibility to promote, or at least to respect, that identity. … In ways appropriate to the different academic disciplines, all Catholic teachers are to be faithful to, and all other teachers are to respect, Catholic doctrine and morals in their research and teaching.
It doesn’t appear these guidelines are being strictly followed at LMU and Santa Clara. Unfortunately many other Catholic colleges across the country also employ faculty and staff members who aren’t dedicated to protecting and furthering the religious mission of their institutions. This problem affects not only the Catholic character and identity of the colleges but also the education received by students. Ultimately the Church as a whole is harmed.
With so many men and women who don’t value the Catholic intellectual tradition and teachings of the Church serving as “witnesses” in the classrooms and on the campuses of Catholic colleges, parents shouldn’t wonder why so many students leave the faith after attending these institutions.