Friday, April 18, 2008
With respect to the Pope's address to Catholic educators referenced by Steve, Rick and Patrick (here, here and here), I struggle with the question of what academic freedom means in the context of Catholic institutions of higher education and I welcome the views of others.
It seems to me that Catholic institutions should not be unwilling to bring in speakers who espouse positions not in accord with the Catholic church. I don't think censorship serves truth and believe a Catholic institution ought to be willing to foster discussion and debate about all issues. That may argue in favor of providing for rebuttal when a speaker will be advancing a position antithetical to the Church, but I don't think it betrays a university's mission and identity to allow such speech to occur.
On the other hand, I think a Catholic law school, for example, would be perfectly justified in not hiring - and probably should not hire - a scholar whose primary research agenda is to promote a position antithetical to the Catholic Church. If the thrust of my scholarship were to promote the position (to use the example in a post Rick made last week) that there is no moral difference between abortion and a pap smear, I don't think St. Thomas should be funding my research and giving me a platform from which to promote those views. The institution's unwillingness to do so should not be viewed as an inappropriate limit on academic freedom.
I'd be interested in hearing whether others disagree with either of those conclusions.