Monday, July 12, 2010

Another Reminder Homosexuality & Freedom of Speech Are Incompatible

An adjunct is teaching a class about Catholicism at the University of Illinois, Urbana.  As part of that class, he discusses what the Catholic Church believes about natural law and homosexuality.  So he's fired.  From the July 9, 2010 Urbana News-Gazette:

Kenneth Howell was told after the spring semester ended that he would no longer be teaching in the UI's Department of Religion. The decision came after a student complained about a discussion of homosexuality in the class in which Howell taught that the Catholic Church believes homosexual acts are morally wrong.

Howell has been an adjunct lecturer in the department for nine years, during which he taught two courses, Introduction to Catholicism and Modern Catholic Thought. He was also director of the Institute of Catholic Thought, part of St. John's Catholic Newman Center on campus and the Catholic Diocese of Peoria. Funding for his salary came from the Institute of Catholic Thought.
One of the students complained about this email--supposedly for a "friend" who was also a student in the class, calling Howell's statements about homosexuality (which are definitely Catholic doctrine, whether you agree with it or not) "hate speech."

You've signed up for a class about Catholicism. Inevitably, this will mean learning what Catholicism teaches--and Catholicism teaches that homosexuality is wrong. It sounds like the adjunct was doing his job: teaching students what Catholicism teaches.

I taught first semester Western Civ this last semester.  Inevitably, I presented a warts and all history of the Catholic Church, of Islam, and of Protestantism.  They all did good things at times; they all did evil as well, sometimes even at the same time.  I am sure that somewhere, there's a Catholic, a Muslim, or a Protestant, who probably found it unpleasant to hear about the bad stuff.  But you can't understand where we are today as a civilization without understanding what happened--and a forthright statement of Catholic doctrine about homosexuality is no more "hate speech" than a forthright discussion of the ideology of Communism, or National Socialism, or Social Darwinism.

Homosexuality is fast becoming the new fascism.


  1. I read Howell's e-mail. It was not just a dispassionate explanation of Utilitarianism (permissive) versus Natural Law (Catholic restrictive).

    Howell definitely expressed a "partisan" attitude in support of the Natural Law position.

    In explaining a viewpoint, it is often easiest to expound it. Many sentences of a description, taken in isolation, express the viewpoint.

    Example: "The Nazis wanted racial purification. The Jews had to be exterminated."

    One must be careful to remind the audience frequently that one is describing the viewpoint, and not expounding it as an advocate.

    Howell does not do this in his e-mail - at least not very well. He includes rhetoric that conveys a strong personal distaste for homosexuality, and also declares the Natural Law doctrine to be correct.

    He omits almost completely any of the framing verbiage that would identify his exposition of the Natural Law doctrine as the position of the Church, rather his strongly held conviction.

    He being a devout Catholic, I have no doubt it is his conviction. But he issued this essay as a professor to students.
    He should be speaking as a dispassionate scholar, describing Catholic doctrine, not as a zealous advocate of that doctrine.

    The latter is what he came across as, and that was improper. He deserved a strong rebuke, though IMHO not to be fired.

    He added to his offense with his gratuitous allusions to buggery - which contrary to his belief is not the only male homosexual activity.

    Incidentally, while I agree with his thesis that homosexual acts are against natural law, I reject the claim that only "procreative" (or potentially procreative) sex is "natural". Human heterosexuality is far more extensive than is necessary for reproduction; it has other functions. The chief one is to bind together men and women. That is the foundation of marriage - whether children are involved or not.

    Even the Church acknowledges this tacitly, by its acceptance of the "rhythm method" of birth control.

  2. "Howell does not do this in his e-mail - at least not very well. He includes rhetoric that conveys a strong personal distaste for homosexuality, and also declares the Natural Law doctrine to be correct."

    If he expressed a strong personal support for it, I rather doubt that his job would be disappearing.

  3. I don't necessarily agree with Howell's argument, or even necessarily his style in how he expressed it. But the reason he is losing his job is because he said something that offended a homosexual. Imagine if Catholics were this thin-skinned and tried to get professors fired for expressing their approval of abortion and homosexuality.

  4. Catholicism teaches that homosexuality is wrong

    A fine point: the Church teaches that homosexual activity is wrong, not homosexuality per se.

  5. Dad29: a good point. There are people who can successfully get turned away fromt his orientation. Spitzer's study found that about half of those who made a serious effort at reparative therapy (both secular and religious variants) were successful at changing not just behavior but orientation. I feel very strongly for those who can't get past this. I can see why the choice of celibacy or homosexuality might be a very painful struggle.

  6. I can see why the choice of celibacy or homosexuality might be a very painful struggle

    Well, yes, but...

    The commitment to fidelity in marriage becomes difficult, too, if one or the other partner becomes unable or unwilling to perform intercourse.

    I agree that it is a burden, and not one which I have to bear. But it's not a burden unique to folks who are homosexual.