Disintegrate U

“Life Beginning at Conception” Makes Catholic University Professors Lose Their Minds

Last month, Rev. Michael Bechard, Director of Campus Ministry at King’s University College in Ontario, Canada, held a screening of the film Unplanned as part of a long-running series of events addressing difficult or controversial topics. Unplanned tells the story of former Planned Parenthood employee-of-the-year Abby Johnson, who resigned as director of the Bryan, Texas, clinic after assisting in an abortion and seeing the procedure in real-time via ultrasound. King’s is a Catholic University College.

The following week, forty-four King’s faculty and staff members wrote an open letter in the form of a petition to college Principal David Malloy. In the letter, the faculty and staff:

  • Criticized the film, saying it was deceitful, malicious, propagandistic, and potentially dangerous.
  • Criticized the event, saying it did not provide space for meaningful dialogue or debate.
  • Objected to Rev. Bechard’s statement that King’s University College adheres to an ethic of life from conception until natural death, saying that for him to make this statement on behalf of the college (as opposed to speaking for himself alone) directly contradicts the college’s commitment to open debate and misrepresents its values.
  • Objected to Rev. Bechard’s expressing concern for unborn children, saying it was hostile to women.
  • Expressed their concern that Rev. Bechard’s ethic of life threatened the viability of the college, since the pro-life ethic is antithetical to its institutional value of inclusivity.

If you find some things a bit screwy in there, then congratulations. Your mind and moral faculties are surviving the ideological fashions du jour. There’s so much amiss there, it’s hard to know where to start. Aside from the ecclesiastical discord of professors at a Catholic university objecting to a well-known Catholic position, here are two other utter idiocies in the faculty grievance letter.

  • First, it gave no evidence that any of the signatories had actually seen the film. It only quoted media reviews. This is embarrassingly weak-minded for people calling themselves academics. No professor presented an alternative point of view in an academic manner. Out of thirty-six who signed the letter, not a single one attempted to show how the film was demonstrably deceitful, malicious, propagandistic, or dangerous. Not. A single. One. The letter was the written equivalent of a scattershot, fingers jammed in ears, temper tantrum.
  • Second, note that they invoked the “value” of inclusivity to justify excluding the Catholic pro-life ethic. This is incoherent on two levels: (1) It aims to exclude a Catholic position from a Catholic university, and (2) it attempts to enact that exclusion by appealing to the value of inclusivity. A clear-thinking middle-schooler could do better, logically, than this.

George Orwell said, “Some ideas are so stupid that only an intellectual could believe them,” and this letter qualifies on multiple counts.

Moving on, the complaint concluded with a list of demands, specifically calling on Principal Malloy to (among other things) disavow the Unplanned event, insist that Rev. Bechard formally apologize for associating the pro-life ethic with the college, and affirm that King’s faculty may disavow any or all elements of Catholicism at will.

To his credit, in his response Principal Malloy did not disavow the event, but instead gave details showing how the event did in fact provide space for dialogue and different points of view to be expressed. Also, he did not ask Rev. Bechard to apologize. Had he left it at that, he would have at least stopped short of explicitly disclaiming the college’s Catholic identity.

But, alas, he didn’t stop there. Instead, he effectively eviscerated King’s Catholic identity, first, by stating that belief in “life beginning at conception” is the stance of Campus Ministry and not of King’s as a whole, and second, by rescinding any requirement that faculty espouse any tenets of Catholicism. “King’s employees, faculty and students do not need to prescribe [sic] to the tenets of the Catholic Church.” In so doing, he all but stated explicitly that King’s University College is Catholic in name only.

Sadly, the faculty and staff confirmed that this is true as well, at least as far as they are concerned. Here’s why I say that. They objected to the expression of the pro-life ethic on the grounds that it hurts women who’ve had abortions. Of course, people know this is true. But why is it true? It’s true because abortion terminates a life, and to terminate a life brings guilt. Guilt is painful. It wounds the soul. For many post-abortive mothers, there is the added pain of grief at the loss of what they know was their own child.

But just limiting our discussion to the matter of guilt, this is where the Catholic faith has something profoundly relevant to say. At the very center of the Catholic faith lives a crucified Messiah who died, who was buried, and who rose to take away guilt for sin. This is the gospel in a nutshell, and you don’t have to be an academic to get it. You don’t even have to be a middle-schooler.

But apparently, these academics don’t get it. Not only did they fail their student body as academics in the matter of the Unplanned event, they are doubly failing them as Catholics in the matter of life, forgiveness, and salvation. That’s a far more harmful offense than showing any “dangerous” film. 

 is Deputy Editor of Salvo and writes on apologetics and matters of faith.

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