Education & Academia

Illinois University Professor Fired for Being Catholic

Every age has it axioms, principles which must be considered self-evident, even non-negotiable, sine quibus non. We in the United States recently celebrated those which were central to the American founding: the time-honored, developed convictions of Greco-Roman-Judeo-Christian civilization, that all men are endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights, and that accountable governments are instituted by men for the purpose of securing these rights, thereby creating the social conditions necessary for the full flourishing of human potential, i.e., the pursuit of happiness.

Our Founding Fathers considered these doctrines to be self-evident, not because they correspond to Aristotelian first principles (i.e., foundational assumptions about reality that cannot be denied without assuming their truth), but because their discovery and realization was the fruit of centuries of ideological trial-and-error, and they had to be assumed in any free society that would not degenerate into one of various forms of tyranny.

Contrary to contemporary leftist mythology, the American War of Independence was not a revolt against long-standing prejudices and prescriptions. The colonists were conservatives who sought to maintain the historic rights they enjoyed under the British Constitution. They were traditionalists; the true revolutionary in that war was the British Crown.

Today’s leadership in America (the government, the media, and the academy) operates under its own fundamental assumptions about the human person and civil society: culture-of-death liberalism. Not everyone adheres to it in its fullest form, but most Americans (and quite a few self-styled conservatives) have come to embrace it in various degrees. According to modern liberalism, civil society must constitute itself etsi Deus non daretur.

“We know, and it is our pride to know, that man is by his constitution a religious animal,” the great Edmund Burke once said, and so is the modern leftist. His state theocracy is secularism, the chief dogma in its hierarchy of truths being materialism, the doctrine that all reality is essentially material, that the state must be functionally atheistic, and that man’s highest end is physical satisfaction. These satisfactions have no essential moral content—all morality is either relative or conventional, since to assume the existence of a moral order that transcends subjective preferences might suggest that some persons’ desires are more valid than others. But that would be discriminatory, and discrimination is the only possible sin in the leftist paradigm.

Leftists also have only one sacrament: sex. The orgasm is the source and summit of all bodily pleasure, and to suggest that sexual activity between consenting persons might have a moral content is nothing short of bigotry.

And so it is that a Catholic professor at the University of Illinois has recently had his employment terminated. What for? The university hired him to teach two courses, Introduction to Catholicism and Modern Catholic Thought, during the course of which he had the effrontery to educate his students in the natural law philosophy which informs the Catholic Church’s teaching that homosexual acts are sinful. That’s philosophy, not theology.

Check out the damning email, and one sees that nowhere did this professor, Dr. Kenneth J. Howell, refer to the Christian Scriptures, the writings of the Church Fathers, or the pronouncements of the Catholic magisterium:

“Natural Moral Theory says that if we are to have healthy sexual lives, we must return to a connection between procreation and sex. Why? Because that is what is REAL. It is based on human sexual anatomy and physiology. Human sexuality is inherently unitive and procreative. If we encourage sexual relations that violate this basic meaning, we will end up denying something essential about our humanity, about our feminine and masculine nature.…

“As a final note, a perceptive reader will have noticed that none of what I have said here or in class depends upon religion. Catholics don’t arrive at their moral conclusions based on their religion. They do so based on a thorough understanding of natural reality.”

One student found this offensive:

“I am in no way a gay rights activist, but allowing this hate speech at a public university is entirely unacceptable.… Teaching a student about the tenets of a religion is one thing. Declaring that homosexual acts violate the natural laws of man is another. The courses at this institution should be geared to contribute to the public discourse and promote independent thought; not limit one’s worldview and ostracize people of a certain sexual orientation.”

This student should be pitied more than condemned for his irrational rant. He is the victim, no less than the childhood votaries of the most fundamentalist Mormon sect, of cultic indoctrination that has led him to believe that the morality of homosexual behavior is a self-evident truth, and that any challenge to that truth, no matter how dispassioned and philosophically sophisticated, is tantamount to the worst racial bigotry.

He grew up, like most college students and most of the nation’s intelligentsia, never having had his fundamental assumptions about the world seriously challenged in a way that was intellectually credible. He was led to believe, as most professors today teach, that opposition to abortion, sodomy, human cloning, embryo-destructive research, and euthanasia is the purview of rabid fundamentalists who picket the funerals of gays and veterans with signs that read, “God Hates Fags.”

So this is what we have come to: A professor’s presentation of the very same philosophical worldview that inspired the founding documents of the United States is considered hate speech, and is punished accordingly.

Some student may have come away from his presentation challenged, maybe even convicted (and the truth always convicts) of the wrongness of previous behaviors and assumptions, and like any theocracy secularism tolerates no religious competition. Real religion is a private eccentricity that must be confined to the privacy of one’s bedroom; only secularist denominations, like homosexualism, are allowed to have their ideas inform public policy and institutions.

It’s no accident that the same university that finds a real natural law philosopher too hot to handle is more than comfortable with employing an unrepentant terrorist and murderer in its education department. Dr Howell committed the unforgivable sin of suggesting that some orgasms might be morally wrong, whereas Dr. Bill Ayers murdered and bombed innocent persons in order to bring about a world where no orgasm would be left behind. Remember, physical satisfaction is the Good, True, and Beautiful of culture-of-death liberalism. Anything that furthers that goal (even infanticide and terrorism) is therefore permissible; anything that impedes will not be tolerated.

Elections (federal, state, and local) have consequences—so does financial patronage. Dr. Howell’s firing very possibly bodes worse things to come if America does not regain its moral and philosophical bearings. Modern liberalism is not simply one valid belief system out of many which a good, rational person might subscribe to: it is morally and philosophically perverted, and will mean the end of the American experiment if it is not once again relegated to society’s fringes.

Already (and for decades, really) the same leftists who have now succeeded in normalizing gay advocacy have been quietly making the case for the morality of non-violent pedophilia. And for good reason: once one strips non-violent sexuality of any objective moral value, there is no rational reason to maintain a distinction between orgasms and the various other forms of stimulation with which we show our affection for children. Obama’s appointment of “Pedophile-Czar” Kevin Jennings is simply one more step toward the apotheosis the left has put us on for the last couple of generations.

The tide must be turned. We can begin by demanding the University of Illinois restore Dr Howell to his professorship.

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