Franciscan University – Profiles in Courage!
Franciscan University of Steubenville is in the news this week for all the wrong reasons, a perfect emblem of the depravity of latter-day American neoconservative Catholicism.
In the first place, it decided to stop providing health insurance to students. Now, we are all familiar with the tried-and-tested tactic of using the unborn to serve tawdry political purposes. The Republican party wraps itself in a cheap “pro-life” mantle, which gives it liberty to violate the rights of the born – and indeed the unborn in foreign lands. It was the tactic used during the healthcare debate, when phony Catholics like Thomas Peters conjured up feverish plots against the unborn to attack a law he opposed on grounds on individualism, pope Paul VI’s famous “erroneous affirmation of the rights of the individual”.
And now Franciscan University is ending health care coverage for students, and it is blaming the contraceptive mandate: “we will not participate in a plan that requires us to violate the consistent teachings of the Catholic Church on the sacredness of human life”. But, as Grant Gallicho shows clearly, this is designed to deliberately mislead, for as the university says itself, “the school is retaining its health care plan for employees “. Grant does his homework, and finds that the university’s healthcare plan is unlikely to be affected much by the Affordable Care Act at all, and if it is, it is likely that the school would qualify for an exemption (it predominantly serves Catholics).
No, this is a cynical financial decision hidden behind morality. The university is quite open about this – they object to the requirement to reduce the amount that students could be out-of-pocket after a major health incident (remember, healthcare costs are the leading cost of bankruptcy in this country). So they dropped the coverage, claiming that it would result in higher student premiums, and this would be wrong.
Of course, they don’t mention the money they are saving themselves. They don’t mention that Catholic social teaching regards health care as a right. They don’t mention that are they are cynically passing the buck – as we all know, the Affordable Care Act will allow students to stay on parents’ healthcare plans until age 26. Instead of doing its duty, tying the right the healthcare with the responsibility to provide it in a manner that respects both solidarity and subsidiarity, it washes its hands and blames the Obama administration, while letting somebody else pick up the tab (again, courtesy of the Obama administration).
But it gets worse. Also this week, it turns out that Franciscan University invited Michael Hayden, Bush’s CIA director, to give a commencement address. This is a man who defended torture and implemented the torture regime. As we all know, Catholic moral teaching lists torture as not only intrinsically evil but also gravely evil – ranked up there in Gaudium Et Spes right after murder, abortion, and genocide.
Amid all the furore of inviting “pro-choice” politicians to speak at Catholic universities, let’s be very clear about something. Yes, abortion is more gravely evil than torture. But somebody like Hayden did not just cause scandal by defending torture, he was an acting agent in close proximity to the evil action. If you should invite somebody like Sibelius – and I don’t think you should – then you should certainly not invite somebody like Hayden.
But none of this seems to matter to Franciscan University, who numbered Hayden among those who are “defending our shores, protecting the sacredness of human life, and shaping our form of worship as Catholics”.
Defending our shores? Even if torture were effective, and it most assuredly is not, this would be a consequentialist argument, and thus directly prohibited by any authentic Catholic moral reasoning (Veritatis Splendour).
Protecting the sacredness of human life? Is torturing a person in tune with protecting human dignity and human life? What about the hundreds of thousands of innocent people killed, and the millions uprooted, by a gravely immoral war supported by Hayden and his ilk? What about the countless Iraqi children – born and unborn - who perished? And if you want to touch on “religious freedom”, what about the virtual annihilation of the Chaldean Church, a Church that has survived and even thrived under thirteen centuries of Islamic domination, only to come undone by the reckless actions of George W. Bush?
Shaping our worship as Catholics? So our worship as Catholics must now be defined selectively and hypocritically? So the witness we give to the world is that our God is the God of American exceptionalism and individualism, the God of war and violence, the God of personal responsibility and self-sufficiency? Not the God who saved and unified the entire human family – collectively.
It is a great shame and a scandal that this university bears the noble name of the great St. Francis – the man who devoted his life to nonviolence and caring for others. It is emblematic of a low dishonest generation of Catholics influenced by pernicious secular doctrines while zealously clothing themselves in false mantles of righteouness and orthodoxy. One can only hope that it is darkest before the dawn!