John Garvey, President of Censured Catholic University of America, Hits SXU Adjuncts, Needs to Read Rerum Novarum

This blog post has been posted by Academe, with additional links, on the American Association of University Professors official blog:

John Garvey, president of  censured Catholic University of America (CUA), a pontifical university that has a dismal record of aggressively promoting conformity to religious theological dogma over academic freedom, is protesting the government’s alleged encroachment on Catholic and religious institutions across the spectrum of American life. Beware of university presidents who believe truth is not subject to continuous skepticism and revisionism! This ironic state within a state approach that asserts the right to carve out a religious national sovereignty even takes aim at adjuncts, who are paid $2300 a course, at St Xavier University. Malcolm X and other luminaries of the Nation of Islam also advocated for a time a black state within the US. At least that was motivated to avert Jim Crow and discrimination. President Garveys and his allies are not seeking to liberate but to dominate and restrict freedoms, in the name of religious liberty, in the areas of reproductive choice, contraception and the right of workers to organise in the United States of America.

In an op-ed piece entitled “Religious Liberty,” in the Chicago Tribune on February 19, 2012, President Garvey wrote his complaint that radical secularism was eviscerating the religious clauses of the First Amendment. Curiously Garvey extends the separation of church and state to allow the denial of faculty rights to organise at St Xavier University in Chicago:

The National Labor Relations Board regional office ruled that St. Xavier University was not sufficiently religious to claim exemption from federal labor laws. The NLRB’s New York office had also ruled against the union-busting tactics of Manhattan College, a Christian Brothers school.

Adjuncts have the right to organise, President Garvey. They have the same rights as full-time faculty at St Xavier. Perhaps the president is unaware there is a faculty union at St Xavier and that both the university and faculty have entered into numerous collective bargaining agreements. The union was formed in 1979 and the adjuncts, the majority of faculty at St Xavier, merely seek a similar right to organise for purposes of collective bargaining.

St Xavier is non-creedal; its board is predominantly layperson; its faculty is diverse in terms of religious affiliation or the lack thereof and there is no religious test; Roman Catholic Theology is not required in its Gen Ed programme. Indeed, its charism is the Sisters of Mercy and it has a Roman Catholic tradition that it deservedly is proud of. Yet 55% of its students are on Federal Pell Grants and many receive state aid from Illinois. The university accepts other federal grants and borrows money from banks that are part of the Federal Reserve System and are FDIC insured. Asserting a strict barrier between the federal government and any religious institution is cynical in its attempt to assert on an a la carte basis, when faith-based institutions can exempt themselves from civil rights, employment and presumably any type of federal law.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that Garvey finds intrusive in the religious spehere is more progressive and ethical than many faith-based institutions. Maybe the author should consult Leo XIII’s  1891 papal encyclical, Rerum Novarum. As the president of a censured, pontifical Catholic university, I presume he is aware of this document and its impassioned call for workers’ rights, its denunciation of the exploitation of labour and its demand for worker justice and decency. How does this encyclical comport with his call for a wild-west show in which faith-based universities can apparently determine how to treat their employees regardless decades of worker-freedom laws dating back to the New Deal. To claim a phantasmagorical religious exemption is cynical and a misuse of religion.

CUAs Garvey then develops a laundry list of alleged provocative secular intrusions into religious matters. President Garvey has no standing, in my opinion, within the academic community to be lecturing other institutions on how to conduct their affairs and assert a paternalistic interest in protecting religious-educational sovereignty. He should be concerned about the lack of academic freedom on his own campus and justice for the downtrodden as opposed to carving out an autonomous-religious identity exempt from federal law. Again this state within a state approach is not credible due to the federal-financial pipleine that sustains so many “private, religious” post-secondary universities.

The American Association of University Professors censured twenty-two years ago the administration of Catholic University of America. This is the full report [pdf]. This hall of shame is directed at out-of-control administrators who use the power of their office to suppress, punish and cajole professors into intellectual conformity. This includes CUA that removed a tenured, liberal theologian, Reverend Charles E. Curran, from the classroom for supporting contraception and refusing to proselytize Roman Catholic theology in the classroom. It is apparently acceptable to CUA to teach one’s subject matter without critical analysis; one must suppress any commentary or opinion in the area of one’s discipline. What results is a “pall of orthodoxy over the classroom.” And this is the voice of reason?!

I wonder if the former Boston College Law Dean has anything to say about his censured university’s persecution of Rev. Curran? Not on your watch but it is your watch now, sir!  CUA professors are not allowed to think in some instances but instead become robotic enforcers for the church. A censured university deserves to be shunned and denounced: not its faculty, not its staff but its administration. The AAUP censuring of Catholic University of America is an inconvenient truth that needs continuous public referencing: an exercise unfortunately ignored by the press and other media that publish President Garvey’s edicts and promote his right-wing agenda.

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