October 03, 2005

Politics and Catholic academia

I'm not going to talk about the purge of 'homosexuality' from Catholic seminaries; the Church authorities can exclude whoever they want, of course, and I can think it's reprehensible and that's that.

What I do want to talk about the environment here at this most famous of Catholic-owned universities. We are, of course, not run directly by the Church -- while the people at the top of the hierarchy are all priests, they're only in charge in the most abstract sense, and faculty and students are free to hold and articulate whatever views we happen to have. That said, the vast majority of people in the philosophy department (grad students and faculty) are some species of Christian, with the bulk of those Catholic. We're also a relatively conservative body, politically speaking: picking out a member of the department at random, odds are relatively good (somewhere between 50% and 65%, I'd say) that they'll believe (a) abortion is wrong, (b) sex outside of marriage is wrong, and (c) homosexuality is wrong.

So, pretty much everyone is bound to have an opinion, more or less complicated, on these inspections, and everyone is extremely curious about what everyone else thinks. But this isn't something that people are comfortable just talking about: two friends in the department common room, or sharing a coffee in the busy cafe just off campus, will discuss it, but it isn't something that comes up in classes or between acquaintances. Academics, for once, are surprisingly reticent about expressing their opinions!

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