In recent weeks, the Newman Society has reported on several attempts by some LMU faculty, staff and students to convince the University to reverse plans to drop abortion coverage from its employee insurance plan. LMU had announced its intentions in August, after philosophy professor James Hanink raised concerns about the insurance plan and the Newman Society began preparing a report about it.
But the Newman Society’s article that seems most likely to have provoked yesterday’s heated reaction was published Tuesday. Reporter Matthew Archbold documented the dissident views of some LMU theologians who signed an advertisement urging the University “to maintain full healthcare coverage for women.”
In an email sent to faculty Wednesday and obtained by The Cardinal Newman Society, LMU President David Burcham takes issue with unidentified news reporters who “have, in their writing, highlighted the research and/or statements of specific faculty engaged in the LMU debate, criticizing the positions taken as not being in line with the Catholic perspective held by these particular reporters.”
“…I want to underscore in the strongest language possible the rights of our faculty to pursue academic research wherever it may lead, and to express their own opinions, whether by signing letters, petitions or newspaper ads. That is the basis of academic freedom and is a concept at the very heart of what we do at LMU.”
Burcham described the unidentified news reports—which in the case of The Cardinal Newman Society, have simply cited the public statements and writings of certain LMU theologians—as intended “to send a chilling message to those of you who may have voiced your opposition to a change in the LMU health plan.”
“We have no room here for intellectual bullying or intimidation, whether the source be internal or external,” Burcham wrote.
The Cardinal Newman Society’s president, Patrick Reilly, responded:
“We have lauded President Burcham’s stand against insurance coverage for abortion, but Catholic families have a right to know that theology professors at a Catholic university are out of step with the Church and have been advocating University benefits for abortion. Why should any university fear the truth? If objectively reporting the public statements and writings of Loyola Marymount’s professors is embarrassing or even intimidating, then perhaps the statements ought not have been made in the first place.”
The pro-abortion website RH Reality Check was more aggressive in its reaction to the Newman Society’s reports, repeating yesterday a 2009 charge by the heterodox National Catholic Reporter that the Society is a “Catholic academic ayatollah” because of its work to promote and defend faithful Catholic education.
The site, which advocates “reproductive rights,” laments:
“It perhaps shouldn’t come as a shock that the CNS has begun trolling through health insurance plans attempting to exercise a line-item veto, given the en vogue idea that women’s insurance plans should be church-approved. But it is astonishing that the group seems to have had some success.”
Interestingly, RH Reality Check alleges that even LMU faculty members have relied on Newman Society reports to follow developments at their University:
“A few weeks before the start of the semester, Anna Harrison, an associate professor of theology at Loyola Marymount University (LMU), a Catholic-affiliated University in Southern California, learned that the abortion coverage faculty health plans had included since 1988 had been dropped. She did not learn this from the university’s human resources department, a representative from her health plan, or in her plan brochure; she got the news from the listserv of the Cardinal Newman Society (CNS), a conservative Catholic group that is not affiliated with LMU.”
In September,the Newman Society reported that Harrison told the student newspaper, the Los Angeles Loyolan, that abortion should be a matter of individual choice. “It’s a matter of such enormous sensitivity that I have to say that I do strongly believe it must be finally the decision of the girl or the woman,” the theologian reportedly said. “I don’t have to agree with her decision, but I do not feel that I am in a position to make that decision for her.”
Originally published by The Cardinal Newman Society's Catholic Education Daily on 3 October 2013.