Friday, May 04, 2007

Diversity to be Anything but Catholic

At my lovely institution of higher education, which just happens to be one of the few Catholic colleges in the U.S. which is Catholic in more than name only, a debate is brewing over "diversity". The diversity which some students desire would mean diluting or dissolving the Catholic identity of the school and changing it into a college "in the Catholic tradition" or worse, in the "Dominican tradition".

After arguing that Providence College should offer classes in other religion, Jackie Kramer, a writer for the college newspaper, The Cowl, wrote this in a recent article:

It is a big deal. Another girl in the class noted that she was not Catholic and she has had to drop two theology classes. She ascribes this to the fact that, because the core curriculum requires two theology classes, she had to take classes in Catholicism. She mentioned that she thought the professors gave the impression that the students should believe these teachings, otherwise they would go to hell. She withdrew from both classes and this action will stay on her transcript permanently.

Care to know my thoughts on this issue? Of course you do. If you didn't you wouldn't be reading this blog. If you don't want to learn about Catholicism, don't attend a Catholic school. I can't imagine attending a Protestant or Jewish college and complaining that Catholicism wasn't taught. Providence College doesn't hide the fact that it is a Catholic institution. The habited friars and sisters, the crucifixes in every classroom, the large chapel and several smaller chapels on campus, where the Eucharist is reserved, right down to meat not being served in the cafeteria during Lent, Providence College is a Catholic place.

Not all the theology classes at PC are based in Catholic theology. There is a class on World Religions, Basic Judaism, Hebrew Scripture, and Old Testament Prophets. Yes, there is a Catholic slant to most of these courses, but it's a Catholic school! There is supposed to be a Catholic slant.

This week another article appeared in the Cowl. This time a rebuttal from Andrew Sparks. Here is part of what he wrote:

One consideration that needs to be taken into account is the fact that both of those colleges [Boston College and Holy Cross] are Jesuit institutions; since the Jesuits are a primarily a teaching order, it seems appropriate that they should have wider spectrum of courses. Contrast this with our own beloved Dominicans, who are a preaching order, formed to fight heresy and spread the Catholic faith. Indeed we have dozens of Dominican friars on campus that daily devote themselves to living and preaching the Catholic faith, such a school attracts a certain kind of faculty and fosters a distinctly Catholic identity. In fact, this identity is apparent all across campus, as the main gate reads "Providence College" and "Dominican Fathers" quite clearly. Also, the campus tour, led by a Friar Club member, makes it a point to go past the newly renovated St Catherine of Siena building, housing the theology and philosophy departments; and even takes a detour inside of a practically brand new campus chapel, which is situated right across from the new center of Catholic and Dominican Studies. Buyer beware: This is a Catholic school.

Moreover, if the school was forced to cater to every single faith and denomination present on campus, we would be forced to stop serving alcohol at McPhail's, lest we offend the Muslims and fundamentalist Christians on campus. Also, going without meat on Fridays would pale in comparison if Raymond Cafeteria catered to the Muslim population by refusing to serve lunch every day during the month of Ramadan. We could go to the other extreme, however, and not offer any religiously based customs. This would mean removing the crucifixes from classroom walls (a spineless act performed at Boston College), providing condoms at the stores on campus, and prohibiting any in-class prayer often offered by our Dominican professors. If such an unfortunate series of events were to occur, the Catholic majority on campus would be denied their right to a Catholic education. Such measures have been carried out in other schools to avoid agitating sensibilities of students of other faiths. However, the religious minorities on campus expressed deep offense that those schools would presuppose their having any problems with a Catholic school's expression of its heritage.

Read both articles in their entirety here: Kramer and Sparks

I leave you with this warning, if you don't want Catholic theology, don't attend a Catholic school. However, if you want Catholic theology, be careful where you go. Not all colleges that claim to be Catholic really are.


Brian Michael Page said...

Very well-put, DS.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for defending the faith! God bless you!!!


A fellow theology major at Providence College