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Factual Description

Factual Description

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Published by americanpapist

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Categories:Types, Speeches
Published by: americanpapist on Jul 09, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Dear Friend:I write this short narrative to explain why I am no longer teaching at the University of Illinois and am not employed by the Diocese of Peoria as of 30 June 2010. First, a little background.I came to Champaign-Urbana in August of 1998 to be employed by the St. John’sCatholic Newman Center as a teacher in the courses of the Catholic faith that were thentaught through the Center. For seven years I enjoyed a working relationship withMonsignor Stuart W. Swetland, the Director of the Center, who taught alongside me inthat program. In 2000, Monsignor Swetland negotiated an agreement with theDepartment of Religion in which he and I would be adjunct professors in the departmentand would teach courses on Catholicism. We simultaneously established the
 Institute oCatholic Thought 
of which I became the Director and Senior Fellow. The purpose of theInstitute was to promote the intellectual heritage of the western world in whichCatholicism played such an integral role.Since the Fall of 2001, I have been regularly teaching two courses in the Department of Religion. Since Monsignor Swetland’s departure in May of 2006, I have taught theequivalent of a full-time professor every semester, sometimes even more. This pastsemester (Spring 2010) something occurred which changed an otherwise idyllic academiclife. One of the courses I have taught since 2001 has been “Introduction to Catholicism.”I think that it is fair to say that many students at the University of Illinois have benefitedgreatly from this and other teaching I have done. Every semester in that “Introduction”class, I gave two lectures dealing with Catholic Moral positions. One was an explanationof Natural Moral Law as affirmed by the Church. The second was designed as anapplication of Natural Law Theory to a disputed issue in our society. Most of thosesemesters, my chosen topic was the moral status of homosexual acts. I would happy toexplain more fully the Catholic Church’s position on this matter but, for the sake of  brevity, I can summarize it as follows. A homosexual orientation is not morally wrong just as no moral guilt can be assigned to any inclination that a person has. However, based on natural moral law, the Church believes that homosexual acts are contrary tohuman nature and therefore morally wrong. This is what I taught in my class.This past semester was unusual. In previous years, I had students who might havedisagreed with the Church’s position but they did so respectfully and without incident.This semester (Spring 2010) I noticed the most vociferous reaction that I have ever had. Itseemed out of proportion to all that I had known thus far. To help students understand better how this issue might be decided within competing moral systems, I sent them anemail contrasting utilitarianism (in the populist sense) and natural moral law. If we takeutilitarianism to be a kind of cost-benefit analysis, I tried to show them that under utilitarianism, homosexual acts would not be considered immoral whereas under naturalmoral law they would. This is because natural moral law, unlike utilitarianism, judgesmorality on the basis of the acts themselves.
After the semester was over, I was called into the office of Robert McKim, the chairmanof the Department of Religion, who was in possession of this email. I was told thatsomeone (I presume one of my students) sent this email to the Office of Gay, Lesbian,Bisexual, and Transgendered Concerns at the University. It was apparently sent toadministrators in the University of Illinois and then forwarded on to Professor McKim. Iwas told that I would no longer be able to teach in the Department of Religion.Professor McKim and I discussed the contents of the email and he was quite insistent thatmy days of teaching in the department were over. I offered that it would be more just toask me not to address the subject of homosexuality in my class. In fact, the other class Iregularly taught (Modern Catholic Thought) never dealt with that subject at all. I alsoavered that to dismiss me for teaching the Catholic position in a class on Catholicism wasa violation of academic freedom and my first amendment rights of free speech. Thismade no difference. After that conversation and a couple of emails, Professor McKiminsisted that this decision to dismiss me stood firm.I then consulted with our Diocesan lawyer, Mrs. Patricia Gibson, to see if the St. John’s Newman Center could sue the university for breach of contract. Mrs. Gibson, kind inspirit and articulate as regards the law, told me that unfortunately the university had madevery careful provisions to protect itself and so would not be liable in a law suit. I am stillconsulting with other lawyers about possible legal action on the grounds of the firstamendment.Then Monsignor Gregory Ketcham, the current Director of the St. John’s Catholic Newman Center and my superior, informed me that the Center would not be able tocontinue employing me since there was no longer any teaching for me to do. I thenreiterated what I had mentioned to him the day before. I suggested that we work together to have courses on Catholicism taught at the Newman Center that could be accredited bya Catholic university and that could be transferred into the University of Illinois for credit. In this way, the students whom we had been called to serve could continue to beinstructed in the Catholic Faith. I told him in fact that I had once had conversations with professors in Catholic universities who were willing to make such arrangements.Monsignor Ketcham said that he had no interest in such a plan.Thus, after more than sixty years, students at the University of Illinois will have noclasses on Catholicism available to them. If the Department of Religion continues to offer the courses I taught, I have no idea how accurately Catholicism will be represented. Iknow this subject well enough to say it can be easily distorted. I have tried in thisdocument to portray in a straightforward manner what happened. I also am preparinganother document giving my own interpretation of all these events. If you are interestedin that, or you just want to be informed as things progress, please contact me by email:kenneth.howell1952@gmail.com I look back at the twelve years I have spent in this position with memories of wonderful

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