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 of Catholic 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.