Denying Freethought Club “Essential” at U. of Dayton

It’s the truth—why, it’s the Gospel,
It is God’s Most Holy Word
To refute it or deny it
Is ridiculous! Absurd!
Our omnipotent Creator
Is behind its every letter—
It not only is The Good Book
But there’ll never be one better!

So we have to keep it coddled—
I don’t mean to raise alarm—
It’s so delicate and fragile,
We must keep it safe from harm
So the friars have decided
That the atheists can’t meet:
They believe in thinking freely,
And the Gospel can’t compete.

All the sordid details after the jump:

The University of Dayton has rejected the application of a Freethinker’s Club on campus, saying it is incompatible with the aims of a Catholic university. Predictably, not all are happy with the decision, and a Religious Studies professor (Michael Barnes) wrote in support of the club, saying that the school should welcome and not fear the competition of ideas and arguments.

One thing about a catholic university; you can be certain that there will be an official opinion from higher up. Fr. Shaun Lowery writes this week that denial of the Freethinker’s club is “essential“. Interestingly, Lowery cites the very letter that Barnes writes as evidence that the club is not needed:

The fact that conversation on this matter continues in the UD student paper – and I assume on campus among students, faculty and staff – already begins to expose some of the weakness of Barnes’ position. UD has not become Nazi Germany and has not declared anything infallibly to close discussion on the matter. Further, Barnes neglects mentioning that Catholic institutions of higher learning are not just about the exchange of ideas, but also about the work of forming human conscience and character in the Catholic tradition. Catholic institutions have a mission of helping people appropriate an identity that reflects Gospel perspectives, behaviors and values. This is why a Catholic university is different from one sponsored by the state or another institution.

So we already think freely enough around here, thank you very much.

It is not part of Catholic tradition to sit around and speak about human accomplishments without the inclusion of and movement toward the God who fuels those accomplishments. It is part of Catholic tradition to respect the elements of truth that exist in other religions, to respect and honor the human person, and to engage the arts and sciences as partners with faith in understanding the world. Free thinking for the Catholic individual, and institution in which an individual person is enrolled, is not free from engagement with questions surrounding the Divine.

In persuasive communication, one has the option of presenting just one’s own side, or some version of both sides. The stronger your own position is, the more strongly you can present the other side, in order to “inoculate” your audience against your opponent’s stronger defense of that position. If your position is weak, you may try to put up a strawman version of your opponent, and hope you don’t get called out on it.

Or, if you run the university, you can simply not allow the other side a chance to speak at all. A particularly nice option when you have no faith in the strength of your argument.


  1. lordshipmayhem says

    So they “thing” freely enough? But do they think freely enough? I submit the answer is “no”.

  2. Ray says

    “This is why a Catholic university is different from one sponsored by the state or another institution.”

    I guess the pivotal question here is whether the Federal Government or the state of Ohio sponsor this school, ie Pell Grants or Student loans? If not, then that’s their right as a private institution, however despicable. Otherwise, how the fuck can they get away with that bullshit?

  3. Reginald Selkirk says

    UD has not become Nazi Germany and has not declared anything infallibly to close discussion on the matter.

    I guess it’s OK to be a bigot so long as you admit you might be wrong(?)

    Both University of Dayton and Notre Dame allow Muslim student clubs on their campuses.

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