Is BC Beyond Catholicism?

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

When Boston College bucked an academic trend and invited a Republican U. S. Secretary of State to address its graduating class, professors on the campus were outraged. One hundred of them sent a protesting letter to the BC’s president. One actually resigned. “Maybe Condi Rice should speak at more college campuses!,” syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin observed.

“Many members of the faculty and student body have already voiced their objection to the invitation, arguing that Rice’s actions as Secretary of State are inconsistent with the broader humanistic values of the university and the Catholic and Jesuit traditions from which those values derive,” adjunct English professor Steve Almond wrote in his resignation letter. “But I am not writing this letter simply because of an objection to the war against Iraq.”

At BC, any concerns that the school’s fathers might have about the Secretary of State’s position on abortion are trumped by opposition to the war in Iraq. As we have noted in previous issues of the Campus Report, BC hosts a UNICEF chapter on its campus despite the Vatican’s suspension of support for the United Nations agency over its role in promoting abortion.

We should note that BC is one of a minority of colleges that allows the Reserve Officers Training Corps on its campus. Four-fifths of American colleges and universities are not nearly so accommodating to the U. S. Military.

BC also hosts a Lambda Law Students Association that promotes gay marriages. The Catholic Church, of course, refuses to allow its priests to perform such matrimonial ceremonies. “I want to begin by saying that everything I know about queer activism I learned at BC Law,” Kara Suffredini, a legislative lawyer at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said at Lambda Law’s annual dinner. “Put that in your admissions brochure.”

The Church views marriage as a sacrament. While the Church has always urged compassion towards homosexuals, it, nonetheless views homosexuality as a sin.

BC plays down its Catholicism most of the time. “You know, I don’t ever remember seeing a Crucifix in the dorms or in the lecture halls,” Diane Macedo, a 2004 graduate of BC recalls. The school cafeteria serves meat on Friday during Lent.

Ironically, the detachment of the authorities at BC runs in inverse proportion to the spirituality of the student body. Thus, practicing Catholics might be unable to practice their Catholicism on a Catholic campus.

“Eighty-five percent of undergraduates regularly discuss their faith-life with their friends,” the Rev. James J. Fleming, S. J., writes in BC Heights. “Two-thirds pray at least once a week.”

But they frequently go outside the designated religious spaces to do so. “The latest BC Senior Survey found that the two most popular places to pray on campus were ‘in my room’ and ‘outdoors’ (‘on-campus Chapels’ was third),” Rev. Fleming writes. “Follow-up interviews revealed the importance of ‘reflective spaces’ on campus.”

“The wall next to the bronze ‘Tree of Life’ fountain, the Reservoir running path, and the simple and reassuring statue of the Blessed Mother on the Bapst Library lawn were often cited as ‘places where I like to pray.’”

“CURA [Companions Understanding Reflection Awareness] prayer groups have grown from six to 24,” the Rev. Fleming notes. “In each case, the growth of these programs has been stunted not by lack of desire or hard work but by limited space.”

“BC could lose its distinctive personality causing some of the more talented in our ‘niche’ application pool to look elsewhere for an institution that knows who it is.” Conversely, BC has no problem making room for programs on its campus for which demand is far less intense.

Last year, I reported on our website that BC’s 36-year-old Black Studies program drew about as many students—30—as it did instructors—27. “When Assoc. Prof. Cynthia Young (English) came to Boston College last fall to direct the Black Studies Program, she brought with her a vision that entails a new direction, a new lecture series and, most immediately, a new name,” Stephen Gawlik reported in The Boston College Chronicle earlier this year. “Recently, the program announced that it will now be known as African and African Diaspora Studies.”

What’s in a name? Apparently, inflated attendance numbers. “Today, African and African Diaspora Studies offers some 40 courses a year on the history, culture and experience of African-Americans that enroll more than 1,200 students,” Gawlik reported.

Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.