Not in Synch

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New Jersey’s Seton Hall University, a 150-year Catholic school, plans to offer a political science course on gay marriage next semester. That makes some people very uncomfortable, particularly John Myers, the archbishop of Newark. According to an article by Kelly Heyboer in the Star-Ledger:

“This proposed course seeks to promote as legitimate a train of thought that is contrary to what the Church teaches. As a result, the course is not in synch with Catholic teaching,” Myers said. “Consequently, the board of trustees of Seton Hall have asked the board of regents to investigate the matter of this proposed course and to take whatever action is required under the law to protect the Catholicity of this university.”

As archbishop, Myers does not have the authority to cancel a class. But the conservative archbishop serves as chairman of Seton Hall’s board of trustees and president of the school’s board of regents, the governing body that oversees academic issues.

So Myers has influence over course offerings next semester. Myers, who’s actually a Seton Hall alumnus (having earned a law degree there in 2003), objects to the course because, as he explained in an official statement:

The Church teaches – and has continued to teach for two millennia – that marriage is a union of man and woman, reflecting the complementarity of the sexes. That teaching precedes any societal connotation of marriage, and is based on natural law.

Well yes, though for much of the early part of that first millennium the church saw marriage as an essentially private issue between families and didn’t involve itself much in ceremonies or official recognition.

W. King Mott, the professor scheduled to teach the course, said it’s very normal for a Catholic college to teach such a course: “The best schools offer controversial classes. The class is not about advocacy, but about studying the issue from an academic perspective. It’s about awareness.”

Many Catholic colleges offer courses and host events about topics either explicitly or implicitly “not in synch” with Catholic doctrine. The University of Notre Dame hosted a Queer Film Festival in 2004. Georgetown University offers at least one course in queer theory and another called the “Problem of God.”

New Jersey has performed and recognized civil unions since 2006. A gay marriage bill was defeated by the state senate in January. [Image via]

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer