The Trouble With Public Discourse

St. Francis University, a Catholic college in Loretto, Pennsylvania, decided to invite Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Ellen Goodman to come to the school to speak about “civility in public discourse.” And then St. Francis decided to prevent some public discourse.

According to an article by Ann Rodgers in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Saint Francis University in Loretto has canceled a lecture on civility by syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman after an advocacy group called attention to her strong public support for abortion rights.

“After careful consideration, the University feels that the body of your work has reflected statements that are not in close enough alignment with some Catholic teachings and with the values and mission of the university as required for an event of this stature,” Saint Francis provost Wayne Powel wrote to the retired Pulitzer Prize winner.

This policy on “close enough alignment” appears to be essentially made up by the university. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has a policy on abortion and public speakers but it says only that Catholic politicians who legislate “in defiance” of the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching on abortion “should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”

Goodman, Rodgers points out, is not a politician. She’s also not a Catholic.

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