A prominent Catholic watchdog group called last month for 18 professors from Catholic institutions, including four from Georgetown, to be fired for expressing views that they said are contrary to Catholic doctrine.

The Cardinal Newman Society says its mission is to monitor Catholic universities and colleges for adherence to Catholic teachings. In a fundraising letter to thousands of anti-abortion Catholics across the country, the CNS singled out professors for expressing or publishing views advocating abortion, euthanasia or assisted suicide.

Those named in the statement included Georgetown philosophy professor Tom Beauchamp, Medical School professor Howard Freed and law professors Maxwell Bloche and Lawrence Gostin.

CNS President Patrick Reilly claimed that the professors have undermined the mission of a Catholic institution by challenging Church teaching.

“A Catholic college or university .ought to be providing a course of instruction that helps students come to the truth about God, man and the world, and to develop both intellectually and spiritually,” he said. “Active attempts by employees to lead students away from the truth as definitely understood by the Catholic Church would not be consistent with a Catholic mission.”

Bloche was singled out for signing an amicus brief supporting Oregon’s assisted suicide law in a 2002 court case. Bloche said that he never signed this brief, and that his name was attached to it in error – a mistake that was later corrected.

Bloche said the group’s attempt at “censorship through threat” would be disturbing, were the group widely recognized.

“It should go without saying that both students and faculty should be fully supported as regards their efforts to express their views,” Bloche said. “Fortunately, Georgetown’s leadership understands, indeed embraces this.”

In a statement, Fr. Charles Currie, S.J., president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, called the CNS’s declarations inappropriate and said their latest argument for the dismissal of professors was “distorted, inaccurate and often untrue.”

“Neither the university nor the Church is well served by such irresponsible and sweeping condemnations,” Currie said. “Intelligent, respectful questions, disagreements and criticisms are welcomed by the canons of the academic community.”

He emphasized that although the CNS has no official standing with the Catholic Church, they are accountable in their public expressions to be civil and accurate.

The CNS has also called on Georgetown and other Catholic universities to institute a ban on pro-abortion rights speakers. The group criticized the appearances at Georgetown of people known to be in favor of abortion rights, such as former presidential candidate John Kerry, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and former Vice President Al Gore.

University spokeswoman Julie Bataille said that, in keeping with its identity as a Catholic and Jesuit university, Georgetown is proud of the accomplishments of scholars who examine complex ethical issues like abortion.

“Georgetown embraces academic freedom and encourages the free exchange of ideas in order to

foster dialogue on critical issues of the day – especially those related to faith, ethics and religion,” she said.

But Reilly said that while members of Catholic institutions should be free to express their views, university administrators should not promote a majority stance that unfairly dominates an academic debate and defies Church teaching.

“At many Catholic colleges … the absence of genuine academic discourse has led to a tyranny of the majority, with advocates of positions held by much of society, such as pro-choice advocates, but clearly contrary to Catholic teaching, dominating the debate – and too often with funding and services provided by the institution,” he said.

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