So much for freedom of speech in U.S. Catholic higher education…


Back in early November, a professor of political science reported in a personal blog post about a fellow professor teaching “Theory of Ethics” who was applying a philosophical text to modern political controversies. Listing some controversies, the professor wrote down “gay rights.” The professor then said to the class, “Everybody agrees on this, and there is no need to discuss it.”

One student disagreed.

After the class had ended, the student approached the professor, stating that the issue and associated matters, like homosexual rights, so-called homosexual marriage, and homosexual adoption, merit discussion. According to the blog post, the student went further, stating that if the professor dismissed the issue and its associated matters based solely upon personal views, that would set “a terrible precedent for the class.”

The professor was skeptical, offering counter arguments. Lastly, the professor asked the student for research demonstrating the student’s assertions.

But, like most political controversies, the discussion didn’t end there, as the professor explained that “some opinions are not appropriate, such as racist opinions, sexist opinions,” asking “Do you know if anyone in your class is homosexual?” and whether, if some student raised his hand and challenged so-called homosexual marriage, “Don’t you think it would be offensive to them?”

The student responded, stating that as an American citizen he possessed the right to advance counter-arguments, to which the professor replied,

You don’t have a right in this class to make homophobic comments….In this class, homophobic comments, racist comments, will not be tolerated.

Finally, the professor invited the student to drop the class.

In late November, The Motley Monk discussed this incident within a broader analysis, “Some stirrings of discontent in U.S. Catholic higher education.”

But, like most matters involving people feeling offended, the story didn’t end there.

On December 17, the professor who wrote the personal blog post received a letter from the institution’s Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences:

The university is continuing to review your conduct and during this period—and until further notice—you are relieved of all teaching duties and all other faculty activities, including, but not limited to, advising, committee work, faculty meetings and any activity that would involve your interaction with… students, faculty and staff. Should any academic appeals arise from Fall 2014 semester, however, you are expected to fulfill your obligations in that specific matter.

Your salary and benefits will continue at their current level during this time.

You are to remain off campus during this time, and should you need to come to campus, you are to contact me in writing beforehand to explain the purpose of your visit, to obtain my consent and to make appropriate arrangements for that visit. I am enclosing with this letter [the institution’s] harassment policy, its guiding values statement, the University mission statement, and sections from the Faculty Handbook, which outline faculty rights and responsibilities; these documents will inform our review of your conduct.


Even if the suspension is “a bit of a joke, since it’s Christmas break and we aren’t teaching,” as the professor noted in a new personal blog post, what isn’t a joke are some of the potential implications of this suspension:

  • Class discussion that’s likely to “offend” any particular group of students in the class must be proscribed…a “gag” order, as described it. Consider all of the matters that might offend particular groups of students.
  • Calling out colleagues who are intolerant of full, free, and unfettered discussion of the facts can warrant a suspension and possible dismissal for failure to adhere to the institution’s harassment policy. Professors would be indemnified from any challenges to their unfounded opinions.
  • Challenging such proscriptions can also end in a suspension and possible dismissal. This would have a “chilling effect” upon free speech, as academic administrators could investigate, censor, and or even punish professors who express their personal beliefs not only in classrooms but in personal blog posts. That process could take the form of harassment which the procees is supposed to ensure doesn’t happen.

Doesn’t all of that present a proximate danger to academic freedom?

About the institution, observed:

Marquette is Wisconsin’s leading Catholic university. As such, it is a high profile institution among Catholics both in and out of Wisconsin. It also prides itself as one of the most well known centers of higher education in the state. By imposing a gag order on McAdams, the school has done damage to both its Catholic and academic traditions….

One can only shake one’s head in disbelief, reading of these events and juxtaposing them to Marquette’s mission statement:

Marquette University is a Catholic, Jesuit university dedicated to serving God by serving our students and contributing to the advancement of knowledge. Our mission, therefore, is the search for truth, the discovery and sharing of knowledge, the fostering of personal and professional excellence, the promotion of a life of faith, and the development of leadership expressed in service to others. All this we pursue for the greater glory of God and the common benefit of the human community.

Or, as the now-suspended professor noted:

Marquette…has again shown itself to be timid, overly bureaucratic and lacking any commitment to either its Catholic mission or free expression.




To read the professor’s original blog post, click on the following link:

To read The Motley Monk’s previous blog post, click on the following link:

To read the professor’s update, the December 17 blog post, click on the following link:

To read the article, click on the following link:

To read the Marquette University Mission Statement, click on the following link:

To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, Omnibus, click on the following link:

More to explorer


  1. And none of this a great surprise, for anyone who works in a Jesuit institution of ‘higher learning’. Just like being a Catholic under Pope Francis, be very, very careful what you say. I feel for the student—he could have learned much from the experiences of Frs. Fessio, Cornelius Buckley, and John Hardon, SJ’s.

    A now-deceased Jesuit wryly once observed to me the new rules of the Least Society: “Now, nothing is forbidden, but anything may be punished.”

  2. I saw the prof. on FOXNEWS this AM. He is tenured with 35 years at the so-called university.

    He said he is fighting and that he has very good lawyers.

    Inconclusion, the system they’re applying to the student and to the professor is known, among normal people, to be “fascism.”

  3. Wait I am so confused…

    The student responded, stating that as an American citizen he possessed the right to advance counter-arguments, to which the professor replied,

    You don’t have a right in this class to make homophobic comments….In this class, homophobic comments, racist comments, will not be tolerated.

    Finally, the professor invited the student to drop the class.

    And that professor is being disciplined? But it sounded like that professor was trying his/her best not to “offend” any particular group of students in the first place. Is this about offending the free-speech advocate student? I feel like this article needs more distinct labels for all participants.

  4. Nate.

    What about the offense of the students that believe homosexual actions are offensive to society? Isn’t this why the prof. was reprimanded? He wasn’t allowing that student to voice his objection of so called same sex marriage, or any other objection that the student believed to be worthy of mention. Instead, the prof. called him homophobic basically. Offering to “have the student drop the class” is the slam that reprimanded the prof. True?

  5. It is unfortunate but it has also been and issue at my alma mater for a while. A few years ago when very liberal very pro-death Senator Russ Feingold lost his seat to a conservative, he was able to find a home at Marquette University. I was very disappoint by their actions. I called and wrote the Dean about how Mr. Feingold’s positions were directly opposite Catholic teaching. It fell on more than deaf ears – they sent me a letter stating how lucky they were to get him, blah blah blah. Again MUs actions are disappoint but not unexpected since they have a long history of claiming to be Catholic but not backing up their claims by adhering to Catholic teachings. As an aside they gave into liberals without even a fight when they changed the mascot name from Warriors to Golden Eagles. It is a typical US College controlled by liberals, unfortunately this one claims to be Catholic.

  6. I’m wondering about the next step in Marquette’s quest for political
    correctness: since views that might offend homosexual students may no
    longer be uttered in a classroom, when will the PC nannies at Marquette
    take scissors or matches to books in the libraries? Surely, to be consistent
    in their PC ‘logic’, all the old, disused books in Marquette libraries — you
    know, the ones that contain traditional, “offensive” Catholic explication of
    the immorality of homosexual behavior– should go. After all, a student
    might unwittingly stumble upon it and be offended, just as they would if
    they’d heard it in a classroom or read it on Professor McAdams’ personal blog…

  7. That would be so 1953, as in when Ray Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451.

    Ironically, the satire is missed by liberal idiots (I repeat myself again).

  8. Art Deco.

    Mr. Franck’s take on First Things is great. The humor is sadly funny, however the dominos are easily recognizable and absurd as they fall uphill. Thank you for the link.

    Nate. Check it out. I hope you like the link as well.

  9. Mr. Franck’s take on First Things is great.

    It was nothing of the kind. About 40% was taken up with abuse of the student and of Dr. McAdams, who deserve none of that. That 40% is indicative of what the faculty commenters are saying on outlets like Inside Higher Education Real problems are not acknowledged in favor of discussion of inconsequential matters such as professors’ wounded sense of professional courtesy. If they were not so disoriented, faculty would not utter such tripe in front of the general public, but faculty do tend to suffer from the illusion that their puerile complaints are something other than that. Just another piece of evidence of how R.R. Reno has a once fine publication circling the toilet bowl.

  10. Mission Statement is funny as hell…the search for truth, the discovery and sharing of knowledge…(laughter and revulsion.)

    The student just can’t understand this search for truth since the guides of truth are blindfolded and stumbling to discover the knowledge needed to reveal said truth. It might behoove the faculty to set mandatory seminars for the professor’s to attend. The fifth grade student body of Holy Rosary can gleefully lead the faculty in each seminar. Bible in hand, these youngsters can enlighten the profs. and it will only cost the University fuel lodging and meals. Should be less than the expenses of free contraception given out at the end of the Vagina Dialogue series.

  11. *glances at first things link*

    Ok, So there’s one Dr. McAdams and they are the one in trouble. Meanwhile there is another teacher or professor who told a student “no homo (phobia)” and hasn’t been in trouble. Right? (that wasn’t Very clear in the original)

  12. The instructor @ Marquette that diagnosed the student’s views “hostile” is really an interesting work in herself: as a Ph.D. candidate in philosophy, her areas of specialty are animal rights and also (oh no!) military ethics. One of her most tantalizing recent essays, soon-to-be published, is entitled, “Adventures in Moral Consistency: How to Develop an Abortion Ethic from an Animal Rights Framework” . Basically the concept is that vulnerability of animals is similar to vulnerability of the “fetus” (her adopted terminology), so some animal-rights people are actually in a moral quandary on being pro-abortion. She finds a way to be pro-abort and pro-animal rights. Yay!

    The most disturbing article however is “Assuming Risk: A Critical Analysis of a Soldier’s Duty to Prevent Collateral Casualties” (May, 2014 publication). She takes the position that we shouldnt expect soldiers to assume risk for collateral casualties (I am sure with her wealth of military experience to guide her), because “…We cannot reasonably expect soldiers and commanders to adhere to the principle of risk until there is a radical, institutional-level transformation of militaristic goals, values, strategies, policies, warrior codes and expectations of service members in the US Armed Forces.” (her own words, now) Ah, the Great White Whale of the radical left: to get Commissars dictating ideological purity to the uniformed military!
    Oh, just another taste! In her article, “The Search for Liability in the Defensive Killing of Non-Human Animals” (Jan. 2015 publication date), she comes to the conclusion that human beings “…are often culpable or, to some degree, morally responsible for posing an unjust threat to nonhuman animals.” Now you may be going to jail for whacking that roof rat with the spade, you Unjust Threat!
    We are getting there: Hitler, famously a vegetarian and animal-rights-type, in the Berlin bunker in April 1945, wept bitterly over his necessary killing of his beloved German shepherd as the Russian forces closed in—all the while he being unmindful of Volksturm teen-age boys and old men in their sixties, to say nothing of the mass murder of the civilian population, women and children—raged on at street-level a few meters above his head. He has a kindred spirit in the philosophy dept. at Marquette.

  13. Of course what this confrontation demonstrates is how much of what goes on in the “liberal arts” on most campuses has absolutely nothing to do with education and everything to do with indoctrination. The poor student made the mistake of misunderstanding the true purpose of the class.

  14. The student was forced to drop the class for his thoughtcrime, and
    Professor McAdams has been suspended for posting about the events.
    We can see that the Marquette administration is doubling-down on
    the philosophy Instructor’s insistence that even discussing
    otherwise traditional, Catholic views on the morality of homosexual
    acts and same-sex ‘marriage’ constitute hate crime…
    So, what do you suppose would happen if a priest (or even better, the
    local bishop) were to give a lecture or sermon on campus outlining the
    Church’s traditional teachings on homosexuality? Are campus groups
    now forbidden to hold public discussions where the forbidden speech
    might give offense?
    It’s interesting to contrast the university’s stance against what is after
    all merely perennial Catholic teaching with the same university’s increasing
    accommodation of the play “The Vagina Monologues”. For many years the
    Marquette administration refused to permit a production of the play on
    campus because it was offensive to Catholics. Back in 2006, the last year
    MU declined to permit production of the play on campus, resident liberal
    theologian Daniel Maquire was quoted in a 9 March 2006 article in the
    Milwaukee Journal Sentinel saying “The worst thing you can do
    is practice repression of ideas. These decisions (to ban the Vagina Mono-
    logues) damage the degrees that people get from our university”. Of course,
    Marquette has since changed its views about the offensive play, and it’s
    been produced eight times at MU since ’07– last year three departments
    sponsored the production. Everybody got that? Play so offensive it was
    banned for years now = good, discussion of perennial Catholic teaching on
    homosexuality and marriage now = bad.

  15. Clinton. Bingo!

    Strip it’s Catholic association or make the University uphold Catholic teaching and morals.

    ( Bingo on your comments VM play.)

  16. New Zealand grants a river the rights of personhood. Animal rights trump human rights.

    This is the future spawned from higher education. The thought police are gaining zombies every minute. Go figure! New Morality!!

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