The folks over at The College Fix have done their homework, exposing how administrators at the University of St. Thomas (UST)—a “private Catholic liberal arts school” located in St. Paul, MN—are standing by their decision to let students to gain academic credit by serving as interns at a Minnesota-based National Organization for Women (NOW) chapter, even though the organization advocates for abortion on demand, LGBTQ rights, same-sex marriage, and its brand of so-called “racial justice.” UST’s Women’s Studies Department is sponsoring the internship opportunity.
This decision comes after the folks over at TFP Student Action also did their homework, organizing a successful petition drive garnering 10k+ signatures admonishing UST for offering internships at Planned Parenthood and Minnesota NARAL. Quickly after that email was forwarded to UST President Julie Sullivan, the listings were removed.
Now, that administrative fiat might satisfy some people.
However, what’s noteworthy about the NOW incident is not that diversity and inclusion means providing students opportunities to intern in organizations whose purpose contradicts official Church teaching. Nor is what’s noteworthy that academic administrators and professors sincerely believe that providing students those internships advances the institution’s mission as Catholic.
What’s noteworthy about this incident is that doing so provides additional evidence of a pattern of conduct on the part of academic administrators and professors at many of the nation’s Catholic universities and colleges. Namely, tacitly allowing opportunities like those internships at NOW to proceed. How? Perhaps through a “wink and a nod” or, even better yet, “Don’t inform me.” The idea is that if nobody finds out, all the better. And, if a crazy conservative Catholic does find out and complain, assert plausible deniability.
- In response to the TFP Student Action petition, UST President Julie Sullivanwrote an email to TFP Student Action noting:
…the links were published in error on the website of our College of Arts and Sciences, and they are being corrected. Student internships in the college are approved through the Office of the Dean. The Dean has not approved, nor would he approve, academic credit for internships at Planned Parenthood or abortion organizations.
- The Director of UST’s Women’s Studies Program, Susan Meyers, claimed she was “completely unaware of any protests and petitions regarding Planned Parenthood internships at UST.”
What’s important is that other voices also be introduced into the discussion. In this way, the narrative can be change from one that focuses upon upholding Catholic identity to one of safeguarding academic freedom. To wit:
- UST’s Vice President for University and Government Relations, Doug Hennes, said that UST administrators view the NOW as “an advocacy group on a wide variety of women’s issues, not specifically on abortion.” Yes, including: LGBTQ rights, same-sex marriage, and racial justice.
- Catherine Cory, Director UST’s Murray Institute—an on-campus Catholic institute for dialogue with the Archdiocese—asked: “If some of Planned Parenthood’s work is morally wrong according to Catholic moral teaching, does that make everything they do wrong?” “Planned Parenthood does more than provide abortions and contraceptives,” Cory added.
- A St. Thomas alumna, Chloe Lawyer, thinks “it is a shame that members of the St. Thomas community are not even allowed to view these opportunities.” Lawyer just happens to have completed one of those internships at Planned Parenthood and said that limiting internship opportunities disrupts freethinking, adding, “Freethinking does not always align with Catholic values.”
Yes, indeed. When caught with your finger in the cookie jar, claim plausible deniability. Then have all of your friends explain why it’s perfectly reasonably that your finger should be in the cookie jar.
What the NOW incident exposes is what may be a more radical approach emerging, namely, “Stick it in your ear.”
When will the nation’s Catholic bishops realize where this narrative is headed and set about righting the wrong?
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