Catholic Thought Police Cracks Down

The Humana Vitae is rightfully
considered an inhumane document because it’s a fancified way for the
church to play grab-hand with women’s bodies.  But recent events
show that the implications of the document go further than controlling women’s bodies
and sexualities and relationships. It’s given supporters (especially
male supporters) the belief that they should also be able to control
and police women’s minds.  The first incident involves
Catholic feminist theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether, who was offered
a job at the University of San Diego, only to have the offer rescinded.
  Why?  Because Ruether disagrees
with the Humana Vitae, and is a pro-choice Catholic.   

There is a constant struggle between academic freedom and Catholic theology
at a lot of Catholic schools, but most coverage of the issue fails to explain
is that these struggles only seem to happen in the area of sex and women’s
rights.  Other potential sources of conflict at most Catholic universities
are easily settled in favor of academic freedom, but for some reason,
the idea that women have rights is so incendiary that it requires universities
to completely rethink their approach to the basic concepts of higher

The other big incident was
a bit more comical. Bill Donohue of the Catholic League demanded (doesn’t
he always demand) that DNCC revoke the
press credentials of bloggers

Bitch PhD and Towleroad.  The reason?  Both blogs don’t
obey Donohue’s definition of good Catholic behavior.  Bitch PhD
was especially singled out for being a practicing Catholic who dared
to disagree with Catholic dogma, as defined, of course, by Donohue.  (Instances where
Donohue himself disagrees with the Vatican are not considered problematic.)   

Observers, including myself,
had to wonder why Donohue thought the DNCC had the authority to bring
female Catholics in line with religious teachings.  To his credit,
there seems to be a lot of confusion around this subject, with multiple
people thinking that the combination of being female and being Catholic
means that you lose your religious freedom guaranteed by the Constitution. 
During the Terri Schiavo debacle, Schiavo’s parents and lawyer had
the audacity to claim that Schiavo’s spoken
wishes were secondary to the church’s teachings on euthanasia
.  Contrary to the hopes and dreams
of Bill Donohue, the Schiavo fanatics, and anti-choice nuts the nationwide,
though, the government actually allows members of the Catholic faith
to reject the dictates of the church.  Yes, even female members
maintain their basic rights as citizens. Nor do the major political
parties seem inclined to require religious tests of people who show
up to offer press coverage. 

One shouldn’t be surprised
that conservative Catholics are desperate to find ways to force other
Catholics to believe what they’re told instead of what they want to
believe.  After all, according to a a report published
in 2008 by Catholics in Public Life,

most Catholics differ strongly with the conservatives on sexual health
issues.  A majority of American Catholics are pro-choice on abortion,
think that health insurance should be required to cover contraception,
think schools should provide comprehensive sex education, and support
stem cell research. That’s a lot of naughty Catholics. Perhaps even more dramatic are results of a recent Catholics for Choice poll, which discovered that 70% of respondents said that the views of Catholic
bishops are unimportant to them in deciding for whom to vote and 73% says they believe Catholic politicians are under no religious
obligation to vote on issues the way the bishops recommend.

No wonder
the right wingers are appealing to the political parties and to universities
to punish the straying Catholics–bishops can’t find traction, the government can’t do it, and
the "problem" of Catholics showing common sense is out of control. 

As amusing as it is to see
hard right extremists flail around looking for some kind of authority
to force those naughty Catholic women acting like they have rights,
it does us well to remember why the Bill Donohues of the world feel they’re
automatically entitled to claim ownership over the consciences and even
bodies of women like Bitch PhD and Rosemary Radford Ruether.  It’s
because the church and anti-choice political actors routinely act like
women are not full people, but objects.  Oh, you’ll hear many
an anti-choicer act like they’re defending women against being treated
like sex objects, but that’s not because they object to the "object"
part, but the "sex" part.  Treating women like reproductive
objects–like flowerpots that have the unfortunate flaws of wills and
voices and opinions–doesn’t really do women any favors.  How
about treating us like human beings? 

The report for Catholics in
Public Life also showed that, contrary to Bill Donohue’s fondest hopes,
most Catholics aren’t voting with the hopes of shutting up some uppity
women.  On the contrary, not only are they pro-choice and pro-contraception,
but most Catholics consider economic issues and the war to be more pressing
issues than the fear that someone, somewhere is getting laid. 
In other words, to no one’s great surprise, Catholic voters don’t
differ significantly from other voters in any substantial way.  

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  • invalid-0

    Obviously, Ms. Marcotte does not fully understand the details of the matter concerning USD and Rosemary Ruether. The “job” she refers to in her blog is no ordinary academic appointment, plus proper protocol in considering Professor Ruether for this honor was not followed by the faculty.

    The position in question concerns the Monsignor John R. Portman Chair in Roman Catholic Theology (see full description at, which was created to be “a strong and palpable symbol of the depth of the university’s commitment to Catholic theology as an academic discipline and another sign of the Catholic character of the university.” Furthermore, “as envisioned by the donor and Msgr. Portman, chairholders are to be distinguished theologians who think from within the Roman Catholic tradition,” which is clearly not represented by Professor Ruether’s unconventional and controversial views.

    Finally, the process which led to Professor Ruether to be considered for the limited appointment (which covers only a semester or two) was not a formal offer because it never had the approval of the USD provost. What has been described as a case of “academic freedom” is actually a matter of faculty overstepping their authority.

  • invalid-0

    Dear Hilary:

    Amanada nailed the idea down, which is in the Catholic Church freedom of thought is to be regulated, and people who follow “think from within the Roman Catholic Tradition” are rewarded while those who do not are punished, it used to be by burning at the stake, but now the new punishment is media humilation and not being able to make a living. In this day and age, not being able to provide for oneself can lead to death, as no one can afford private insurance in America. Nothing much has really changed since the middle ages has it Hilary? Kill those who disagree with those in power as been the Church’s modus operandi for centuries, it’s just that the church now uses different weapons.

    Furthermore, Professor Ruether’s “unconventional and controversial views” are what the people believe too, what is the Catholic Church going to do, excommunicate the vast majority of their members?

    Finally, it should be noted that Professor Ruether’s “unconvential and controversial views” that are causing much dissent is the fact that women are human beings who have minds and bodies, and as human beings deserve to have full mental and body soverignity, an idea that again, the founder of your religion also believed. But then, he also despised hypocrites, and I don’t see much mention of that anymore.

  • amanda-marcotte

    The bigger the job, the more it’s eligible for academic censorship?  That’s actually the opposite of how real academia is supposed to work.  Tenure exists, after all, to protect academic freedom, and is earned.  That the censorship increases as you move up the ladder only shows how the church is completely out of the loop, and anti-free thought.

  • invalid-0


    I wonder if the reason why Catholic voters do not differ significantly from other American voters, according to some polls, is that they are purposely receiving the wrong teaching about the Faith from those who would hope to use their influential position in politics to push and foster a purely secular view of human sexuality that clearly deviates from their Faith as they could only but know how it is to be professed. It is quite a quandary. The certain persuasive desire by certain people to have faith kept out of politics now has politicians maliciously manipulating the teaching of their own Faith for a political agenda to appease those very people. The objective intrinsically good tenets of the Catholic Faith are not true because the majority says they are true. That would, of course, make them subjective. Something that is not true for all is not true at all. However, people are indeed free to believe what they desire to be true in this great country. However, people are not free to purposefully misrepresent a non-profit organization’s teachings on women to try to change what that organization says is true by its own twice millennium held beliefs. The Church is not a democracy; of which I am sure Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is now acutely aware. It will be interesting to see how the dust settles and how those polls you cite change now that the Church Herself is more in the Public Square than ever. I, for one, am very hopeful.
    Now, for some other quick points— The Catholic Church is not against stem cell research. She is against embryonic stem cell research. BTW: there has not been one treatment to date as result of embryonic stem sell research. Conversely, there have been numerable treatments attributable to adult stem cell research that are now currently in use. The Church is in absolute agreement that it is morally right to use adult stem cells to treat these diseases. — Back to the religious freedom thing, it is the organization itself that has the freedom to incorporate by the Constitution according to its own beliefs and the individual has the freedom to choose in which corporation he desires to manifest his faith, if any, according to the same Constitution. Actually, the organization itself can prevent an individual from joining and can have a member removed. I fear that may be the next step with dissenting Catholics. Humorously, it is truly is a shame that The Boy Scouts of America itself was not similarly protected by the Constitution. — I cannot speak intelligently on Mr. Donohue. —As far as academic freedom is concerned at Catholic Institutions, they all have the right to pursue the true, the good, and the beautiful. By definition, however, they cannot deviate from these attributes of the Divine. They are free to disaffiliate themselves with The Church, if they so desire. Again, The Church is probably fixing to disaffiliate Herself with them before too long. —It is not audacious to influence the Public Square and a truth is a truth. The case certainty brought to light the complexities of abortion in reverse for American Jurisprudence. —You have the right to get laid as much as you want, and we have the right to say you are wrong for so doing if you are concurrently broadcasting to the whole world that it is also right to do so out of wedlock, with contraception, and abortion as a backup. I am truly and really sorry if you think that this means you are not being treated as a human being. You have the first amendment and so do we. — Also, Humanae Vitae is in the genitive case. As such, replace the article the with the preposition of to show possession: Of Human Life.


  • invalid-0

    I would like to add one more thing that Pope Benedict has said recently… I am paraphrasing here, but he basically said that he would rather have less overall Catholics than a multitude of dissenters within the Catholic Church. As Timothy points out, The Catholic Church is not a democracy or even a republic. We may very well see a line drawn between Roman Catholics and American Catholics. If you are not sure about what the actual Catholic Church teaches then buy the catechism – it’s all there. If you don’t believe the Catholic Catechism (i.e. the teaching of the Universal Christian Church) then you are not Catholic! You may want to be, you may even proclaim to be, but you are not. It was the same with Jesus when he was here. He wasn’t trying to make friends with everyone – he came for his lost sheep.

    “And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.” Matthew 16; 18-19

    The Catholic Church is part of the Kingdom of Heaven, which has one ruler. Peter was the first Pope; the Rock upon which Jesus built his church. Jesus put Peter in charge here on earth and Peter has passed on his divine sovereignty 266 times so we have a direct lineage straight back to Peter unlike any other church on the planet.

    Pretty neat, huh?

  • invalid-0

    Thanks, Amanda, for being an ally of pro-choice Catholics. We appreciate it!

    I also find it very interesting that the self-proclaimed Catholics above had no comment on the Catholic teaching on conscience or the right to religious freedom.

  • invalid-0

    on something that is obvious. You’re trying to infuse your rights afforded to you in the U.S. Consitution into The Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is not saying that you don’t have a right to reigious freedom. Jesus & The Catholic Church are saying that you don’t have to follow what they’re teaching. Start your own church if you want to like others have done: Martin Luther, Calvin, The Baptists, John Smith, etc.

  • invalid-0

    You are entirely wrong about Humane Vitae and the truth an meaning of human sexuality and what is clearly evident in the natural world. You are another fool simply adding lies to lies in a vain attempt to assert some kind of personal power which you are in reality deficient in.

    Next time, try actually reading the article which you presume to trash.

  • invalid-0

    Thanks, Amanda, for being an ally of pro-choice Catholics. We appreciate it!
    Johanna, it’s not just pro-choice Catholics she respects. What motivates Amanda is a deep and abiding love of Catholicism itself — a pure adoration of the religion and its dogmas, unsullied by political issues such as choice. Her love of our Heavenly Father, Our Savior Jesus, Our Holy Mother, the sacraments and the mysteries of the Rosary is boundless. She wishes these ultimate truths to be accessible to all who wish to learn them or teach them.

  • invalid-0

    What are you talking about? That is completely opposite to what ‘motivates’ Amanda.

  • invalid-0

    pro woman pro life,

    Amanda has very publicly stated that is never her intention “to offend anyone for his or her personal belief.” In this post, she was simply defending Prof. Radford’s right to teach Catholic doctrine notwithstanding what her political views might be. This is because feels that the dissemination of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is so important that it transcends the identity of the particular messenger.

  • invalid-0

    My apologies! I didn’t know that about Amanda. I agree that the Gospel transcends the the identity of the messenger. However, if a person is going to teach Catholic doctrine, it’s a good idea that the person be a good Catholic, believing everything the Church teaches, so as people don’t get the wrong impression.

  • invalid-0

    You can be both pro-abortion and Christian – the two are mutually exclusive and cannot share the same space.

  • invalid-0

    I didn’t know that about Amanda.
    pro woman pro life,
    Amanda is very concerned of the effect that even her mere words might have on fellow Catholics. For example, in 2006 she asked a theological question on her blog that some found questionable. After the hurt she caused was brought to her attention on The O’Reilly Factor, she quickly and humbly apologized to those who, like Catholic League President William Donohue, took offense.

  • invalid-0

    You CANNOT be both pro-abortion and Christian – the two are mutually exclusive and cannot share the same space.

  • invalid-0

    How can someone who eats meat be a vegan?


    How can a person who believes in God be an atheist?


    The problem is not freedom of speech or any other kind of freedom. It is definitional!


    If Adam claims to be a meat-eating vegan, and Beth points out his error, she’s neither infringing on his freedom of speech nor his freedom to eat what he likes. And Adam’s participating in polls of vegans does not make them any more valid than they already are.


    If Richard Dawkins denies Vox D. a job as tenured professor of atheism, on account of Vox’s long history of writing religious pamphlets, it’s not like he’s lynching the poor fellow. Not everyone who applies to that exalted position is accepted. Just like not everyone who applies to become John Edwards’s Blogger In Chief is suitable for the job. They should not be upset because they lost to a Hollywood cinematographer.


    Don’t worry, Amanda, if you go to Confession, and truly repent of your sins, you truly will receive absolution and be welcomed back.