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Week 08 in Catholic Media, 2014

February 24th, 2014, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Santa Clara U. –A Single Issue or an Entire  Culture?

Elsewhere on Cleansing Fire this week we can find the beautiful documenting of the installation of 19 new Cardinals, many from poorer and difficult areas of the world, and in another story is the ouster of the Ukrainian Leadership, and yet elsewhere thought-provoking commentary on recent dialogue in the Church.  Instead of including multiple news headlines, this week, we are focusing on only one story, Santa Clara University’s “dropping” of Abortion from its Healthcare insurance.

The mindset against which it might be useful to view the story is:  “Organizations don’t have Conversions; people do!”  In the 1980’s and 1990’s, as government regulation attempted to tighten on at least the financial aspects of companies in the face of egregious displays of personal greed, one popular saying was “There is no such thing as Business Ethics; only ethical (or non-ethical) business people.”  So too, it is useful to view an apparent “conversion” of any allegedly Catholic college or university back to its legitimate roots with the question:  can one person in a leadership position who has repented change a culture?   For example, does Notre Dame’s belatedly trying to fight the HHS mandate mean anything more than image burnishing or lip service?  Is there a fundamental change in mores just from a single visit to Rome?  Would a strong Catholic parent now think that a single act of faithfulness makes a particular college a safer place to which to send a son or daughter?  Such are the questions now revolving around Santa Rosa College.

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The Cardinal Newman Society, usually a dependable source of information, writes the following:

 Santa Clara Univ. Trustees Support Dropping Abortion from Health Insurance

February 19, 2014, at 8:25 AM  |  By Matthew Archbold  | 

“Citing Santa ClaraUniversity’s Jesuit and Catholic identity as well as the words of Pope Francis, the University’s board of trustees has rejected a faculty resolution urging it to restore coverage of abortion in the employee health plan.  The board of trustees sent out a campus-wide email announcing the decision, signed by Chairman Bob Finocchio, Jr.

The board makes clear its support of Father Michael Engh, S.J., University president, who had come under fire from the faculty senate for removing coverage of abortion from the employee health plan, saying he has “a duty to enhance and advance the identity and mission of the University as a Jesuit, Catholic university.”  The board states that in excluding abortion from coverage, “the President carried out this duty.”  In November, the faculty senate voted that the administration’s decision to drop abortion from its health coverage plan was “invalid.”  The term “invalid” referred to the process by which the University made the decision without consulting the faculty.  It did not overrule the decision.

Juliana Chang, professor of English and faculty senate president, reportedly said at the time, Santa Clara“Faculty believe that our shared governance structure means that the president should consult the faculty prior to implementing major policy decisions.”  The trustees in their statement point out that the University’s shared governance model “is a recommendation model, not a consensus model.”  The trustees also make clear that they “hold the ultimate legal and moral responsibility and authority for the University and therefore, must ultimately determine and approve University policies and major strategic changes.”

The board cites both the Society of Jesus’ statement on abortion, “Standing with the Unborn,” and Pope Francis:  ‘The President’s position is that the Decision relates to the University’s mission and identity as a Jesuit, Catholic university.  In 2003, the Society of Jesus in the United States (“Jesuits”) issued a statement on abortion entitled “Standing for the Unborn”.  In the statement, the Jesuits affirm that the imperative to oppose abortion ‘calls forth from us a consistent ethos of life.’  Similarly, Pope Francis in a message to the Americas on December 12, 2013, said that America is called to be ‘a land prepared to accept life at every stage, from the mother’s womb to old age.’ The Decision is consistent with, and conforms to, the mission and identity of the University as a Jesuit, Catholic university.”

The exclusion of abortion coverage will not take place until January 1, 2015, as was recommended by the Benefits Committee to afford them an opportunity to explore health care options beyond the University’s health care plans and in light of the Affordable Care Act.”

One could call the above ”encouraging” and even “conversion-like” from some of the adverse stories in the media in past years.  But is it a conversion?  Or just one change?  One has to read more, and the following story is from LifeSiteNews, 6 days later.  The beginning reads similarly, but read through to the end, and continue to wonder “Is Santa Rosa NOW a Catholic school?”

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Catholic university to drop insurance coverage for abortion in 2015

by Ben Johnson   Tue Feb 25, 2014 12:43 EST

“Santa Clara University, a Catholic university, has announced its insurance plan will stop paying for its employees’ elective abortions in January 2015.  Board of Trustees Chairman Robert Finocchio Jr. said the decision “flows from the university’s identity and mission as a Jesuit, Catholic university.”  The policy had been announced last fall by university president Fr. Michael E. Engh, S.J., only to meet a backlash from faculty members.  Our core commitments as a Catholic university are incompatible with the inclusion of elective abortion coverage in the university’s health plans,” he wrote in a letter to faculty and staff last October. He hoped the university would further Jesuit ethics by “modeling an ethics of dialogue.”

Juliana Chang, Faculty Senate president, asked that the board declare the decision “invalid” due to “our shared governance structure.”  “The trustees’ statement bluntly reminds professors that they don’t have final control over the university,” Patrick J. Reilly, president of The Cardinal Newman Society told LifeSiteNews. “Apparently some professors thought they could bully Father Engh to keep their abortion coverage, but the trustees have a legal responsibility to uphold Santa Clara’s mission and Catholic identity, and they did the right thing.”

Fr. Engh announced the university would explore other options by which faculty and staff could obtain abortion coverage on their own.

Despite the step to separate the religious institution from formal participation in abortion, Reilly says troubling questions persist.

“Amid all the excitement about dropping the coverage, the university has not offered a clear explanation for why abortion was covered in the first place,” he told LifeSiteNews. “How many babies died? Who’s taking responsibility? It’s a grave scandal that the trustees ought to investigate.”

The school has a long reputation for dissent:

  • Its website announced in 2006 that the university landed an anthropology student an internship at Planned Parenthood. 
  • The school’s ethicist, Lawrence Nelson, signed an amicus brief in 1996 affirming “the right of competent, dying patients to physician-assisted suicide.”   
  • In 2008, the university’s law school honored then-Obama administration Chief of Staff Leon Panetta, a Catholic who supports abortion-on-demand – a view he said he adopted from Santa Clara professor Jesuit Father Austin Fagothey, who argued that “there should be no laws on abortion.”
  • Santa Clara theology professor Frederick Parrella argued in 2012 that the Catholic Church should bless same-sex unions, because there is “nothing in the Gospels” requiring a heterosexual definition of marriage.
  • Patricia Cain, a professor and expert in feminist theory, wrote that she supports “marriage equality” and offered tax tips to same-sex “married” couples on the school’s blog.
  • The university has held several perfomances of the play The Vagina Monologues, which positively portrays the seduction of a teenage girl by a 24-year-old lesbian.  
  • Jesuit Santa Clara University Honours Prominent US Homosexual Activist  here. 

The question to ponder is “When is a Catholic College really a Catholic College?”  and “does one person’s conversion (albeit a leader) change the culture and mores of an institution?  What does it take to do so?”  Can it actually be accomplished, after the sinful culture has attracted members who support and fight for its sinfulness.  It is at least worth thinking about.  Can a parent be any more secure sending a son or daughter here than he or she was in the past, just because of a single decision by a single person?  Is this headline regarding dropping abortion coverage good news?  or is it meaningless?

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One Response to “Week 08 in Catholic Media, 2014”

  1. avatar christian says:

    I can understand why there is the question – Is Santa Clara University really a Catholic school? – when I read the account written in red. The list of perverse philosophies and activities that are allowed to take place on a Catholic campus is both shocking and disgusting!

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