Cardinal Newman Society

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The Cardinal Newman Society is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, nonprofit organization founded in 1993, in the United States of America, and dedicated to promoting and defending faithful Catholic education. The organization is guided by Cardinal John Henry Newman's The Idea of a University and Pope John Paul II's 1990 Apostolic Constitution, Ex Corde Ecclesiae. The organization claims a membership of more than 20,000.

The society claims as part of its mission: to--

  • Support education that is faithful to the teaching and tradition of the Catholic Church;
  • Produce and disseminate research and publications on developments and best practices in Catholic education;
  • Keep Catholic leaders and families informed about Catholic education.

It should not be confused with the Oxford University Newman Society, the Society for the Study of Cardinal Newman, or the Newman Centre, the name often used to designate Catholic campus ministry centers at state and other non-Catholic universities.

The society's board of directors includes Media Research Center founder L. Brent Bozell III and National Review Online editor-at-large Kathryn Jean Lopez.

Founding[edit]

The society was founded in 1993 by Fordham University alumnus Patrick Reilly. After decisions by Fordham to recognize pro-choice and gay student clubs and create a counseling helpline which referred pregnant students to an abortion provider,[citation needed] Reilly used his position as editor of the school paper to express his opinions in defense of his understandings and applications of Catholic teaching on sexuality and abortion.[1] Reilly launched the society with the help of other recent Catholic college graduates. The society's leadership included prominent conservative commentator L. Brent Bozell III. It was Bozell, founder and president of the conservative media-watchdog group Media Research Center, who suggested use of direct mail marketing to invigorate the organization at a time when it existed "primarily as letterhead."[2]

According to Reilly, “It took a while, but there was such a need, more and more, to engage students and working with alumni and working with faculty and as we went on, it became clear that they were all looking for some kind of national voice to express the concerns that very many faithful Catholics had about the state of Catholic education.” [1]

One prominent supporter of the group is Fr. Benedict Groeschel, who wrote the forward to their "Newman Guide" and has spoken publicly in support of a stronger presence of Christians opposed to abortion rights on Catholic campuses, famously quipping that some secular colleges provide a better Catholic formation than their purported Catholic counterparts. Another supporter of the group is Fr. Joseph Koterski, a Jesuit at Fordham who is on record as having told Fordham students that he "couldn't see how [a Catholic] could [vote for Barack Obama] in good conscience after knowing the facts [about his support for abortion rights and other positions opposed by the Catholic Church]."[3]

Activities[edit]

The society sponsors conferences and speakers as well as producing Campus Notes and The Renewal Report, the society's newsletters. Its website indicates an emphasis on "researching activities both on campus and in the classroom;" the research leads to numerous press releases publicizing scandals in Catholic higher education, particularly what it regards as departures from orthodoxy or tolerance of ideas, activities and presentations it considers not in keeping with Roman Catholic teaching. The organization also produces The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College: What to Look For and Where to Find It claiming "to show students where they can learn and grow in a genuine Catholic environment without the nonsense that has overtaken even some of the most well-known Catholic universities." They identify 26 Catholic colleges and universities in the United States, abroad, and online where, in their view, "students can reasonably expect a faithful Catholic education and a campus culture that generally upholds the values taught in their homes and parishes."

The organization partners with conservative groups like The Heritage Foundation to sponsor such events as their joint forum on academic freedom.[4] It has a large presence on the Web, issuing "Catholic Higher Education Alerts" to publicize not only what it considers scandalous programming at universities, but in opposition to the ACLU, judges it deems activist or with whom it disagrees, and what it perceives as "liberal bias" more generally.[5]

The organization has stated that "a Catholic bishop contacted Patrick Reilly to discuss how he could put the screws to a wayward Catholic college in his diocese, including ways of encouraging the removal of dissident theology faculty;" Reilly declined to identify the bishop, citing confidentiality.

Speakers[edit]

The Society monitors speakers at Catholic universities, and provides a mechanism for online reporting of what it believes to be scandalous commencement speakers and honorees they believe to "have taken public positions contrary to Catholic values or teaching." In 2009, the Society was one of the primary organizations that criticized the University of Notre Dame for inviting President Barack Obama to receive an honorary doctorate of law and deliver the commencement speech due to his pro-choice position and record in support of abortion. The society garnered more than 367,000 signatures to its online petition of protest.[6]

The organization also deplored a commencement address given at Notre Dame de Namur University, by Sr. Helen Prejean, a nun opposed to capital punishment and author of Dead Man Walking, claiming the Josephite nun "is out-of-line with church teaching on, of all issues, capital punishment."[7] The organization faulted Prejean's critique of a "loophole" in the Church's teaching which permits capital punishment under limited circumstances.

In the spring of 2012, the Cardinal Newman Society listed 12 Catholic universities whose commencement speakers were considered objectionable because of their support for abortion or gay rights. Among the speakers was Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, who was invited to speak at Georgetown University. The Society presented a 26,000-signature petition that called the choice of Sebelius "insulting to faithful Catholics and their bishops who are engaged in the fight for religious liberty and against abortion." (Sebelius supports abortion rights and has upheld the mandate in the national health care plan requiring all institutions to provide birth control coverage.) The Archdiocese of Washington sent a letter of rebuke to Georgetown's president on the matter.[8]

Criticism[edit]

The organization is often at the center of controversy, as for example when it solicited donations to "finance a major effort to expose the heretics within our Catholic colleges," an effort which was called "red-baiting in ecclesiastical garb" by the Rev. John Beal, canon law professor at The Catholic University of America. It has been criticized for "McCarthyite tactics" and a "fundamentalist agenda."[9]

Charles L. Currie, president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities said that the society's "attacks can no longer go unchallenged," and characterized their work as "a long trail of distorted, inaccurate, and often untrue attacks on scholars addressing complex issues." Michael James, vice president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, said the society is "destructive and antithetical to a spirit of unity in our commitment to serve society and the church."[10] Reilly has been referred to in Catholic publications as the "self-appointed ayatollah to Catholic academia in this country."[9]

Rev. James Keenan, a priest and professor at Boston College who was targeted in a fundraising letter sent out by the society, said "Hopefully, someday our bishops will call us to end this awful conduct, which hurts not only those of us targeted, but more importantly, the unity of the church itself."[10] Another of the targets, Fr. John J. Paris, said of Reilly "I think he is a fraud, a charlatan, and a snake-oil salesman" and of the Society, that its purpose is "whipping up right-wing types to open their checkbooks."[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Bahr, Katie (March 18, 2009). "Defending a Catholic education". Catholic Herald. 
  2. ^ a b Bartlett, Thomas (June 30, 2006). "Bully pulpit". Chronicle of Higher Education. Archived from the original on July 6, 2006. 
  3. ^ Stecker, Peter (November 6, 2008). "College Democrats Discuss Catholics and Abortion". The Ram. 
  4. ^ Please Join Heritage and CNS for a Special Event
  5. ^ Lynch, Joshua (October 28, 2009). "On hot-button issues, questions over Seattle University's Catholic nature arise". The Spectator at Seattle University. Retrieved April 17, 2012. 
  6. ^ Bishops Who Opposed Notre Dame’s Obama Honor Receive More Than 700,000 Prayers in Thanks
  7. ^ Feuerherd, Joe (May 12, 2004). "Keating on review board-bishop spat; 'Openly subversive' universities; CUA law students seek recognition of gay group". National Catholic Reporter. 
  8. ^ Goodstein, Laurie (May 16, 2012). "New fighton a speaker at a Catholic university". New York Times. Retrieved May 20, 2012. 
  9. ^ a b Feuerhard, Joe (March 23, 2009). "Catholic academic ayatollah shows true colors". National Catholic Register. 
  10. ^ a b Kranish, Michael (August 28, 2005). "Group's church role questioned". Boston Globe. Retrieved April 17, 2012. 

External links[edit]