Jesuitical 9: Marquette and Dave Barry

Hattip to Instapundit.  Part of my ongoing series on the follies of some Jesuits in this country.  Marquette is a Jesuit run university in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Notoriously, Marquette has employed as a  Professor of Theology for decades Daniel C. Maguire.  Maguire is an ex-priest.  He has long been an ardent pro-abort.  He has been an adviser of the pro-abort group Catholics For a Free Choice for decades.  One of his recent books is Sacred Choices which is a look at the right to contraception and abortion in ten religions.  In 2007 the USCCB publicly condemned as erroneous various aspects of the views propounded by Maguire and the statement can be read here.

Contrary to what Professor Maguire asserts, the Catholic tradition has never supported abortion.  The Second Vatican Council clearly stated that “[l]ife must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.”[18]  Furthermore, the intrinsic immorality of abortion has been repeatedly and forcefully emphasized by the popes, particularly by Pope John Paul II.[19]

Naturally over the years hordes of faithful Catholics have complained to the Marquette administration about someone with the anti-Catholic views of Maguire being a theology professor.  The Marquette administration has done nothing.

However, the case of Maguire does not mean that the Marquette administration will not take action to protect orthodoxy.  They most certainly will.  However, as the case of graduate student Stuart Ditsler indicates, they will only do if the orthodoxy being protected is left wing orthodoxy.

Back in 2006 Ditsler, a Phd grad student at Marquette, posted on his office door in the philosophy department this quote from humorist Dave Barry“As Americans we must always remember that we all have a common enemy, an enemy that is dangerous, powerful, and relentless. I refer, of course, to the federal government.” Posting political statements on office doors in academia is not unusual.  Apparently in the philosophy department there were several office doors that had political material posted upon them.

Well this should have been no problem because Marquette prides itself on diversity.

“As a Catholic, Jesuit university, Marquette recognizes and cherishes the dignity of each individual regardless of age, culture, faith, ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation, language, disability or social class. Precisely because Catholicism at its best seeks to be inclusive, we are open to all who share our mission and seek the truth about God and the world. Through our admissions and employment policies and practices, our curricular and co-curricular offerings, and our welcoming and caring campus environment, Marquette seeks to become a more diverse and inclusive academic community dedicated to the promotion of justice.

Our commitment to a diverse university community helps us to achieve excellence by promoting a culture of learning, appreciation and understanding. Each member of the Marquette community is charged to treat everyone with care and respect, and to value and treasure differences. This call to action is integral to the tradition which we share.”

One would assume that diversity must include intellectual diversity since Marquette pays Maguire to teach theology and his views are at variance with Church teaching on many topics.  Surely the statement of Ditsler would have been tolerated?

Not by James South the head of Marquette’s philosophy department, an expert on late medieval philosophy and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  On September 5, 2006 South sent out this e-mail which may be read here and stated in part:

“I had several complaints today about a quotation that was on the door of CH 132F.  I’ve taken the quotation down. While I am a strong supporter of academic freedom, I’m afraid that hallways and office doors are not “free-speech zones.” If material is patently offensive and has no obvious academic import or university sanction, I have little choice but to take note.”

Stuart Ditsler responded:

“Dr. South,

Because I know that it is tricky trying to convey the right tone over e-mail, I’m going to make an extra effort to be respectful. I just want to express my concerns about a discrepancy in the way this matter has been handled. To wit, last year Dr. [redacted], who I like, respect, and admire very much, posted a cartoon by Pat Oliphant of the Washington Post about the ethical principles (or lack thereof) in the Bush administration that stayed on his door for I believe the entire academic year. The year before that, you posted a piece on your door immediately after the 2004 presidential election criticizing “family values” voters for preferring Bush and the Republican Party to Kerry and the Democrats. What this tells me is that doors and hallways are not “free speech zones” (a Bush administration term, which is ironic in itself) only when the opinions expressed are contrary to those of the majority of the members of the department. Nor do I see, in the first place, what is “patently offensive” about a quotation (taken from a Dave Barry piece) the import of which is that we should always be on guard against the expansion of government power, a sentiment that has been expressed by too many brilliant thinkers for me to even try to recount them (although I will drop Thomas Jefferson’s name). By contrast, the two aforementioned pieces are explicitly critical of a particular political party and a particular administration.

In sum, I feel like not only is the department treating me unfairly, but the complaints are without merit in the first place. I am deeply concerned, and have been since I arrived, about the intellectual atmosphere of the department. This only gives me more reason to worry.

Thank you for taking the time to take my concerns into account, and I sincerely hope that I have been able to convey a properly respectful tone.


I was under the mistaken impression that a philosophy department would be a place on campus most likely to debate ideas and beliefs rather than simply banning them, but apparently not.  The whole affair turned into a cause celebre with the Foundation for Individual Freedom in Education (FIRE) taking up the cudgels for Ditsler but to no avail.  The Marquette Administration adamantly refused to back down even after its action was condemned by the local paper in Milwaukee and various groups dedicated to academic freedom.  I guess this diversity thing can only go so far.

So there you have it.  At Jesuit run Marquette you can dissent from Church teaching and be a professor of theology.  If you dissent from leftist political orthodoxy however, Heaven help you because the Marquette administration certainly will not.

8 Responses to Jesuitical 9: Marquette and Dave Barry

  1. Al says:

    Marquette, Jesuit, that explains it all.

  2. c matt says:

    Well, speech codes are hardly unique to Marquette or Jesuit schools. As Barry and FIRE point out, its endemic to colleges around the country. But then, everyone knows colleges aren’t about searching for truth or clash of ideas, they are all about getting that piece of paper so you can get a decent job. Nothing else.

  3. Gabriel Austin says:

    A couple of points.
    Marquette University [cost: $39,000 p.a.] is not a Jesuit college. There are a few token Jesuits around, but the Board of Trustees are lay people. [Need that to get state funding].

    What is needed is the naming of such as the Jesuit Provincials who seek shelter in anonymity.

    The protested line was first spoken by Thomas Paine, followed by Thomas Jefferson, and the many others.

    One should disrecommend [is that a word?] students from the English department, given the incoherent gobbledey-gook served up as a mission statement.

    It would be entertaining to ask the trustees and faculty members if they knew who Pere Marquette was, and if they have read Agnes Repplier’s wonderful biography.

    Maguire is but one of many Irish Americans who gave a vow as priests and then broke it. Much as I find questionable in Freud, I believe he might well be correct that it is a sexual failing, with an overbearing mother in the background.

  4. Donna V. says:

    Ah, yes, my alma mater (hangs head in shame).

    Actually, I consider I got a pretty good education at MU. However, I did not get a Catholic one.

  5. Donald R. McClarey says:

    Donna, much of my education at the University of Illinois consisted of listening intently to my professors, and then doing the opposite of what they advised!

    I will say that Marquette has a pretty campus. My family and I visited there about a decade ago.

  6. Donna V. says:

    MU’s Gesu church is a beauty.

  7. […] Midwest Conservative Journal.  The latest in my on-going series on the follies of some modern Jesuits.  Proving yet again that they have the charism of being impervious to irony, the editorial board […]

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