At any university, a discussion on “When Does Human Life Begin” would be an excellent idea. And at any university, at least somebody on the panel should espouse the view that life begins at conception. This should be utterly obvious at a Catholic university.

But what happens when a pro-abortion feminist office at a “Catholic” university organizes the discussion? You can guess.

The discussion was sponsored by Marquette for Life, Empowerment (a feminist student organization), the Campus Ministry, and the Marquette University Center for Gender and Sexualities Studies. That latter one is just what it sounds like.

The discussants were Theology professor Conor Kelly and Monique Liston, who is an adjunct instructor of Gender and Sexualities Studies. One might expect a Marquette Theology professor to defend the Catholic position. But he did not. According to the Marquette Wire:

Because the Catholic Church is unable to pinpoint the exact moment personhood begins, Kelly said the church has developed an assumption that human life begins at the moment of conception. He said this is to protect all potential human life.

“In theology, there’s an ongoing conversation about how to identify exactly when personhood begins as a better way of describing not just life in the biological sense, but life in the moral sense,” Kelly said. “The Catholic Church says it doesn’t know when life begins in the sense of personhood.”

Liston, of course, played the race card, and talked about women making “choices.”

Liston said individuals should consider when a soul into enters the body and when a soul leaves the body at the time of death.

She said individuals should recognize the community contexts that contribute to individuals’ views on this topic. Members of the Marquette community are privileged to be given the opportunity to attend a panel like this, she said.

“We’re not on 30th and Wisconsin having this conversation,” Liston said. “We’re on 13th and Wisconsin having this conversation.”

Kelly added that historical implications of race and class continue to impact today’s populations.

“When we kind of see that reality, it very much complicates this picture and puts a lot of the onus, I would say, on our society to rethink what we’re doing and how we can be supportive, even if we want to affirm the autonomy of people to make choices,” Kelly said.

How the “historical implications of race and class” affect when life begins is something she did not explain. Does life begin at some different point for blacks and the poor? Of is blathering about race and class simply a way that the politically correct avoid discussing issues they don’t want to discuss?

As we shall see, Marquette for Life had to distance themselves from the whole affair.

Conor Kelly’s Views

We wondered if Kelly was actually as favorable toward abortion as he seemed, so we wrote him and asked him the following:

It appears you were supposed to “represent” Marquette for Life, and they weren’t happy with your “representation.” I understand that faculty aren’t lobbyists and neither you nor I would agree to “represent” a view other than one we actually hold.

But just a couple of simple questions: do you believe that “elective abortion” (leaving aside rape, incest, etc.) should be legal or illegal?

Do you in fact believe that life begins at conception, or at some other point?

I ask two simple questions because I don’t want to impose by expecting a long explanation of your views. If you’ve written on this, feel free to point me to what you have written.

On the record, unless you tell me otherwise.

Kelly did not respond to our e-mail, nor to a follow-up phone call. The reader can infer what this means.

Some light on how Kelly actually feels is found in an article he wrote titled “The Role of the Moral Theologian in the Church: A Proposal in Light of Amoris Laetitia.” From the abstract:

Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia recast pastoral decisions in terms of conscience and discernment and asked moral theology to do the same. Such a request invites reforms for moral theology, requiring a shift from the traditional role of the moral theologian as an external judge to a more personalist role as a counselor for conscience. This change entails prioritizing the process of discernment ahead of the definition of rules, specifying the place of the ideal in Catholic morality, and attending to the ethics of ordinary life.

The word “discernment” has a synonym. That synonym is “rationalization.”

Once you decide to junk the rules and “discern” what should be done, it’s almost trivially easy to “discern” that you can have an abortion, or a sex change operation, or a homosexual relationship. “Discernment” is for those people who want to cast off all those nettlesome Catholic rules, and do what they want.

Kelly, of course, can believe what he wants. Dan Maguire has been around Marquette for decades supporting abortion, gay marriage, and all the rest. But nobody would pick Maguire to present a pro-life view on abortion.

Try to imagine, for a moment, how an environmentalist group would feel if they cosponsored a debate on global warming and all the participants hemmed and hawed and expressed all kinds of doubt, with nobody presenting a robust case that the earth faces a possible “climate change” catastrophe.

Marquette For Life Responds

Marquette for Life responded by, in effect, distancing the group from the entire affair. In a statement, they noted that the event “seemed to cause more confusion than it did clarity.” They made it clear that “the faculty assigned to represent us” in fact did not. They insisted that “human life begins at conception.”

What Was Marquette for Life Thinking?

Good for Marquette for Life. But we have to ask, what were they thinking allowing people who flatly reject Catholic moral views to organize an event they co-sponsored?

Let’s begin with Empowerment. These are the students who vandalized an anti-abortion protest in the fall of 2016. Not only did they vandalize it, they were proud of the act, and demanded that Marquette refuse to allow such a display in the future. Marquette gave them a minor slap on the wrist for their vandalism.

They issued a bitter, intolerant screed, objecting to conservative Ben Shapiro speaking on campus.

The “Gender” Center

The Center for Gender and Sexualities Studies is another hotbed of political correctness. The first clue is obvious on their list of staff: each one lists her “preferred pronouns.”

The Director, one Angelique Harris, was a member of a study group of leftist feminists who supported cop-killer Assata Shakir, and planned to meet to discuss the deep thoughts of communist Angela Davis, and an essay on “The Whiteness of Police.”

Another staffer, one Chrissy Nelson, tried to undermine the talk of Ben Shapiro by advising people who disliked Shapiro to get a ticket, and not show up, depriving people who wanted to see him of an opportunity. This at the suggestion of an (unidentified) “director of diversity.”

How did Angelique Harris punish her when her plan was revealed? She was “reprimanded” and remained on the staff.

And just who led the vandalizing of the anti-abortion display in the fall of 2016? Yet another Center staffer, Brianna Hawkins.

The Center is, quite simply, a center of politically correct intolerance.

A Lesson

Hopefully, Marquette for Life has learned a lesson. Don’t team up with people who despise all that you stand for, and probably hate you.

But at a genuinely Catholic university, an anti-abortion student group should not have to learn that lesson. Yes, there might be people who would disagree with them, and there might be debate and discussion. But in a genuinely Catholic university, they would have allies among the campus bureaucrats who would help see that their view was, at least, heard.

Professor John McAdams is currently fighting to get his job back as a political science professor at Marquette University. His case is being considered by the Wisconsin Supreme Court and is considered one of the most important cases of academic freedom in the country. On April 17, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty is offering a preview of the oral arguments in the Supreme Court case. Tickets are on sale now for a very modest price.


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