CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - The story of the unjust firing of Catholic Professor Ken Howell by the University of Illinois is far from over. The President of the University is sending out form letters in response to the overwhelming number of complaints he has received. He has promised to have the decision reviewed. The excellent lawyers of the Alliance Defense Fund are doing what they do so well. Catholics, other Christians and other people of faith and good will have joined together to right what is an obvious wrong.
Professor Ken Howell is a faithful Catholic who was hired to teach courses on the Catholic faith and intellectual tradition. He is well qualified on every front. He taught those courses in complete fidelity to the magisterium, the teaching office, of the Catholic Church. He is a victim of the "Dictatorship of Relativism" which Pope Benedict XVI warned of in the homily he gave prior to the Conclave wherein he was chosen to become the successor of the Apostle Peter. Professor Howell taught what the Catholic Church affirms about the existence of the Natural Law and its binding nature on all men and women of every age.
This position is not simply a "religious" position. It was the foundation of Western Civilization. There simply are objective Moral truths which can be known by all men and women through the exercise of reason and these Moral truths should govern our life together. For example, the taking of innocent human life is always wrong, period. That is why faithful Catholics are at the forefront of the great human rights struggle of our age to restore the recognition of the fundamental human right to life for our first neighbors, children in the womb.
So it is with the Church's teaching that homosexual sexual acts are morally disordered. They are. Authentic Human Freedom has a moral constitution. It must be exercised in reference to the truth concerning the human person, the family, our obligations in solidarity to one another and the common good. The unjust firing of Professor Howell is a warning to all who hold that truth exists in an age which has followed the pied piper of relativism.
We are engaged in a struggle between two competing visions of the human person, the nature of marriage (and the family and society founded upon it) and the structure and obligations attendant to the responsible exercise of authentic human freedom. Just before leaving for the summer month, 7,000 pilgrims filled the Paul VI Hall to hear the Pope say these words: "Freedom is authentic and helps in the construction of a truly human civilization only when reconciled with truth. If disconnected from truth, freedom tragically becomes the principle that destroys the inner harmony of human beings, a source of abuse for the strong and the violent, a cause of suffering and mourning."
It is important to pay attention to the e-mail complaint which generated the unconstitutional termination of Professor Howell. It was sent to Dr. Robert McKim by a student who was not in Professor Howell's class. He purported to be writing on behalf of a student who was and wished to remain anonymous. The e-mail read in part "Teaching a student about the tenets of a religion is one thing. Declaring that homosexual acts violate the natural laws of man is another." Here in one simple sentence is the real danger this whole matter exposes. This is PRECISELY the Catholic claim! Homosexual sexual acts violate the Natural Law.
Catholics insist that there is such a Natural Law, "present in the heart of each man and established by reason." This law "is universal in its precepts and its authority extends to all men. It expresses the dignity of the person and determines the basis for his fundamental rights and duties." (CCC# 1956) It is in this Natural Law that we find the moral truths which should inform our life together if we hope to build a truly just and free society. It is in this Natural Law that we find those fundamental and foundational human rights which must be recognized by the civil or positive law as belonging to all men and women. These rights do not come from Government but from God.
The relativists of this age have persuaded many, including some Catholics, that there are no objective moral truths; there are only "my" truths and "your" truths. They seek to relegate our claim of the existence of such truths to simply being a "religious" position. We will not and we cannot back down. In the midst of this confused age we must insist that there are objective truths which can be known by the exercise of reason because they are revealed by the Natural Law. Further that these truths are the only solid basis for building a truly free, just and human society.
Such truth claims grate against the enforcers of the "dictatorship of Relativism". Catholics insist that these objective truths must form the basis of a truly just civil society. They inform a true humanism, not the counterfeit humanism proposed in the new paganism of our age. They will help us live together in peace and promote human flourishing and the true common good. There is a danger in the West. I call it the "Two Step" of the New Censors.
Here is how the censorship happens. First, those who oppose our positions on matters such as the Right to Life for every human being from conception to natural death and the normative nature of the two parent marriage bound family call such truth claims "religious positions." Then they require that these truth claims be confined to expression only within our Church Walls. Finally, they try to wield the Police power of the State against us when we contend for the future by offering an alternative to their dictatorship of relativism .
There is a Cultural Revolution underway in the West with two conflicting visions of the human person, human freedom, human flourishing and true marriage and the family founded upon it as the first cell of a just society. The possibility looms that our positions on these matters of importance for all men and women, including those of other faiths or no faith at all, will be censored from the public debate if we do not resist. We need to remember history. The early Christians were not persecuted for "religion" but as "enemies of the State" and for "hatred of the human race." This charge of "Hatred of the Human Race" was directed by those within an ancient Rome which had lost its respect for the dignity of all human life while claiming to be enlightened. They practiced primitive forms of abortion as well as "exposure", the killing of unwanted newborns.
First and second century Rome was one of the mission fields of the early Church. It proclaimed itself the shining example to the world of its age while it embraced debauchery. In an eerie parallel, the history of ancient Rome reveals that hostility toward the Christians grew as the citizens of this once great empire continued in their spiraling moral decline. They did not want to hear the Christians and their opposition to abortion and the practice of "exposure" (the killing of newborns) in Rome. The Roman infatuation with hedonism was threatened by the Christian insistence on monogamous family as the first society and the foundation of civilization.
One of the ancient Christian manuscripts from that age, the Didache, written to a pagan inquirer, spoke of the distinctly different practices of the Christians: "They reside in their respective countries, but only as aliens. They take part in everything as citizens and put up with everything as foreigners. Every foreign land is their home, and every home a foreign land. They marry like all others and beget children but they do not expose (kill or abandon) their offspring. Their board they spread for all, but not their bed." The commitment of Christians to the dignity of every human person and the witness of their faithful monogamous marriages transformed ancient Rome. But it was not without hostility.
We are called in the Third Christian Millennium to build a new culture of life and a civilization of love. We must insist on the Recognition of the Right to Life. We must oppose efforts to give promiscuous heterosexual or homosexual relationships the same status as monogamous marriage. If such practices are enforced by the civil law of the State we must be ready to oppose such 'laws' and proposing a better way.
In so doing, we will be annoying to some as the West embraces a new paganism. The irony is that some actually call this new paganism "progressive" when, in fact, it is regressive. The struggle for the West is what is really at stake in the unjust firing of Professor Howell at the University of Illinois. So far the American regime has not charged those who insist that such positions are rooted in the Natural Law with "hatred of the human race" but censoring our speech may be an ominous step in that direction.