Gay Marriage Course Controversy at Seton Hall

by Nathan Harden

The Chronicle of Higher Education has the story:

A political-science course on gay marriage is scheduled to begin on Tuesday at Seton Hall University, a Roman Catholic institution in New Jersey, despite objections from the archbishop of Newark, The Star-Ledger reported. The course’s instructor is W. King Mott, an associate professor who is openly gay and has previously challenged the Catholic Church’s position on homosexuality.

Members of Seton Hall’s board of regents met to “discuss” canceling the course back in the spring after the archbishop called its message “contrary to what the church teaches.” This is a case of bureaucratic authority trying to cope with religious authority. It calls into question the role and status of religious authority at what is, ostensibly, a religious school.

Religious universities like Seton Hall must decide to what extent the ideas advanced within their four walls ought to be limited by church doctrine. Certainly there should be a room for a range of views in any good school. But if the Catholic Church is supposed to be running the place, you wouldn’t know it in this case. Seton administrators have decided, apparently, to ignore the archbishop’s objections. And it makes one wonder how Catholic the school really is.

Seton Hall is acting like a conventional university that happens to have a Catholic heritage, not like a Catholic university. From an ideological standpoint, that is an important distinction.