A vocal body of liberal Catholics and anti-Papists call Stanford home.
In a 2000 essay entitled “Fortress Vaticana,” religious studies professor Thomas Sheehan wrote derisively of Cardinal Ratzinger, suggesting his work was “third-rate,” “sloppy,” and theologically “vulgar.”
English professor Tobias Wolff has blamed the Church’s problems on its pursuit of “visions of cohesion and power.”
Both Sheehan and Wolff denied involvement in the decision not to invite Ratzinger, but Prof. Elizabeth Bernhardt, director of the Stanford Language Center, recalled voicing her concerns. In the event an official invitation had been extended, she said, “I would just have smoke coming out of my ears.” She also said she would have protested, but added that academic freedom is “a really important thing we all have to hold.”
Having taught a course on resistance to the Nazi regime, Bernhardt said she could not as a “matter of conscience” have condoned a visit by someone who joined the Nazi war machine. During World War II, such participation was mandatory.
Bernhardt said she opposed Ratzinger’s “ridiculous stances” on birth control and the ordination of female priests. Furthermore, Ratzinger’s title—Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith and Morals—was a legacy from the Inquisition.
Most worrisome, the pastor at the campus parish seems to have helped scuttle the proposal:
She also suspected that the event’s intent was to “embarrass” the Catholic Community. Fr. LaBelle agreed, saying that the event—far from an “open forum”—would have been designed to stir controversy in a kind of “staged argument.”
I am reminded of the passage in More's Utopia where he berates the English aristocracy for poorly educating their people and then punishing them for committing the crimes for which their lack of education has prepared them. If these Stanford professors and their like prattle on about the vulgarity and ignorance of American Christianity, they should acknowledge that acts like the refusal of a venue to a future pope ensure that American religious discussions remain at a crassly elementary level.
(via Erin O'Connor)