Statement of the Executive Committee of the American Catholic Philosophical Association Regarding Recent Events at Mount St. Mary's University

Today the Excecutive Committee of the American Catholic Philosophical Association released a statement regarding the recent events at Mount St. Mary's University in Maryland. (For an update on those events, see this article.) The statement is addressed to Mount St. Mary's President Simon Newman, Chairman of the Board of Trustees John Coyne, Board member William Lori, Archbishop of Baltimore, and the other members of the Board of Trustees.

It reads, in part:

The Executive Committee of the American Catholic Philosophical Association expresses its grave concern over the firing from Mount St. Mary’s University of two faculty members, one tenured in the Department of Philosophy.  We also express our concern that other members of the philosophy department in particular have been fired from administrative positions of leadership: fired, according to reports, for raising concerns about an administrative initiative with the grave potential of violating the fundamental rights and trust of students in divulging personal information about themselves to the administration.

Any educational institution of higher learning, whatever else it does, consists primarily of the community of faculty and students inquiring into the good of truth with the goal of advancing our understanding of the world and of ourselves as agents within that world.  A Catholic university in particular seeks understanding of the world and of us within it in relationship to the truth of God our Creator and Redeemer.  According to Catholic life and faith, education is a sacred activity: a spiritual work of mercy prompted by caritas.

If institutional loyalty at a college or university is to be judged, it must be judged by reference to the fundamental dignity of the human persons, faculty and students alike, who primarily constitute the institution, as well as the communion of institutional trust among faculty, students, administrators, and staff that must exist in order to promote what in Catholic education is a sacred duty.  It is for these reasons that Pope John Paul II wrote in the Apostolic Constitution, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, that the rights of conscience of those engaged in education must be respected and upheld, and that “any official action or commitment of the University is to be in accord with its Catholic identity.”

The ACPA statement also notes, regarding what Simon Newman described as his "mercy" in reinstating the two fired faculty members late last week, that especially in our Year of Mercy "this claim is a particularly egregious affront to both mercy and justice.  One does not act mercifully by ceasing to act unjustly.  This statement is particularly outrageous coming from the president of a Catholic university, which by its very nature is charged with the sacred duty of mercy in advancing the education of those students it has invited into its community."

Again, the full statement is available here.

(Thanks to Michael Waddell for sending this.)

John Schwenkler is an associate professor in the Department of Philosophy at Florida State University.

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