Pope Francis made waves last week when he criticized the Catholic Church for being "obsessed" with social issues like same-sex marriage, abortion, and contraception. “It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time," he said. Providence College may have taken that advice to a bit too literally, as it is now refusing to talk about these issues at all.
The Roman Catholic Providence College announced the cancellation of a pre-planned lecture from John Corvino, who had been set to speak on supporting gay marriage, according to The New York Times. In its e-mailed explanation to faculty explaining the reversal, a school administrator cited a 2004 document from American bishops that reads, “Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”
But not giving "platforms" to those with opposing ideas seems to contrast with Pope Francis's statements last week that the Church be "home for all." In a personal blog post, Corvino — the chairman of the philosophy department at Wayne State University — noted the obvious and damaging contrast between the Catholic leader and the academic-religious college:
“Pope Francis, the Catholic Church’s new leader, has been justly celebrated for his welcoming tone toward gays and lesbians. Notwithstanding my abrupt dis-invitation, I remain hopeful that Providence College may soon better reflect that tone.”
The lecture, which had been set for Thursday, was planned as far back as February, so it should not have come as a surprise to Providence administrators. The talk was supported by nine different Providence departments, too. And it’s not as if Corvino hid his topic from the school; he has a long history arguing for and openly debating same-sex marriage, particularly against National Organization for Marriage’s ex-leader Maggie Gallagher, and has written several books in support of same-sex marriage.
So it’s odd that Providence chose a few days before the speech to cancel it. Since Providence seems to have missed them, it’s important to restate the comments from Pope Francis last week that suggested the Church move away from harping on these types of less relevant issues. "We have to find a new balance, otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel," the Pope said, criticizing the Church as it “sometimes locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules." Those statements come on the heels of his open comments on gays, specifically in late July: "If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn't be marginalized,” he said then.
The Pope's more recent statements from last week received wide approval in a recent HuffPost/YouGov poll of American Catholics, with 46% saying it was a “good change” and 20% arguing that he didn’t go far enough. But that seems to matter little to the folks at Providence.