STATEMENT OF PROVIDENCE COLLEGE
Immediate Release: September 24, 2013
RE: Cancellation of September 26 Corvino lecture
Providence, R.I. - Providence College’s respect for and commitment to academic freedom is articulated in its mission statement. Academic freedom means that our faculty may pursue the truth in accord with the canons of their disciplines and share their findings in research and teaching without interference. The nature of marriage is a matter about which our faculty has academic freedom.
The incident in question is thus not really about academic freedom, but rather goes to the meaning of being a Catholic college. Should a Catholic college invite an outside speaker to campus, pay that person an honorarium, and give that person an unchallenged platform from which to present arguments designed to undermine a central tenet of the Catholic faith? Our reading of Ex corde Ecclesiae is that to do so would be to undermine the very nature of a Catholic college. Our interpretation is in accord with that of the United States Bishops Conference, which has asked Catholic institutions not to provide honors or platforms for speakers who advocate for positions inconsistent with Church teaching.
It is important to note that Providence College had originally agreed to host this speaker in tandem with another well-known philosopher for a two-sided debate of the issue of gay marriage. We believe that this kind of free and fair discussion of both sides of a controversial issue would be beneficial to our community. The event was cancelled only when it became clear that this would not be the case. We would welcome a real debate about this issue on our campus and look forward to hosting an academic event that comports with our mission.