Last week, the Grand Rapids Press reported that Aquinas College–a Catholic university here in Grand Rapids–cancelled a speech by John Corvino, a well-known lecturer and gay rights advocate. Aquinas College cancelled the speech, claiming that the speech “displays an attack on Catholic teaching values.” The cancellation has prompted students at Aquinas to organize to bring Corvino to an alternative venue in Grand Rapids.
Additionally, Corvino has formally responded to the cancellation:
“On April 3, 2008, I was supposed to give a lecture at Aquinas College, a Catholic school in Grand Rapids, Michigan. That morning I was informed that the event was “postponed” so that an appropriate Catholic response could be prepared; one week later, the event was cancelled altogether by order of the school president, C. Edward Balog.
I am very disappointed in President Balog’s decision. For over fifteen years I have traveled to numerous schools, including Catholic schools, to promote rigorous yet respectful dialogue on homosexuality and ethics. My lecture at Aquinas was scheduled months in advance. The organizers knew that, although I disagree with Catholic teaching on the moral status of same-sex relationships, I have no desire to distort that teaching, and I invite response from all sides. When Aquinas officials suggested that a second speaker be present to offer the Catholic perspective, I welcomed that suggestion.
By canceling the event, Aquinas administrators have robbed us all of a valuable teaching moment–one where the Catholic position could be made clear while alternative perspectives were articulated and critically examined, in a spirit of rigorous free inquiry.
I am especially disappointed by President Balog’s explanation that “We want to explore the issue from an academic perspective, not from the perspective of an antagonistic attack to core Catholic values.” Anyone with even a passing knowledge of my scholarly research and public advocacy would recognize this description as a severe distortion of my work. (I would especially encourage members of the Aquinas community to read some of my many columns archived at the Independent Gay Forum website, http://www.indegayforum.org/staff/show/92.html).
Several students are now organizing to invite me to speak later this month at an off-campus location, not paid for by school funds. I look forward to that opportunity, and if it happens, I invite school administrators and other members of the Catholic community to come and present their views. I believe that truth has nothing to fear from serious public dialogue, and I welcome occasions for thoughtful interaction.
John Corvino, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Philosophy
Wayne State University”