In one paragraph of a brief speech, Cardinal Arinze noted . . . that the family has enemies and that the phenomena of abortion, homosexuality, contraception, infanticide, euthanasia, adultery, and pornography undermine its sacredness. At that, Georgetown’s roof caved in.
Seventy faculty members sent a letter to university officials protesting the cardinal’s “inappropriate remarks,” and one professor, a former Jesuit priest who now presents himself as a priest of “the American Catholic Church” and who blesses “gay marriages,” was especially offended. . . .
For years, religiously affiliated universities have routinely invited to campus speakers who are openly pro-abortion or otherwise at odds with traditional Christian moral teaching. The inevitable protests are met with a standard defense of “academic freedom,” the claim that a university is supposed to be a place where all questions can be discussed freely. But Georgetown was unable to affirm that principle in the case of Cardinal Arinze.
If academic freedom has any meaning, it cannot mean that people have a right not to have their feelings hurt by certain ideas. On the contrary, the usual argument is that controversial ideas are the only kind that need the guarantee of freedom. If Georgetown’s speaker had, for example, denounced the pro-life movement, liberals in the university would be praising the speech as an act of courage and honesty. . . .
Most of those offended by Cardinal Arinze’s remarks presumably reject Catholic teachings on the moral subjects he briefly cited. Usually, such people are called “dissenters,” sometimes even “heretics,” although the latter term has fallen into desuetude.
But such terms have long been misnomers. Dissent, properly understood, means recognizing that there is such a thing as orthodoxy but disagreeing with it. The dissenter is then someone who has chosen to occupy a rather marginal place in the religious community. Today’s theological dissenters, however, have set themselves up as definers of a new orthodoxy.