Here's another piece about the recent Douthat controversy, but more importantly, an inside look at the status of Catholic theology in Catholic colleges and universities. The piece is from a former PhD student at the Jesuit Boston College who exposes how, for a lack of a better word, heretical the department of theology is there.
One wonders how things are at Georgetown.
This is just an excerpt, but you should read the whole thing.
Reality slapped me in the face when I arrived for "Accepted Students Day"—April 1, I believe. April Fool's Day. The Holy Father, John Paul II, was dying. This was uppermost on my mind, and when, at a meet-and-greet, I found myself face-to-face with a celebrated (in the USA and Canada, that is) professor, I said something like "Isn't it sad about the Holy Father?" and he said—to me, whom he had just met—"I think he's dead already and they're just covering it up."
I was staggered. I don't know what I replied, but no doubt it was Canadian-polite. At one point I was mysteriously whisked away by a plainclothes nun-professor who had a conspiratorial air. She chatted about her own time in my hometown, and I had the impression I had been singled out stealthily. But why?
That was what it was like for the next two years. Outrageous gossip about professors and theologians I respected as heroes. ("So, Dorothy, does X have AIDS?" "Y was a drunk, of course." "I hope it's true Z had a mistress.") Conspiracy. ("Tell me, Dorothy, what does Professor Q say in his classes about....") Outrageous remarks. ("Bishops are thugs!") Boasting. ("And I said, ‘Senator...’") And paranoia. Insane paranoia. ("Dorothy, don't write that down!")
To my amazement, I discovered that a professor I admired was nervous of me because he thought I was "conservative"—not a good thing to be in the Boston College theology department, let me tell you. ("But I thought I was center-left", I wailed to a friend from home.) And after a visiting priest-professor had a neurotic hissy fit aimed at me before all my classmates—because I questioned his view that the ordained priesthood and Sunday Mass attendance were ultimately doomed—and I complained to the priest-professor in charge of this class, he suggested that this man, too, was afraid of me.
Me: a small 35-year-old graduate student from Canada, a PhD student far from home, completely dependent on my stipend, my future career dependent on the goodwill of my professors. Him: a tall, 50-odd year old American Jesuit priest with tenure at an insanely wealthy American Jesuit university. But somehow I was the scary one, as if I spent my evenings on the phone denouncing all my professors to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. As if the CDF really had the time to chase every random American professor in Catholic academia. As if these professors were actually that important or influential. Of course, Benedict XVI was the pope then, and my stars, how the hissy-fit throwing professor hated him.
What I did not know, when I blithely applied to study with them, was that the Boston College professors whose books I had admired did not publish what they really thought. I had no idea, for example, that one woman professor was all in favour of women's ordination until I turned up in Boston and saw a Charles Dana Gibson cartoon of an elegant Gibson Girl wearing preaching bands stuck to her office door. The delicate balance I had admired, the appeal to both liberals and conservatives while sticking to the bounds of orthodoxy, was just a clever trick. The profs would say what they liked in class to their students; tape recorders were, of course, banned.
There was also a lot of theological arm-twisting. In one scarring incident, a pastoral theology professor showed up to my PhD seminar class with two large female henchmen-students and photocopies of an article about Archbishop Sean O'Malley's obedience to the Roman directive not to allow Catholic adoption agencies to give children to same-sex couples. The topic of the seminar turned out to be, "How do we convince the Archbishop to disobey Rome?" As I tearfully (stupid tears!) defended a child's right to a mother and a father, priest-colleagues stared silently at the table.
Now, we're not accusing Georgetown's theology department of being anything like Boston College's. We don't know whether they are or not. Anyone with some interesting stories can chime in our comment section, or better yet, feel free to write about it for us.