US: Catholic College cancels pro-equal marriage lecture citing need for opposing viewpoint

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A Catholic college in the US state of Rhode Island has rescinded its invitation to a gay philosophy professor who was to speak in support of equal marriage, just days after the pope called for Catholics to “find a new balance” by refraining from frequent condemnation on gay issues.

On Thursday, Pope Francis said the Roman Catholic Church had grown “obsessed” with preaching about abortion, same-sex marriage and contraception – and that he was choosing to avoid discussing those subjects.

Providence College cancelled the pro-equal marriage lecture which would have featured Dr John Corvino, the chairman of the philosophy at Wayne State University. He has previously spoken at over 10 Catholic colleges and has appeared in many friendly debates with religious opponents of equal marriage.

The cancellation, announced by the college’s provost on Saturday, shocked some organisers, as the appearance at the school had been co-sponsored by nine departments and programs.

On announcing the cancellation, Hugh F Lena, the provost and senior vice president of the college, cited a document issued by the American bishops in 2004 titled, Catholics in Political Life, in support of the decision.

He said that college policy “dictates that that both sides of a controversial issue are to be presented fairly and equally.”

Dr Corvino has recently authored a new book, What’s Wrong with Homosexuality?, and is known for co-writing a book, and appearing in debates with the adamantly anti-gay Maggie Gallagher, the former head of the National Organization for Marriage.

He had been invited to speak at Providence by Christopher Arroyo, an associate professor of philosophy, and had been interested in speaking at such a conservative college because he said he normally felt he was “preaching to the choir”.

“I want to convince them that same-sex marriage is not only possible, but is also a good thing, for the couple and good for society at large,” he said. “But I also want to engage in a deeper dialogue about issues that we agree are important.”

Dr Corvino said he had suggested that the appearance be organised as a debate, and had put forward names of people to appear as the opposing viewpoint.

Dr Lena, however, said in an interview on Monday that the event was cancelled because it was largely a platform for only one side of the argument. He said he would be rescheduled if it included a professor with experience arguing against equal marriage.

Fred K Drogula, the president of the faculty senate at Providence, and associate professor of history, said he could not find any college policy specifying that every lecture must have an equal, opposing viewpoint. He said it was “inappropriate” to cite the bishops’ document, as it applied primarily to politicians.

Dr Drogula said: “The job of any quality academic institution is to teach students how to think critically, which includes challenging, testing and defending our ideas.”

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