Professor says pro-life faculty often feel isolated on campus for views

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Many pro-life faculty on college campuses in the United States and Canada have experienced a strong sense of isolation and disrespect for their views, said the newly installed president of University Faculty for Life.

They also often are denied university resources that are commonly available to other faculty and some have experienced out-of-hand rejection or little review of their articles or books that take the pro-life perspective, said Teresa Collett.

Modern academia is “very skeptical” of claims about objective truth, so young faculty in particular are limited in defending or even exploring the idea that law should protect the unborn, she added.

Collett, a professor in the School of Law at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, made the comments in an interview with Today’s Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

She was at the University of Notre Dame for the University Faculty for Life annual conference June 10-11. It drew about 100 attendees and featured more than 30 scholarly papers on pro-life topics.

The organization was founded in 1989 by a handful of professors to provide support and fellowship and to foster pro-life scholarship in the face of discrimination they felt at both secular and religious colleges. Today it has more than 250 members in the United States and Canada who represent more than 50 academic disciplines.

“In most institutions, particularly before tenure but even after tenure, the reigning orthodoxy on abortion is enforced by faculty review committees and administrators,” Collett said.

“Writing about abortion is often discouraged pre-tenure as ‘too controversial’ and after tenure as a distraction from the faculty member’s established area of scholarship,” she continued. “For the courageous faculty member who wants to explore these issues, having a community of like-minded scholars to collaborate with is critical.”

One conference speaker was John Breen, professor at the Loyola University Chicago School of Law. He presented a paper on the claim that support for the unborn is intrinsically religious and that to insist on the right to life of the unborn is to impose religion on others. That claim is “a joke,” he argued, because it is anti-intellectual, playing on a long history of anti-Catholicism as well as fears of an American theocracy.

People who use the religion argument don’t want to have a serious conversation and are attempting to win an argument without actually having an argument, he said.

Ryan MacPherson, professor of history at Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, Minn., encouraged University Faculty for Life members to forward the pro-life cause through social media with his talk on “Facebooking for Life in a Wiki World of Tweeting YouTubes: How LinkedIn Pro-Life Scholars Can Engage a Blogger Audience through Social Media.”

Patrick Tully, professor of philosophy at Scranton University, proposed what he believes to be the best moral solution to the dilemma of what to do about the hundreds of thousands of frozen embryos who have been abandoned by their parents, or whose parents do not plan to have more children.

He suggested that rather than leaving the embryos in a permanent state of suspension or allowing them to be destroyed in research, they should be thawed and allowed to die with the dignity of any other human being.

The conference was hosted by the Notre Dame Center for Ethics & Culture, the Notre Dame Chapter of University Faculty for Life and the Notre Dame Fund to Protect Human Life. The conference was supported by a major grant from Our Sunday Visitor Institute.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.