Bishop Joseph F. Martino has issued a statement informing Catholics of his diocese that he has “absolute disapproval” of Misericordia University’s hosting of Keith Boykin, described as an activist for positions “disturbingly opposed” to Catholic moral teaching.
In the diocese’s statement, Bishop Martino warned that in this instance the university is “seriously failing” to maintain its Catholic identity. The statement noted that all three of Boykin’s books have been nominated for the Lambda Literary Award, which is given by a legal advocacy effort on behalf of homosexual causes.
The diocese also characterized Boykin as an “avid supporter” of same-sex marriage.
“By honoring this speaker through allowing his positions, so antithetical to Catholic Church teaching, to be broadcast on its campus, the University has rejected all four essential characteristics of a Catholic institution of higher learning,” the diocese said. “These are: its Christian inspiration, its obligation to reflect on knowledge in light of the Catholic faith, its fidelity to Catholic Church teaching and its commitment to serve the people of God.”
The Diversity Institute at Misericordia University, which was founded by the Sisters of Mercy (not to be confused with the Sisters of Mercy of Alma), had invited Boykin to speak at its annual dinner and as part of Black History Month. The university defended the invitation in a Feb. 17 statement, saying Boykin was selected on the basis of his academic credentials, his role as an advisor to former President Clinton, his commentating appearances on MSNBC and CNBC and his ability to “provide a glimpse into the historical presidency of Barack Obama.”
According to the statement from the university, Boykin and Obama were classmates at Harvard University.
“Misericordia University is committed deeply to its Catholic mission. Inseparable from that mission is our identity as an academic institution where ideas and positions are explored critically and freely,” the school said, describing itself as an academic institution that welcomes “legitimate scholarly discussion” among its students, faculty, staff and guests from “diverse religious and cultural backgrounds.”
According to the Scranton Times Tribune, Boykin commented on the controversy, saying “People who have differing ideas have the right to come together on a college campus and discuss different issues.”
Speaking of Bishop Martino, Boykin remarked “He has his job to do, and I have my job to do.”
He said he did not have any thoughts on the bishop’s position, but also said he was glad Misericordia University gave him the opportunity to speak.