Catholic University authorities have decided to enforce the U.S. bishops' request to deny pro-abortion public figures a platform at Catholic campuses, but some faculty members as well as a group of students are considering this stand "too Catholic."
Three weeks ago, authorities at CU decided to block an invitation to actor Stanley Tucci to speak at a forum on Italian film because of his involvement with abortion rights organizations.
In a memo to faculty members, the university's president, Fr. David M. O'Connell, explained that Tucci, who has lent his support to Planned Parenthood events, carried "moral baggage . . . [that] stands in direct contradiction to the values and principles upon which this institution was founded."
Economics professor Ernest M. Zampelli told the Washington Post that the university's policy is a "watershed event" for a college community that is generally comfortable with the strong influence of the Church.
"This is something that people think goes beyond," he said, "and this is where it should stop."
Some students agreed. Sarah McGrath, a senior and president of the Undergraduate Student Government, told the Washington Post that the university “is digging itself into a hole right now," she said. "My concern is that once things like this start happening and become publicized to this magnitude that our degrees won't be worth as much."
But university officials have said the policy is nothing new. The university always has maintained the right to prohibit speakers whose views run counter to those of the Church, said school spokesman Victor Nakas. He noted that a set of directives issued in July by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops strengthened that existing policy.
In their statement, the bishops prohibited Catholic institutions from giving "awards, honors and platforms" to those who oppose the Church's fundamental positions, particularly that against abortion.
Last week, a group of professors circulated a protest letter, saying that a person should be able to speak based on their artistic competence and accomplishments, regardless of their political positions. They also argued that since "few persons in public life agree wholly with Catholic positions," the bishops' directives could not be applied consistently.
Last year, CU cancelled a bookstore appearance by Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District's non-voting delegate in Congress, after some students complained about her pro-abortion stance.
In April, CU rejected a request to sponsor and fund a campus chapter of the NAACP because of the civil rights group's support of abortion.