Professors and alumni of Loyola Marymount University have said the school should begin another search for candidates for the dean of its liberal arts college, after the two finalists were revealed to have links with Planned Parenthood.
“I’m very concerned that both finalists for dean have associations with Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of abortions in the United States,” Loyola Marymount University philosophy professor Chris Kaczor told CNA March 24.
The two finalists for the position of dean are Dr. Ramón Gutiérrez, an American history professor at the University of Chicago, and Dr. Robbin Crabtree, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Fairfield University, a Jesuit institution in Connecticut.
Crabtree served on the advisory board and media relations committee for Planned Parenthood of Putnam County in Indiana from 1991-1993, and Gutiérrez has served as a consultant for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America on the topic of Hispanic attitudes toward sexuality.
These associations are “very problematic,” Kaczor said, because the dean of the Jesuit university’s Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts oversees bioethics, theological studies, philosophy, and Catholic studies.
“It seems to me that the person who oversees these parts of the university needs to be someone very much committed to the Jesuit understanding of faith and justice, which includes defense of the unborn.”
Planned Parenthood is a frequent opponent of Catholic teaching on matters such as the sanctity of human life, chastity, and other areas of sexual morality.
In addition to his ties with the abortion advocacy group, Gutiérrez was a member of the Organization of American Historians’ Committee of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Historians and Histories. That committee issued a statement in support of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that effectively voided California’s Proposition 8, an amendment defining marriage as a union of one man and one woman which California voters passed in 2008. The amendment was backed by the Catholic bishops and many lay Catholics.
Philip Zampiello, a leader with the alumni group RenewLMU, also criticized the finalists. He said the liberal arts deanship is “a key leadership position” at the university, stating that the hiring should “uphold the teaching of the Church as authoritatively proclaimed by the magisterium of her pastors (and) as confirmed by Pope Francis.”
Zampiello cited Pope Francis’ Jan. 4 exhortation to a delegation from the University of Notre Dame, at which time he said it is “essential” that Catholic universities be “uncompromising witnesses” to the Church’s moral teaching.
RenewLMU has launched a petition to university president David Burcham in opposition to the candidates. The petition, available here, says the finalists’ resumes suggest they hold views “incongruous with the Catholic faith.”
The group says the views of the finalists indicate that the search committee was either “insufficiently diligent” in fact-checking or “lacked sensitivity to Catholic values in qualifying applicants for this most important position.”
The group called for the president to re-start the selection process and to ensure that the new dean has “a strong record of furthering Catholic mission and identity.”
Kaczor said he is very concerned about the university’s Catholic character “in part because there are so few Catholics in positions of leadership.”
“One of these candidates for dean is Catholic and the other is not. I’m very concerned not only that we hire a Catholic, but a Catholic who is someone who is very well versed and very strong in terms of their commitment to moving forward our mission and identity.”
“Most importantly, we need to make a real effort to hire Catholics who are going to make an historic contribution to mission and identity.”
Kaczor shared with CNA his March 24 email to President Burcham, in which he voiced disappointment with how both candidates responded to questions about advancing the university’s Catholic identity.
He said it would be “especially inappropriate” for either candidate to be offered the dean position and would contradict efforts to promote the Catholic image and identity of the university.
Kaczor told CNA that non-Catholic university faculty and administrators can make an “important contribution,” noting that many of his non-Catholic colleagues “do a wonderful job.”
However, when a Catholic university doesn’t take its religious identity into account, it is possible that the university “evolves, actually rather quickly, into a place that is just like every other place, a kind of secular university,” he added.
Celeste Durant, director of communications and media relations for the university, told CNA March 24 that the university will not comment further “until the process is finalized.”
“The selection of a new dean for the Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts is an on-going personnel matter and something we do not want to debate in public. Of course, integration of our mission and identity is always part of our consideration in the search process, especially for senior positions such as a dean.”