The Diocese of Peoria praised the University of Illinois' decision to reinstate Dr. Kenneth Howell, who had been told at the end of last semester that he would no longer be allowed to teach because he had stated in a class on Catholicism that the Church believes homosexual behavior violates natural law.
Despite high approval ratings on student evaluations, Dr. Howell's position at the university was terminated this past spring after an anonymous student complaint that his words in a class on Catholicism amounted to “hate speech.” The complaint referenced an e-mail to his students in which Howell contrasted the ways utilitarianism and natural law theory would determine the morality of homosexual acts.
On Thursday, the school's Office of University Counsel told Dr. Howell’s lawyers that “The School of Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics will be contacting Dr. Howell to offer him the opportunity to teach Religion 127, Introduction to Catholicism, on a visiting instructional appointment at the University of Illinois, for the fall 2010 semester. Dr. Howell will be appointed and paid by the University for this adjunct teaching assignment.”
In a press release today, chancellor Patricia Gibson explained that diocesan officials had confirmed with the university that Dr. Howell would be allowed to return to teach courses at the university in the fall.
“The Diocese of Peoria has met with and had several discussions with the University of Illinois officials since their decision in May to terminate Dr. Howell’s ability to teach at the University,” said Gibson. “We have had several meetings and discussions with University officials and are very pleased that the outcome of these efforts resulted in a return of Dr. Kenneth Howell to the classroom.”
“In recent years, Dr. Howell has done an excellent job teaching at the University and both Monsignor Gregory Ketcham, Director of St. John’s Catholic Newman Center, and Diocesan representatives staunchly advocated that he remain the adjunct professor of courses in Catholicism,” she continued. “The University of Illinois also wishes to consult with St. John’s Catholic Newman Center and the Diocese in the future regarding these courses.”
“St. John’s Catholic Newman Center and the Diocese of Peoria adamantly embrace the whole of Catholic teaching as decreed by the Magisterium of the Church,” Gibson said. “The University of Illinois has indicated that they value a relationship with the Newman Center and plan to continue to offer these courses in Catholic studies.”
Gibson explained that the university has also asked to pay Dr. Howell's salary for university courses, a decision that “was met with no objection from the Diocese, the Newman Center, or the Alliance Defense Fund, which has been actively involved in assisting Dr. Kenneth Howell in this matter.”
“Most Reverend Daniel Jenky, C.S.C., Bishop of the Diocese of Peoria, is immensely grateful that the University of Illinois was willing to listen to our concerns and has decided to act in what he believes in a very appropriate manner in allowing Dr. Kenneth Howell to return to the classroom,” she added.
“St. John’s Catholic Newman Center and the Diocese of Peoria have had a rare and proven relationship with the University of Illinois for decades and we look forward to further discussions with them as we chart our future, and maintain a healthy relationship,” the diocesan chancellor said. “Overall, it is important that we work together to determine how St. John’s Catholic Newman Center can best serve the University and the Catholic students there.”
The diocese also explained that St. John’s Catholic Newman Center plans to meet with Dr. Howell next week to “determine an ongoing role for him at the Newman Center which will complement his work teaching at the University.”