The president of Creighton University said the decision to cancel the speaking engagement of an assisted suicide advocate was not the result of pressure from outside pro-life groups but rather of prayerful reflection on the the speaker’s latest book and on the mission of a Catholic university.
In a letter to colleagues, Fr. John P. Schlegel, SJ, explained that he made the final decision to cancel the talk Aug. 24, after reading Anne Lamott’s most recent publication and discussing the situation with the Jesuit university’s director of the Center for Health Policy and Ethics.
“My reflection on this question started well before the bloggers latched upon the invitation,” Fr. Schlegel wrote.
The university has “a responsibility to foster intellectual engagement with various perspectives and forms of knowledge,” he said.
“But as a Catholic university, we have the added responsibility of fostering engagement among these perspectives and forms of knowledge with the Catholic intellectual tradition,” he added. “As Pope John Paul II wrote, the Catholic university is ‘a primary and privileged place for a fruitful dialogue between the Gospel and culture.’”
The school’s president defended every faculty member’s right to academic freedom and to “pursue the truth as he or she conceives of it.”
However, he said, Lamott’s speaking engagement is a case that moves the issue from academic freedom to sponsorship.
“In the case of a sponsored lecture, where the speaker is to be compensated and expenses paid, the lecture unavoidably and plainly takes on the imprimatur of the university,” he wrote.
“While I certainly respect [Lamott’s] right to express those views, and admire her frankness in doing so, her views are so clearly in opposition to the sacredness of life from conception to natural death that I could not in good conscience allow the university to place its imprimatur on her lecture,” Fr. Schlegel wrote.
“Her support of assisted suicide is indeed troubling when we have a medical center dedicated to the preservation of life” and a center dedicated to improving palliative care, he said.
Fr. Schlegel concluded by saying he will not impose that all future speakers have to agree with every aspect of Church teaching. Rather, he suggested that they would be considered on a case-by-case basis within context and according to the goals of the university