Cardinal Newman Society President Patrick Reilly is calling attention to the many scandals caused at Catholic colleges that don’t hire adjunct faculty in support of their religious mission after the National Catholic Register discovered an adjunct law professor at the Jesuit-run Fordham University will be arguing in support of abortionists before the U.S. Supreme Court this March.
“Many Catholic colleges expect little of their professors in advancing a Catholic mission, but the expectations are even lower for adjuncts,” Reilly told the Register this week. “Usually, it’s simply a matter of having no clear understanding and appreciation for Catholic teaching and practice, but we’ve also seen serious scandals.”
The latest scandal involves Stephanie Toti, an adjunct law professor at Fordham University School of Law, who teaches classes in “Reproductive Rights and Comparative Law” and legal writing. Toti is also senior counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is noted on her Fordham profile. The Center for Reproductive Rights is a global legal group that fights for “expanded access to reproductive healthcare” including “birth control” and “safe abortion.” The Center is representing abortionists in the upcoming Supreme Court case Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, and Toti is lead counsel in the case.
As the Register reported, Whole Woman’s Health is the first abortion-related case to be heard by the Supreme Court since 2007. The Court will decide if regulations necessary to protect women’s health that were placed on abortion facilities by the state of Texas constitute an “undue burden” to abortion access.
“Toti’s work at the Center for Reproductive Rights opposes Catholic teaching, attacks human dignity and threatens innocent lives,” Reilly, a Fordham alumnus, said. “That’s directly opposite of the witness that an educator at a Catholic university should provide to students, in both words and action.”
“This should raise alarms at Fordham, especially in light of its mission statement, which affirms ‘the dignity and uniqueness of each person,’” he added. “It’s essential that Fordham reforms its hiring policies to prevent employment for any professor who actively denigrates humanity and denies the basic human right to life.”
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Reilly pointed the Register to the Newman Society’s August 2015 report, “A More Scandalous Relationship: Catholic Colleges and Planned Parenthood,” which identified four adjunct professors at Georgetown University, John May, Sameh El-Saharty, Jennifer Demma and Zoe Segal-Reichlin, and one at Seattle University School of Law, Debbi Lewang, who were known to be current or former employees of Planned Parenthood. The employment histories of these adjunct professors were noted on their university profiles. The report also identified another adjunct professor at Georgetown who told students they have a “right” to contraception during a panel discussion on campus that featured a local Planned Parenthood representative.
The Newman Society’s 2011 reporting on a scandal involving an adjunct professor at the College of Mount St. Vincent in New York, Bianca Laureano, was also highlighted in the Register’s report. The College employed, and defended its employment, of Laureano while she known to be a pro-abortion blogger and an “abortion doula” who assisted with committing abortions.
Several other Newman Society reports in recent years have revealed scandals stemming from the actions and statement of adjunct professors at Catholic colleges and universities.
In 2012, an adjunct at Seattle University, Gretchen Gundrum, organized a march to protest the Vatican’s investigation of dissent in many women’s religious orders. “It’s easyfor ivory-tower leaders — all of whom are men — to discount the hard decisions people face in their day-to-day lives,” she reportedly said. “The nuns see the complexity. Morality is not black-and-white, no matter what somebody says.”
An adjunct professor of theological studies at Loyola Marymount University (LMU), Sheilah M. Jones, signed an advertisement in 2013 urging LMU to retain abortion in its employee healthcare plan. The Newman Society noted this was especially disturbing given that Jones taught the “Ethics of Christian Marriage and Sexuality” class at LMU. Included in the required reading for the class was the book An Ethic for Same-Sex Relations by Margaret Farley. According to an excerpt that appeared in Boston College’s student newspaper, Farley stated in the book, “By arguing that no absolute prohibition and no absolute blessing can be established from the sources of Christian ethics, I have meant to imply that some same-sex relations and activity can be justified.”
Last March, an adjunct at Georgetown University Law Center, Rabbi Barry Freundel, pled guilty to 52 counts of misdemeanor voyeurism after it was discovered he secretly recorded dozens of women while they were using a mikvah — a private bath used in Jewish purification rituals. A lawsuit filed by a third-year law student at Georgetown implicated the University for turning “a blind eye” to Freundel’s actions. The student was reportedly encouraged by Freundel to research the mikvah and participate in ritual immersions as part of her studies. Freundel was sentenced to over six years in prison last May.
Additionally, the federal government’s attempts to assert authority over union relations at Catholic colleges, although unconstitutional, have exposed the lack of expectations placed on adjunct professors to promote the religious mission of the colleges. For instance, the National Labor Relations Board found that adjunct faculty members at Manhattan College have no specific role in “maintaining a religious educational environment.”
The NLRB argued:
While there is extensive evidence in the record concerning the College’s religious identity and its stated mission, adjunct faculty are not expected to advance the College’s religious mission, other than respect and support it. Even the forms that are required to be signed when adjunct faculty are hired only demand that they read the mission statement and will respect the Lasallian culture of the College.
There is no evidence that adjunct faculty are expected to further the mission by serving as religious advisors to students, propagating the Catholic faith, engaging in religious training, or conforming to the tenets of Catholicism in the course of their job duties.Thus, the record fails to establish how the College’s religious identity affects actual job functions.
The NLRB noted similar situations concerning a lack of expectations placed on faculty to further the religious missions of Duquesne University, Loyola University Chicago, St. Xavier University and Seattle University.