College Rescinds Invitation to Professor Who Defends Same-Sex Marriage

Providence College, a Roman Catholic institution in Rhode Island, has canceled an event in which a gay philosophy professor had been invited to speak in support of same-sex marriage, The New York Times reported.

The speaker, John Corvino, is chairman of the philosophy department at Wayne State University and the author of the new book What’s Wrong With Homosexuality? (Oxford University Press). He has often appeared in friendly debates with religious opponents of gay marriage, and the event at Providence, set for Thursday, had recently been revised to include a response from Dana L. Dillon, a theologian at Providence.

But the college’s provost, Hugh F. Lena, announced in an e-mail on Saturday that the event had been canceled. He cited a statement issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2004 called “Catholics in Political Life,” which says that “Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles.” He also said that college policy “dictates that both sides of a controversial issue are to be presented fairly and equally.”

Mr. Corvino, in a response on his Web site to the cancellation, suggested that the 2004 document that Mr. Lena cited was inappropriate in this situation. “I am an academic speaker,” not a politician, he wrote. “Both the person introducing me and I would state clearly that my views were not those of the Catholic Church; moreover, a respondent from the Providence College theology department, Dr. Dana Dillon, would follow immediately to explain the church’s position on marriage. Far from suggesting ‘support’ for my views, the college would have ample opportunity to express precisely the opposite.”

But Mr. Lena told the Times on Monday that despite the event’s recent inclusion of Ms. Dillon, it was largely a platform for one side, and that it could be rescheduled if it included a philosophy professor with experience arguing against  gay marriage.

Mr. Lena’s e-mail announcing the cancellation came just days after Pope Francis said that the church had grown “obsessed” with issues like abortion and gay marriage, and spoke in favor of a more inclusive church, a “home for all.” Mr. Corvino referred to that message in his response. “Pope Francis, the Catholic Church’s new leader, has been justly celebrated for his welcoming tone toward gays and lesbians,” he wrote. “Notwithstanding my abrupt dis-invitation, I remain hopeful that Providence College may soon better reflect that tone.”

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