Notre Dame University newspaper The Observer has found itself in another gay-related brouhaha. The paper previously came under fire for publishing a comic that made light of gay bashing. An editorial staffer resigned as a result. Now the paper is catching flack from the right for not running a column by a professor, Dr. Charles Rice, who used the Catechism to blast the gays. The paper made the wrong move.
No doubt Dr. Rice’s rejected column, reprinted at the Catholic LifeSite News, perpetuates homophobia. He writes, “Homosexual acts are doubly wrong. They are not only contrary to nature. They are wrong also because they are extra-marital.” That latter argument hits below the belt, since most gays can’t marry. Rice goes on to quote Catechism, “Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, Tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’” His opinion, which he’s been publishing in The Observer since 1992, runs contrary to social progress, but it’s also based in his faith, a fact that complicates the debate
The Observer got some bad press recently for running a comic strip that seemed to applaud – and condone – gay bashing. An assistant managing editor resigned as a result. Therefore, it’s understandable the editorial staff would be cagey about running pieces critical of the gays. And Rice, who describes equality activists as “militant,” definitely qualifies as “critical.” Observer editor Matt Gambler told Rice that he “personally had some concerns with the content of the column,” especially after the comic scandal. Gambler also suggested, “it might be beneficial to do so in a point-counterpoint format, perhaps with an author of an opposing or differing viewpoint.” Rice refused and, as a protest, resigned.
Rice isn’t acting very mature about this, but he’s quite right in pointing out that Notre Dame’s at a Catholic institution. Therefore, he says, “I am not willing to restrict my presentation of Catholic teaching to a format that treats the authoritative teaching of the Church as merely one viewpoint or ‘side’ among many.” And it’s not really his job to, either.
Rice has been writing his column, “Right or Wrong,” for eighteen years. He’s covered a range of topics, including health care, the politicization of abortion and other current affairs. He wrote this particular column in response to campus conversation about “the status of the Notre Dame LGBT community.” Rice insists, “Enough time has passed to make it useful to review some of the governing principles as found in the teaching of the Catholic Church.” He’s presenting his “argument” from a decidedly – and admittedly – perspective. It’s not progressive. It’s not productive. But it’s what he and many of his peers believe. If someone objects, they can write in to The Observer and offer their counterpoint. That’s the beauty of free press. By refusing to run Dr. Rice’s column, the paper has inadvertently given fuel to the religious right’s fire.
Religious groups who oppose homosexuality, particularly Catholics, are riled up right now over DC’s recognition of same-sex marriage. Charities there are dropping adoption and health over equal rights. Critics see that and other laws as an encroachment on their religious freedom. Rice describes us gays as a “militant ‘gay rights’ movement,” and the Observer’s decision already has a few social conservatives up in arms. It won’t be long before Dr. Rice becomes a martyr in the culture wars.