Why are Catholics canceled on campus?

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Catholics are used to swimming against the tide. On a host of topics – from abortion to divorce – the doctrine of our church is out of step with mainstream liberal orthodoxies. Unlike other denominations, which leave their followers a great deal of leeway on the thorniest subjects, the teaching of the Catholic Church on issues such as euthanasia is unequivocal: it considers the practice to be a “Intrinsically evil act” which constitutes a “crime against life” and a “crime against God”.

Given that there are 1.4 billion baptized Catholics in the world, most people would agree that this belief is fairly common – or at the very least, it falls within the Overton window. But at the University of Nottingham? After decades of planning for a Catholic chaplain, Father David Palmer says the university will not officially recognize him due to “problematic tweets” – including one expressing the view that assisted suicide constitutes the “killing of the vulnerable”. Nottingham maintains that its concern is not the views of Father David, but the manner in which they were expressed. He says a compromise has been reached whereby Father David is still allowed to celebrate Sunday Mass every week on campus and is “committed to supporting staff and students of the Catholic faith.”

But the university has a form. Last year, Julia Rynkiewicz, an undergraduate midwife, was kicked out of her degree after speakers raised concerns about her fitness to practice. His crime? Be a vocal member of Nottingham Students for Life. The university eventually reversed their decision and allowed her to complete her studies, but the investigation dragged on for so long that she graduated a year late.

Ms. Rynkiewicz and Father David spoke forcefully, in language that can offend 20-year-olds and some metropolitan. But their shared belief around the sanctity of human life is not only consistent with Catholic teaching, it is the only acceptable position on the issue in the eyes of the Catholic Church. In other words, they expressed an intrinsic belief in being Catholic.

Most practicing Catholics I know are resigned to the fact that they will never hold high office in Britain. Whenever a politician with Christian views begins to move closer to real power – Jacob Rees-Mogg comes to mind – it quickly becomes clear that the “liberal” establishment feels uncomfortable that ‘he occupies a position of real responsibility. What worries me though, is how this intolerance seems to be spreading. On campuses, once “safe spaces” for free expression, it seems to become increasingly difficult to be a practicing and vocal Catholic.

Whether anti-Catholicism per se is prevalent in Britain is a matter of debate. It is true that a certain prejudice persists, and it is a mystery why it is rather the Catholics who are singled out when almost all the major religions of the world oppose euthanasia and abortion. But the most likely option is perhaps also the most sinister: that the acceptability of a given philosophical belief on campus should henceforth be conditioned on its compatibility with the liberal piety of the time. More than five hundred years after the Reformation and it seems that, one way or another, Catholics are once again being kicked out of public life.


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