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New Investigative Report Exposes Group’s Efforts to Restrict Academic Freedom on Catholic Campus

December 18, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC — A new report from Catholics for Choice unravels the ultraconservative agenda of the Cardinal Newman Society (CNS), a self-appointed “watchdog” of Catholic higher education. The organization is notorious for inventing “scandals” on Catholics college campuses in order to marginalize those who legitimately dissent from some church teachings. In-depth research illustrates the society’s systematic efforts to silence advocates for reproductive health, women’s rights and LGBT rights, to name a few. For some universities, the threat of negative attention can lead to restrictions on academic discourse.

“The Cardinal Newman Society is not the voice for mainstream Catholics, and is, in fact, substantially farther to the right than all but the most conservative Catholic bishops,” said Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice. “Our investigation shines a light on the CNS’ ongoing attempts to stifle the sharing of conscience-based positions on a wide variety of issues. Instead, the group has decided to make the university campus the site for its pitched battles in the name of orthodoxy, though this is detrimental to traditions at the very center of Catholic higher education. It is certainly not progress when some universities have to factor in concerns about a CNS-engineered complaint when choosing who will be given a voice on campus.”

The 28-page report is the latest installment in an ongoing investigative series, “Opposition Notes,” aimed at exposing groups that promote a narrow view of Catholicism—one that excludes support for reproductive health services and denies the primacy of conscience. The document goes further to suggest an alternate vision of Catholic education with room for dialogue, diversity and dissent. Previous reports have investigated the Catholic League, Priests for Life, the American Life League and others.

“The perception created by the Cardinal Newman Society is that Catholic universities are meant to further a limited, conservative agenda—to be places devoid of heart and community. We feel we have an obligation to set the record straight and give voice to the many Catholics who hold our universities and intellectual tradition much dearer than that,” added O’Brien. “As with other groups examined by ‘Opposition Notes,’ we see an organization whose shrill voice is sometimes mistaken for the voice of all Catholics, simply because they speak more loudly than others. In reality, the Cardinal Newman Society’s version of Catholic education is not shared by most faculty or students and would not be recognized by Cardinal Newman himself.

“Catholics for Choice stands up for those willing to ask the hard questions about faithful social engagement today and tomorrow, while at the same time embracing the richness of Catholic thought.”

The full-length report can be found here.