Mar 022010

The Notre Dame Observer has refused to publish Dr. Charles E. Rice’s biweekly “Right or Wrong” column on the topic of Catholic teaching on homosexuality.  I have read through the column and could find nothing objectionable in either tone or content.  In fact it quotes heavily from Church documents and accurately portrays Church teaching.  It is certainly not polemical in any way.  Hat tip to Matt C. Abbott for the information.

The editor of the The Observer replied by email to Dr. Rice:

Dear Mr. Rice,

I wanted to first introduce myself as Matt Gamber, the new Editor-in-Chief of The Observer. Thank you for your continued hard work and contributions to The Observer’s Viewpoint section.

Second, I wanted to let you know why we chose not to run your most recent submission in Tuesday’s Observer. First, it far exceeded our word limit guidelines, which I understand our Viewpoint Editor, Michelle Maitz, has shared with you in the past. Our daily space limitations require that we enforce this word limit, and we would appreciate your attention to this limit in the future.

Also, I personally had some concerns with the content of the column, particularly considering The Mobile Party comic incident earlier in the semester at The Observer. While your piece was well-researched and I trust the information was factually correct, I did not feel it lent itself to creating a productive discussion, all things considered. I was a bit concerned with certain language as well.

In the future, if you would like to examine this topic, we thought it might be beneficial to do so in a point-counterpoint format, perhaps with an author of an opposing or differing viewpoint. That way, each “side,” to speak, would have the opportunity to present relevant facts, evidence and analysis to define its position.

As I began, I again thank you for your contributions to The Observer. Please let me know if you have any questions regarding this decision, and I look forward to working with you in the future.

Matt Gamber

A point-counterpoint format? Let me see there is Magisterial Church teaching as opposed to what?  America Magazine tried that both sides format until their editor supposedly got sacked for it.  You can just not set Church teaching against a counterpoint view except perhaps in a format like the Summa Theologicae where those counterpoints are answered.  This is just not an area where Catholics can have differing viewpoints and still be faithful to the Church.  Sure there are plenty of prudential responses on how best we minister to those with the cross of same-sex attraction, but homosexual acts being objectively grave is not an area open to debate.  It is a matter of love to tell the truth and pretending that homosexual acts are not gravely evil is no act of charity – quite the opposite.  Exactly what are his concerns? It seems an editor should spell this out if there is an actual problem.

Dear Mr. Gamber:

Thank you for your email informing me that my column presenting the teachings of the Church on homosexuality will not be published.  Since 1992, I have been privileged to publish every two weeks a column, entitled “Right or Wrong,” in the Observer.  I emphasize my appreciation for the unfailing professionalism and courtesy of the Observer editors with whom I have had contact over those years.

You mention the column “far exceeded our word limit guidelines.”  It is in fact significantly shorter than each of the three previous columns published this semester in the Observer.  I was not asked to shorten any of them.  The rejected column accurately presented relevant teachings of the Catholic Church on homosexuality.  I understand why you are concerned over the content of the column.  You further propose that if I examine the topic of homosexuality in the future, “we thought it might be beneficial to do so in a point-counterpoint format, perhaps with an author of an opposing or differing viewpoint.  That way, each ‘side,’ so to speak, would have the opportunity to present relevant facts, evidence and analysis to define its position.”

In a university that claims to be Catholic, 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.  If you require that future columns of mine on homosexuality comply with a format such as you propose, it will be inappropriate for me to continue writing the column for the Observer.


Charles E. Rice

Professor Emeritus

Notre Dame Law School

The recent reply by Matt Gamber to this in part said “because the paper is still recovering from the incident with The Mobile Party comic, we would prefer to examine this issue at a later time.”

In part I can understand this since the Mobile Party comic strip which was a real piece of homosexual bashing and quite disgusting, displayed a mockery of those with same-sex attraction quite at odds with Church teaching.  The editor of the paper was fired over this which is why there is a new editor.  That said I think it is an oversensitive reaching.  Church teaching is never inconvenient and should be taught in season or out of season.  There is a massive difference between the Church’s teaching on homosexual acts and a cartoon that reflects an opinion totally at odds with the treatment of persons with same-sex attraction.  This column needs to be run as reflected by the fact that there is a Notre Dame Gay/ Lesbian/ Bisexual/ Transgender (GLBT) community in the first place.  It is this group that should be suppressed, not the column.

Text of Dr. Rice’s Column

  13 Responses to “Point-Counterpoint”

  1. I find it odd that Mr. Gamber did not address Profesor Rice as “Dr.” or “Professor,” but rather as Mr. Rice. He can’t be that clueless that he doesn’t recognize one of the pre-eminent legal scholars from Notre Dame’s not-too-distant past. Passive aggressive tendencies on the part of Mr. Gamber?

  2. A mail attributed to Bill Dempsey calls into question the prima facie interpretation of the controversial cartoon:

    “We will issue a bulletin shortly on the current student campaign to include sexual orientation in the University’s anti-discrimination clause, which was triggered by a crude and offensive cartoon in The Observer. While apologizing for the cartoon, The Observer promptly published an editorial in support of the campaign. The current issue of The Irish Rover points to factors suggesting The Observer’s publication of the cartoon may have been designed to trigger support for the campaign to change University policy. The refusal of The Observer to publish Dr. Rice’s description of pertinent Church doctrine occurs in this context.”

    True or false conspiracy theory? Hard to say, especially without the Rover issue being online.

  3. I don’t get it, why would the Observer want to use a SNL skit format for a law professor’s article. Maybe its so they could get away with :
    “Dan, you sadistic, elitist, sexist, racist, anti-humanist pig!”
    “Jane, you ignorant, misguided slut! Once again, you missed the point entirely.”

    Wait, am I missing something? ^_~

  4. SO basically this Gamber character is the editor of a Catholic University’s newpaper and it was his opinion that a bunch of quotations from the Catechism of the Catholic Church were too contoversial to be in his….ahem I mean the universities paper? Its really too bad the pope couldn’t just excommunicate anyone who goes to Notre Dame.

  5. It’s hard to fathom why the Observer would stoop to publishing that vile cartoon in the first place, unless an ulterior motive was involved.

  6. In all fairness, Notre Dame doesn’t have a university-sanctioned GLBT student group and never has. The university does maintain as part of campus ministry a resource office for such people, and its logos and activities are sometimes objectionable, but there isn’t a student-run organization.

    The Observer editors all pointed fingers at one another over the cartoon. I was out of town, I wasn’t working that day, someone else was responsible for the content, I assumed so and so had approved it, etc.

    It’s hard to tell from the cartoon (and the rest of the strip’s editions) whether the author thought the joke was funny itself or whether the humor was supposed to be in satirizing ND students who supposedly would say such things themselves. (Notice that all the characters in the strip are “tools.”) Of course, there’s always the not-implausible ulterior-motive theory.

  7. […] The Curt Jester is unhappy too. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Yup that’s rightMy Notre Dame’s […]

  8. Could this Matt Gamber be Fr. Matt Gamber SJ, who is a chicago Province Jesuit. I know he taught Journalism at XU here in Cincinnati? Maybe he left the SJ’s?

  9. Re: Marilyn H.’s comment abou “passive agressive tendencies on the part of Mr. Gamber?”

    No, not passive agressive, simply arrogance on his part.

  10. Titus:

    It is true that Notre Dame does not have a university-sanctioned GLBT student group. It is also true that this episode is part of a current non-sanctioned GLBT group’s efforts to gain formal recognition. Allow me to elaborate:

    In Spring of 1995 (my senior year at ND), the non-sanctioned GLBT group on campus was called Gays and Lesbians of Notre Dame and St. Mary’s College, or GLNDSMC. As a non-sanctioned group, they were not allowed to publicly advertise any meeting that they were having on-campus, but during the Spring semester, they did anyway. As a result, they were banned from campus, and subsequently began a public push for official recognition. This set off a firestorm of protest from student and faculty groups (not to mention protest from faculty of other universities, including the lion’s share of Big 10 schools) against the supposed “intolerance” and “discrimination” of ND’s administration against homosexuals. In response, the university explained why it could not recognize GLNDSMC – the group’s charter included “to foster homosexual relationships”, for crying out loud – and set up the resource office you spoke of.

    Nevertheless, the push for official recognition of a student group that takes a positive view of homosexual acts and relationships has continued to this day. As the university continued to steadfastly refuse, citing Catholic teaching, a new student initiative was undertaken: the addition of “sexual orientation” to the university’s non-discrimination policy. The claim is that such an addition would “stop discrimination”, though one can fairly wonder what “discrimination” they are talking about: are homosexuals being denied scholarships, financial aid, housing, fair grading, protection from violence, etc.? No, the only “discrimination” homosexuals seem to be facing at ND is not having pro-homosexual-acts groups gaining official recognition. As such, the apparent purpose of the addition of “sexual orientation” to the university’s non-discrimination policy would be to use it as a trump card against the university’s refusal to recognize the current GLBT group (AllianceND):

    AllianceND : You can’t refuse to recognize our group because it promotes homosexuality without violating your own non-discrimination policy!

    ND: As a Catholic institution, we cannot recognize a group that seeks to foster homosexual acts and relationships.

    AllianceND : ND allows other groups that “foster relationships”- ND can’t discriminate against our group because it fosters relationships that are homosexual ones, as ‘sexual orientation’ is covered in the non-discrimination statement!

    As specious as such a line of argument is, such arguments have been used quite successfully in the past by homosexual advocacy groups, and would likely work quite well against a university as afraid of bad press from the New York Times crowd as ND is.

    So, basically, the push for the administration to add “sexual orientation” to the university’s non-discrimination policy is an attempt to force the ND administration – in regards to their refusal to recognize pro-homosexual-acts groups – into procuring the rope with which those groups will use to hang the administration with.

  11. Geronimo, thanks for the background. I don’t think ND has any of those “Safe Zones” one finds on many campuses. Basically, you will see a pink triangle or rainbow sticker on a faculty office to indicate it is a place safe from homophobia. If there is indeed no Safe Zone program there, I would not be surprised in the least if this was the first thing attempted to be set up under the “sexual orientation” fog. Its ostensible purpose is to fight descrimination, but if you google a safe zone manual, it is apparent that it is about securing approval of homosexual acts. Homosexual apologists of course have always thought orientation and the act were part of a complete package, but they are willing to pretend they are separate to snow gullible Catholic moderates.

  12. Joke. Notre Dame is just another institution entirely defined by money and ethnicity (cultural Catholicism). It is not a religious institution, whatever its historic origins may be.

  13. I don’t know about “safe zones” on ND’s campus at present. The last time I was on campus was in Sept. 2008 for the ND-Purdue football game.

    I do remember the pink triangle stuff in Spring 1995: pink triangles chalked on the sidewalk, and an occasional one in an office window. However, after a month of what was a virtual pro-homosexual propaganda tsunami in the editorial pages of the Observer, the issue died down considerably, and the weariness of students over the whole drama was ostensibly represented by the popular Bookstore Basketball team named “Get Your Pink Triangles Out Of My House”.

    Also, if there is one word in the English language abused more than any other it would have to be “homophopia”. Far from meaning “an irrational fear of homosexuality or homosexuals”, it is most often used to mean “failure to approve of homosexual acts or to reflexively acquiesce to any demand made by homosexual activists”.

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