Monday, July 12, 2010

U of I Anti-Catholic Bigotry - The Fatal E-Mail and the Compliant Coward McKim

NOW, That's Progressive Americans!

This is a Full Text Reprint of both e-mails from the News Gazette

Professor Howell's E-Mail and subsequent Comments

E-mail that prompted complaint over UI religion class instructor

Other Related Content

Instructor of Catholicism at UI claims loss of job violates academic freedom
E-mail complaint from student about UI religion instructor
Fri, 07/09/2010 - 7:00am | Jodi Heckel
From: Kenneth J. Howell

Date: Tue, May 4, 2010 at 9:45 PM

Subject: Utilitarianism and Sexuality (for those in 447 FYI)

Dear Students:

Since there is a question on the final exam about utilitarianism (see the review sheet), I thought I would help with an example. I realized after my lectures on moral theory that even though I talked about the substance of utilitarianism, I did not identify it as such and so you may not have been able to see it.

It turns out that our discussion of homosexuality brings up the issue of utilitarianism. In class, our discussion of the morality of homosexual acts was very incomplete because any moral issue about which people disagree ALWAYS raises a more fundamental issue about criteria. In other words, by what criteria should we judge whether a given act is right or wrong?

Before looking at the issue of criteria, however, we have to remind ourselves of the ever-present tendency in all of us to judge morality by emotion. The most frequent reason I hear people supporting same-sex marriage is that they know some gay couples or individuals. Empathy is a noble human quality but right or wrong does not depend on who is doing the action or on how I feel about those people, just as judging an action wrong should not depend on disliking someone. This might seem obvious to a right thinking person but I have encountered many well-educated people who do not (or cannot?) make the distinction between persons and acts when engaging moral reasoning. I encourage you to read the final essay editorial I sent earlier to reflect on this. In short, to judge an action wrong is not to condemn a person. A person and his/her acts can be distinguished for the purposes of morality.

So, then, by what criterion should we judge whether sexual acts are right or wrong? This is where utilitarianism comes in. Utilitarianism in the popular sense is fundamentally a moral theory that judges right or wrong by its practical outcomes. It is somewhat akin to a cost/benefit analysis. So, when a woman is deciding whether it's right to have an abortion, the utilitarian says it's right or wrong based on what the best outcome is. Similarly, a man who is trying to decide whether he should cheat on his wife, if he is a utilitarian, will weigh the various consequences. If the cheating side of the ledger is better, he will conclude that it's okay to cheat. If the faithful side is better, he will refrain from cheating.

I think it's fair to say that many, maybe most Americans employ some type of utilitarianism in their moral decision making. But there are at least two problems. One is that to judge the best outcome can be very subjective. What may be judged good for the pregnant woman may not be good for the baby. What may be judged good for the about-to-cheat-husband may not good for his wife or his children. This problem of subjectivity is inherent in utilitarianism for a second reason. Utilitarianism counsels that moral decisions should NOT be based on the inherent meaning of acts. Acts are only good or bad relative to outcomes. The natural law theory that I expounded in class assumes that human acts have an inherent meaning (remember my fist vs. extended hand of friendship example).

One of the most common applications of utilitarianism to sexual morality is the criterion of mutual consent. It is said that any sexual act is okay if the two or more people involved agree. Now no one can (or should) deny that for a sexual act to be moral there must be consent. Certainly, this is one reason why rape is morally wrong. But the question is whether this is enough.

If two men consent to engage in sexual acts, according to utilitarianism, such an act would be morally okay. But notice too that if a ten year old agrees to a sexual act with a 40 year old, such an act would also be moral if even it is illegal under the current law. Notice too that our concern is with morality, not law. So by the consent criterion, we would have to admit certain cases as moral which we presently would not approve of. The case of the 10 and 40 year olds might be excluded by adding a modification like "informed consent." Then as long as both parties agree with sufficient knowledge, the act would be morally okay. A little reflection would show, I think, that "informed consent" might be more difficult to apply in practice than in theory. But another problem would be where to draw the line between moral and immoral acts using only informed consent. For example, if a dog consents to engage in a sexual act with its human master, such an act would also be moral according to the consent criterion. If this impresses you as far-fetched, the point is not whether it might occur but by what criterion we could say that it is wrong. I don't think that it would be wrong according to the consent criterion.

But the more significant problem has to do with the fact that the consent criterion is not related in any way to the NATURE of the act itself. This is where Natural Moral Law (NML) objects. NML says that Morality must be a response to REALITY. In other words, sexual acts are only appropriate for people who are complementary, not the same. How do we know this? By looking at REALITY. Men and women are complementary in their anatomy, physiology, and psychology. Men and women are not interchangeable. So, a moral sexual act has to be between persons that are fitted for that act. Consent is important but there is more than consent needed.

One example applicable to homosexual acts illustrates the problem. To the best of my knowledge, in a sexual relationship between two men, one of them tends to act as the "woman" while the other acts as the "man." In this scenario, homosexual men have been known to engage in certain types of actions for which their bodies are not fitted. I don't want to be too graphic so I won't go into details but a physician has told me that these acts are deleterious to the health of one or possibly both of the men. Yet, if the morality of the act is judged only by mutual consent, then there are clearly homosexual acts which are injurious to their health but which are consented to. Why are they injurious? Because they violate the meaning, structure, and (sometimes) health of the human body.

Now recall that I mentioned in class the importance of gaining wisdom from the past. One part of wisdom we gain from such knowledge is how people today came to think of their bodies. I won't go into details here but a survey of the last few centuries reveals that we have gradually been separating our sexual natures (reality) from our moral decisions. Thus, people tend to think that we can use our bodies sexually in whatever ways we choose without regard to their actual structure and meaning. This is also what lies behind the idea of sex change operations. We can manipulate our bodies to be whatever we want them to be.

If what I just said is true, then this disassociation of morality and sexual reality did not begin with homosexuality. It began long ago. But it took a huge leap forward in the wide spread use of artificial contraceptives. What this use allowed was for people to disassociate procreation and children from sexual activity. So, for people who have grown up only in a time when there is no inherent connection between procreation and sex –- notice not natural but manipulated by humans –- it follows "logically" that sex can mean anything we want it to mean.

Natural Moral Theory says that if we are to have healthy sexual lives, we must return to a connection between procreation and sex. Why? Because that is what is REAL. It is based on human sexual anatomy and physiology. Human sexuality is inherently unitive and procreative. If we encourage sexual relations that violate this basic meaning, we will end up denying something essential about our humanity, about our feminine and masculine nature.

I know this doesn't answer all the questions in many of your minds. All I ask as your teacher is that you approach these questions as a thinking adult. That implies questioning what you have heard around you. Unless you have done extensive research into homosexuality and are cognizant of the history of moral thought, you are not ready to make judgments about moral truth in this matter. All I encourage is to make informed decisions. As a final note, a perceptive reader will have noticed that none of what I have said here or in class depends upon religion. Catholics don't arrive at their moral conclusions based on their religion. They do so based on a thorough understanding of natural reality.

Kenneth J. Howell Ph.D.

Director, St. John's Institute of Catholic Thought

Adjunct Associate Professor of Religion, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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#1Judy Olson wrote 1 hour 36 min ago
It's obvious this guy has issues. The message purports in the beginning to be *about* utilitarianism, with homosexuality supposedly an example--not the point of the message. But he never mentions what i learned, at least, was the distinguishing feature of utilitarianism: the principle of the greatest good for the greatest number. More strikingly, he *drops* utilitarianism part way through, never to return, and turns instead to "Natural Law"--making it clear that his purpose is not after all to explain utilitarianism but to make an argument about homosexuality grabbing at any philosophical structure that seems useful. And note that he's doing this on his off time in an overly--one might say obsessively--detailed message. Supplementing by his own admission an inadequacy in his lecture. I've known a few other religious closet cases in my life . . . I'm deeply alarmed by the absence of academic freedom for faculty members off the tenure track--but this guy's agenda alarms me too. Academic freedom is supposed to protect people whose arguments are *within* disciplinary norms.
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#2kheff wrote 1 hour 11 min ago
No, the email doesn't say it's about utilitarianism. It's clarifying a class discussion about homosexuality that brought up two views on the subject -- utilitarianism vs. natural law. The students receiving the email were IN the class, so probably grasped that, even if you didn't. And the professor did it in his "off time" because he was preparing the students for a final, and professors tend to send emails outside of class. His "agenda" is to teach the topic of the class -- Catholicism -- and his email explains what they ran out of class time to cover. His argument is within his discipline because it's about the religion he is teaching. Where is the problem?
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#3Stephen wrote 1 day 17 hours ago
I utterly disagree with the concepts that Professor Howell explains in this email (...that is to say, homosexuality is morally okay by me), but his dismissal is totally unjustified and a real educational loss. I am rapidly losing respect for U of I Champaign.
Let's review the purpose of a focused college religion class such as this (I have taken one). You take it to learn about a given religion. Not just that -- you want to try to understand the religion from the inside out, as if you were a follower of that religion. Of course you'll never fully understand a religion unless you join it, but the fact that Professor Howell is a practicing Catholic who shares his views with his students means that his students are privy to another level of understanding. They have a human example of Catholicism right there in the classroom! It's really sad that a university that thinks so highly of itself doesn't know an educational opportunity when it stares them in the face. Does U of I believe in REAL education or watered-down, politically correct education?
What has this professor done wrong? Since when has it been unacceptable for professors to profess their views, GIVEN that they allow their students to disagree with them and to express their disagreement? Professor Howell allowed for disagreement; he claims that he always made that clear to his students. All he asked of them is that they would learn the Catholic arguments and suspend their biases long enough to assess them objectively.
College courses SHOULD be controversial. A liberal arts education is about being exposed to ideas, contemplating them, accepting or rejecting them, and hopefully changing or solidifying your own position. The students in this class could have come away from it with much more self-checked, sound arguments for their beliefs, but it seems that they wasted their time bickering and being offended, instead.
This professor didn't coerce them to accept his views, but merely challenged them to hold their preexisting beliefs up against Catholic reasoning. What a perfect opportunity to strengthen one's pro-homosexuality stance!
That being said, I have a suspicion that this professor has his flaws as a teacher. Particularly, he seems to be poorly educated in the realm of human sexuality, which is unacceptable given that his subject and the subject of human sexuality clearly intersect. (Professors are supposed to be EXPERTS!) It seems that his squeamishness has held him back from really investigating the nature of homosexual relationships, which has seriously diminished the quality of his argument. See how he attempts an unconvincing and irrelevant argument about how anal sex (which he cannot muster the courage to type) is "sometimes" damaging to health. It's this unwillingness to learn about things he is not comfortable with that signifies that his arguments have not received adequately rigorous testing. What a good opportunity for students to see the value of testing arguments -- what a good opportunity to become better critical thinkers!
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#4NickfromPange wrote 1 day 21 hours ago
Even if you agree or disagree with his morals, I believe this email to be nothing but poorly researched crap that lacks actual scientific facts and truths. If anything he should have been fired for being a bad teacher.
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#5Tony wrote 1 day 21 hours ago
For some reason he happens to believe, as the Catholic Church says, that certain things are wrong. Regardless of his personal beliefs, he should still be allowed to clarify the Church's position on the issues.
Why is it that anti-Bush sentiments and such are the ones that go uncensored?
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#6David in Houston wrote 1 day 22 hours ago
Whenever someone uses obvious "slippery slope" arguments regarding man/child and man/dog sex, they lose all credibility. It really is beneath someone with a Ph.D. to grasp at such inane concepts to prove their point. There is a term "age of consent" that applies to all morally accepted sexual behavior. Children are intellectually, emotionally and physically incapable of consenting to adult sex. Does that really need to be explained?
There is an immense amount of scientific evidence that demonstrates that sexual orientation is an immutable characteristic that people are born with: identical twin studies, male birth order studies, gay/straight brain scan studies. To ignore this research does a disservice to the students, who might be struggling with their own sexual orientation issues.
The teacher also fails to acknowledge that some heterosexual couples participate in sodomy. Look up the word... they do. Based on his "theories", heterosexual sex is just as immoral as the homosexual version. Also, his reasonings behind why people get sex change operations is laughable. They do so because they feel they were born as the wrong gender. Not because they want to experience new ways to have kinky sex. This is just common sense and common knowledge.
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#7Karamazov wrote 10 hours 30 min ago
Dr. Howell was not using a "slippery slope" argument. He set up a logical syllogism and then replaced the terms to illustrate an example of the logic of utilitarianism, which is a valid logical move. It seems that he did this in order to show how such examples would hold true in a utilitarian structure. I may be wrong, but it seemed that Dr. Howell wanted nothing more than his reader to understand what they accept if they accept this utilitarian definition. He, probably being intelligent, wouldn't intentionally use a logical fallacy nor is it likely that he would accidentally slip into such an obvious one as the "slippery slope" argument. Read more cautiously next time when you begin reading an article that you know you are going to disagree with the author. To give anything less than the benefit of the doubt to the author, whom you may suspect but haven't confirmed has a sharp intellect, is intellectual dishonesty. A benefit you seem to have denied Dr. Howell when reading his section on sex changes, since he does not insinuate a specific reason for people's desiring sex changes other than that they have made a distinction between sexuality/the body and who they are as individuals in that we can "manipulate our bodies to be whatever we want them to be."
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#8mspontiac wrote 1 day 23 hours ago
Good grief...I would hate to be in this class. The email alone put me to sleep halfway through.
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#9Becky08 wrote 1 day 23 hours ago
I agree that there was nothing wrong with this email. I even found it interesting to ponder the points made. Whether or not you agree or disagree with the idea of NMT, the man was not imposing his beliefs on the class or anyone else who may be reading this email now. I'm guessing had people not known he was Catholic, or had it been a protestant or atheist teaching the course, people would not have been so riled up. It is only because this man believes what he is teaching. And I would much rather take a course on Catholicism from a Catholic, just like I would rather take a class on Islam from a Muslim or Luther and the Reformation from a Lutheran, or a Queer Studies class from a homosexual. These people who believe in what is being taught in a class on that topic and experience it in their daily lives are (in general) more knowledgeable in the area.
And as for what you said Tony, I also agree that much worse has been said and nothing has happened. I was in a class where I was constantly belittled and openly harassed to the point of tears by the Professor for what seemed to be no good reason. Her derogatory treatment of me was actually detrimental to my grade as well. The entire class noticed it and commented on it and tried to come to my defense. At the end of the semester, after I received my grade, I brought it to the attention of the department and NOTHING was done about it. At all. I was waved off.
It seems to me, the University is off to persecute this poor man for doing what he was hired to do, and doing it well. Shame on you UofI. Shame on you.
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#10WRITETORIGHT wrote 2 days 9 min ago
No comment should be removed because the leftist socialist Democrats are engaged in deception and propaganda to promote only views that support so-called "acceptance" of homosexual sodomy. There was nothing hateful in the professor's e-mail. This smacks of totalitarian fascism in that the immoral homosexual-lesbian minority wish to silence all religious, scientific and philosophical viewpoints that object to their agenda. Homosexuality is immoral - that is not so-called "hate speech." Unfounded accusations like that are based upon shame and guilt on the part of homosexuals which they fantasize will disappear if they sanitize the universe of discourse and stiffle public debate. Our inalienable rights to freedoms of thought, speech, religion, expression, press, peaceable assembly and petitition cannot be abrogated simply because of a mere self-serving baseless accusation intended to silence legitimate opposing views. It is true: anal sex is unnatural; the anus is for excretion of wastematter. The vagina is a female sex organ created for the male penis. That is not so-called "hate speech." This is the stark truth, this is reality, this is science, this is biology. Homosexuals-lesbians wish to contrive a world of fantasy whereby everybody toes the line in using sanitized and sterile words like "gay," "alternative lifestyle," "same sex marriages," etc... instead of bringing "truth to power" as they so hypocritically proclaim regarding other subjects like apartheid. Homosexual sodomy is not only unnatural, but it is as immoral as it is anti-life, anti-science, anti-women, anti-biology, anti-logic and anti-good sense. This fascism must stop. My God, this is the United States of America, the original birthplace of spiritual liberty, religious freedom, and freedom of conscience! Homosexuality is immoral, wrong and unnatural. That is not so-called "hate speech." That is reality, truth, and real scientific, common sense. We pray all of you come to your senses and repent, instead of taking pride in an abomination that spreads disease and death!
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#11bgrave1 wrote 1 day 23 hours ago
<<<<<< Homosexuality is immoral, wrong and unnatural. That is not so-called "hate speech." That is reality, truth, and real scientific, common sense. We pray all of you come to your senses and repent, instead of taking pride in an abomination that spreads disease and death! >>>>>>>
What part of that was not "Hate Speech"?
So, would you say "Because God wants it that way" or "Because Nature wants it that way"?
There is always the "This is my opinion and I can't speak for others" comment..... I imagine you won't go that way though.....
My next 2 pennies....
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#12WRITETORIGHT wrote 1 day 23 hours ago
We are human beings who know right from wrong, truth from falsehood, and good from evil. For example, theft is wrong, immoral, unlawful, and illegal, and we have laws, courts and jails to prove it. Consequently, the real question is: As every specific organ is created for its own respective biological function in processing the laws of thermodynamics for affirming and sustaining natural life and morally right living that must go hand-in-hand, then, for breakfast, do you drink water, milk or juice, or do you drink sulfuric acid from your battery? You can't drink sulfuric acid for breakfast, thus, in this context, it is not a matter of opinion. Likewise, you will run from carbon monoxide once you know it's there, and will rush to oxygen in order to live. Thus, there are absolute standards of right and wrong sustained by natural law for life-affirming moral liberty and political freedom. We are not monkeys, we are Human beings created in the image and unto the likeness of God, from whom, as the Declaration of Independence firmly states, our inalienable rights originate. Thus, there are willful choices such as anal sex that are both immoral and unnatural, as practiced in homosexuality and lesbianism.
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#13Stephen wrote 1 day 16 hours ago
I would argue that right and wrong are either taught to a person or derived from natural empathy. (That is, even if a person isn't taught that torturing an animal is wrong, they might refrain from doing so because they can feel the animal's pain empathetically.) Anyone who has a healthy relationship with their natural empathy would be overjoyed that people who are not meant to be with people of the opposite sex can still find fulfillment with people in the same condition.
I think your heart is really, really hardened.
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#14NickfromPange wrote 1 day 21 hours ago
Honestly if this isn't hateful then what is?
But you are right, we are human beings, and we have god given rights. So why are you trying to deny the rights of some of god's children to express the sexual orientation they were born with?
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#15bgrave1 wrote 2 days 18 min ago
There are many great points to this email. For the class that this email was generated, you are lucky to have a progressive minded instructor. The point was the same but in such a fresh description.... Now on to the point that I have a concern about.... For as long as I can remember, when sexuality discussions reach a fever pitch, one side inevitably goes to the olde "It's because GOD wants it that way" comment. The down side of course to this comment is that the discussion is over. Now it seems that like minded individuals that usually resort to said comment will now feel poised to use the new catchy one, "Because NATURE wants it that way." It nevers fails to amaze and impress me how such a circular issue gets so much attention. My 2 pennies.......
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#16Tony wrote 2 days 40 min ago
You have every right to hold your views as Dr. Howell does to hold his. For a professor that welcomes all kinds of viewpoints like him and is forthcoming in his view that he personally believes in certain things but not requiring anyone else to do the same- I think he has every right to let people know about where he stands on the issues
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#17freethot wrote 2 days 17 hours ago
"Unless you have done extensive research into homosexuality and are cognizant of the history of moral thought, you are not ready to make judgments about moral truth in this matter. All I encourage is to make informed decisions. As a final note, a perceptive reader will have noticed that none of what I have said here or in class depends upon religion. Catholics don't arrive at their moral conclusions based on their religion. They do so based on a thorough understanding of natural reality."
Sorry, but I disagree. "Natural reality" in this context is religious belief or dogma. Natural moral law is based in religion. True natural reality would state that there is no evidence for the existence of a supreme being. If two consenting adults want to have sex, same gender, that is their moral decision, not yours. There is evidence of same sex activity in other animals, so wouldn't that be "natural reality". Catholic thought is just that.
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#18kheff wrote 2 days 12 hours ago
"Natural law" is based upon nature. Natural law regards how our bodies are designed to operate. Social realities might not follow natural law, but it is still "natural reality" that our bodies are designed for heterosexual sex and that homosexual sex does not follow natural law. You don't have to agree with the professor's conclusion that homosexual sex is wrong, but you can't argue with natural law. He's right. Whether you view homosexual acts as morally right or wrong depends, just as the professor stated, on whether your views are in line with natural law or utilitarianism. And he doesn't specify that you have to choose one path or the other.
In a course based upon Catholic thought, it sort of makes sense that he would teach the basics of Catholic morality, don't you think?
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#19mellamoandres wrote 2 days 9 hours ago
Tell me, what does natural moral law say when nature itself supports homosexuality? Now, I know that this source is from Wikipedia, but bear with me.
The average Wikipedia article contains, on average, one fourth as many errors as the average Encyclopedia Britannica article. -Anyone- can edit it, which means that articles are usually kept current. It also takes the patent of information away from people with Ph.D.s, which is good, because a title does not necessarily indicate actual expertise. To Wikipedia, all users are created equal, so if people with doctorates are worried about losing their status as experts, they should stay on their toes.
Even if you want to discredit Wiki-knowledge, the information in the article came from actual sources. It doesn't take a lot of digging to discover that the scientific community has discovered real homosexual occurrences in the animal kingdom, and not just in a few isolated cases. It has even been suggested that extra-heterosexual behavior is universal in the animal kingdom. Complementary or not, same-sex pairings exist in--no--throughout nature.
So we are left with a small problem:
1. Natural law (according to homophobic people--in this example, Catholic doctrine) claims that sex should only occur between two complementary organisms. The author of this e-mail makes a special point to say that complementary means different-but-compatible, with an emphasis on different. Never mind all of the loopholes that this leaves for the likes of pedophilia, cross-species relations, etc. (none of which should be compared to homosexuality).
2. Nature (according to hundreds, possibly thousands of independent individuals and organizations studying animal behavior) demonstrates homosexual behavior in virtually all observably cognizant, sexually-reproducing species. In other words, homosexual sex is a universal part of nature.
3. Animals, lacking free will, must follow natural law, without exception.
One of these must be wrong. We'll solve this problem with an analysis of the world as it would be if we assume that these three options are wrong, starting with option one.
1. Natural law does not oppose homosexuality. Indeed, since homosexual sex may be seen in every member of the animal kingdom, homosexual sex is just as much in communion with the law of nature as heterosexual sex.
2. Nothing ever happened. It's not true that between 30 and 75 percent of all sexual interactions between giraffes are male-to-male. That's just an optical illusion. ... They're shaking hands! That's it. They must be shaking hands. ... ... ... Of course, it would be very difficult to prove this hypothesis, because in trying to prove it, you might disprove yourself. Virtually everyone in animal husbandry knows that sometimes, your bull is just gay.
3. Natural law says that homosexuality is wrong, and homosexuality in animals is proof that they actually have free will. Animals, like humans, have the ability to choose between right and wrong. Extending this into the metaphysical universe (We're still talking about Catholicism, too.), this means that animals are entitled to an eternity in Heaven, should they choose good, and an eternity in Hell, should they choose evil. In that case, animals should be given full rights of any Christian, including full inclusion in the seven sacraments.
Obviously, options 2 and 3 are ridiculous. Natural law does not say that homosexuality is wrong. Instead of deciding what natural moral law says, perhaps you should ask your resident biologist to make sure that these things don't actually occur in nature, before you make this assumption.
= = =
Disclaimer: I am currently converting to Catholicism, but this particular element I do not agree with. I think that this is another example of human fallibility, such as the arrest of Galileo, the Inquisition, the crusades, or the Holy Wars. The Catholic Church is not perfect, but it is very good. They are horribly misguided when it comes to sexuality, but even the most promiscuous of us only spend a fraction of our lifetimes having sex. I figure that all of the things the Church has done right more than make up for the few things it's doing wrong. I pray for the enlightenment of the clergy every day.
As for biology, it has always been a small passion of mine. It's a shame that people don't really understand it very well, though. See, science is the study of the physical world as it exists. If you believe that God created the world, then God created the world as it exists. Science tells us that that includes the Big Bang Theory*, evolution, and homosexuality among animals. If your religious view of the world is not in communion with the actual world, then you cannot possibly be in communion with the God who made the world as it exists. God made the universe with the Big Bang Theory. He populated the Earth with speciation. (Genesis is not a history lesson.) God made homosexual animals and homosexual humans. Making them deny their sexuality and replace it with another sexuality is morally wrong, and I would even say that it's offensive to God.
= = =
* Do not confuse the scientific word theory, i.e. an explanation of how something in nature happens using rigid standards and thousands of peers forming a crucible of reason in order to find actual truth, with a semantic theory, i.e. a conjecture or a stab in the dark. Scientific theories are explanations of how things happen. Scientific laws are statements of things that happen. For example, a scientific law would be worded thus: "Evolution occurs." A scientific theory would explain how evolution happens. Scientific theories are not lower than scientific laws. They do not become scientific laws. In many cases, they are more important than scientific laws, because we use scientific theories in our practical application of science.
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#20kheff wrote 2 days 9 hours ago
You seem to be confusing "nature" and "natural law." If you are actually interested in the difference, you could do some research and understand it. Natural law is a fascinating topic. An email comment won't do it justice. Or, even better, ask the professor, who has spent much of his life researching it and is, moreso than the rest of us, an expert on the topic.
On a side note, unrelated to the content of this article and specific to the previous post, I wouldn't recommend becoming Catholic if you disagree with the Church, especially on issues so important as sexual ethics. The Catholic Church isn't really a cafeteria style religion. It's more take it or leave it, IMHO. You either believe in the authority of the Church or you don't.
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#21kheff wrote 2 days 1 hour ago
Also note, natural law is based upon nature, but is not the same as nature. Finding an example of something in nature does not make it permissible for human beings. Many animals in nature eat their young. Many animals consume what they defecate. Many animals destroy the handicapped among them. Finding it in nature does not make it a correct action for human beings. And human beings are not the same as all other organisms in makeup or in actions. Thus nature is not natural law, but natural law has its roots in nature. Perhaps that will give you a start on the topic.
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#22increvable wrote 1 day 23 hours ago
Also note, natural law is based upon nature, but is not the same as nature. Finding an example of something in nature does not make it permissible for human beings.
Now you're introducing another set of unexamined standards to allow you to pick and choose from the examples available in nature. This rhetorical strategy is called "moving the goalposts".
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#23kheff wrote 1 day 22 hours ago
Saying natural law is not the same as nature isn't exactly "moving the goalposts." It's stating the fact that they are not the same thing. I never stated examples from nature as evidence, just said that they are not necessarily evidence of natural law. As I stated before, if you are interested in natural law, you research more about it. You aren't going to have a very thorough understanding of it through reading comments on an article, nor can the concept be thoroughly explained here.
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#24bgrave1 wrote 1 day 23 hours ago
So is this natural?
Lets at least all take a moment to laugh..... Then back to discussion....

E-mail complaint from student about UI religion instructor

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Instructor of Catholicism at UI claims loss of job violates academic freedom
E-mail that prompted complaint over UI religion class instructor
Fri, 07/09/2010 - 7:00am | The News-Gazette
Prof. McKim,

This past semester, a friend of mine took RLST 127: Introduction to Catholicism. Throughout the semester, he would consistently tell me how the teacher, who I believe is a priest at the Newman Center, would preach (not teach) his ideology to the class. Many times, my friend (whom I wish to remain anonymous) said the instructor would say things that were inflammatory and downright insensitive to those who were not of the Catholic faith–it should be noted that my friend and I were both brought up Catholic. Anyways, my friend informed me that things got especially provocative when discussing homosexuality. He sent me the following e-mail, which I believe you will agree is downright absurd once you read it.

I am in no way a gay rights activist, but allowing this hate speech at a public university is entirely unacceptable. It sickens me to know that hard-working Illinoisans are funding the salary of a man who does nothing but try to indoctrinate students and perpetuate stereotypes. Once again, this is a public university and should thus have no religious affiliation. Teaching a student about the tenets of a religion is one thing. Declaring that homosexual acts violate the natural laws of man is another. The courses at this institution should be geared to contribute to the public discourse and promote independent thought; not limit one's worldview and ostracize people of a certain sexual orientation.

I can only imagine how ashamed and uncomfortable a gay student would feel if he/she were to take this course. I am a heterosexual male and I found this completely appalling. Also, my friend also told me that the teacher allowed little room for any opposition to Catholic dogma. Once again, he is guilty of limiting the marketplace of ideas and acting out of accord with this institution's mission and principles.

I have Cc'd Leslie Morrow, director of the LGBT Resource Center, on this e-mail as well as (name redacted), former features editor at the Daily Illini (I'm sure they'd like to hear about this), and Siobhan Somerville, a former teacher of mine and the founder of the queer studies major.

I didn't go to Notre Dame for a reason,

(name redacted)

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#1skiparoo wrote 5 hours 26 min ago
time to start a new search and hire this professor back, asap!
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#2SuzyCCC wrote 1 day 16 hours ago
By the time students reach college, they are considered adults in most states. Reading the emails, it is impossible for all but the most myopically sensitive readers to see anything but a statement of Catholic teaching from Howell, and nothing but overstating from the student. I think an adult making an accusation like this should stand up and make himself known. The accusation is 3rd hand, and the evidence does not support it. If I were an attorney, I'd beg Howell to let me have his case.
And the first thing I would prove in court through testimony would be that these two students who were "raised Catholic" and "didn't go to Notre Dame for a reason" knew exactly what they were signing up for, expected an easy A, didn't get it, and are now shooting the messenger.
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#3Falcor wrote 2 days 1 hour ago
If you are not a gay rights activist why did you copy the email to the media, the director of the LGBT Resource Center, and the founder of the queer studies major? Furthermore, did you confront the professor that sent the email that offended your friend? It seems like your actions are meant to cause a commotion, but what are your reasons?
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#4kheff wrote 2 days 13 hours ago
The student writes, "Teaching a student about the tenets of a religion is one thing. Declaring that homosexual acts violate the natural laws of man is another." How do you figure? It might offend you that the professor does not approve of homosexual acts, but you can't argue that homosexual acts are in line with natural law. Homosexual acts DO violate natural laws. Arguing to the contrary indicates a lack of understanding of what natural law means, not an error on the part of the party you argue against. You don't have to like the fact, and you may argue that homosexuality is not against social laws, but it is a fact that it's against natural law, like it or not. This student comes across sounding ridiculous.
Professor Howell is neither "insensitive" nor being "inflammatory" by stating the facts of the Catholic Church's beliefs, which is the purpose of the class. Having a course in Catholicism does not mean the University advocates that religion any more than having courses in Islam and other religions means it advocates those religions. Does the writer of the email not understand the purpose of religion courses is to educate, not to give everyone warm fuzzies? Apparently not -- and apparently, the Department of Religious Studies doesn't think so anymore either.
The student clearly isn't interested in promoting independent thought if it's offensive to him. Let's try to find him a class that makes him feel better.
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#5CrazyIvan wrote 2 days 15 hours ago
The student's email brings to mind the following assessment:
"What you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul."
The scary thing is that there is nothing even remotely nuanced about this situation.
1. Professor writes email to students encouraging them to think critically about the positions they espouse. In it, he dares to call into question the basis for modern sexual morality, esp. the morality of homosexual behavior.
2. Student gets offended because the Professor would dare to question something he practices.
3. Student's friend, via hearsay from the student, writes an email and accuses the professor of hate speech on said hearsay.
4. Professor is sacked.
What is it that we are missing here?
You know, for someone who is "in no way a gay rights activist", he sure seems to know a lot of people who are. Oh wait, it's his big in! Put a Catholic scalp on that belt, brutha!!!
Way to have a backbone, Professor McKim! And way to avoid a lawsuit, or the loss of funding, UI!
Perhaps a more appropriate name for the Newman Center would be The St. Thomas More Center. A lot of parallels here with his story.
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#6Tony wrote 2 days 22 hours ago
This email is absurd and misrepresents the facts. I can't believe the religious studies department would cave into people who obviously don't respect the true 'marketplace of ideas' the university should represent!
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#7lhamil948 wrote on July 09, 2010 at 10:07 am
"it should be noted that my friend and I were both brought up Catholic." Call me confused, but if you were raised Catholic, how can the statements made by Prof. Howell be such a shock to you that it prompts you to write this email? If you were raised Catholic, you should be fully aware of what the Church does condone and what it does not. Your friend made the choice to take an Introduction to Catholicism class. No one forced him to enroll and sit through the lectures.
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#8mclark486 wrote on July 09, 2010 at 8:07 am
I'm sorry, but geesh! You go to a class about Introduction to Cathoicism and you get offended when you hear something you dont' like? It would be like me, a person of faith, getting offended when I hear something in a class about Introduction to homosexuality. I would EXPECT to hear things I probably didn't like to, but I expect that as part of the class. We are all adults and make our own decisions and I don't always like what I hear. I work at a University as well, and at least once a week, I hear adversisments about LBGA. Do I get out on a soapbox or send e-mails to 10 people that express my irritaion about what I saw/heard? NO, I suck it up and realize I work at a University and will hear ALL TYPES of viewpoints.

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