On DePaul Banning Ben Shapiro: Catholic Mission Should Drive Speaker Policy

Ben ShapiroAdam Cassandra / August 3, 2016

From what I know about Ben Shapiro, he’s not a champion of immorality. So why was he banned from Catholic DePaul University, while other speakers, events and groups that might lead students away from the Catholic faith are welcomed on campus?

Shapiro’s advocacy as an author and public speaker isn’t focused on inciting hatred and violence, or promoting positions that conflict with Catholic moral or social teaching. True, his biting critique of America’s zeal for racial diversity in every institution upsets many well-intentioned people who believe that diversity standards are necessary to fight racism. If only people on both sides of the issue could dialogue with respect for each other.

But respectful dialogue is not what DePaul encouraged by banning Shapiro. It’s twice hypocritical for this Catholic university to reject a speaker who is politically incorrect, while selectively enforcing radical free speech policies to justify lectures and events that undermine the integrity of its Catholic mission. It is unlikely Shapiro’s lecture would have threatened the university’s mission — but others do.

Shapiro was invited to DePaul by the student group Young Americans for Freedom. The University claimed it banned Shapiro due to “the experiences and security concerns that some other schools have had,” as when a mob of protesters blocked entry into Shapiro’s speech and became violent at California State University, Los Angeles. Yet DePaul’s statement cites no specific threats of violence or planned protests at its campus.

Appearing on “The Kelly File” on FOX News Monday night, Shapiro said that administrators at America’s largest Catholic university are “creat[ing] an incentive for people to get violent at protests, and get violent when speakers come to make sure that people, like the people they disagree with, don’t get to show up on campus anymore.” He called this “the rioter’s veto.”

“What I love the most about this situation is that they don’t even say that what I’m saying is so terrible. Instead, what they say is that because I’ve been met with violence at other campuses, this raises security concerns,” Shapiro told host Megyn Kelly. “So in other words, they can’t keep their students from assaulting people, so therefore they can’t bring in speakers who disagree with the students.”

As a private university, DePaul is legally entitled to disinvite any speaker that students invite to campus. Moreover, as a Catholic university, DePaul has a responsibility to disinvite certain speakers and cancel events that deny religious truths that are foundational to a Catholic university.

It is the “honor and responsibility” of a Catholic university to “consecrate itself without reserve to the cause of truth,” Saint John Paul II wrote in Ex corde Ecclesiae, the Catholic Church’s constitution on higher education. He called it a Catholic university’s “privileged task” to unite “the search for truth, and the certainty of already knowing the fount of truth” — Jesus Christ.

And while “the freedom of conscience of each person is to be fully respected” at Catholic universities, “Catholic teaching and discipline are to influence all university activities.” Any “official action or commitment” of a Catholic university “is to be in accord with its Catholic identity.”

This doesn’t seem to be the case at DePaul. To illustrate, here a just a few examples from the first half of 2016:

—At commencement, DePaul honored alumnus Martin Castro, chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR), who has used his position at USCCR to advocate for same-sex marriage and gender ideology.

—Abortion advocate Rosa Clemente, the 2008 Green Party vice presidential nominee, spoke at two events at DePaul University in January.

—The University hosted two drag queen shows during the spring semester: one for students and one featuring “professionals” from the local community.

—Three performances of the lewd and immoral “Vagina Monologues” were sponsored by DePaul in February.

—DePaul continues to sponsor a student chapter of Amnesty International, despite the organization’s fervent advocacy for abortion and same-sex marriage. In January, the chapter urged supporters to attend a “Pro-Choice Counter Protest” in support of abortion.

The University also seems obsessed with indoctrinating students in the radical gender ideology that has been consistently denounced by Pope Francis as a danger to the family and the culture. The pope even recently told bishops in Poland that it is “terrible” that children are now taught they can choose their own gender. And he expressed agreement with comments on the matter made by Pope Benedict XVI that, “It’s the epoch of sin against God the Creator.”

DePaul’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Queer, Asexual and Ally (LGBTQA) Student Services Office is constantly posting links on its Facebook page which legitimize gender ideology. LGBTQA Student Services Coordinator Katy Weseman spearheaded a policy — approved last February — allowing students to change their gender on certain college records. Her office posted in support of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage in June 2015.

All of these examples are extremely concerning for Catholics, because each in some way legitimizes positions or ideas that contradict truths of the Catholic faith.

So what should students and parents make of DePaul’s banning of Shapiro considering the University’s past actions? If the airing of politically conservative ideas from a guest speaker threatens uncontrollable violence on DePaul’s campus, but the reaction to immorality on campus is negligible, it suggests a decided bias against both conservative and Catholic ideas.

DePaul’s willingness to embrace and promote speakers and events that lend credibility to anti-Catholic positions exhibits a lack of firm commitment to truth and its Catholic identity. But the University’s censoring of the views of a conservative commentator betrays its own speech policy affirming “the right of speakers to voice their viewpoints, even at the risk of controversy.” DePaul seems to encourage falsehood but discourages dissent from liberal views.

Surrendering to the “rioter’s veto” in the case of Shapiro could be a dangerous move for DePaul. Will the University similarly acquiesce if students threaten violent protests against guest speakers who are staunch defenders of culturally unpopular Catholic moral teachings?

Dedication to DePaul’s Catholic mission and the Truth of the faith, not potential violent protests, should drive what students hear and learn on campus. Of course, it would help if DePaul fully embraced Ex corde Ecclesiae and re-dedicated itself to providing a faithful Catholic education and formation experience for students.


Originally published on CNSNews.com.

Adam Cassandra serves as editor at The Cardinal Newman Society, which promotes and defends faithful Catholic education. Follow him on Twitter: @adamcassandra.