A Response to President David Burcham and Fr. Robert Caro, S.J.
As many of you know, recent letters from President David Burcham and Fr. Robert Caro, S.J. defend the choice of atheist Robbin Crabtree for Dean of the Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts.
These letters make several points that merit engagement. LMU’s claims are presented in italic type. Our response follows each.
The LMU administration’s policy is consistent with and in the spirit of recent Jesuit General Congregations (GC 34, GC 35), which have promoted “formation for collaboration” between Jesuits and their lay colleagues, both Catholic and non-Catholic, in support of the apostolic works of the Society of Jesus.
Nothing in the letter or spirit of these Jesuit General Congregations suggests it is a good idea to hire an atheist with years of service to the largest abortion provider in the country to serve as Dean for hiring faculty at Jesuit universities.
If hiring an atheist for such mission critical positions is called for by the Jesuit General Congregations, then why not celebrate this fact at the time in the press release announcing the hire?
RenewLMU “targets comments she made” about Dean Robbin Crabtree about her professed atheism in an unfair manner.
RenewLMU first privately communicated our concerns to President Burcham, just as earlier we privately communicated our concerns about her service to Planned Parenthood, before going public with either report.
Far from having “targeted comments she made,” RenewLMU did not publicize Dr. Crabtree’s professed atheism until after the decision was announced. It was Prof. Crabtree herself who freely related the fact to a large group on campus, and it was Pres. Burcham who confirmed her atheism in a letter to the LMU Board of Regents on April 16.
By contrast, in a letter sent that very same day to many LMU alumni, Fr. Caro says only that “she does not share our Catholic faith”.
It is LMU that has selectively withheld relevant information during and after the evaluation phase for the new BCLA Dean. Clearly LMU does not want all the facts known so a fair evaluation of this appointment can be made.
The search committee had a Sister and a Jesuit among its 16 members and it was chaired by someone with experience in Catholic education, so it could not possibly have recommended someone who was not a good fit with LMU’s Catholic identity.
The search committee was so composed, but this hardly guarantees an outcome that promotes LMU’s mission and identity. Fr. Caro and President Burcham do not relate whether, in the committee’s confidential votes, these two members and the chair stood up for Catholic principles or were outvoted.
It appears the selection committee voted on Prof. Crabtree’s candidacy before it knew of her involvement with Planned Parenthood or Las Adelitas. Was there a formal re-consideration by the committee once this evidence came to light? If not, why not?
Two Jesuits at Fairfield University think that Crabtree is a wonderful fit for a Catholic university.
That two Jesuits think that an atheist who served Planned Parenthood is an ideal choice for Dean at a Catholic university says a lot about those two Jesuits, but not a lot about whether their judgments are correct. The loyalty of Jesuit priests to other Jesuit priests (and institutions) is generally a good thing, but misplaced loyalty can lead to supporting or covering up inappropriate decisions. As Boethius says, appeal to authority is the weakest form of argument.
Crabtree did not ‘work’ for Planned Parenthood because she was never a full time employee of Planned Parenthood.
No one has claimed that Crabtree was an employee of Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of abortion in the United States. Crabtree herself listed her connection to Planned Parenthood under ‘service.’ Serving an organization is a way of working for an organization. Whether or not she earned money or was a full time employee of Planned Parenthood is irrelevant. Indeed, the fact that she did work for Planned Parenthood and Las Adelitas without compensation serves only to confirm Crabtree’s devotion to the principles and goals of those groups.
Crabtree’s service to Planned Parenthood was engaging underserved women in the community to increase their awareness of the clinic’s basic healthcare services. What’s wrong with that?
According to Planned Parenthood, “basic healthcare services” include abortion. If someone were to voluntarily serve an organization that engaged in countless acts of injustice towards racial minorities, would the exact nature of the service to the organization matter?
Crabtree’s service to “Las Adelitas” was to a budding political organization, whose primary purpose was to find and support women candidates to run for State office. The organization has grown substantially and changed significantly since she left New Mexico.
The suggestion is that Las Adelitas started supporting pro-abortion political candidates only after Crabtree left the group. Pres. Burcham and Fr. Caro have read the historical timeline exactly backwards. Prof. Crabtree was a member of this group in 2000 – 2001. Las Adelitas’ adoption of its pro-choice agenda is not “subsequent” to her affiliation, but had been well established many years before, as is quite evident from the news story cited by the Cardinal Newman Society:
The group’s pro-abortion goals were clear from the organization’s first days in the early 1990s: “Samantha L. Johnson, president of Las Adelitas Women in Politics, worries about the lack of pro-choice female legislators in New Mexico. When Adelitas began in 1993, Johnson says there were no pro-choice female legislators.”
Crabtree’s service to Planned Parenthood and to the pro-abortion group “Las Adelitas” was brief. Crabtree’s service to Planned Parenthood and Las Adelitas happened so long ago, so it is irrelevant.
Service over multiple years is not brief. Her work with each of these organizations ended when she accepted employment in another state. Neither Fr. Caro nor Pres. Burcham indicates she has disavowed these associations or the philosophies they embrace, or that she terminated her service to them because she no longer supported their goals.
If these associations are so old as to be irrelevant, why are they listed by Crabtree herself on her CVs of 2007 and 2013? Indeed, Crabtree’s résumé lists many other items that are contemporaneous with her service to Planned Parenthood and Las Adelitas. Are they also irrelevant?
“Archbishop Gomez understands our position.”
This misleading assertion may leave some readers with the impression that Archbishop Gomez approves of the decision. If so, why doesn’t President Burcham just state this?
We also understand President Burcham’s decision. But we don’t agree with it, and President Burcham has provided no reason to think that Archbishop Gomez agrees with it either.
There is no litmus test for hiring at LMU other than agreeing with LMU’s mission.
LMU’s mission includes the “promotion of justice” and the “service of faith.” If these statements are to be more than empty rhetoric, there must be substantive content to them both.
In the words of Father Robert Caro, S.J. writing on abortion coverage:
…this issue touches directly the Catholic identity of Loyola Marymount, which supports and counterbalances our commitment to diversity. The right to life is ‘the most basic and fundamental right and condition of all other personal rights’ (John Paul II). Direct abortion has been condemned as a particularly egregious evil from the earliest centuries of Christianity, a position underscored by Pope Francis in a speech in Rome as recently as last Friday. It should not be necessary to add that the Society of Jesus affirms this moral teaching of the Church. It did so explicitly in a 2003 statement, “Standing for the Unborn.” The statement quotes from the Order’s 34th General Congregation: “Human life, a gift from God, has to be respected from its beginning to its natural end.” The statement goes on to say, “The most fundamental building block of a just social order is respect for human life.” For Jesuits, opposition to abortion is a justice issue. For their part, the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary have as their byword, “That all may have life” (John 10:10). The Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange share the concerns of the Jesuits and the Marymount Sisters and, in their hospital system, have steadfastly honored the right to life of the unborn.”
If abortion is really a matter of justice and faith, and of our Jesuit and Marymount traditions, then appointing someone who has provided years of service to the largest abortion provider in the United States to oversee Bioethics, Theological Studies, and Philosophy is deeply problematic.
President Burcham would never hire someone who had served an organization defending legal segregation and responsible for millions of acts of racial injustice, unless that person had radically and publicly repudiated this involvement. (Crabtree has not.) President Burcham would indeed apply a de facto “litmus test” in the case of racial injustice, and rightly so, but he refuses to do so in the case of prenatal injustice.
LMU’s Administration seeks “to recruit dedicated Catholic scholars.”
What evidence is there for this claim? On the contrary, LMU doesn’t even ask candidates about their religious identity, although legally it could, as do Notre Dame and Pepperdine.
The search process was ‘exhaustive’.
RenewLMU’s issue is not with how hard the hiring committee worked to hire a new BCLA Dean. If the University wishes to offer as alibi that “these were the best of all who applied” then it may well ask itself why that is the case. Or perhaps the standards applied by candidate selection committees do not bring the best candidates to the fore.
The current process for attracting, qualifying, and vetting candidates for senior positions, as this appointment demonstrates, is inadequate to preserve the Catholic character of Loyola Marymount University for very much longer.
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