Response to LMU’s Attempt to Justify Dean Appointment:

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.


To leave a comment click on the box at the bottom of this page. Be sure to mention if you are a LMU alum. 



14 thoughts on “Response to LMU’s Attempt to Justify Dean Appointment:

  1. LMU’s defense of the recent BCLA Dean appointment leaves the possibility that I have not clearly articulated my concerns. I will so try here.
    First, I wish to emphasize my tremendous respect for Fr. Caro. I have found myself aligned with his position on many issues. On the recent appointment of the BCLA Dean we are, however, on different sides of the aisle. I do not oppose the present appointment because the appointee does not share”our Catholic faith.” I know many agnostics and atheists who are committed to protecting innocent human life. I do not oppose the appointment because of the appointee’s academic accomplishments. I am in opposition to the appointment because there is no statement affirming the protection of innocent human life. Instead, there is a record of either opposing the protection of innocent human life or promoting the opposition to innocent human life. This is not acceptable for a leadership position at a Catholic institution. I am referring to the two pro abortion organizations that the appointee has referenced in CV(resume section).
    I am aware that it has been brought up that one organization was only “sponsored” by Planned Parenthood. What is that supposed to mean? Does that erase or validate that Planned Parenthood is our nation’s largest abortionist? Is it a way to rationalize, through health services, the astronomical number of innocent lives that are aborted each year? I am also having difficulty distinguishing between the concept of “working for” versus “doing work for.” Does it really matter? The work done was to increase the efficiency of the Planned Parenthood sponsored facility . . . including abortion services or abortion referrals? Why is there no statement of clarification, explanation or change of position from the appointee?
    The second affiliation is with a pro abortion political organization which is proud and committed to abortion legislation and funding. If this organization is different now from an earlier time, why is there no released statement offering a clarification, explanation, or change of position?
    Regarding the time factor, I don’t see the significance. While the participation may have occurred in the past, the appointee included this information in published material 7 years ago not 20.
    Should there not be clarification or retraction? Otherwise, since the appointee published the information, is it not reasonable to conclude it is accurate & representative of the appointee’s sensitivities or orientation?
    If not, the matter could be resolved with a statement of clarification, explanation, or change of position. But I have seen none.
    It seems as though LMU’s position is to agree to disagree over the issue of abortion . . . while life goes on . . . . except for the innocent human lives that are ended.

  2. This is very tragic indeed. I thank you so much for your efforts at dialogue, as well as your rational arguments above. I support your efforts. They are truly necessary.

    • I fully agree with you but I fail to see the need for extensive dialogue. it is simply a question of whether LMU remains a CATHOLIC university. This appointee certainly does not exhibit any adherence to, or even respect for, Catholic principles – an espoused atheist supporter of abortion is clearly unqualified to be dean of anything at a Catholic university.
      1984 alum of Loyola Law School

  3. LMU is simply going the way of Notre Dame and Georgetown , both of whom continue to distance themselves from Catholic teaching . Jenkins at Notre Dame is a master of misrepresentation and the Georgetown alums have already petitioned Rome to have the
    ” Catholic ” designation removed from Georgetown . That petition will soon be duplicated at Notre Dame no matter how many buildings they build and how many students abandon their Catholic faith . It s a sad state of affairs that it is the priests themselves who have abandoned the church .

  4. Like the writer I above I also have great respect for Fr. Caro. I learned a lot in his class about Shakespeare and many other topics. I’m sad to say he is wrong on this issue, though. A history of working for the oppression and exploitation of women through the abortion giant, Planned Parenthood, deserves far more critical scrutiny than “What’s wrong with that?” This decision wreaks of what Pope Paul VI described as “the smoke of Satan within the Church” and I’m glad RenewLMU is drawing attention to the travesty of truth and justice which is being committed by the current leadership of my alma mater.

    Larry A. Carstens
    LMU Class of 1989

  5. My name is Elizabeth Kaczor and I am a senior at LMU. I was disappointed while reading the mass email sent out by the Provost announcing the appointment of Dr. Crabtree. As a young Catholic woman attending a Catholic University I was at first thrilled to see that the Provost had written that “She (Dr. Crabtree) is known for her strong commitment to Catholic and Jesuit education”. However I was much less thrilled that he felt it was appropriate to blatantly lie to the LMU faculty, staff, and students. Dr. Crabtree has herself admitted that she is not very familiar with Catholic doctrine and I wonder why this makes her even a candidate on the forefront for the Bellarmine Dean. I have attended LMU for four years, and in all four of those years I have never, not once, had an interaction with an LMU professor in class who has the same Catholic views as I do. I have felt excluded, belittled, and disappointed by the lack of Catholic education this university displays. LMU prides itself in representing a wide variety of races, religions, sexual preferences, political parties, etc, but one of the very pillars LMU was founded from has had no place at this school. This is disgusting and it goes against the very intentions of our Jesuit founders. Being a Catholic is one of the best parts of me, it demands that I accept and forgive all people, regardless of their actions. I of course am called to do the same in regard to Dr. Crabtree, but this does not mean that the best place for her beliefs and actions is as the BCLA Dean.
    Being a Catholic has given me discipline, strength, and humility. I hope some day LMU can offer these very things to the students of Loyola Marymount through a true and real Catholic education.

    • “I have attended LMU for four years, and in all four of those years I have never, not once, had an interaction with an LMU professor in class who has the same Catholic views as I do. I have felt excluded, belittled, and disappointed by the lack of Catholic education this university displays.”

      What a tragedy. Thank you for your courage in speaking out. Would that the administration understood that what you have just written is the biggest problem they face, and the one they need to tackle with the most urgency. Somehow, I doubt they see it that way.

      • Amen to both of you. You seem to represent the kind of people LMU should be producing. I congratulate you on getting through without any faculty or administration support.

  6. I second every word above in the replies. I can thank God that my alum daughter is still in the church. I wonder what Pope Francis thinks of LMU and other so-called Catholic, Jesuit Universities.

  7. This should not come as a shock to knowledgeable believers. In 2 Timothy 4:3, St. Paul warned centuries ago, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers according to their own desires.” Many roam about boasting of their “Catholicity,” but again, St. Paul foresaw this when he cautioned that many “will practice the form of religion but deny the power of it.” Following suit, they, like their predecessors, are swayed by various impulses and can never arrive at the truth.

  8. Should one reasonably expect a pro-choice, non-Catholic educator to effectively teach the official pro-life position of the Magisterium to students? How can anyone say they are for justice,and yet support the killing of the most vulnerable among us — innocent unborn human life. St. Joseph the worker — pray for us. Most sacred heart of Jesus — have mercy on us.

  9. All of us who are faithful Catholics should be appalled by this development. Terminate any donations to LMU. Stay informed by this site and the Cardinal Newman Society.
    G. Russell Morrissey III Class of 1957

  10. I am not a graduate of LMU. However, I did receive my undergraduate degree from another Jesuit University in 1984. It was interesting to hear President Burcham’s most recent commencement speech. He cited three principles that define what it means to be a member of LMU. He stated,”We are not a parish, seminary or convent, but we are a Catholic University. We will not be shackled by a call of orthodoxy.” Since I can only guess he is relating this to the issue of abortion, I wonder how he can justify loosening these so-called shackles against the Commandment, “Thou Shall Not Kill.” It is a slippery slope when intellectualism tries to rationalize God’s words. The University has chosen to satisfy embracing diversity at the expense of upholding the sanctity of life.

    He went on to say later that students are prepared to graduate “intellectually minded and ethically accountable.” I think it is sad, unwise and irresponsible that those who hired Dr. Crabtree are the same role models young students refer to when being taught “ethical accountability”.

    In today’s world that screams and demands diversity and tolerance, we have lost sight of what it means to defend Catholic doctrine. No dean, president or administrator will go this route because it will cause some uproar they don’t want to defend. Hello! This is a private school. A Catholic, private school.

    I pray and look forward to the day when a Catholic University President remembers the fundamental reason of our Catholic faith is rooted in the Eucharist. Christ gave his life for us to live. To support the new Business Dean, who is pro-choice, denies Christ’s gift of the Eucharist to the innocent aborted children. It is a denial of Jesus’ gift.

    During this Easter season, I pray for leaders at LMU to receive wisdom and the grace to change their decision.

  11. Atheists believe that God is the creation of the Imagination of man..Jesuits teach the 7 proofs for the existence of God…Atheists believe that Prayer is talking to the air, and call it Voodoo…Jesuits teach about Prayers of Petition, Prayers of Adoration and Prayers of Thanksgiving.. Atheists teach that the words of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are a pack of lies. Their most recent qrtrly says”that Jesus rose from the dead after 3 days is a lie”. NOW, Pres. Burcham puts an Atheist in charge of Theology Dept, Catholic Studies, Etc. Is there a disconnect here? Or is this The Burcham Agenda for the future of LMU??? I think we need a strong, experienced, University leader who understands and believes, and follows Catholic teaching….The Board of Trustees need to start looking now.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s