Maguire on O’Brien disinvite: “[T]he worst decision made at Marquette in decades”

The heterodox Catholic theologian tenured at Marquette Dan Maguire has made public his letter to Fr. Wild on the O’Brien case. Maguire condemned Wild’s decision, called upon him to publically take account for it, and have his pro tem successor (Wild is retiring from the presidency after this academic year) reinvite O’Brien. Via GoogleDocs:

May 8, 2010
To: Robert Wild, S.J., President, Marquette University
      John Pauly, Provost, Marquette University             
When I came to Marquette 40 years ago I was told Marquette supported academic freedom.  I believe that and acted on that assurance and was tenured and promoted to the highest rank.  That is the Marquette I know.  That is the Marquette I respect, and that is the Marquette I have just seen demeaned and betrayed.
The decision by a handful of administrators  to break the oral contract with Dr. O’Brien  a decision that broke all the canons of collegiality, was the worst decision made at Marquette in decades.  In one act you managed to insult Dr. O’Brien, the Marquette faculty and student body, and the Jesuit Seattle University.  You based your decision on an interpretation of what was or what was not compatible with Catholic teaching.  However, you did not consult the faculty experts on Catholic moral teaching on this campus.  The Theology Department is one of the major theologates in North America, just a few yards away from your offices. You ignored them as you also ignored teachers of ethics in the Philosophy department and professors in Sociology, Dr. O’Brien’s field.. 
Much of the damage you caused is beyond repair and will hover over this university for years….. but not all of it. Confession of sins and reparation are central to Catholic spirituality.

A Lesson from History

A similar breach of contract occurred in 1999 when Fr. Charles Curran was invited to give the annual Pere Marquette Lecture.  When the then chair of the Theology Department learned that the invitation had been made and accepted, he contacted Dr. Curran and withdrew the invitation because of Fr. Curran’s liberal views.  The Theology Department, led by Michael Fahey, S.J., protested vigorously and Fr. Curran was re-invited.  He was gracious enough to accept.


As to the disastrous disinvitation of Dr. O’Brien: all blame may not reside with the president of Marquette, but the “buck stops” on your desk, Fr. Wild..  You should shoulder all the blame and make your already given notice of resignation effective immediately.  Your pro tem successor should then re-invite Dr. Jodi O’Brien to be Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
If she accepts, and it would be a supreme act of generosity for her to do so,  I can guarantee this: Dr. Jodi O’Brien will be the most warmly received dean in the history of this great university.
Professor Daniel C. Maguire
Theology Department

Of course, this is a hell of a bigger deal than just rescinding an invitation to a keynote. O’Brien was invited two times to apply for a job. She’d get that job, and was so ready to take it she was looking at houses in Milwaukee. She was sure Marquette, like her own Jesuit Seattle University, would stand by her as an administrator and a human being, rather than as a walking offense to the strictures of premodern “natural law.”

But they didn’t.

Even if Marquette were to offer her the job again, I would hope O’Brien wouldn’t take it. Some anonymous but apparently crucial donors are hostile to her, and the administration has proved itself willing to cave to them. Wild might be leaving, but Pauly isn’t, neither is most of the bureaucracy that made this decision. MU might not be outright homophobic, but it is willing to placate homophobes if the Mammon lines up.


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