Via the JSOnline:
Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki and the judicial vicar for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee separately raised red flags over Marquette’s hiring of a Seattle University professor as Arts and Sciences dean.
Listecki called Marquette President Father Robert A. Wild about the university’s offer to Jodi O’Brien after receiving calls from clergy and lay leaders, the archbishop’s spokeswoman said.
Also expressing concerns about O’Brien’s appointment was Father Paul Hartmann, the archdiocese’s judicial vicar. Hartmann sent a March 3 letter to the chair of the search committee that said the gender studies professor “pursues subject matter that seems destined to actually create dichotomies and cause tensions (if not contradictions) with Marquette’s Catholic mission and identity.”
In the letter, obtained Tuesday by the Journal Sentinel, Hartmann referenced O’Brien but didn’t name her.
The comments from Listecki’s spokeswoman and Hartmann’s letter are the first public indications that archdiocese leaders raised concerns about O’Brien.
At a listening session with about 400 students Tuesday evening, Wild said the university’s decision to rescind the offer to O’Brien was “not about donor or outside influence,” but he added that “there is a variety of input from outside the university” on the hiring of high-level positions.
Pressed about the role of Listecki, if any, in the decision, Wild said the archbishop “can speak for himself.”
Also Tuesday, Wild told students that the next dean of the College of Arts and Sciences will be hired internally. He spoke in response to a student’s question about how much the search for a dean has cost the university and whether that would be reflected in tuition costs.
“As you can guess, it’s not been my best five days as president,” said Wild. “The level of anger has been intense.”
Hartmann’s letter came just as search committee members were recommending two of the three finalists for the position to Wild and Provost John J. Pauly. Hartmann wrote that he hoped a new dean would successfully meld faith and reason and strengthen ties between Marquette and the church.
“My greatest fear, as a priest, alum, and as president of a high school which sends dozens of new students to (Marquette) each fall, is that the important decision to be made in this moment will instead dichotomize university from Church and reason from faith,” Hartmann wrote.
Hartmann, who did not provide the letter to the Journal Sentinel, said he wrote of his concerns about all three of the finalists, in part because they lacked backgrounds in theology or philosophy.
“I was speaking from the position that this is an opportunity that should not be missed. . . . An opportunity for Marquette to continue to pursue a strong and clear Catholic identity,” said Hartmann, president of Waukesha Catholic Memorial High School and a canon lawyer who teaches part time at Marquette’s law school.
Marquette said last week that it rescinded its offer to O’Brien, a lesbian who has written extensively on issues of gender and sexual orientation, saying she was not a good fit with the university’s Catholic mission and identity.
Julie Wolf, the archbishop’s spokeswoman, said in an e-mail to the Journal Sentinel Tuesday night that Listecki “wasn’t sure his concerns (have) as much impact as those expressed directly to (Father) Wild by other constituents. Nonetheless, he is happy that (Father) Wild has a deep appreciation for the Catholic identity and mission of Marquette University.”
“He wasn’t sure if he would have any influence because, as you know, Marquette operates independently with its own board of regents,” Wolf said.
“But he felt bound to convey these concerns, just as he would feel bound to do with any Catholic institution in the archdiocese.”
Listecki said in a forum at the Milwaukee Press Club this spring that he supports academic freedom. However he was critical of Notre Dame’s decision to invite President Barack Obama as its commencement speaker last year, and has said that he would expect any Catholic institution to at least notify him before extending an invitation to someone whose positions are not in keeping with Catholic teaching.
While Marquette and the archdiocese acknowledged for the first time on Tuesday that Wild and Listecki talked about O’Brien’s appointment, Marquette spokeswoman Mary Pat Pfeil emphasized in an e-mail Tuesday that the decisions regarding the appointment were made only by Marquette officials.