Friday, October 28, 2011

Choosing to debate, or not

So i’m at a research conference right now, and it’s being hosted this year by Georgetown University. Georgetown University is a Roman Catholic university (specifically, a Jesuit one).

So while i was wandering around campus i saw tables set up by some student groups, and one of them was by Hoyas* for Choice. This is, as you might expect from the name, a group of Georgetown University students who favor the continued legality of abortion.** Of course, this goes against Roman Catholic dogma, which is firmly and completely against abortion under any circumstances. (Oh—and they were giving out free condoms, another practice against Roman Catholic dogma.)

This got me thinking that i can’t imagine the administration at Brigham Young University accepting the existence of a “Cougars for Choice” group, and particularly not tolerating such a group having a table on campus, or giving out free condoms. I’ve heard some Mormons say that this is a good thing, and a sign that Brigham Young University is something approaching perfection in higher education, because dissent from religious orthodoxy and orthopraxy simply doesn’t happen there.

It leads me to wonder whether such a lack of debate is actually healthy, though. I mean, how does someone really learn to defend (or even argue for) their religious perspective if they’re sheltered from alternative points of view? Relatedly, i know that there’s a diversity of opinions on a lot of really intense issues among Mormons—but does it actually serve us well to reinforce the idea held by a lot of non-Mormons that we’re a bunch of groupthink types, when we’re actually not?


* Georgetown’s sports teams and students are called Hoyas. No, it doesn’t make any sense to me either.

** And any comments on this post that even begin to hint at arguing about abortion rather than the main topic i’m getting at here will be summarily deleted—i find abortion flamewars tiresome.

*** That is, discuss while keeping footnote ** in mind.


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Mallory Nuzman said...

I think that BYU doesn't and probably wouldn't support a Cougars for Choice group because it's one of the many faces of the church. Not that being pro choice or pro life is bad. It's just that in that setting, you would probably have many people saying things contrary to the standpoint of the church. It's easier to say no to the entire thing than to say, "you can't publicize this (or that) if it's from Cougars for Choice. If it was made public under that title then people would think that BYU supports that position (whatever that position actually would be).

David B said...

@Mallory: Right, i get that. Of course, the existence of a Hoyas for Choice doesn’t mean that the Roman Catholic church supports abortion, and nobody thinks that—so why would people think that a Cougars for Choice group means that the Mormon church supports abortion?

It’s a weird kind of thing, you know? I don’t fully get everything that’s going on, i’m thinking—there’s some sort of reading of attitudes that’s different in the two cases, and i can’t figure out where it’s based.

Of course, i also realize that Georgetown is a Jesuit university, and the Jesuits haven’t always seen eye to eye with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Would a Cardinals for Choice group at Catholic University of America would be as unthinkable as a Cougars for Choice at Brigham Young University? I know that CUA is pretty rigid in its anti-pro-choice stance, but does that extend to student groups? I can’t find any good information on that.

Michelle said...

I think the general public expects Catholics to ignore a lot of their church's policies on reproductive issues, from use of contraceptives to abortion. However, I would imagine that the general public would find it more controversial if a group of BYU students spoke out against their church's policies. So I think this is an interesting issue of not only how a church's membership views moral/social issues, but also how other people view that membership's adherence (or not) to opinions on those issues.

(Could I have used the word "issue" more in that sentence?)

Merrill said...

From Reader's Digest, November 2011, page 209:

Deep Roots
"The Georgetown Hoyas may be the most mysteriously named college team in the country. Over a century ago, a Georgetown student invented the cheer "Hoya Saxa!" from the Greek hoia for "such" or "what" and the Latin saxa for "rocks." The cheer simple meant "What rocks!" and was likely a reference to either the football team's defense of the baseball team, nicknamed the Stonewalls. But it caught on, and soon all the school's teams adopted the name."