Dear Commons Community,
Fifty leading Roman Catholics in higher education have signed a letter protesting a $1-million donation that will enable the Catholic University of America’s School of Business and Economics to hire four visiting scholars to do research on “principled entrepreneurship,” The Washington Post reported.
“The letter says the gift sends “a confusing message” because the donor—the Koch Foundation, which is affiliated with the brothers Charles and David Koch—is known for its support of conservative and libertarian causes, and so offers a “stark contrast” with the church’s “traditional social-justice teachings.” The letter cites a recent message from Pope Francis in which he criticizes ideologies that “defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace.”
In response the university issued a statement on Monday declaring the letter’s signers as “presumptuous on two counts”—first by asserting a role as “arbiters of political correctness” and second by redefining Catholic teachings “to suit their own political preferences.”
Among the signers of the protest letter are Susan Ross, chairwoman of the theology department at Loyola University Chicago and a past president of the Catholic Theological Society of America; Miguel Diaz, former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican and a professor of faith and culture at the University of Dayton; and the Rev. Stephen Privett, president of the University of San Francisco.”
I side with the letter signers. It is disheartening that a venerable higher education institution such as Catholic University feels the necessity to accept gifts from the likes of the Koch Brothers. Administrators at Catholic University would also do well to revisit a similar situation/gift to Florida State University in 2011 that caused an uproar when the Koch Brothers insisted on having a substantial voice in the faculty hiring process.