BOSTON (AP) — A conservative Roman Catholic watchdog group wants 18 academics barred from Catholic school campuses for supporting abortion rights or siding against Terri Schiavo's parents, who fought unsuccessfully to have her feeding tube reinserted.
The Cardinal Newman Society accused the academics of perpetuating a "culture of death," and said in a fund-raising appeal that administrators at Boston College, Georgetown University and elsewhere should be warned their school risks being "stripped of its Catholic identity by the bishop who has authority over that college."
The eight-page letter was sent to 75,000 people in two mailings split between April and last month. Critics have called the letter a threat to academic freedom.
The Virginia-based group lobbies Catholic schools to remain faithful to church teachings.
Boston College issued a statement declaring it is "firmly committed to its Jesuit, Catholic mission and heritage" and "openly engages issues of the day, especially those concerning faith and culture." It added: "The publicity-seeking rhetoric and unfounded accusations of the Cardinal Newman Society are a disservice to Catholic colleges and universities and the church that they proudly serve."
Catholics have debated for years how best to retain the religious identity of their more than 200 colleges and universities in the United States.
Under Pope John Paul II, U.S. bishops were instructed in 2002 to obtain a "mandatum" or mandate from Catholic theologians, certifying that the instructors were teaching authentic Catholicism at the schools. However, the initiative lost steam as the clergy sex abuse crisis overtook the church. Conservatives have complained the Vatican requirement was never enforced.