We faculty and staff at Santa Clara University received a letter last week, in the mail. The only real “letter” I can think of from the president of the university. In the letter, President Engh informs us that he has decided that the “Catholic” identity of the university means the university will no longer have health insurance for employees cover elective abortions (I put in quotes because for Catholics in the church hierarchy, i.e. priests and bishops, it is clear what Catholic identity is because the Pope tells them, while for the rest of us that identity seems to ebb and flow).
The president in the letter calls for a “conversation” to “broaden hearts” and announces several fora for this conversation. To which a huge chunk of faculty have replied, “huh?” You announce a decision and then want to “listen”? Albert Hirschman long about wrote about exit, voice and loyalty. When you scoff at voice, you better not expect loyalty, and should anticipate exit. Not a great day for our president.
As a development economist, of course I cannot help but point out the giant elephant in the moral reasoning room (which is why their “Catholic” identity differs from what I think a Catholic identity should be…) is the simple FACT of the world, which is that concern for the well-being of the very young… means you should be doing a lot more overseas in South Asia and Africa, and worrying a lot less about abortion in Silicon Valley. I would have preferred a letter about that, but somehow don’t see our president ever making that move. That would indeed be too “risky” to use the word the president thinks characterizes some small deviation from Vatican official stance on abortion.