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By Peter O'Dwyer
"Teach me the truth." It was this simple yet demanding request that Mount St. Mary College in Newburgh, New York chose for its motto. Fifty years after its founding, its motto is now being put to the test after a "Vortex" episode prompted a personnel crisis.
It all began with an automated tweet in 2013 that read: "Acabo de Ver 'Muslims and Jews'" — in English, "I just saw 'Muslims and Jews,'" referring to the title of the "Vortex" episode linked in the tweet. The tweet had been published by Mount St. Mary trustee Andrew Bournos.
The episode states belief in the trinitarian God requires supernatural faith, and that non-trinitarian religions — including Islam and Judaism — require only natural faith to believe in their God. Voris also asserted Catholic dogma stating that the Catholic Church is the true religion.
Apparently, a co-worker felt compelled to scroll through two years of Mr. Bournos' old tweets — and hit on what he deemed controversial enough to report to the administration and coworkers. While the motives are unclear, the tactic worke, and liberal professors began to clamor for Mr. Bournos' dismissal. Despite backing from both the college president and the chairman of the board, Mr. Bournos stepped down last week.
The case is interesting because the "Vortex" in question did nothing but restate the Church's teachings, something that a Catholic school whose mission statement includes the following should find uncontroversial:
Mount Saint Mary College is an institution of higher education guided by the Catholic and Dominican traditions of academic rigor, pursuit of truth, social justice, leadership and service. The College Bylaws indicate that Mount Saint Mary College "aims to give its students a Catholic cultural-professional education in the liberal arts tradition."
Even if that isn't true, the mission statement also claims that the school tries to graduate students that are "inquisitive and value the free exchange of ideas in pursuit of truth."
What we have is a school at war with itself, its administration upholding traditional values while the faculty promote and enforce dissent. It remains yet to be seen which side will prevail. This is only a microcosm of what is happening in Catholic academia across the country, and the outcome here could have ripple effects throughout the entire landscape of Catholic higher education.
Watch the full show: "The Download—Teaching the Truth."