From an outsider’s perspective, Providence College seems caught between wanting to be two very different things. On the one side, PC wishes to be an academic institution dedicated to free and open inquiry, pursuing the truth where ever the search may lead. On the other hand, it sometimes seems that there are those who wish this Catholic institution of higher learning to be a defender of the Catholic faith, promoting theology as science with an eye towards influencing public policy.
Back in October, PC came under criticism for canceling a talk by Wayne State University philosopher John Corvino because his lecture, in support of marriage equality, would be “in defiance” of PC’s “fundamental moral principles.” I took some hits from the conservative Catholic right for my position, but the controversy was all but settled when Providence College’s Faculty Senate passed a resolution, by an overwhelming majority, taking Provost Hugh Lena to task for canceling Corvino’s talk.
In seems that Providence College, for the most part, is more interested in being a free and open academic institution than in simply being a forum for Catholic apologetics.
Dr. Matthew Cuddeback, sponsor of the controversial “Who Am I?” talk by Dr. Michelle Cretella, has announced the postponement of the event due to concern that “Dr. Cretella may be the object of animus were she to present at PC next week.” Dr. Cuddeback alleges inconsistency in campus support for academic freedom.
Cretella has long been an opponent of marriage equality and LGBTQ rights, often injecting her ideas and opinions into our state’s ongoing discussion over these issues. In 2008 she, along with Bishop Thomas Tobin, joined the board of NOM-RI, the group that led the fight against marriage equality in Rhode Island.
Cretella is on the board of the National Association for Research of Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) an organization that claims homosexuality is a mental disorder that can be cured. She is also Vice president of the American College of Pediatrics, “a socially conservative organization that formed in 2002 as part of a protest regarding the American Academy of Pediatrics support of adoption by gay and lesbian couples.”
As Megan Grammatico notes, “Dr. Cretella is… biased. She is the vice president of an organization that was formed originally to oppose adoption by gay and lesbian couples, and relies on bad science to do so. See the heavily criticized research of Mark Regnerus here.” Grammatico’s piece does an excellent job running down why Cretella’s positions and views put her far outside the definition of scientist, and should be read in full.
Apparently a level headed and on point critique of Cretella’s credentials and scientific honesty has caused Matthew Cuddeback to conclude that his invited speaker “may be the object of animus were she to present at PC next week” and so he cancelled the event, but not before playing the victim card:
I am struck that many of the indignant voices raised for academic freedom in the wake of the cancellation of Dr. Corvino’s talk have been absent or ambivalent in the discussion of Dr. Cretella’s talk. Where are those voices now? Some have been silent. Some are harrumphing about NARTH, science, and reparative therapy. Some, who proposed to advocate for a campus-wide discussion that would include all perspectives, are trying to shame faculty who invite a speaker holding one of those perspectives, as irresponsibly insensitive to LGBT students. Do they believe that the freedom to speak belongs only to those who agree with their position?
It is hard to believe that Cuddeback isn’t being knowingly disingenuous here. His line about critics “harrumphing about NARTH, science, and reparative therapy” indicates the value he places on fidelity to good science and honest discussion. John Corvino and Michelle Cretella could not be more different as academic speakers. Whereas Corvino uses peer reviewed research and cogent argument to make his points, Cretella misuses good research and presents discredited studies as fact to spread her theologically biased beliefs. Cretella associates with NOM, an anti-LGBTQ hate group.
In short, Cretella does not deserve academic support because she does not do academic work.
Matthew Cuddeback, who invited Cretella to speak, is no stranger to disingenuous arguments. His testimony at the Rhode Island State Senate marriage equality hearing in 2013 was a pointless, confused and almost incoherent ramble about biological and “psychosexual complimentarianism.” You can watch it here: