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Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, March 27, 2007

Marquette University Professor's Work Stirs Doctrine Debate

Catholic groups decry his defense of abortion, gay rights


The controversy surrounding Marquette theology professor Daniel Maguire mounted Tuesday over his circulation of pamphlets defending abortion and same-sex marriage.

A national Catholic organization lashed out at Marquette for allowing Maguire to teach, while the professor complained that the university had failed to adequately defend him against attacks by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

It began last summer, when the former priest and 35-year veteran of Marquette University wrote U.S. bishops to tell them that he was circulating the pamphlets because he believed people should be exposed to Catholic views in support of contraception and homosexuality.

Maguire, who sent the pamphlets to state legislators, members of Congress and others, told the bishops they were wrong to present the pope's positions on these and other issues as infallible. He also said that the views of Catholic believers and theologians were just as valid.

It wasn't the first time Maguire, who is tenured, had shown his liberal views. In 2001, he wrote a controversial article explaining why he would not comply with a Vatican mandate that theologians at Catholic schools get certified by their local bishops.

But this move struck a particular nerve with the leadership of the Catholic Church.

Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan sent Maguire a letter lambasting him for the pamphlets. In August, he scolded him publicly in a column in the Catholic Herald, writing, "Because of the response generated among shocked and thoughtful people in the archdiocese, I feel obliged to exercise my teaching responsibilities and say such positions are blatantly erroneous and contrary to the clear teaching of the church."

Last week, the bishops themselves weighed in. A committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a "public correction" to the pamphlets, saying Maguire's views were "contrary to the Church's faith" and "cross the line of theological reflection and simply enter into the area of false teaching."

Marquette's response was to criticize Maguire but defend his right to teach.

The university issued a statement saying it agreed that Maguire's views "do not represent the teachings of the Catholic Church," but noting that as "a tenured professor, he also has rights related to his academic discipline."

The Cardinal Newman Society, a Virginia-based organization that works to enforce what it sees as the appropriate identity of Catholic universities, sent Marquette President Robert Wild a letter Tuesday complaining about Maguire's pamphlets and questioning his place in the classroom.

In the letter, the group suggested that Marquette transfer Maguire out of the theology department or assign him a faculty title that would clearly identify him as a non-Catholic. It called on the university to condemn Maguire's views and affirm the university's intent to "preserve the integrity of Catholic theology in all future hiring and advancement decisions."

Maguire also complained to Wild on Tuesday, saying in a letter that Marquette's public statement was an insulting attack on his credentials. He said administrators were not in a position to speak on Catholic doctrine in the name of the university.

"Who is this 'Marquette University' that is making a public theological judgment on my teachings?"

Marquette spokeswoman Brigid O'Brien Miller said she was unable to respond to Maguire's letter because Wild was out of town. She said the university's statement did not call into question Maguire's credentials.

"In fact," O'Brien Miller said, "it specifically defended his rights to express his views."

Maguire vowed to continue pushing those views.

"I've always felt that candor was the better part of valor," he said. "The bishops are saying they are the only authentic teachers in the church and that all theologians are subordinate to them. But most bishops could not pass a graduate exam in theology."

ON THE WEB To see Dan Maguire's writings on abortion, contraception and same-sex marriage, go to To read the Cardinal Newman Society's letter to Marquette University President Robert Wild, go to To see the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' letter about Maguire, go to

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