….I would like to reflect on two Christian universities that have responded very differently to the challenges of our day: Franciscan University of Steubenville and Azusa Pacific University. I studied at FUS years ago, then regularly taught summer courses and worked for their summer conferences. I also taught full time in the Honors College at APU from 2018 to 2021.
Franciscan University is Catholic. Its motto is “Academically Excellent—Passionately Catholic.” Azusa Pacific is Evangelical. Its motto is “God First since 1899.”
While both universities pride themselves on their Christian identity, in reality they do Christianity very differently.
FUS is committed to the teachings of Christianity as transmitted in Scripture and Christian Tradition. And it does this very well. Franciscan radiates a vibrant Catholic life through its solid academic curriculum, intellectually rigorous and faith-filled learning environment, and dynamic spiritual life. My two years as a graduate student there were among the most formative years of my life.
My experience at APU was very different. I quickly discovered that APU’s commitment to Christian tradition is tenuous at best. Certainly, there are many at APU who love Jesus. And APU does many things well. It is generally a friendly place. Some of its departments are very good. Its Honors College offers an excellent Great Books curriculum. Unfortunately, what APU does not do well at all is Christianity. Although it markets itself as a “premier Christian university,” it is on track to become, rather, a “premier woke university,” significantly more invested in leftist identity politics than in the biblical faith. As Gerald McDermott wrote, Christian parents can no longer assume that evangelical colleges are free from secular ideologies such as critical race theory. APU is a case in point.
I will always remember my first tour of Franciscan University’s campus. The student who guided our group of incoming students matter-of-factly spoke about how Franciscan sought to serve our ultimate calling as Christians—to become saints. That first impression was consistently confirmed in my experience there.
I rarely, if ever, heard that kind of language at APU. There, the conversation was dominated by the ubiquitous themes of diversity and social justice, deployed against the perceived evils of racism and white privilege that allegedly plague American society.
One of my first impressions at APU was telling: outside of my first, temporary office, flyers advertised “the first transgender suicide hotline in the U.S.,” “staffed entirely by transgender people, to serve transgender people.” In other words, gender-confused students struggling with despair could seek help from other gender-confused people. So much for promoting a Christian anthropology at a Christian college. Walking by those flyers every day reminded me that I had come to a very different kind of Christian university.
Soon after my arrival, APU was enmeshed in an LGBTQ controversy. The administration lifted a ban on same-sex relationships, then flip-flopped and reinstated it. This prompted a protest (or, as they called it, a “prayer gathering”) on the part of pro-LGBTQ students, faculty, and staff. Few things speak of apostasy like Christians at a Christian university “praying” in support of grave sins in defiance of God’s law. The administration was either unable or unwilling to take a firm stand on the matter, and the controversy fizzled out without any resolution. Shortly thereafter, two APU trustees resigned, citing the institution’s “drift” from Christian principles.
Franciscan’s approach to academics exemplifies the successful marriage of faith and reason that characterizes authentic Christian learning. Credo ut intelligam, said St. Anselm—“I believe in order to understand.” For the Christian, the journey to understanding begins with the obedience of faith, taught through kerygmatic catechesis, which “echoes down” the faith received from Christ and the apostles. In the classroom, this means that while vigorous discussions are welcomed on any topic, there remains a respect for the teachings of Christianity as conveyed by the teacher. It is neither the role of the student nor of the teacher to reinvent the faith.
At APU, the Honors classes I taught were conducted in “colloquy” format using the Socratic method. While Socratic dialogue is a proven pedagogical tool that fosters learning through student participation, some take advantage of it to turn the classroom into a forum for aimless conversation where every opinion must be validated or celebrated. An echo chamber classroom is, of course, diametrically opposed to the “echoing down” of catechesis. Once students come to believe that learning consists in venting off their opinions, they become resistant to instruction and offended when their worldview is challenged by the hard truths of the Christian faith.
Most of my students at APU were wonderful, bright young men and women, eager to grow in their faith and knowledge of truth. But there were some exceptions—a handful of entitled “woke” Christians, eager to reshape Christianity into their own image and likeness by bringing their “new and improved” version of it to the world—especially regarding moral questions.
Franciscan does not shy away from the challenging issue of sexual ethics. In a world awash in sexual promiscuity, shattered families, and gender confusion, Franciscan understands that it cannot remain silent on the beautiful biblical vision for marriage and sexuality. Even if the call to sexual purity is difficult, the solution is not to lower the bar and compromise on the truths of God’s word. In its teachings and pastoral ministry, Franciscan echoes both Christ’s high moral standard and his merciful attitude vis-à-vis human sin: “neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more”—the classic “love the sinner, hate the sin.”
APU approaches sexual ethics very differently. Although the university professes a reasonably orthodox statement on human sexuality, the topic is largely avoided—with not a few faculty and students giving a nod to liberal positions on topics such as abortion, homosexuality, and gender identity.
Naively, I decided to tackle the topic in my senior classes. In one instance, a mini-mutiny erupted when students rebelled against the idea that gender is not a matter of personal preference, or that marriage consists in the union of a man and a woman. One male student “came out” as a “gay Christian” during his final class presentation. One female student twisted Proverbs 31—the beautiful poem exalting the virtues of the devoted wife and mother—into a manifesto for feminism.
Another girl lectured the class on “phallogocentrism”—a post-modern theory holding that the construction of meaning derives from male privilege. Yet another female student wrote a paper about being “Christ-like” without referring to the Gospels. As a result, her understanding of “Christ-likeness,” oddly enough, reflected liberal feminist ideology more than the biblical portrait of Jesus. Navigating through this kind of dynamic turned teaching into an exercise of walking on eggshells….
The above comes from a March 21 story by Andre Villeneuve in Crisis magazine.
T is the new G
It is silly to compare an orthodox Catholic university in Ohio with an evangelical Christian university in California.
I do think publishing his experience there will be helpful to evangelicals who might be considering going there.
Well, evangelicals they are outside the true faith so who care what they are doing. It is not real.
This is sad to read, but not altogether surprising. Evangelicalism lacks a firm philosophical grounding in the Natural Law and for this reason students can reshape their faith according to their desires if they are so motivated to do so. The cultural currents are so strong in favor of LGBTQ++ that it is no surprise that many students are indeed profoundly motivated to do so. The only bulwark Evangelicals have against the infection of anti-Christian thought is the Scriptures themselves; but it is easy to re-interpret them in the effort to re-interpret Christianity. We Catholics have a 2000 year tradition of philosophy/theology which has been the foundation for schools like FUS; however, lest we get on a high horse, this foundation has been inadequate to prevent the demise of Catholic fidelity at many Catholic universities. So in both cases it comes down to a choice between woke-ism and Christianity, with the powerful secular establishments already declared for the former.
I think they way he portrays FUS is glamorized.
FUS is on the poop list because of their irresponsibility in dealing with a priest who abused someone for 3 years.
I grew up long before the Vatican II era, in a time of religious fidelity, intellectual rigor, and moral truth. Kids were watched over and had to meet high standards, and obey their parents, the school, the Church, and society. Kids grew up to be adults, not smart-aleck, rebellious, “know-it-all,” “forever-kid” liberal leftist activists and social misfits, with very poor religious training and practice,
no morals, no manners, and very inadequate intellectual training– with a very substandard foundation for life. I believe that those in charge of either our Church’s educational institutions or any of the Protestant educational institutions, have a huge responsibility to God to fulfill. Many have failed tragically in their responsibilities. Our Church as well as Protestant churches, and our society, have all paid a terrible price as a result, with very poor leadership for the future.
FUS alumni are upset because a woman convicted of sexual battery of a 15 year old has just been hired by FUS.
The protested new hire’s dad is a married father of 5 who was ordained a priest in Steubenville (and he was not an Anglican priest previously-but he was a Pentecostal preacher before he became Catholic.)
You can’t make this stuff up.
According to this young woman (see her LinkedIn page), she was hired in December as a part-time Spanish transcriber. Shouldn’t a 22 or 23 year old on probation and doing community service be given some opportunity to earn some money to provide for herself? Justice, of course. But, is it too merciful to allow her to assist non-English speakers in their correspondence with a Catholic university?
She pled guilty to having sex with a teen student while driving back from an out of town track meet (she was a high school track coach and Spanish teacher). Her attorney spoke on behalf of his client and noted she “graduated from college and got her license as a teacher at 21, very young and obviously pretty advanced basis to do that; maybe not so much on a social behavior axis as far as maturity is concerned. She now is an ex-teacher and that is going to be permanent, courtesy of the state department of education, appropriately because of this conviction, which I consider to be a significant sanction that they have imposed,” he said, according to the Steubenville Herald-Star (7/16/21). Her attorney said she has been in counseling and plans to continue doing so. The Harrison County Prosecutor’s Office said she will complete a program at Eastern Ohio Correction Center.The judge sentenced her to two years of probation, 80 hours of community service, and a reserved 2½-year prison sentence. She must also have no contact with the victim in the case. As a result of the conviction, she must register as a Tier III sex offender for the rest of her life.
Might the punishment she is receiving be sufficient for her crime?
Might she and her family (as well as the victim and family) be suffering enough?
Or, because of this one-time grave sin and crime, do you think she must be branded by the Church (as well as civil society) as a “sex offender” for the rest of her life?
And, how should her parents be punished for their adult daughter’s crime? (Both our society and our Church don’t do that.)
We should consider how Jesus dealt with the woman caught in adultery and the Samaritan woman at the well.
Would any of us want to be permanently and publicly identified with our past sins, even if only a one-time grave moral failure?
The state of Ohio, appropriately, so identifies her. Especially during Lent as we reflect upon our own sins and God’s mercy, might the Church be permitted to be a little more merciful than the criminal justice system of Harrison County?
There should be the possibility of life (and earning a living) after repentance and experiencing the sentencing of the criminal justice system.
There is the point you make, of God’s mercy. But there is also the fact of responsibility to young Catholic students, and their parents, paying huge amounts, for a good Catholic education. Too many priests and laymen with questionable backgrounds, or even very serious previous criminal convictions such as serious sex crimes, have been readily employed in Catholic and secular positions of all types, working with people of all ages. Today’s Church and society are known to be very unreliable and negligent, morally, with poor standards. I would not send a son or daughter to an expensive Catholic school, hoping for an excellent Catholic education and religious training and formation, at a school that was too negligent in whom it hired for any position at all. Best for such an employee to not be hired to work at any Catholic or secular educational or related institution, for the rest of her life, for the safety of the public. How about work in community service, watched over carefully, such as cooking and serving food for the homeless, in a soup kitchen? With pairs of eyes always watching? She could also use her Spanish that way.
It is neither justice not mercy.
It is just plain corruption.
I think the Biblical story of the “woman caught in adultery” may have been a case in which the woman committed a sin, but in a situation that was not criminal. A criminal sex offender, is a very serious case. The two situations cannot possibly be compared.
Under Old Testament law both the man and woman caught in adultery were to be stoned. The authorities had to have known who the man was since the two were caught in the act, but they let the man off and brought the woman only to Jesus. He saw through their hypocrisy and acted accordingly. He warned the woman, though, not to do it again or something worse would happen to her.
Let that be a lesson to all of us. God does allow people to suffer the consequences of their own actions if they keep it up.
Spanish speaking Catholic families deserve a very good contact to help them a fine Catholic university, with good moral character, who is normal, very responsible, and a good, dependable, excellent Catholic employee. If I were an immigrant and a Spanish-speaker, I would not want my Catholic family and kids to be corresponding or speaking with a convicted sex criminal. Period. Plus– a Catholic education is very expensive! Be careful, your kids are precious!
My comment of Mar. 23 at 5:06pm, has a couple of typos! It should read– “Spanish-speaking Catholic families deserve a very good contact to help them, at a fine Catholic university…”
This kind of gaslighting was used on me when I was trying to tell a person who worked for the Church that another person was doing things they shouldn’t do with money. Oh boy did I get judged. I was the bad person and the bad Christian and the bad Catholic. I wasn’t merciful. I was judging. I would tell this person things were that were going on and they would just say something so dumb that I thought they were too stupid to get it.
When the rubber hit the road, guess what? That person was a part of it.
I guess I was stupid but I am wiser now.
Update: Her linkedin is gone.
There is a post on social media saying that she lied on her linkedin and is not employed by FUS.
I do not know which is true.
I don’t know if it’s true or not, but below is what’s on her LinkedIn page this morning:
Franciscan University of Steubenville · Part-time Franciscan University of Steubenville · Part-time
Dec 2021 – Present · 4 mos Dec 2021 – Present · 4 mos
Steubenville, Ohio, United States Steubenville, Ohio, United States
The Catechetical Institute (CI) is a non-profit, educational branch of Franciscan University of Steubenville. The work for this service opportunity includes closed-caption editing to keep the CI’s video workshops ADA compliant for the deaf and hard of hearing. This service position is in the CI’s Spanish department and requires a fluent Spanish speaker.
Her linkedin is back.
I don’t fault the girl for taking a job that is offered to her.
Her father works at FUS.
The onus is on the university and it is on top of so much other stuff.
If they didn’t have such a bad history with not reporting things and with blaming the victims who report incidences, you might think it was just a lapse of judgement based on trying to be nice and merciful.
But that is not Franciscan’s pattern.
Gone again. Moving on.
A narcissist will make the defense that they are more noble, more Christian for doing wrong than if they had done right.
Here are our future enemies
Regarding FUS hiring shady people. A former student told me that there was a theology teacher who would wait until the hotties in his class turned in their final exams, at which point he would ask them out. He would also bring an overnight pack when he arrived at their homes, as if he was expecting to spend the night.
FUS is as corrupt as the rest of the church.
Then there was business teacher. He didn’t wait for final exams.
If you are sending a girl to that school, make sure she knows how to not get herself into uncomfortable situations.
The two things I didn’t like about Franciscan (before all this other stuff came out) was that they could have alcohol in their dorm rooms and members of the opposite sex were allowed in their dorm rooms. I think all the dorms are still single sex.
The story that the picture is from. The rally was in 2018.