BC Theology Prof. Did Not Speak at Madonna University After Conservative Criticism

A lecture planned for last week at Madonna University by Boston College theology professor M. Shawn Copeland was cancelled Sept. 18 “due to some messages in the media that misconstrued the content of Copeland’s lecture,” according to a Facebook post from the university. The event, which was to occur on Sept. 20, was a social justice lecture hosted by Madonna’s Center for Catholic Studies and Interfaith Dialogue.

Copeland, a Madonna University alumna, declined to comment. The planned lecture was titled “A New Vision for the Church: Pope Francis’ Agenda for Social Justice.”

A right-wing group called Church Militant published an article on Sept. 15, written by Bradley Eli, saying that Copeland supports LGBTQ+ individuals and wants the church to change its stance on homosexuality. They derive this opinion from Copeland’s book Enfleshing Freedom, which argues that Jesus stands in solidarity with the community. In particular, Church Militant targeted this passage by Copeland:

“On Easter, God made Jesus queer in His solidarity with us. In other words, Jesus ‘came out of the closet’ and became the ‘queer’ Christ,” Copeland wrote in the book. “… Jesus is queer by his solidarity with queers.”

The group strongly opposes the acceptance and inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community in any aspect of religious life. Eli argues in the article that the Felician Sisters of Madonna University have strayed far from Catholic teachings by including pro-LGBTQ+ speakers and organizations into community life. Copeland and the school reached a mutual decision to cancel the lecture, according to Global Sisters Report, a National Catholic Reporter-affiliated project.

“These kinds of attacks are not new but their influence has been dramatically magnified as they [are] taking advantage of social media,” Richard Gaillardetz, the chair of BC’s theology department, said in an email.

According to Gaillardetz, groups like Church Militant, which claim to preach the word of God, have a very narrow understanding of it. Although they claim their loyalty to the Catholic Church, Gaillardetz said, these groups infringe upon its authority by claiming that they are the chief interpreters of the faith.

“It is always important, however, for a Catholic institution of higher education to support its faculty and recognize the distinctive role of the Catholic university as a place where important issues are debated vigorously yet respectfully by people of differing views,” Gaillardetz said.

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