Fordham to Host Infanticide-Promoting Peter Singer

Just days after Fordham University’s president Fr. Joseph McShane, S.J.  determined that conservative author Ann Coulter was too “hateful and needlessly provocative” to speak on campus, the University will tomorrow host the pro-infanticide ethicist Peter Singer to speak at a conference entitled “Conference with Peter Singer: Christians and Other Animals: Moving the Conversation Forward.”

For those unfamiliar with Singer, Joe Carter at First Things summed up Singer’s ethics this way:

Singer has spent a lifetime justifyi

ng the unjustifiable. He is the founding father of the animal liberation movement and advocates ending “the present speciesist bias against taking seriously the interests of nonhuman animals.” He is also a defender of killing the aged (if they have dementia), newborns (for almost any reason until they are two years old), necrophilia (assuming it’s consensual), and bestiality (also assuming it’s consensual).

Fordham: Sapientia et Doctrina?

Nevertheless, not only is the Jesuit university hosting the infanticide-supporting philosopher, but the description of the conference at Fordham Notes even goes so far as to call Singer “the most influential philosopher alive today”:

This panel, conducted with non-specialists in mind, will provoke Christians to think about other animals in new ways. Currently a very hot topic in academic theology and philosophy, concern for non-human animals is gaining traction in the broader culture, and our panel will try to connect academic and popular themes, in language that is accessible to a broad audience.

Peter Singer—in addition to being the most influential philosopher alive today—was the intellectual heft behind the beginning of the animal rights movement in the 1970s. David Clough is one of the leading voices in defense of animals in the contemporary Christian conversation, and Eric Meyer’s research has mined the Christian tradition in ways that turn the current debate about animals on its head.

Be assured, this is not a Peter Singer scandal. This is a Fordham scandal. The moderator of the event is Charles Camosy, a Fordham theologian. It’s interesting that Camosy would moderate as he’s defended Singer’s work in the past, even going so far as comparing Singer with Pope John Paul II. In a piece called Peter Singer Is Not the AntichristCamosy showed that he understood Singer’s position on issues but still found a comparison with the beloved Pope accurate.

Many Christians consider him (Singer) to be a leader of a “culture of death”, especially given his very public support of infanticide and euthanasia of the mentally disabled.  Many disability rights groups have come out strongly against his view. Singer has been essentially silenced in German-speaking areas, where (given their checkered past) they are especially unforgiving of those who advocate for euthanasia. The last few times he has spoken in these areas Singer has been shouted down so loudly that he could not deliver his presentation. One time a protester leapt onto the stage, forcibly removed Singer’s glasses, and stamped on them.

Much of the academy doesn’t like him either. Three years ago I explained to one of my favorite senior ethicists that I was writing a book on Singer and was even going to meet him for an (obviously) vegan lunch in Manhattan.  His reaction?  “Be careful, Charlie, you’re going to like him.” And yes, despite being a pro-life Christian ethicist, I have come to like Peter Singer. Since that lunch-meeting I have debated him twice in his courses at Princeton and he has presented in my graduate bioethics seminar at Fordham; he and I gave the opening papers at a conference at Oxford last year called Christian Ethics Engages Peter Singer; we organized and planned an international conference at Princeton designed to find new ways to think and speak about abortion; and we are currently working on planning an event that would challenge Christians to take non-human animals far more seriously than we currently do.  Through all of these experiences I have found Singer to be friendly and compassionate. He is willing to listen to an argument from almost anyone, and is unburdened by any sort of academic pretension is so doing. He is motivated by an admirable desire to respond to the suffering of human and non-human animals, and an equally admirable willingness to logically follow his arguments wherever they lead.

But this is all consistent with Christians still considering Singer our enemy. After all, he attacks many of the vulnerable populations Christians are called to defend.  He has criticized a Christian ethic as incoherent and dependent on pretense.  He claims that the West needs another “Copernican Revolution” to fully extricate ourselves from the stranglehold of Christianity.

But in my new book Peter Singer and Christian Ethics: Beyond Polarization, I show that the disagreements between us are remarkably narrow. Though Singer is pro-choice for infanticide, on all the numerous and complicated issues related to abortion but one (it turns out to be complex argument about the moral value of “active” potential vs. “passive” potential), Peter Singer sounds an awful lot like Pope John Paul II.

So, according to Camosy, this isn’t the first time Singer has spoken to Fordham students. To make matters worse, Camosy even quoted Pope Benedict XVI to support his collaborations with Singer.

In his recent encyclical Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict said that Christians should engage in “fraternal collaboration” with non-believers in the service of justice and peace in our world.  Let me make the counter-intuitive suggestion that Peter Singer is precisely the kind of collaborator with whom we should engage.

But what Pope Benedict proposed does not seem to suggest hosting an advocate of heinous acts on a Catholic campus for a conference seeming to celebrate his work. There is also something quite disturbing about Camosy inviting a dangerous provocateur into the classroom to prey on students who may be unprepared for such dialogue. Better to engage Singer’s ideas with careful and moderated analysis in the light of Truth, and never a hint of respect for what Singer espouses.

Also on the panel with Singer tomorrow will be R.R. Reno, editor of First Things and a theology professor at Creighton University.

Last week, Fr. McShane made national news with his public scolding of the college Republicans, saying he was “disappointed” by their “judgment and maturity” because of their invitation to conservative author Ann Coulter. He also said Coulter’s rhetoric was often “hateful and needlessly provocative,” leading to the students cancelling the event.

Camosy confirmed to The Cardinal Newman Society that the event was going on. We also contacted Fordham University’s administration this morning but have received only silence thus far.

This article was originally published for Campus Notes, the blog of The Cardinal Newman Society (CNS). Founded in 1993, the mission of The Cardinal Newman Society is to help renew and strengthen Catholic identity in Catholic higher education. They can be contacted at: alert at cardinalnewmansociety dot org.

Matthew Archbold

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Matthew Archbold is a contributing writer to Campus Notes and to National Catholic Register, as well as the co-founder of the popular website, Creative Minority Report.

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  • Anne

    this is disgusting and another fine example of lack of moral leadership and the failure of priests, bishops, and cardinals to do what the Catholic Church teaches. No wonder the church is floundering and 50% of so called “catholics” like Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Caroline Kennedy, Kathleen Sebelius, John Kerry and on and on think killing innocent babies is a good thing! I am ashamed of for them because they don’t have the moral integrity to be ashamed of themselves! God save His Church from these godless men!

  • Charles C. Greene Jr.

    When will Bishops and superiors of these priests finally have the guts to publicly state you are in the state of mortal sin, God is not a fool, merciful yes but also just. Fr. for a so called educated man you are an idiot or you have lost your faith. May God have mercy on your soul

  • http://www.facebook.com/jake.duncan.144 Jake Duncan

    Fordham University’s scandals are nothing new. Back in the mid-1970s, when I was in college, Fordham had a reputation for winning any and every sports event. The undercurrent that you never heard about, unless you were on a college team, was that Fordham’s coaches were in the habit of taking a forfeit by not showing up if they didn’t think they could win. This came from a former Fordham athlete who transferred to my school precisely because of this practice. He also told us that the so-called “Catholic” university had strayed so far from the true path that he decided he might as well go to a secular school.
    It’s a sad fact of life that the Jesuits were one of the earliest to go on the “dissident” path. I had a cousin who was a Jesuit; in the mid-1960s he came for a visit when my two younger brothers had their First Holy Communion. There was quite an argument between him and my grandmother over some point of doctrine that he insisted had been changed in Vatican II. I don’t remember what it was (I was only 12 at the time and not really paying attention), but I do remember that my father later explained to us the difference between the laws of God and the laws of the Church and that the former could not be changed, not even by a Pope, so that even if a priest were to tell us something had been changed, we were not to believe him. Unfortunately, as a result of that disagreement, my cousin completely cut off all contact with the family. We never heard from him again; he never answered any letters, or, later, e-mails that any member of the family sent to him. We kept tabs on him via periodic Internet searches, and it was in that way we learned of his death last year.
    As I constantly advocate, we all must continue to pray the Rosary daily for the Church are her clergy. That prayer has been responsible for the overcoming of nearly every heresy in history since the Church first received that prayer. And let’s be honest here; dissidence in matters of doctrine and dogma is exactly that: heresy.

  • Cyril

    Just goes to show how topsy-turvy our world has become.

  • D.

    Once again, our “new evangelization” is aborted on the altar of some pseudo-Catholic University. Who the heck is their bishop? Either start giving leadership or the laity need to begin bombarding the Church with complaints, etc. Our culture continues to starve while Bishops and Superiors ignore these idiots. Many Catholics have been run off our faith by such wishy-washy anti-Catholic leadership. Perhaps its just time to disenfranchise the Jesuits again. Lord knows they deserve it.

  • Peter Nyikos

    Back about twenty years ago, when Peter Singer was still at Monash University, there appeared a long article about him in The New York Review of Books. It gave details about Singer was shouted down in Germany, and it also quoted him at length justifying killing babies with major disabilities, specifically mentioning Baby Jane Doe.

    I wrote a letter to the editor, enclosing an article by Nat Hentoff, the long-time writer for The Village Voice, “What ever happened to Baby Jane Doe?” describing how she was doing quite well despite having had the handicaps that Singer talked about. I asked them to forward the article to Singer along with an offer of a debate in the form of an exchange of letters.

    Singer wrote back, briefly thanking me for the article without commenting on it, and declined the offer of a debate despite knowing that I was (and am) a Professor at the University of South Carolina. So I tend to be suspicious of Carmosy’s claim that Singer “is willing to listen to anybody”. I would like to know the details of that meeting — whether Carmosy ever tried to challenge Singer, and how vigorously. From the last paragraph quoted from Carmosy, it seems that Singer quite successfully pulled the wool over Carmosy’s eyes.

    I have seen a number of exchanges between pro-lifers and abortion rights advocates, and the pro-lifers all seem to be chosen so that they write politely at all times, weighing various pros and cons of outlawing abortion, and never dwelling on the true horrors of abortion, while the others use flagrantly fallacious arguments, never acknowledging genuine counter-arguments. A good example is the book Abortion Pro and Con [90% Pro, 10% Con]. If the meeting between Carmosy and Singer was anything like this, it is no wonder that Singer was so willing to listen
    to Carmosy.

  • Annamarie

    I find it ironic that Germany, of all places, is the one who stands up to the abortionists! After all that horror, they now have the courage to stomp on the true atrocity of the pro-abortion advocates. Perhaps Ann Coulter should learn to speak German so she would get invitations from friendly groups, whole her own country’s students act like the horses’ asses they are!

  • Peter Nyikos

    Did you know that abortion was illegal for many decades in Germany, just not punished? The concept makes no sense in a pragmatic society like the USA–why have a law against something if it isn’t punished? But it makes sense from another point of view: there is no right to have illegal activities subsidized, the way California and a number of other states pay for abortions.

    A completely off-topic comment: I lost track for two weeks of the discussion about same-sex marriage in Canada, and I found your reply to me a few minutes ago and replied to it.

    http://catholicexchange.com/same-sex-marriage-ten-years-on-lessons-from-canada/

    The gist is that we are not nearly as far apart on the subject of divorce as you may think. From what you recounted there, it seems you may have a good case for an annulment. My heart goes out to you.

  • Annamarie

    Peter, all I meant to imply was that I thought it ironic that Germany, of all places, would not allow a pro-abortion speaker to be heard, when a speaker who generally has little or nothing to say about about abortion, Ann Coulter, is shouted down and even has gross items thrown at her here in American, which has ensconced in its Constitution our freedom of speech! On the other hand, pro-abortion speakers like Pete Singer, are almost seculary canonized. I consider that whole thing weird.
    Thank you for the good words and thoughts about an annulment. Yes, I have had a very hard time of it because of being kicked to the curb. There is even more to it…if I were to try and even receive an annulment, I would be even broker (if that is a word), because I would no longer receive alimony, and without it, I am sunk. As yet, I cannot make any money on my own, because I cannot take my real estate exam. Of course, that is in and of itself no guarantee of making money. So, you see, I do appreciate your kind wishes on the subject. I do miss my ex-husband, and I miss being married. I’m not that old yet! Please pray for me to find a solution, and to pass my test, and make some money (which we all need in this vale of tears), and to find some comfort. That is a lot of praying, I realize! Thank you, though, and prayers of peace and good wishes to you in the coming Advent and Christmas season.

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