April 22, 2001
volume 12, no. 112

Readers' Feedback

Controversy over accusations against FUS Graduate Nursing Program

    Editor's Note:
        In Friday's issue we published information from Dr. Brian J. Kopp of a documented letter by Lucille Canty in our "Father, forgive them..." column on the accusations against the Graduate Nursing Department of Franciscan University pertaining to a contradiction of Catholic doctrine in supporting contraceptives over abstinence. We received the following e-mail from Brian yesterday. First of all, Brian has asked that for now he's "received enough conflicting reports on this issue to seriously call into question the claims being made against Franciscan University of Steubenville by Lucille Cantry. They may still be true, but there's enough doubt in my mind that charity demands we wait for futher details. Lets take down this story till my own investigation gets to the bottom of it. If it is true I will fight to get it corrected. If false I will put out a correction/retraction. I'm praying over it and waiting on more data."

        Therefore, since the story has already run, we have decided for now, not to put it in the archive file and will, in the future, run a front-page retraction if the claims are proved false in respect to the University and its faculty. We are waiting for Dr. Kopp's research on this. The key in all this is to get an official response from Father Michael Scanlan, TOR which we will run if we get it. For now, we are putting on hold any other feedback to the editor on this subject at Brian's request until we have a definitive statement. As a balance to the claims by Lucille Canty, and in striving to be fair and balanced, we are running the rebuttal below by Father Terence Henry, TOR, President of the University.

Reply From Father Terence Henry TOR:
President, Franciscan University of Steubenville

1235 University Blvd., Steubenville, OH 43952

    Recently [was circulated] a letter from one of our former students in which she discussed her concerns about how pro-life views are taught in our Nursing Program. I want to assure you that our commitment to pro-life issues remains strong and undiminished. As a Catholic, Franciscan university, we take seriously any charges that our programs or faculty do not live up to our mission to “promote the moral, spiritual, and religious values” of our students. As a University that has championed the pro-life cause in many ways, including instituting the country’s first Human Life Studies Minor and Tomb of the Unborn Child, Franciscan University finds charges against our pro-life commitment of particular concern. Thus, I have personally spent time investigating these claims against the program and individual faculty members.

    We acknowledge that the sciences and medical professions stand on the forefront of the intense battle being waged between the culture of life and the culture of death. We understand that addressing and clarifying life issues is especially important in these programs. Our faculty integrates information on chastity, natural family planning, sexual and medical ethics, and Catholic social and moral teaching, as appropriate, into their courses.

    At the same time, the integrity of our academic programs as well as certification and licensure requirements demand that our professors provide students with information on a full range of medical procedures, techniques, medications, and diseases. It also means that, while our faculty respects the Catholic Church’s teaching on chastity, for example, course materials must still cover the assessment, transmission, treatment, and evaluation of sexually transmitted diseases.

    As Pope John Paul II says, students must be educated so they “become truly competent in the specific sectors in which they will devote themselves to the service of society and of the Church” (Ex Corde Ecclesiae, No. 20) as well as in the faith. Thus, each nursing course cannot be only a comprehensive discussion of ethical issues. If courses were structured in this manner, our students would fail to meet the strict professional licensure requirements demanded of those who practice the nursing profession.

    Ethics, however, plays an important role in this program, as it does throughout the life of Franciscan University. Students entering our Master’s of Science Nursing Program must have taken pre-requisites in a foundational ethics course and a specifically health-related ethics course. In addition, we strive to provide an ethical framework or filter for students that will allow them to weigh the health care information they receive in the classroom and in their future careers and to make better moral and ethical decisions.

    For our MSN students this filter primarily comes through the required core course, Bioethics in Nursing. In that class, Christian and Catholic moral theology provides a basis for the examination of autonomy and personal responsibility in various nursing contexts. Current ethical issues in advanced practice nursing are explored. The impact of Christian values and Church teaching on the professional role of the advanced practice nurse are examined. Guest lectures given by our Theology Faculty and select pro-life community physicians enhance the information presented in this course. These special speakers are arranged a full semester in advance because they have an important role in our program.

    I am sure you will understand that it would not be appropriate for me to discuss with you the specific academic careers of any of our students. Nevertheless, I want to assure you that the concerns that have been raised with you have been considered and have been prayerfully evaluated at many levels of the University, including by faculty members, Student Life, the Dean of the Faculty, administrators, Father Michael Scanlan, TOR, and me. In this review, we have had the opportunity to see all sides of this one student’s academic career. Without discussing that academic career with you in detail, I am confident that you would agree with our response to her concerns had you had the responsibility to engage in this review. I am also confident that you would agree that our response has been consistent with the moral and religious standards of the University.

    Some of the correspondence you may have seen calls into question the professionalism and commitment of a number of members of our University faculty. I want you to know that we are very confident that we have an excellent and committed faculty in the Nursing Program, just as we do in other programs at Franciscan University. Each faculty member brings to our program a lifetime of experience in nursing and in higher education. Each is committed to providing the best possible education consistent with our institution’s mission statement and values.

    I pray that you will continue to support Franciscan University and our very important mission. If you have any continuing concerns, however, I encourage you to share them with me.

    Statement of Convictions
    Nursing Faculty
    Franciscan University of Steubenville

        In response to the Mission of Franciscan University of Steubenville, the Nursing Department Faculty for both the undergraduate and graduate programs unanimously endorses the following points of conviction which give specific expression to the Mission as it applies to their academic programs:

  • The Nursing Faculty are fully supportive of Catholic and Christian values and the sanctity and dignity of the human person from conception to natural death.
  • Every human person is a unique individual consisting of a body, mind, and spirit made in the image and likeness of God.
  • The Nursing Faculty focuses on nursing as a healing ministry.
  • The Nursing Faculty accepts the University directive to address all material relevant to their subject matter in their classes while opposing the promotion of propositions and values contrary to Catholic teaching.
  • As a service discipline and ministry, nursing builds on the foundation of the unity of faith and knowledge. Thus, though the Nursing Faculty grades students solely on the basis of academic performance, they work to integrate the Christian faith, ethics, and moral teaching into all nursing courses.
  • The Nursing Faculty strives to follow the example of St. Francis of Assisi, who demonstrated that all people deserve compassionate health care, and to foster his charism of service to the poor.
  • The undergraduate and graduate programs operate within an environment that supports Catholic and Christian values while respecting the dignity of all human persons in matters of faith.

Franciscan University of Steubenville: A Pro-life Profile

    As a Catholic institution, Franciscan University of Steubenville has always supported the Catholic Church’s teaching on the sacredness of human life from conception until natural death. Its Mission Statement says, in part, “The University supports Christian morality and respect for life and will not endorse or support any group or activity that…promotes abortion, suicide, euthanasia, or any related sinful practice” (p. 13). Many faculty, staff, administrators, students, and alumni take an active role in the fight to end abortion. Franciscan University’s delegation of 500-plus students, faculty, and staff to the annual March for Life in Washington, DC, has been the largest single group at the event since the mid-eighties. Members of Human Life Concerns, the student-led pro-life club, participate regularly in peaceful, prayerful demonstrations at nearby abortion clinics, do sidewalk counseling, organize campus-wide pro-life conferences, and volunteer at local pregnancy help centers.

    In addition to its strong Catholic nursing and pre-medicine programs, Franciscan University also offers the country’s only Human Life Studies Minor, which prepares students to think, speak, and act intelligently in the defense of life in contemporary culture. Franciscan University alumni serve in national and international pro-life organizations, as pro-life lobbyists in Washington, DC, and at the grassroots level in cities across the United States.

    Over the years, the University has made a point of granting honorary degrees to many prominent pro-life leaders during its Commencement Exercises. The list of honorees includes Mother Agnes Donovan, superior of the Sisters of Life; Nellie Gray, founder of the March for Life; the Honorable Robert P. Casey, governor of Pennsylvania; Mary Cunningham Agee, founder of the Nurturing Network; and Michael and Rita Marker, founders of the International Anti-Euthanasia Task Force.

    Franciscan University’s Tomb of the Unborn Child serves as a place of prayer for the end of abortion and as a place of healing for the survivors of abortion. Since 1987 seven aborted babies have been interred in this large stone memorial located in a quiet spot near the Portiuncula Chapel. Thousands of visitors have knelt before the tomb with its eternal flame—most praying for a renewed respect for life in this country; some seeking forgiveness for having or procuring an abortion. The late John Cardinal O'Connor was so moved by the Tomb during a campus visit that he asked the Knights of Columbus to erect similar memorials in every diocese in the United States. The Knights agreed and many dioceses now have these important reminders to pray for the victims of abortion and for the triumph of the culture of life. President Father Terence Henry, TOR, who led the University’s delegation at the 2001 March for Life, reaffirmed the school’s pro-life commitment in his inaugural address in October 2000: “Franciscan University stands on the side of the culture of life, and will do all that it can to promote and protect innocent human life from conception to natural death.”

April 22, 2001
volume 12, no. 112
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