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Archbishop, Saint Louis Basketball Coach Trade Barbs Over Abortion Rights

Associated Press – January 24, 2008
ST. LOUIS – A Roman Catholic archbishop’s call this week for Saint Louis University to discipline its popular basketball coach for publicly supporting abortion rights has put the Jesuit school in a bind.
If the university takes action against Rick Majerus, no stranger to controversy throughout his career, it risks criticism for clamping down on the free exchange of ideas.
If it does not, it looks like it is brushing off Archbishop Raymond Burke, who chastised Majerus for airing his views at a Hillary Rodham Clinton rally last weekend.
The university has not publicly heeded Burke’s call to discipline Majerus, an experienced coach whose hiring last April electrified St. Louis supporters.
University spokesman Clayton Berry would not say Thursday if the school is considering disciplinary action against Majerus. He has said previously that Majerus was speaking at the rally as an individual, not as a representative of the school.
University athletics spokesman Chuck Young said Majerus refused to comment Thursday to The Associated Press.
Majerus took a typically defiant stand in an interview published Thursday in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
“These beliefs are ingrained in me,” Majerus told the paper. “And my (constitutional) First Amendment right to free speech supersedes anything that the archbishop would order me to do. My dad fought on Okinawa in World War II. My uncle died in World War II. I had classmates die in Vietnam. And it was to preserve our way of life, so people like me could have an opinion.”
The dispute between the archbishop and the coach puts students and faculty in the midst of a common clash pitting Catholic doctrine against intellectual freedom. The private university is independent of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, and therefore beyond the bishop’s purview, but is tied to it culturally as a Catholic institution.
“I’m a Catholic, and I support the church’s stance. As an American, I also support people’s free speech,” said Andrew Clifton, the Student Government Association president.
Berry said Burke does not have any direct control over the university, which is operated by priests in the Jesuit order, also known as the Society of Jesus. He said ultimate authority lies with the school’s Board of Trustees, several of whom did not return messages seeking comment.
A spokeswoman at the archdiocese said Burke was not available to comment.
Burke has spoken out before against Catholics or Catholic institutions that stray from church doctrine. During the 2004 election, he said he would not administer Holy Communion to presidential candidate John Kerry, a Catholic, because he supported abortion rights.
Last year, Burke dropped his seat on the board of a charity that let singer Sheryl Crow perform at a benefit concert. Crow supports abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research.
On Tuesday, Burke said he would ask Saint Louis University officials to take “appropriate action” against Majerus after the coach gave a TV interview at the Clinton rally during which he said he was Catholic and pro-choice.
“I’m concerned that a leader at a Catholic university made these comments. It can lead Catholics astray,” Burke said Tuesday. “I just believe that it’s of the essence for people to understand as a Catholic you just cannot hold these beliefs.”
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Scott R.

    Burke said Tuesday. “I just believe that it’s of the essence for people to understand as a Catholic you just cannot hold these beliefs.”

    But as an American he can, and since this is America and not the Vatican, that pretty much trumps it.

  • Joey

    I think the school should take a balanced approach: not “discipline” Mr. Majerus, but release some sort of official statement to the effect of “his comments do not represent the school, etc.”
    God bless.

  • friendofsaints&angels

    Good for the Archbishop. How do people call themselves pro choice, and then turn around and choose death? people have put an end to the death penalty against convicted murderers, etc, because this is unjust punishment. we have no problem feeling sorry for someone on death row, but we have a problem protecting the rights of unborn children. it blows my mind that people in this country can be conserned with the human rights of people in this country and the world abroad, but were not conserned with the 50 million deaths of the unborn babies in this country alone. future generations will look back at us, like we look back at Hitler and Stallon.

  • Henrietta22

    Burke is very extreme in his authority in many things I’ve read about in MO. Good for Majerus! He is Catholic and an American living in the U.S.A. We have free speech and can think for ourselves, everyone.
    As an adult man he should realize that nobody can lead anyone astray unless they choose to stray. People have their own interpretation of their faiths and shouldn’t be chastised for them. The University should just overlook this rant by Burke and forget it.

  • pagansister

    Since the school has no connection to the Archdiocese of ST. Louis, Burke has no authority to tell it or the coach what to do. Majerus has the right to speak for himself, and since he was not representing the school, he can say what he pleases. Majerus is right when he says his first amendment right to free speech supercedes anything that Burke might want to tell him to do.
    Majerus proves that it is possible to be Catholic and an independent thinker. Burke proves that like many religious authorities, he is full of himself and what he feels is his power.

  • Ruairi

    Yeah its nice to hear someone not being a drone to a churches beliefs, but thinking for himself.
    And Friendsofsaints, I have no problem with a death penalty. I actually think if the offender was executed in the same manner they killed their victim that it would work a great deal better. I have no concerns at all that it might hurt them. They hurt a great deal of people and should feel the same pain. I know sometimes convictions are wrong, but in this day and age with the dna evidence, its a lot more unlikely.
    Oh comparing abortion rights to Hitler is as about as absurd that you can get. They killed functional people who had lives.
    Besides your figures are way off. The amount you offered up as a total for the USA is in fact higher than the worldwide average was in the 90’s. It is easy to find facts about the US and individual totals, but worldwide ones are usually outdated. The US total is 1.2 million-and continuing to drop, not 50, The highest number of abortions done are in third world countries so you are advocating babies being born to die of starvation. Not a solution at all. Try skipping church based websites when you research your information, I noticed that they all had outdated information. They like to hid the truth.

  • Frank Niemiec

    I would suggest that if the university cannot support Catholic doctrine, that it no longer call itself Catholic. It has been said, jokingly, that Jesuits are “almost Catholic”. Perhaps this is not a joke. Maybe the alumni who thought they attended a Catholic University can register their opinion by withholding their contributions. I bet that will get the attention of the Board of Trustees.

  • nnmns

    Here’s a case where Saint Louis University can be Catholic, at least in the archbishop’s view, or be a real university. As pointed out above, at a university people can say what they think. Burns doesn’t want Catholics to be able to do that. I hope the University remains one. Burns, I think, is showing a lot of people reasons to not be Catholics.
    As far as the Catholic position on abortion, it’s changed several times so I wouldn’t get too excited about it.
    Abortion is not murder, it’s not killing babies, too many people concentrate their attention on it when there are much more important issues like stupid wars, global warming, a real war on terror and the economy. Get serious about some more serious issues.

  • Anonymous

    “I’m concerned that a leader at a Catholic university made these comments. It can lead Catholics astray,” Burke said Tuesday.
    So true. It’s a well known fact that Catholics listen to the coaches of their sport teams for guidance in faith and morals more than they listen to the clergy. Why, if Knute Rockne hadn’t supported papal infallibity, it never would have become dogma.

  • friendofsaints&angels

    I think thats funny that someone actually posted that abortion isn’t murder. 1 explain that one too God when you see Him. 2 In some states if a drunk driver hits and kills a pregnant woman, He is also charged with the murder of that womans child. when a woman is pregnant, she has a real living person inside of her, and there are plenty of couples out there that would love to have that child. if a woman can’t handle having the baby, put it up for adoption. Yes and we catholics are very evil one sided people, for not wanting to see God’s children murdered. why should we have human rights issues, if the unborn don’t have any rights?

  • pagansister

    This article is about the right of a person to give his feelings on an important subject, without an upper level church official, with no authority over that person, or his employer, being able to tell his employer to “discipline” him. It is not about abortion being, IYO, “murder”.

  • Ruairi

    You said “in some states if a drunk driver hits and kills a pregnant woman, He is also charged with the murder of that womans child.”
    That is true, but only if the baby is far enough along to survive a naturally occurring birth as well. Abortions predominantly occur long before that is true. So thats not even a valid argument.
    And as Pagansister says, its not what the article is about, the topic is freedom of speech, another freedom which is trying to be taken away, another right being taken from adults who know their own mind. Unless his contract states exactly how he must conduct his life as a Catholic, than they don’t have a right chastise him at all.

  • nnmns

    “explain that one too God when you see Him”
    I have no expectations of seeing any such critter. But you explain to me why your god, when it was getting the Bible written just the way it wanted and preserved just the way it wanted, if it thought abortion was murder why didn’t the Bible say so, in so many words? In fact, why didn’t it say anything about abortion; I don’t believe the word is in the Bible at all and I’ve never seen a prohibition in there against the act. And I believe, fosna, that you are a Catholic. You really do need to be aware of the changing RCC opinions on abortion.
    As for those state laws, they were passed by fools and cowards. Just because a law somewhere says something doesn’t make that thing true. Only nature’s laws, as we understand them, even come close to describing truth. Our laws describe the condition of politics at the time they were passed.

  • nnmns

    “It’s a well known fact that Catholics listen to the coaches of their sport teams for guidance in faith and morals more than they listen to the clergy. ”
    It may be true. Certainly the coach showed more sense and more wisdom than the archbishop.

  • pagansister

    “explain that to God when you see Him.” fos&a
    That will be hard to do as I’d have to believe in your god to do so. I don’t live my life worrying if I am doing what some invisible being wants me to. Not on subject, but abortion isn’t murder, IMO.

  • jestrfyl

    Funny thing about the Jesuits.They started out as the black-shirted “hit squad” in defense of the Church against Marty Luther and those heinous Reformists. Now, the Jesuits are the hole in the papal sock, annoying but still there. Well, I wish both the coach and the Bishop well – they deserve each other. I’m rooting for the coach.

  • LM70

    If abortion is not the killing of babies, could you please explain to me what abortion is?

  • katie

    Look, I am from the St. Louis are and have been following this story in the local papers. First of all, the college has already issued a statement saying that the opinion of the coach is his own, and he was not speaking on behalf of the school. It is HIGHLY unlikely that he will be reprimanded. Secondly, in my opinion, Archbishop Burke needs to stop and take a long hard look at what his words and actions are doing. I think that he is going to continue to alienate more and more people from the Catholic faith. We sincerely miss Archbishop Justin Rigali. Do you really think Burke has stopped and asked himself, “What would Jesus do?”—Because I don’t. Jesus wanted to heal the sick–not ban medical research. He wanted people to honor life–but not at the expense of the living. The Jesus I know is loving and forgiving…Jesus didn’t persecute sinners, for he knows that we are all sinners. What would Jesus do if he came face to face with the Archbishop…I wonder…

  • nnmns

    “If abortion is not the killing of babies, could you please explain to me what abortion is?”
    At the risk of boring some folks who’ve seen this a few times before, I will.
    First, let’s look at “killing” and why we find it terrible. When a person is killed he or she (I’ll use “she” here) may know it’s coming and be afraid, she may take time to die and suffer pain and regret. She probably leaves people who love her and perhaps depend on her, so she will be missed. She represents an investment by her parents and others and society that’s lost. When we learn of a killing and are sad I dare say it’s those aspects that make us sad.
    When an embryo or fetus is aborted few if any of those things happen. It won’t know what’s coming so it won’t experience fear even if it were able; the procedure should be over quickly so it will experience pain for only a short time, if it’s capable of experiencing pain. It won’t experience regret. It doesn’t leave anyone who’s had experience of it to love it except perhaps the mother to be who decided it needs to be aborted. No one depends on it and aside from the mother no one has made an investment in it.
    So most of the aspects of being killed don’t apply to the fetus. It’s a misnomer to apply “kill” or “murder” to abortion.
    And of course abortion doesn’t happen to babies, it happens to blastocysts and embryos and fetuses.

  • pagansister

    Thanks for answering as only you can, nnmns, yet again, the people who insist an abortion is “killing”.

  • walkingeagles

    If the heart is beating and you stop it, that is murder.
    We are not fully developed at birth, so to say it is just a fetus or anything but a baby because it is still developing is nonsense.
    If you call yourself Catholic then it is not a choice, it’s a baby!
    In the OT God says, “I knew you before you were in your mothers womb” indicating a person not just a fetus.

  • Walkingeagles

    Your right Jesus was loving and cared, but he was not selective in his love. It goes out to all, and not to those who can benefit from some one else being harmed.
    Jesus would probably be pleased that the Archbishop protects the lives of those who cannot protect themselves

  • Jim

    Whoever said the Catholic University is all about the “free exchange of ideas”? The Catholic University is all about the the spiritual, intellectual, and moral FORMATION of young Catholics vis-a-vis the truth of what the Church teaches. It is also about evangelization preparing young Catholics to proclaim the truth of the Gospel within the world into which they will be immersed. If the Catholic University cannot hold to this basic mandate than perhaps it should call itself something else. If employees of the Catholic University cannot subscribe to the University’s mission within the Church than perhaps they should seek other employment.

  • truthseeker

    Good job Jim!
    The coach can believe and say what he wants, but sometimes words have consequences. Free speech isn’t always free, sometimes you have to pay for it. His job as a coach for the university means he also represents the university. As a Catholic he represents and is part of the body of Jesus the Church. We are all role models, some to a higher degree than others, and sometimes even though it is not our intention we can influence others for evil. So, we need much wisdom and less pride to be helpful in our society.

  • pagansister

    All Universities should allow the “free exchange of ideas”. It seems that St. Louis University knows that, Jim. I admire them for allowing their faculty the freedom to speak as individuals when they aren’t representing the University. The coach was on private time and not representing the University. Thus, freedom of speech.

  • pagansister

    What is the problem with the coach being a free thinking Catholic? Isn’t he allowed that? He may not want his wife or girlfriend to have an abortion, but he realizes that women should have a choice when it comes to that decision. It isn’t his right or business to interfer.

  • Anonymous

    ‘”I knew you before you were in your mothers womb” indicating a person not just a fetus.’
    No. It says nothing of the kind. If I believed in souls I could just as easily assume that means got and my soul chatted before the soul was put into the fetus. And the RCC, which has given this serious thought longer than the protestant-come-latelys have changed their minds repeatedly. For fourteen hundred years until late in the nineteenth century, all Catholics, including the popes, took it for granted that the soul is not infused at conception.
    So your certainty reflects only the decisions made since 1869. You are throwing away the vast majority of Christian history on ensoulment. Your priest or your preacher doesn’t tell you that, I’ll bet. What else aren’t they telling you?

  • Anonymous

    pagansister“…but he realizes that women should have a choice when it comes to that decision [abortion]. It isn’t his right or business to interfer (sic).
    To prevent what he should believe is nothing short of legalized murder, you bet it is his right and business to interfere.
    “What is the problem with the coach being a free thinking Catholic?”
    Let’s turn that around, pagansister, and let me ask what is the problem with being an orthodox Catholic, believing in 100% of what the Church teaches is true, without being ridiculed by you et al. for being a “robot” or not being able to think for him or herself? I am Catholic and believe 100% of what the Church teaches. Does that make me a robot?
    I also live in the St. Louis area and, contrary to what another said, I and others think Burke is doing a wonderful job. Majerus is Catholic, and Burke is the shepherd of Catholics inside his diocese. When he sees a Catholic espousing heretical beliefs it is his duty to point out that error and safeguard the truth. He is doing his job in that instance.
    I will agree with you partially in that the archbishop cannot force SLU to discipline him, although as the ordinary of the area with said Catholic university in his area, he can attempt to rightfully apply pressure for the university to do so. I doubt discipline will come, though, from SLU.
    There is nothing wrong with being a, as you put it, free thinking Catholic. But when your beliefs differ from what the Church teaches is true, then you place yourself in danger of being out of communion with the Church. The Catholic Church isn’t a “believe whatever you want” or “pick and choose whatever beliefs you want” kind of place. If you don’t accept it as the repository of truth, then perhaps you need to go elsewhere.

  • pagansister

    mystery poster:
    “To believe what he should believe is nothing short of legalized murder, you bet it is his right and business to interfere.”
    The key word there is SHOULD… “what he SHOULD believe”…he obviously disagrees with your definition of “legalized murder”. (which IMO is an extremely overblown statement, & terminations aren’t that anyhow). He knows that he has no right or business telling any woman what to do with her own body. His rights stop where the woman’s begin. BTW zygotes and embryoes are cells, not viable outside the womb.
    It is certainly your decision to be a 100% believer in your religion. Does that make you a “robot”? Does it? You tell me. I find it a bit scary that someone would let anyone tell them what to believe totally, but that’s just me.
    I have a feeling, and certainly couldn’t know for sure, but the coach is doing what he feels is correct and being an American Catholic, he knows that his God loves him even when he disagrees with the “dictates’ of the church. I agree, the Catholic church isn’t known for giving it’s members freedom of thought. 10 years teaching in a Catholic school taught me that. Many of the teacher’s I taught with were liberal, and that was great. Was a good 10 years however, and I finished my career there.

  • kami

    Ruairi: “Oh comparing abortion rights to Hitler is as about as absurd that you can get. They killed functional people who had lives…”
    Go back and review actual history. Hitler killed Jews, Gypsies, Polish, Christians, Catholics, Blacks, communists, anarchists, political opponents, and anyone else which suited him. People often quote 5-6 million Jews and often forget the 6 million others.
    But he first began with those who were mentally and physically disabled: such as a 5 month old baby boy who’s only crime was he happened to be blind. ( ) An estimated 250,000 disabled people were murdered and many thousands of others sterilized between 1931 and 1945. And how many children today are done away with because they are not listed as “functional” and “not perfect”?
    According to the Center of Disease Control as well as Planned Parenthood since 1973 the estimated amount of abortions in the United States alone is 48,589,993. And all but 1% to 2% are preformed for the reasons of rape, insect, or to save the life of the mother. Leaving 98% to 99% for reasons of convenience.
    The definition of “holocaust” is officially defined by the Webster’s dictionary (2005 Ed) as:
    holocaust |ˈhäləˌkôst; ˈhōlə-|
    destruction or slaughter on a mass scale
    48,589,993 is more than a generation of individuals lost in this country to abortion. And that’s not even mentioning the mothers who have died due to to so-called legal abortion procedures in abortion facilities which were far below sub-standard. Or what about the teenage girls who are violently raped, taken over state lines by the perpetrator to receive the abortion, then brought back as if nothing occurred and the man goes free of his crime?
    Hitler decided an awful lot of people weren’t functional, nor fit to live. Today there’s an even higher number of individuals who have been marked as “unfit to live”.
    It definitely fits the description of “holocaust”. Attempting to say a human being is not a human being during whatever stage of life he/she is in does not diminish his/her person-hood. To say otherwise is only fooling yourself.

  • Redleg

    And Hitler was a product of a Catholic education, as was Stalin. Mussolini, Franco and Peron were also Catholics and Dr. Mengele was particularly devout.
    Why should Americans listen to a nation that protects pedophiles and condemns the very idea that legitamate government rests upon the consent of the governed and equally condemns the 1st Amendment. According to the Condemned Propositions free speech is unacceptable to Catholics.
    Dig deeper into the Holocaust and you will find that abortion was accepted by Jews because pregnancy was a capital offense.
    And the Vatican itself does not believe in property rights for the unborn and does not count age from conception itself but from birth.
    By the way it is still Catholic law that Jews should be wearing badges, living in ghettoes and be killed for intermarriage with Christians

  • pagansister

    Have you contemplated how many of those “lost” individuals would have been living violent lives, due to the abuse of the parent(s) who didn’t want them, and perhaps death from the violence? Have you thought about the raped woman who really doesn’t need a reminder of what happened to her staring her in the face everyday? And how many teenage girls have you known who’s rapest takes her over the “state line” for an abortion? They stick around long enough for that? I don’t think so.
    So all in all, it really is none of your business when a woman makes up her mind that a pregancy shouldn’t be. It is a private decision. That zygote isn’t going to worry about it. As to all the “unsafe legal” abortions? The unsafe part is if you use a coat hanger or a back alley for one. That is what reversing Roe V. Wade would be. The morning after pill, or RU-486 or surgery is legal. And giving birth can be dangerous also, as well has the 9 mongths of gestation.
    The holocaust is people trying to deny a woman her right to reproduce or not. No one but the woman has the right to make that decision. NO ONE.

  • Anonymous

    kami, I doubt you’ll find any abortion that was done because the fetus was “not perfect”.
    And Hitler’s horrors were done with the complicity of Catholic Germany and what horrifies us is what he did to people, including the boy you mentioned, not fetuses, not embryos and not zygotes. Anti-abortionists borrow very real concern for people and paste it onto embryos and such.
    “Or what about the teenage girls who are violently raped, taken over state lines by the perpetrator to receive the abortion, then brought back as if nothing occurred and the man goes free of his crime?”
    Which crime are you most concerned about? The violent rape or illegally taking someone over a state line? He should be punished for both, more for the rape. But to force the girl to bear the child of her rapist for 9 months would be to compound that that crime a lot. If she chose to bear it, fine, it’s her decision, but she must also be free to choose to not bear it.
    You express concern about women injured in substandard abortion facilities. That would go off the scale if abortion were outlawed. If abortion is outlawed, millions of outlaws will still be having abortions, but a few will fly off to more sensible countries and a lot will go back to coat hangers and such. And then over time the outrage at what they are forced to go through will bring back legal abortion.
    It’s only because people aren’t aware of what women and those who loved them had to go through before Roe v. Wade that you anti-abortionists have even a chance at your goal of making all abortions illegal.

  • nnmns

    The post starting “kami, I” was mine. Sorry.

  • historychick

    We are way off topics of the article, but can we look at this “abortion v muder” issue from the middle ground?
    –Sometimes abortion is the wrong thing to do to the fetus (if you are going to bear a healthy baby that you can afford to have or that could be handed over for adoption to a couple who really wants on, as revenge against an ex, etc)
    –Sometimes it’s the right thing to do for the parents (in case of rape, incest, ill health of the mother) and/or for the fetus (gross abnormalities, etc)
    Most people of all religions, if they really look into their hearts, will admit this is true.
    This is why it is legal, and even when it wasn’t legal, was always available, even if dangerous and criminal.
    As a sidenote, I find it interesting that most of the ardent pro-life women I know are under 40. My grandmothers, great-aunts and more (all of whom were “Christian” ladies)were pro-choice. They’d grown up without reliable birth control and legal abortion. As far as I know, none of them took advantage of either, but they were staunch defenders of making them accessible to all women.

  • pagansister

    You had wise and intelligent grandmothers & great-aunts. I’m old enough to remember “before Roe V. Wade”, and that time wasn’t good for women who needed to terminate a pregancy. It would be horrible to return to times without it that law. Even all the birth control methods aren’t always reliable….but fortunately more are available than in my early years.

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