Crucifixes cause controversy

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February 20, 2009

12:34 AM

Some professors at Boston College have been speaking out against crucifixes placed in every classroom over winter break. Officials at the Jesuit institution say this is part of a program started by the university’s president, William Leahy, to promote campus-wide Christian art.

“As a Jesuit, Catholic university, the effort to promote Christian art reflects our pride in and our commitment to our religious heritage and the role it plays in fostering the Catholic intellectual tradition that we celebrate as a university,” Boston College spokesman Jack Dunn said to BC Heights, an independent student newspaper at the university. Boston College’s student population is 70 percent Catholic.

Although some classrooms already had crucifixes, the crosses placed in the remaining classrooms were collected by students during overseas service trips.

“There was never any formal consultation on the issue [among the faculty], but I thought it was a good idea,” history professor James O’Toole said to BC Heights. “The crosses don’t matter in my classes because we’re not trying to convert people; we’re not there for devotional purposes. The crucifixes just come with the territory.”

Other professors felt placing crosses in the classroom was against the Jesuit principle of tolerance.

“Placing iconography in classrooms undermines successful efforts of Boston College to be a university that welcomes all students, faculty and staff,” Paul Davidovits, a chemistry professor, said to BC Heights.

Dunn told the Associated Press that students have not been complaining about the new crucifixes.

“At the end of the day, we are still a Jesuit, Catholic university and that is a core part of our identity,” BC student Patrick Fouhy said to The Boston Herald. “Putting crucifixes up is a nice reminder of that.”

According to the AP, some faculty members unsuccessfully petitioned for the removal of the crucifixes.

“I think it can be healthy to have a legitimate, academic debate on the subject,” physics professor Michael Naughton said to the BC Heights. “Perhaps this will happen … In an open academic environment, diverse views are welcome, including dissenting ones.”

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