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By Deacon Keith Fournier

7/12/2010 (5 years ago)

Catholic Online (

Professor Howell is a hero

Professor Howell is a victim of the "Dictatorship of Relativism" which Pope Benedict XVI warned of. This is an egregious violation of constitutional rights and overt censorship of speech unpopular to the Cultural revolutionaries who have grabbed the reigns of Western society. Warning to all who hold that truth exists in an age which has followed the pied piper of relativism.

Professor Ken Howell.

Professor Ken Howell.


By Deacon Keith Fournier

Catholic Online (

7/12/2010 (5 years ago)

Published in U.S.

URBANA, IL (Catholic Online) - From every indicator, Professor Ken Howell was an exemplary professor at the University of Illinois in Champaign. He is a faithful Catholic, in fact a convert from the Presbyterian Church and ministry, who was asked to teach courses on the Catholic faith and intellectual tradition. He is extraordinarily qualified on every front. He taught those courses in complete fidelity to the magisterium, the teaching office, of the Catholic Church. 

He is now a victim of the "Dictatorship of Relativism" which Pope Benedict XVI warned of in the homily he gave prior to the Conclave wherein he was chosen to become the successor of the Apostle Peter.  This egregious violation of the Professors constitutional rights and overt censorship of speech which is unpopular to the Cultural revolutionaries who have grabbed the reigns of Western society, is now being reviewed by the Alliance Defense Fund for a legal response.

I wanted our readers to have the full presentation from the Professor himself. The implications of what has happened in Illinois are IMMENSE and will be the subject of further articles. I first read of this travesty from Tom Peters article on Catholic Vote Action. I was glad to see the Fox Network cover it as well. Several news sources have picked up on it. Here is the Professors own account:


Dear Friend:

I write this short narrative to explain why I am no longer teaching at the University of Illinois and am not employed by the Diocese of Peoria as of 30 June 2010. First, a little background.

I came to Champaign-Urbana in August of 1998 to be employed by the St. John's Catholic Newman Center as a teacher in the courses of the Catholic faith that were then taught through the Center. For seven years I enjoyed a working relationship with Monsignor Stuart W. Swetland, the Director of the Center, who taught alongside me in that program. In 2000, Monsignor Swetland negotiated an agreement with the Department of Religion in which he and I would be adjunct professors in the department and would teach courses on Catholicism. We simultaneously established the Institute of Catholic Thought of which I became the Director and Senior Fellow. The purpose of the Institute was to promote the intellectual heritage of the western world in which Catholicism played such an integral role.

Since the Fall of 2001, I have been regularly teaching two courses in the Department of Religion. Since Monsignor Swetland's departure in May of 2006, I have taught the equivalent of a full-time professor every semester, sometimes even more. This past semester (Spring 2010) something occurred which changed an otherwise idyllic academic life. One of the courses I have taught since 2001 has been "Introduction to Catholicism." I think that it is fair to say that many students at the University of Illinois have benefited greatly from this and other teaching I have done. Every semester in that "Introduction" class, I gave two lectures dealing with Catholic Moral positions. One was an explanation of Natural Moral Law as affirmed by the Church. The second was designed as an application of Natural Law Theory to a disputed issue in our society. Most of those semesters, my chosen topic was the moral status of homosexual acts. I would be happy to explain more fully the Catholic Church's position on this matter but, for the sake of brevity, I can summarize it as follows. A homosexual orientation is not morally wrong just as no moral guilt can be assigned to any inclination that a person has. However, based on natural moral law, the Church believes that homosexual acts are contrary to human nature and therefore morally wrong. This is what I taught in my class.

This past semester was unusual. In previous years, I had students who might have disagreed with the Church's position but they did so respectfully and without incident. This semester (Spring 2010) I noticed the most vociferous reaction that I have ever had. It seemed out of proportion to all that I had known thus far. To help students understand better how this issue might be decided within competing moral systems, I sent them an email contrasting utilitarianism (in the populist sense) and natural moral law. If we take utilitarianism to be a kind of cost-benefit analysis, I tried to show them that under utilitarianism, homosexual acts would not be considered immoral whereas under natural moral law they would. This is because natural moral law, unlike utilitarianism, judges morality on the basis of the acts themselves.

After the semester was over, I was called into the office of Robert McKim, the chairman of the Department of Religion, who was in possession of this email. I was told that someone (I presume one of my students) sent this email to the Office of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Concerns at the University. It was apparently sent to administrators in the University of Illinois and then forwarded on to Professor McKim. I was told that I would no longer be able to teach in the Department of Religion.

Professor McKim and I discussed the contents of the email and he was quite insistent that my days of teaching in the department were over. I offered that it would be more just to ask me not to address the subject of homosexuality in my class. In fact, the other class I regularly taught (Modern Catholic Thought) never dealt with that subject at all. I also averred that to dismiss me for teaching the Catholic position in a class on Catholicism was a violation of academic freedom and my first amendment rights of free speech. This made no difference. After that conversation and a couple of emails, Professor McKim insisted that this decision to dismiss me stood firm.

I then consulted with our Diocesan lawyer, Mrs. Patricia Gibson, to see if the St. John's Newman Center could sue the university for breach of contract. Mrs. Gibson, kind in spirit and articulate as regards the law, told me that unfortunately the university had made very careful provisions to protect itself and so would not be liable in a law suit. I am still consulting with other lawyers about possible legal action on the grounds of the first amendment.

Then Monsignor Gregory Ketcham, the current Director of the St. John's Catholic Newman Center and my superior, informed me that the Center would not be able to continue employing me since there was no longer any teaching for me to do. I then reiterated what I had mentioned to him the day before. I suggested that we work together to have courses on Catholicism taught at the Newman Center that could be accredited by a Catholic university and that could be transferred into the University of Illinois for credit. In this way, the students whom we had been called to serve could continue to be instructed in the Catholic Faith. I told him in fact that I had once had conversations with professors in Catholic universities who were willing to make such arrangements. Monsignor Ketcham said that he had no interest in such a plan.

Thus, after more than sixty years, students at the University of Illinois will have no classes on Catholicism available to them. If the Department of Religion continues to offer the courses I taught, I have no idea how accurately Catholicism will be represented. I know this subject well enough to say it can be easily distorted. I have tried in this document to portray in a straightforward manner what happened. I also am preparing another document giving my own interpretation of all these events. If you are interested in that, or you just want to be informed as things progress, please contact me by email:

I look back at the twelve years I have spent in this position with memories of wonderful times with my students and friends with whom I have labored. It has been a time of great growth and joy. I thank God from the bottom of my heart. I don't know what the future holds but I do know Him who holds it. He is faithful and can be trusted.

Sincerely, Kenneth J. Howell


Professor Howell taught faithfully what the Catholic Church affirms about the existence of the Natural Law and its binding nature on all men and women of every age. This is not simply a "Religious" position. It has been the foundation of Western Civilization. There are objective Moral truths which can be known by all men and women through the exercise of reason which should govern our life together. For example, that the taking of innocent human life is always wrong. That is why faithful Catholics are at the forefront of the great human rights struggle of our age, to restore the recognition of the fundamental human right to life for our first neighbors, children in the womb. So it is with the Church's teaching concerning homosexual sexual acts. 

This is one more example of the terrible intolerance of those who claim that they are enforcing tolerance. We are living in the midst of a struggle between two competing visions of the human person, the nature of marriage - and the family and society founded upon it - and the structure and obligations attendant to the responsible exercise of authentic human freedom. Just before leaving for the summer month, 7,000 pilgrims filled the Paul VI Hall to hear the Pope say these words 'Freedom is authentic and helps in the construction of a truly human civilization only when reconciled with truth. If disconnected from truth, freedom tragically becomes the principle that destroys the inner harmony of human beings, a source of abuse for the strong and the violent, a cause of suffering and mourning.'

Professor Howell has been fired for teaching truth. He is a freedom fighter. Authentic Human Freedom cannot be realized in decisions made against God and against the Natural Law. Authentic freedom has a moral constitution. It must be exercised in reference to the truth concerning the human person, the family, our obligations in solidarity to one another and the common good. This is a serious warning to all who hold that truth exists in an age which has followed the pied piper of relativism into bondage. Professor Howell is a hero.


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