N.Y. Times 'Ethicist' Rules Catholic Priests Benefit from 'Entrenched Workplace Discrimination'

In Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, Randy Cohen’s column titled "The Ethicist" has a perfectly liberal sense of ethics. First, he told a nurse-midwife to help illegal aliens use their aliases when they miss work due to pregnancy-related appointments. (His compromise: create a form and leave the name blank, and let them fill in the fraudulent name. How ethical.)

From there, Cohen agreed with a Portland man studying to become a Catholic priest that receiving scholarships in preparation for a lifelong vow of poverty is sexist: "You might regard yourself as preparing to be a beneficiary of entrenched workplace discrimination, an ethically troubling position."

This is the entire exchange:

I belong to a Catholic religious order and am in formation to become a priest. As part of my training, I attended a university that was founded by my order and whose president is a priest and a member of the order. Nonreligious students also attend, but we religious students receive scholarships. Is this akin to any other scholarship, like that for an athlete, or is it discriminatory, especially because the order does not admit women? – NAME WITHHELD, PORTLAND, ORE.

There’s nothing wrong with a religious order establishing a school for its members, subsidizing their education and later broadening the student body to include tuition-paying nonmembers. Many first-rate American schools, now secular, once had religious affiliations — Wesleyan with the Methodists, for example, or Princeton with the Presbyterians, a tie forged during the Great Awakening.

What is at issue, as you suggest, is sex discrimination: your order’s refusal to admit women and, more significant, your aspiring to the priesthood, a leadership position in your church, one closed to women. Calling a practice "religious" does not exempt it from ethical scrutiny. You might regard yourself as preparing to be a beneficiary of entrenched workplace discrimination, an ethically troubling position.

Cohen isn't impressed with the Catholic view that priests act in the person of Christ, administering the sacraments, and that Christ chose only males to be his apostles, or the first bishops of his church. (Father William Saunders has a longer summation here.) Politics trumps religion when you're a liberal.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis