Op-Ed Submitted By Matthew Chavira
Over a month ago, I sent a letter to The Busch School of Business, asking them to rescind their invitation to Fr. Frank Pavone, a well-known anti-abortion political operative in the conservative wing of the Catholic Church. Days before his talk at Catholic, he tweeted “Honest to God, I am really getting sick and tired of these caravans. What in the world is this? Just come and push your way into the country? And all of this just happening by itself? Thank you, @realDonaldTrump for standing firm against the un-American #Democrat party. #MAGA.”
This tweet is deeply disturbing and ignores the suffering of those who are fleeing extreme poverty, human trafficking, hunger, and violence. If we are pro-life, we would take into account the suffering of our brother and sister migrants who bear the face of Christ. Thanking and praising a leader whose administration separated families, tear gassed children, made it harder for those to seek asylum, held migrants in inhumane iceboxes, and had two children who died in their custody is not pro-life. Contrary to Fr. Pavone’s belief, these migrants are not “pushing their way into the country,” but rather leaving inhumane conditions and asking for a better life for themselves and their families.
More recently, he tweeted, “God bless @realDonaldTrump for declaring a national emergency… Left-wing celebrities are complaining (of course). They should either a) welcome the newly arrived criminals into their walled, gated communities, or b) exercise their own right to immigrate (elsewhere) or c) shut up.” This is plain dog-whistle racism, implying that all migrants are criminals.
After a month of receiving no reply, I reached out two more times and eventually got a response. I finally met with the acting dean, Dr. Pakaluk; this meeting ended up being unproductive. I expressed my concerns to the acting dean about inviting a speaker who tweets insensitive and racist remarks. Dr. Pakaluk was not apologetic, in fact, he stood by his decision to invite Fr. Frank. The dean even stated how he circumvented the school process by inviting Fr. Frank through the Business School all in the spirit of “academic freedom.” Dr. Pakaluk had to do this because Fr. Frank had been denied by the school before when Cardinals for Life tried to get him. He stated that we have a political correctness problem and that he is a strong believer in academic freedom.
Dr. Pakaluk was not taking me seriously, and it seemed to me that he was mocking me. He constantly laughed and would divert the topic at hand by asking ridiculous questions. He asked if I was a member of Phoenix Country Club, if I have ever lived or have been in a gated community, and if I was of Mexican heritage. These questions were unnecessary, had nothing to do with the topic at hand, and were used to divert the topic.
At one point, Dr. Pakaluk asked me what major I was. Then he insisted, in a mocking tone, that I join the business school and he would put me on a “conscience crew.” He made these comments while laughing. He said tweets really do not matter. However, that is where Dr. Pakaluk and I disagree, tweets do matter. Tweets matter, because words matter, Dr. Pakaluk.
Inviting a speaker whose tweets are full of racism and xenophobia is deplorable. Giving a platform to someone who calls the migrants “newly-arrived criminals” is not acceptable and should not be tolerated. Mocking someone and laughing at a concerned student should not be how a Dean acts or treats a Catholic University student.
As I write this, I am reminded of a family that I met at The Kino Border Initiative in Nogales, México. They were fleeing their home country to protect their daughter from sex trafficking; they were not criminals trying to come into our country, they were refugees. As a Catholic school, we should lead our students to sainthood not give a speaker, who uses racism to rally his base, a platform. Yes, Dr. Pakaluk, academic freedom is important but there are higher things at stake. The dignity of the unborn and of immigrants is much higher than academic freedom. Dr. Pakaluk’s support of academic freedom is just a subpar excuse to please the Busch school’s right wing donors. It is up to us students to rise and call out racism when we see it. We, as students, can change the culture on this campus and make Catholic University the inclusive community we all know it can become.