e-mail us
Professor, university reach compromise

NCR Staff

Moni McIntyre, ousted recently as theology professor at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, will remain a member of the university’s faculty but teach in a different department.

Under terms of a compromise, McIntyre, a former nun who became an Episcopal priest, will teach in the Graduate Center for Social and Public Policy rather than in theology, where she was a tenured professor. Officials at Duquesne had threatened full dismissal.

“It’s a compromise, but it’s a good enough compromise,” said McIntyre of the Jan. 31 university agreement to have her teach in the Graduate Center.

Moves against McIntyre, a former Immaculate Heart of Mary nun, began in early January after Duquesne President John E. Murray was notified of McIntyre’s Episcopal ordination on Dec. 16. Murray said McIntyre’s ordination “necessarily repudiates certain teachings of the Roman Catholic church.” As a result, he said, she would no longer be able to teach theology (NCR, Feb. 2).

It would be a contradiction, Murray said, to keep McIntyre “as a teacher of Roman Catholic theology” when she had become a “publicly proclaimed official teacher of Anglican doctrine.”

The actuality, McIntyre told NCR, was that she was teaching ethics and moral theology rather than specializing in Roman Catholic theology per se. A rabbi and a Methodist have taught in the same position, she said.

When McIntyre accepted the job in 1990, she said, the position had not called for a Roman Catholic but rather, a person “familiar with” Roman Catholic theology. “I wasn’t addressing papal infallibility or the Real Presence or the ordination of women in my classes,” said McIntyre. “It was feminism, ecological ethics, health care ethics.”

In 1998, on the advice of her lawyer, McIntyre informed her department head when she left her religious order to join the Episcopal church. She also told the dean.

McIntyre said that when the dean told her there would be “serious trouble” if McIntyre subsequently announced she was to be ordained, she understood the response to mean “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Shortly after her Dec. 16 ordination, McIntyre said her department chair had asked her if rumors about it were true, and she had said yes. She saw the university president about an hour-and-a-half later. “He was upset and wanted my resignation. And I said I wasn’t giving it.”

When McIntyre returned from Christmas break on Jan. 8 she found a notice from her department head saying she should not come in to teach on Jan. 9.

McIntyre said she was accused in a Jan. 9 letter from Murray of misrepresenting herself when she was granted tenure in 1997. McIntyre said when she applied for tenure in September 1996 she had made no effort to contact the Episcopal bishop. She was still a Catholic and a nun.

McIntyre said she had felt called to ordination since her childhood. In recent years she had desisted because she wanted to remain a member of her religious order, she said. “But the call to the priesthood was quite genuine, and I needed to pursue it, even if it meant leaving.”

The chair of the National Coalition of American Nuns, Loretto Sr. Mary Ann Cunningham, issued a statement Jan. 29 expressing regret over the university’s decision to remove McIntyre from her theology post. “We applaud Dr. McIntyre’s courage and integrity,” Cunningham said, “and would suggest that her students might have been able to learn a great deal from her about the costly struggle to be faithful to God’s plan for their lives, about the requirements of an adult faith and about her prophetic response to a God-given call to priestly ministry.”

National Catholic Reporter, February 9, 2001