I support the DePaul protesters

June 7, 2016

In a letter to DePaul University President Rev. Dennis Holtschneider, Joe Allen asks why protesters caused him shame, but not the racism of the bigot they protested.

Rev. Holtschneider:
While I was happy to see you condemn many of the bigoted beliefs of Milo Yiannopoulos, a guest lecturer for the DePaul University College Republicans, I was also equally angered with your condemnation of student protesters. "I was ashamed for DePaul University," you wrote in an e-mail.

You were so ashamed that you felt the need to issue an apology to the College Republicans: "They deserved an opportunity to hear their speaker uninterrupted, and were denied it." I think you should have condemned the College Republicans for bringing such a notorious bigot to DePaul--and apologized to the campus community.

Whether this apology was really directed toward the pampered bigots of the College Republicans or to the rich Republican donors of DePaul is another question.

However, one issue that escaped your attention is the anti-Semitism of Milo Yiannopoulos. I find this disturbing. Yiannopoulos is a self-proclaimed Roman Catholic, whose anti-Semitism is well known. "Jews run most of the banks; Jews completely dominate the media; Jews are vastly disproportionately represented in all of these professions," he has said.

DePaul University President Rev. Dennis Holtschneider
DePaul University President Rev. Dennis Holtschneider

Doesn't a Catholic University have a special responsibility to combat anti-Semitism? After all, it was the nearly millennium-long anti-Semitism of the Catholic Church that brought religious legitimacy to political anti-Semitism that culminated in the Nazi Holocaust.

In the 1960s, the Second Vatican Council--also known as Vatican II--specifically addressed this issue and declared its opposition to "hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone."

"Any time and by anyone" would seem to include Yiannopoulos and the DePaul Republicans.

You and I are of the same generation and are well aware that many American Catholics never abandoned their anti-Semitic beliefs despite the church's teachings. Many "dissident" Catholics, including the actor Mel Gibson, have become notorious for their anti-Semitism and racism. Gibson's anti-Semitism has been denigrated wrongly as a substance abuse problem.

Why are you lapsing on this issue? You imply that people like Yiannopoulos shouldn't be taken seriously: "I believe they are more entertainers and self-serving provocateurs than the public intellectuals they purport to be." Isn't that what many people thought of Donald Trump one year ago? Now he is the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party.

While Trump's supporters on your campus are known for their vile xenophobic racism towards Mexicans and misogyny, other Trump supporters have carried out anti-Semitic attacks online against Jewish reporters critical of his campaign.

A Catholic university should not provide legitimacy to any speaker helping to revive anti-Semitism in the United States. I await your reply.

Joe Allen, Chicago

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