Last month, administrators at Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora retracted an issue of the school’s student magazine — and fired two faculty advisors of the publication — over a student’s opinion piece. The article, which advocated abortion rights for women, had apparently sparked controversy and concern among parents at the private Catholic school.
On Dec. 17, days after the Winter 2021 issue of the magazine, Elevate, was published, the school sent a letter to families announcing its decision to retract the entire issue because it contained the pro-choice op-ed, which it deemed “deeply troubling and unacceptable” and “clearly in opposition to Church teaching.” The two faculty advisors for Elevate who oversaw the issue have been fired.
Less than a week later, Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila wrote a letter praising the decision and thanking the school for addressing the “failure” that had allowed the piece to be published in the first place.
He expressed concern that an article contradicting Church teachings on the “sanctity of life” was allowed to be published at a Catholic school.
In the op-ed, titled “The Battle for Out [sic] Bodies,” a student journalist argued that women should have access to contraception, sex education and family planning. The student pointed out that outlawing abortion could endanger women by forcing them to have illegal abortion procedures.
“In the attempt to ‘save’ more lives,” the student wrote, “you’re just risking even more.” Later in the article, the student opined that “religious beliefs of other people should never interfere with a person’s choices with their body and future.”
When abortions become illegal, pregnant people may resort to unsafe abortion methods, which Doctors Without Borders cite as a leading cause of maternal death. Abortion bans also disproportionately hurt people of color and deepen racial disparities in health care, according to The Commonwealth Fund.
Part of Regis Jesuit High School’s stated mission is to help students develop “a productive, nuanced understanding of our complex and increasingly interconnected world.” Rigorous education is also a cornerstone of the Jesuit philosophy, which seeks to prepare students to be of service in the modern world.
Furthermore, Elevate’s editorial policy states that students make the final determination as to what content will be published in the magazine. School administrators and staff are prohibited from reviewing or censoring students’ published work except under extreme circumstances.
Nevertheless, the school retracted the magazine issue with the controversial op-ed. Aquila, an outspoken opponent of abortions, said many families had expressed “deep concerns” over the student’s article.
In his Dec. 23 letter, Aquila stated, “Let it be clear should there be any doubt, abortion, along with euthanasia, are the preeminent issues for the Catholic Church today.” He also reiterated Pope Francis’ previous statement that abortion was an “absolute evil.”
Pointing out that Regis Jesuit previously allowed publication of an article praising Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Roe v. Wade, two former editors of Elevate believe Regis Jesuit’s response to the recent publication of the pro-choice article can be traced to the school’s “fear” of Aquila, who has the power not to recognize Regis Jesuit as a Catholic school.
“Aquila dictated that Catholic schools must be ‘unabashedly defending’ the anti-abortion movement ‘no matter what the cost.’ In this case, the cost was two beloved teachers, Nicole Arduini and Maria Lynch, who were fired for allowing the article to be published,” wrote the former editors, Madeline Proctor and Sophia Marcinek, in The Denver Post.
“The school should have released the article in conjunction with their own statement, or alongside a pro-life stance, as was common practice,” they wrote, arguing that when “students are sequestered to echo chambers, they cannot encounter diverse viewpoints and thus receive a less rigorous education than their peers.”
Recently, Aquila has also opposed vaccine mandates on the grounds that some COVID vaccines were developed using stem cells derived initially from aborted fetal tissue. In 2018, he denounced Regis University’s decisions to host a drag show, honor students’ preferred gender pronouns, and assign works by queer and transgender authors in classes.