Villanova University’s Center for Peace and Justice Education
Discover The Networks
April 22, 2005
· Offers a minor and a concentration in issues of “world peace and social justice”
· Courses require students to read books by Noam Chomsky, Gore Vidal, and Lenin
· Organized a protest against National Rifle Association President Charlton Heston
The Center for Peace and Justice Education is an interdisciplinary program that offers students at Eastern Pennsylvania’s Villanova University both a minor and a concentration in issues of “world peace and social justice.” The Center, which was founded by Father Ray Jackson, a former U.S. Marine who devoted his later years to “social justice,” strives to “help students understand the components of a moral and just society; reflect on the alternative models for socially responsible resolution of injustice and conflict, and learn the necessary skills to be peacemakers.” To this end, students receive an education “rooted in the Jewish and Christian traditions generally, and Catholic Social Teaching in particular,” and are instructed to apply their faith “to the complex problems of our time.” The courses in this program, however, are replete with pro-Marxist and anti-American themes.
The Center for Peace and Justice Education is a member of Villanova’s College of Arts and Sciences, and the courses offered are open to all students in the University, regardless of their major or focus of study. These courses can fulfill a student’s core curriculum requirements, allowing students in both the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Commerce and Finance to enroll. Among the courses offered are: Islam in West Africa, which covers topics such as “Islam, Empire, and Resistance”; Justice and Sports, which examines issues of “competition”; The Meaning of Justice, which uses socialist, communitarian, and feminist approaches to study the subject of justice; and Ecofeminism, which delves into the “radical reconsideration of destructive and unquestioned beliefs concerning justice, peace, ecology and community.”
The Center also offers a course titled Global Poverty: Liberation Theology & the Struggle for Justice. This class, which receives more attention than most others in the course-description section of the Center’s website, is ostensibly dedicated to:
Examin[ing] from a Christian ethical perspective: a) the structural and systemic linkages that produced wealth for one region of the world and poverty for the other; b) the phenomenon of globalization and its potential to promote or set development back further; c) the responsibility of the affluent to reshape the global order into one that is more just, compassionate and peaceful; and d) what the Christian churches and the Roman Catholic church in particular are doing to address global poverty.
“Liberation Theology,” which this course seeks to promote, is Marxism disguised as Christianity. Its objective is to inculcate unsuspecting Roman Catholics and Protestants with Marxist-Leninist ideology.
The professor who teaches Global Poverty: Liberation Theology & the Struggle for Justice is Suzanne Toton. She does not confine her promotion of liberation theology to courses which bear its name, but extends this indoctrination of Christian Marxism into her other classes, including Service and Education for Justice, where she extols the “insights” of Latin American Liberation Theologians. Toton believes that this course enables students “to understand better [their] own ‘call to service’ and explore possible directions for their future.”
One book that Toton assigns as a required reading in Service and Education for Justice is Dorothy Day’s Loaves and Fishes. Day was a Marxist Catholic who helped found the Catholic Workers Movement in the 1930s, which promoted pacifism in all circumstances, regardless of the nature of the enemy or threat. Today, the Catholic Worker’s Movement still advances its anti-war Marxist agenda by promoting such organizations and individuals as: the International Action Center; Voices in the Wilderness; Industrial Workers of the World; American Friends Service Committee; the Nonviolent Peace Force; and Noam Chomsky. The Center for Peace and Justice Education itself gives out an annual award bearing Day’s name.
The director of the Center is William Werpehowski. He teaches the course War and Morality, which examines the moral issues surrounding the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, the war in Bosnia, the Iraq War, and the War on Terror. The course catalog description for the class reads as follows:
How are moral reflection and the reality of warfare related to one another? This course will study three traditions of reflection bearing on these questions. The theory of the “just war” in Christianity seeks to account for circumstances when a people’s resort to arms is tragically necessary and morally permitted. The second approach, Christian pacifism, rejects the idea that warfare is warranted by claims of justice. The third tradition concerns the understanding of war and peace in the religion of Islam.
Werpehowski has made his views about the War in Iraq publicly known, both inside and outside the classroom. Prior to the start of the conflict, Werpehowski was a signatory to a Sojourners Magazine-published letter entitled, “We Must Oppose This War,” which stated, “We believe that [a] U.S. war against Iraq would be unjust and immoral. As a ‘pre-emptive’ attack unprecedented in our history, it would dishonor our nation, disregard morality, and violate international law. . . . A potential threat is not sufficient for war. Even if posed by a ruthless dictator, it is not enough that he might possess weapons of mass destruction, and that he might use them against us (or our allies) at some vague time in the future.” The letter goes on to trivialize Saddam Hussein as someone who, though he “has often been reckless,” nonetheless “knows that he could not use weapons of mass destruction without bringing down ruin on himself.” The letter fails to address Hussein’s past genocidal efforts and his quest for Mideast dominance.
Werpehowski was also the moderator of a panel discussion titled “Sanctions and Their Impact,” which was part of the 1999 Villanova University Symposium on “Iraq: History, People and Politics.” Speakers participating in Werpehowski’s panel included: Rania Masri, the coordinator of the Iraq Action Coalition, who believes that the Iraq War was caused solely by American imperialism and lust for oil; and Kathy Kelly, the director of Voices in the Wilderness, who has blamed the long-term suffering of the Iraqi people on UN sanctions rather than on the abuses of Saddam Hussein.
Another faculty member of the Center for Peace and Justice Education is Rick Eckstein, who teaches the course War, Imperialism and Terrorism. In the syllabus for this class, Eckstein makes clear his belief that terrorism does not stem from militant Islamic fundamentalism, but rather from inequalities born of American capitalism. The syllabus reads:
In this class we will explore war, imperialism, and terrorism as reflections of national and international social inequality. As the U.S. wages its seemingly endless “war against terrorism,” and its episodic wars on other nation-states, it is increasingly important that we look beyond slogans and good/evil dichotomies to understand why so many people are dying (and will continue dying) in the name of peace and freedom. I think of this course as an antidote to our cultural emphasis of reducing complex social phenomena (such as war, imperialism, and terrorism) to moral dichotomies and/or personalities. There is a lot more to these social phenomena [than] ‘good vs. evil’ and crazy people. However, you should be warned that these more complex explanations often indict us as co-conspirators in the institutionalized violence so prevalent in our world. [emphasis in original]
In this course, Eckstein includes as required readings a number of books which serve to promulgate the Marxist and anti-war agendas of the class, including: Lenin’s Imperialism: the Highest Stage of Capitalism; Gore Vidal’s Dreaming War: Blood for Oil and the Cheney-Bush Junta; and Noam Chomsky’s Media Control. In the course overview, Eckstein implores students to “start reading Lenin right away.” Eckstein adds that these readings are “not optional and there are no Cliff Notes to steer you through Lenin’s classic on imperialism.”
In the course outline, Eckstein states his intention to allow students some input in selecting the issues to be discussed in class, but makes it clear that he wishes those topics to be critical of the U.S. and capitalism. Says Eckstein, “I want YOU to suggest certain topics for our collective consideration. For example, I know at least two of you took trips last year that raised a lot of questions about the United States’ imperialistic actions with other countries. Therefore, I am going to leave the course outline vague at this time except for the first topic. During the next several weeks, we will explore the nature of capitalism and how the internal logic of this political economic system makes war, imperialism, and terrorism seem perfectly normal; kind of like economics and politics by other means!”
In a much-publicized 2001 controversy, Villanova’s Center for Peace and Justice Education organized a protest against National Rifle Association president Charlton Heston, who had been invited by conservative students to speak on campus. School administrators tried everything in their power to stop the event from taking place: they refused to pay Heston for his appearance, to pay for his security, and to provide him with lodging. They then turned to the Center for Peace and Justice Education for assistance in forestalling Heston’s appearance. The Center, in turn, asked one of its graduates – Vasavi Reddy – to help publicly malign the scheduled event. Reddy, editor-in-chief of the campus newsletter Liberal Forum, dutifully condemned the Villanova Times and its editor Chris Lilik, who had organized plans for the Heston talk, as being racist. But the University, the Center, and Vasavi Reddy eventually failed in their efforts to block the Heston event from taking place; Heston waived his $30,000 fee, brought his own security team, and Chris Lilik paid Heston’s hotel bill.
In describing the events surrounding the controversy, writer and executive editor of the Common Conservative, Tom Adkins, observed that “Villanova is a paradox, a Catholic university where administration and faculty are dominated by activist socialists.” According to Adkins, the Center for Peace and Justice Education “is not an ad-hoc student group. It’s an accredited Arts and Sciences program. You can learn self-victimization, race-baiting, even protesting. As a major! [It] not only supports campus liberals, they actively attack Villanova conservatives. . . .Now, the world knows Villanova is preaching hate in the name of caring, division in the name of unity, selectivity in the name of diversity, and censorship in the name of freedom. All under the ever-vigilant eyes of the antonymous big-brother organization [known] as The Center For Peace And Justice.”
In an effort to disseminate its radical views to the entire Villanova student body and the surrounding community, the Center publishes its bi-annual Journal for Peace and Justice Studies, which was founded in 1988. The Center also uses its website to promote a number of politicized groups, including: the War Resisters League; Human Rights Watch; Greenpeace; the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation; Oxfam; PAX Christi International; UNICEF; the War Resisters League, and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.