Monday, May 25, 2015

A narrative that is regularly filled with distortions and misinformation

Robert Whitaker writes about how John Nash’s story has been dishonestly and disrespectfully hijacked in “Reflections on a Beautiful Mind:
…[A]s our country mourns Nash’s death, I think the story of the movie serves as a reminder of how our societal thinking about psychiatric drugs arises from a narrative that is regularly filled with distortions and misinformation. Think of “drugs that fix chemical imbalances like insulin for diabetes,” and of studies that appeared in the scientific literature during the 1990s that told of how the atypicals were so much better than the first generation of psychiatric drugs, and of Russell Crowe in the movie A Beautiful Mind, and you can see a script that tells of a medical breakthrough and, if truth be told, it is that script that has governed our society’s “treatment” of those diagnosed with schizophrenia for the past 20 years.
I wrote in 2013 about the film’s false claim, its likely consequences, and the responsibility of writers and artists to speak the truth and expose lies.

Quote of the day

“‘You gotta quit naming them cows, Renee. You don’t name them things you eat’. I’m like, well, we ain’t gonna eat ‘em.”
– Renee Sonnen, co-founder of Rowdy Girl Sanctuary in Texas

ABC News Videos | ABC Entertainment News

Story here.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Voltaire’s Fanaticism, part 1: the Philosophical Dictionary entry

“In a word, let us contemplate the horrors of fifteen centuries, all frequently renewed in the course of a single one; unarmed men slain at the feet of altars; kings destroyed by the dagger or by poison; a large state reduced to half its extent by the fury of its own citizens; the nation at once the most warlike and the most pacific on the face of the globe, divided in fierce hostility against itself; the sword unsheathed between the sons and the father; usurpers, tyrants, executioners, sacrilegious robbers, and bloodstained parricides violating, under the impulse of religion, every convention divine or human — such is the deadly picture of fanaticism.”
-Voltaire, “Fanaticism,” Philosophical Dictionary

In my report from the panel discussion about Charlie Hebdo earlier this month, I noted that in his introduction Ed Berenson had mentioned an 18th-century play by Voltaire about Mohammed: Fanaticism, or Mahomet the Prophet. Having now read it, I’m surprised the play hasn’t received more attention.

Most striking is its modernity. And I don’t just mean the 2013 translator Hanna Burton’s decision to render Voltaire’s verse into modern prose (though that helps). I mean its psychological-sociological examination of fanaticism as a social phenomenon. Many people, it seems, are focused on the question of who the play is “really” about. People have discussed Voltaire’s knowledge or ignorance of and attitudes toward the historical Mohammed and the early Islamic movement. They’ve pointed to various indications within and without the work - his arguments about historical fact being secondary to artistic effect, his use of imaginary place names,… – as suggesting that he didn’t intend it to be a work of historical accuracy. Many have suggested that the “real” target of the play was Catholicism (or specific sects or movements within it), and that the use of the Muslim figure was just a means to get around Church censorship and avoid persecution.1

It seems to me that these arguments are both right and wrong. The play is about both early Islam and contemporary Catholicism and at the same time about no religion in particular. It’s a very modern work about a social phenomenon: fanaticism. This seems clear from Voltaire’s later Philosophical Dictionary, published anonymously, which contained an entry for “Fanaticism.”2 The play seems to be a dramatized version of the argument Voltaire sets forth in the extended entry.

Fanaticism as a global problem and its consequences

Voltaire’s dictionary entry about fanaticism as a generic social phenomenon was ahead of its time. “Fanaticism,” as Voltaire defines it, is “the effect of a false conscience, which makes religion subservient to the caprices of the imagination, and the excesses of the passions.” He encourages the reader to imagine a temple filled with religious fanatics of various sorts, all engaging in the bizarre practices they believe are demanded by or pleasing to their gods. They then, “full of the inspiration of their respective deities, spread the terror and delusion over the face of the earth. They divide the world between them; and the four extremities of it are almost instantly in flames: nations obey them, and kings tremble before them.”

He presents fanaticism as a global phenomenon, to which all humans are vulnerable. Throughout the entry, Voltaire uses concrete examples – some no doubt historically and anthropologically questionable – to illustrate the various bloody consequences and social-psychological characteristics of the phenomenon. These are by no means limited to a particular culture. Fanaticism almost invariably leads to some form of human (he doesn’t talk about animal) sacrifice: “It is dreadful to observe how the opinion that the wrath of heaven might be appeased by human massacre spread, after being once started, through almost every religion; and what various reasons have been given for the sacrifice, as though, in order to preclude, if possible, the escape of any one from extirpation.” He describes the various categories of people marked for sacrifice in different religious cultures - enemies, children, the “just and good,” the “most beautiful” and “most valuable,” the “purest,” the “most sacred” – offering specific examples of each from a variety of cultures.

He discusses fanaticism’s role in the crusades and the genocidal European conquest of the “New World”:
The same spirit of fanaticism cherished the rage for distant conquests: scarcely had Europe repaired its losses when the discovery of a new world hastened the ruin of our own. At that terrible injunction, “Go and conquer,” America was desolated and its inhabitants exterminated; Africa and Europe were exhausted in vain to repeople it; the poison of money and of pleasure having enervated the species, the world became nearly a desert and appeared likely every day to advance nearer to desolation by the continual wars which were kindled on our continent, from the ambition of extending its power to foreign lands.
Fanaticism, he argues, gives rise to wars, persecution, and massacres:
Let us compute the thousands who have been seen to perish either on scaffolds in the ages of persecution, or in civil wars by the hands of their fellow citizens, or by their own hands through excessive austerities, and maceration. Let us survey the surface of the earth, and glance at the various standards unfurled and blazing in the name of religion; in Spain against the Moors, in France against the Turks, in Hungary against the Tartars; at the numerous military orders, founded for converting infidels by the point of the sword, and slaughtering one another at the foot of the altar they had come to defend.
Fanaticism leads to a violent and destructive intolerance. Voltaire discusses a monk who murdered his brother for holding different beliefs; “Polyeuctes, who went to the temple on a day of solemn festival, to throw down and destroy the statues and ornaments”; the “assassins of Francis, duke of Guise, of William, prince of Orange, of King Henry III., of King Henry IV.; and “various others” - all “equally possessed, equally laboring under morbid fury...” “The most striking example of fanaticism,” notably, is close to home: “that exhibited on the night of St. Bartholomew, when the people of Paris rushed from house to house to stab, slaughter, throw out of the window, and tear in pieces their fellow citizens not attending mass.”

Fanaticism as a progressive illness

Voltaire saw fanaticism as a sort of contagious illness, a “religious madness” or “malady of the mind, which is taken in the same way as smallpox.”3 More precisely, it was akin to a symptom marking the advanced nature of an illness:
Fanaticism is, in reference to superstition, what delirium is to fever, or rage to anger. He who is involved in ecstasies and visions, who takes dreams for realities, and his own imaginations for prophecies, is a fanatical novice of great hope and promise, and will probably soon advance to the highest form, and kill man for the love of God.
The prognosis for advanced cases – individual or collective - was in his view generally negative:
When once fanaticism has gangrened the brain of any man the disease may be regarded as nearly incurable. I have seen Convulsionaries who, while speaking of the miracles of St. Paris, gradually worked themselves up to higher and more vehement degrees of agitation till their eyes became inflamed, their whole frames shook, their countenances became distorted by rage, and had any man contradicted them he would inevitably have been murdered.

…Only let a single people be thus fascinated and agitated under the guidance of a few impostors, the seduction will spread with the speed of wild-fire, prodigies will be multiplied beyond calculation, and whole communities be led astray forever. When the human mind has once quitted the luminous track pointed out by nature, it returns to it no more; it wanders round the truth, but never obtains of it more than a few faint glimmerings, which, mingling with the false lights of surrounding superstition, leave it, in fact, in complete and palpable obscurity.
Anticipating 19th- and early 20th-century elite fears about crowds and masses, Voltaire contends that people assembled in crowds are particularly susceptible to fanatical passions and irrationalities:
That almost despotic power which the enthusiasm of a single person exercises over a multitude who see or hear him; the ardor communicated to each other by assembled minds; numberless strong and agitating influences acting in such circumstances, augmented by each individual’s personal anxiety and distress, require but a short time to operate, in order to produce universal delirium.

We seldom get heated while reading in solitude, for our minds are then tranquil and sedate. But when an ardent man of strong imagination addresses himself to weak imaginations, his eyes dart fire, and that fire rapidly spreads; his tones, his gestures, absolutely convulse the nerves of his auditors. He exclaims, “The eye of God is at this moment upon you; sacrifice every mere human possession and feeling; fight the battles of the Lord”— and they rush to the fight.
His most subtle analysis concerns the leaders of fanatical movements. On the one hand, he presents them as cynical and self-serving manipulators:
Fanatics are nearly always under the direction of knaves, who place the dagger in their hands. These knaves resemble Montaigne’s “Old Man of the Mountain,” who, it is said, made weak persons imagine, under his treatment of them, that they really had experienced the joys of paradise, and promised them a whole eternity of such delights if they would go and assassinate such as he should point out to them.
He offers as an example of the cynical use of fanaticism Oliver Cromwell:
Cromwell said to General Fairfax: “How can you possibly expect a rabble of London porters and apprentices to resist a nobility urged on by the principle, or rather the phantom, of honor? Let us actuate them by a more powerful phantom — fanaticism! Our enemies are fighting only for their king; let us persuade our troops they are fighting for their God.”
Fairfax then “composed his regiment of red-coated brothers, of gloomy religionists, whom he made obedient tigers. Mahomet himself was never better served by soldiers.”4

But, despite what this story suggests, he doesn’t argue that the leaders are merely cloaking their self-serving, material goals in the language of religion. They, too, are fanatics:
What a tissue of frauds, calumnies, and robberies has been woven by fanatics of the court of Rome against fanatics of the court of Calvin, by Jesuits against Jansenists, and vice versa! And if you go farther back you will find ecclesiastical history, which is the school of virtues, to be that of atrocities and abominations, which have been employed by every sect against the others. They all have the same bandage over their eyes whether marching out to burn down the cities and towns of their adversaries, to slaughter the inhabitants, or condemn them to judicial execution; or when merely engaged in the comparatively calm occupation of deceiving and defrauding, of acquiring wealth and exercising domination. The same fanaticism blinds them; they think that they are doing good. Every fanatic is a conscientious knave, but a sincere and honest murderer for the good cause. [emphasis added]
What can check the growth of fanaticism?

As noted above, Voltaire was pessimistic about the prospects for recovery from the illness of fanaticism. Neither laws nor (it almost shouldn’t need to be said) religion could counteract it: “[W]hen the disorder has made any progress, we should, without loss of time, fly from the seat of it, and wait till the air has become purified from contagion. Law and religion are not completely efficient against the spiritual pestilence.”

In fact, “Religion…so far from affording proper nutriment to the minds of patients laboring under this infectious and infernal distemper, is converted, by the diseased process of their minds, into poison.” (With one exception: “There has been only one religion in the world which has not been polluted by fanaticism and that is the religion of the learned in China.”)

Laws, he argues,
are yet more powerless against these paroxysms of rage. To oppose laws to cases of such a description would be like reading a decree of council to a man in a frenzy. The persons in question are fully convinced that the Holy Spirit which animates and fills them is above all laws; that their own enthusiasm is, in fact, the only law which they are bound to obey.

What can be said in answer to a man who says he will rather obey God than men, and who consequently feels certain of meriting heaven by cutting your throat?
There was only one treatment and prophylactic - reason: “There is no other remedy for this epidemical malady than that spirit of philosophy, which, extending itself from one to another, at length civilizes and softens the manners of men and prevents the access of the disease.” While fanaticism both thrived on inflamed passions and further inflamed them, the spirit of philosophy worked through inducing mental calm: “The different sects of ancient philosophers were not merely exempt from this pest of human society, but they were antidotes to it: for the effect of philosophy is to render the soul tranquil, and fanaticism and tranquility are totally incompatible.”

But even this antidote wasn’t always successful. Troublingly, fanaticism could strike even the most reasonable. “It seems as if superstition were an epidemic disease,” Voltaire lamented, “from which the strongest minds are not always exempt”; “[o]ver what precipices do not men fall, notwithstanding their boasted leading-strings of reason!” Even Isaac Newton hadn’t been immune:
Were it allowable for us to reveal the disgrace of those to whom we owe the sincerest respect, I should observe here, that Newton, the great Newton himself, discovered in the “Apocalypse” that the pope was Antichrist, and made many other similar discoveries…. [I]f the exalted Newton imagined that he found the modern history of Europe in the “Apocalypse,” we may say: Alas, poor human beings!
In sum, then, rather than attributing it to any particular religion, Voltaire saw fanaticism as a global scourge with devastating consequences. He tried to find the psychological and social conditions in which fanaticism and fanatical movements took root and spread. He viewed fanaticism as a sort of contagious illness, progressive and almost always incurable – once “the human mind has…quitted the luminous track pointed out by nature,” it was nearly impossible to return to it. He sought to capture the dual nature of the leaders of fanatical movements, both self-serving manipulators and themselves suffering from the same sickness. Finally, he considered possible checks to the growth of fanaticism, arguing that neither law nor religion was effective and placing his hopes in a reason grounded in nature, the tranquil “spirit of philosophy,” while acknowledging that even this didn’t always protect us.

If this were a critical review, I would take issue with some of Voltaire’s arguments, but my intent is really just to summarize them in order to provide the necessary intellectual and political context for reading the play. In my next post on the subject, I’ll talk about the play within this context.

1 Which he did. As Burton notes in the introduction to her translation (p. 16), after some Catholic officials raised objections and forced the play’s withdrawal from the stage, Voltaire wrote to the Vatican and received papal approval from Benedict XIV. Lord Chesterfield, Malise Ruthven mentions in her preface (p. 8), saw the play as a veiled attack on Jesus, and was flummoxed to hear the response of a Catholic ‘who was extremely edified by the way in which this impostor and enemy of Christianity had been depicted’.

2 I had a hell of a time with this. The text I quote from here was published online by the University of Adelaide in Australia. They state that it’s “[d]erived from The Works of Voltaire, A Contemporary Version, (New York: E.R. DuMont, 1901), A Critique and Biography by John Morley, notes by Tobias Smollett, trans. William F. Fleming. I was unsure about the entry because it doesn’t appear in this Project Gutenberg version from 1764. But the entry is included in Volume V, which does appear in the Project Gutenberg version of The Works of Voltaire. I also found a version of the full entry in French from 1826, after Voltaire’s death. It appears Voltaire reworked and expanded on the PD throughout his life, so this might have been the last version. I haven’t been able to discover when exactly this version of the entry was completed or originally published.

3 Voltaire takes care to distinguish between two types of fanatics, of which one bears greater moral responsibility: “There are some cold-blooded fanatics; such as those judges who sentence men to death for no other crime than that of thinking differently from themselves, and these are so much the more guilty and deserving of the execration of mankind, as, not laboring under madness like the Clements, Châtels, Ravaillacs, and Damiens, they might be deemed capable of listening to reason.” [emphasis added]

4 Here Voltaire is quite sociological. He argues that Cromwell could only have succeeded in certain conditions: “in order to inspire this fanaticism, you must be seconded and supported by the spirit of the times.” To “make and to guide fanatics” requires the “profoundest dissimulation and the most determined intrepidity,” but “everything depends, after these previous requisites are secured, on coming into the world at a proper time.”

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Quote of the day

Capitalist competition:
“In conjunction with its financial and legal advisors, the company has devoted significant time and resources to analyzing a potential combination of Syngenta and Monsanto and remains confident in its ability to address regulatory concerns. This includes the company’s commitment to divest all of Syngenta’s seeds and traits assets and certain overlapping chemistry assets, making Monsanto better positioned than anyone in the industry to create a new company committed to integrated, value added solutions and enabling continued choice in the seed industry.”
- Brett Begemann, Monsanto COO

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Good piece by Paul Street on “Washington’s Continuing Murderous Middle East Myopia”

“No Wise Men Here: Gabriel Kolko and Washington’s Continuing Murderous Middle East Myopia”:
…The U.S. imperial establishment might still rule, but it does not do so through superior intelligence, vision, principles, planning, and strategy. As Kolko suggested in his synthesis Main Currents in American History (1976), it reigns instead thanks to deep structural fragmentation, powerlessness, cruelty, misery, and chaos in the imperial “homeland” and across the world system. It rules over and through disorder, drift, violence, division, and sheer inherited technological, institutional, and territorial advantage at home and abroad. The moment when underlying political-economic and other structural and conjunctural shifts and events will unseat the great post-WWII “rogue superpower” once and for all from its deadly global position cannot be precisely determined of course. There have long been signs that the death spiral of U.S. hegemony is underway; how long the process will take and whether humanity can survive it in decent shape are open questions….
Read the whole thing here.

Luz to leave Charlie Hebdo

Luz, the cartoonist who created the moving cover of Charlie Hebdo in the wake of the attack, will be leaving the magazine in September:
“Each issue is torture because the others are gone,” said Luz.

…“Spending sleepless nights summoning the dead, wondering what Charb, Cabu, Honoré, Tignous would have done is exhausting,” he added.
He’s recently published a new work, Catharsis, which he calls a “therapeutic book,” about his experience of the murder of his friends and colleagues and its aftermath. This article about the book also refers to the dispute among the CH staff which I mentioned recently.

Quote of the day

Today’s quote consists of a series of questions from climate blogger John Mashey:
Will GMU [George Mason University] continue in its resolute “See No Evil” approach?...

Will Wiley consider explaining its 2011-2012 behavior?

Why do so many of the legal harassments of the climate community involve GMU-trained lawyers?

What were Wegman and Said thinking? And why did Johns not tell them this was a bad idea?

What does the academic community think of $2 Million lawsuits to suppress investigative reporting of plagiarism?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Historical quote of the day

“[T]he individual must see that her interests are shared with those of the State; at the same time that the French woman recognizes her feminine significance and is reborn to a new youthfulness through motherhood, she will serve society and achieve the social role expected of her.”
- Santé, beauté, maternité (1941), Vichy familialist propaganda; quoted in Miranda Pollard, Reign of Virtue: Mobilizing Gender in Vichy France (1998), p. 51

Quote of the day

“A downloadable PDF application form for the executioner jobs, available on the website carrying Monday's date, said the jobs were classified as ‘religious functionaries’ and that they would be at the lower end of the civil service pay scale.”
- Reuters, “Saudi Arabia advertises for eight new executioners”

Monday, May 18, 2015

Historical quote of the day

“It appears that this material has the double objective of promoting and encouraging democratic government on the one hand while presenting the dangers of communism on the other. Since Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy its Government cannot be expected to welcome propaganda of the first category.”
- “Proposed Pamphlet Program,” from American Embassy, Jidda, to U.S. Department of State, January 8, 1952; available through the National Security Archive, quoted in Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush’s War on Iraq by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber (2003)

Quote of the day

“Again and again, proponents of free trade agreements claim that this time, a new trade agreement has strong and meaningful protections; again and again, those protections prove unable to stop the worst abuses. Lack of enforcement by both Democratic and Republican presidents and other flaws with the treaties have allowed countries with weaker laws and standards and widespread labor and environment abuses to undermine treaty provisions, leaving U.S. workers and other interested parties with no recourse.”
- “Broken Promises: Decades of Failure to Enforce Labor Standards in Free Trade Agreements,” report by Elizabeth Warren’s staff

Say it ain’t so!

Shocking hints of corruption in Honduras’ ruling party:
Officials said Thursday they are investigating allegations that millions of dollars embezzled from Honduras’ social security institute might have been used to finance the governing National Party.

The Public Ministry said in a statement that authorities were studying checks from supplier companies to the agency’s director and his friends. The companies are alleged to have overcharged for supplies and then kicked back some of the money.

The ministry didn't say which party was being investigated in relation to the case, but the director of the National Anti-Corruption Council, Gabriela Castellanos, said three protected witnesses have said it is the National Party of President Juan Orlando Hernandez.
The LIBRE party organized protests and has demanded the resignation of the “president.” Whatever comes (or doesn’t) of this specific investigation, the regime continues its attack on the remaining vestiges of democracy in Honduras – see this excellent piece by Dana Frank.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The real intent: Stiglitz on the TPP

“The Secret Corporate Takeover”:
…The real intent of these provisions is to impede health, environmental, safety, and, yes, even financial regulations meant to protect America’s own economy and citizens. Companies can sue governments for full compensation for any reduction in their future expected profits resulting from regulatory changes.

This is not just a theoretical possibility. Philip Morris is suing Uruguay and Australia for requiring warning labels on cigarettes. Admittedly, both countries went a little further than the US, mandating the inclusion of graphic images showing the consequences of cigarette smoking.

The labeling is working. It is discouraging smoking. So now Philip Morris is demanding to be compensated for lost profits.

In the future, if we discover that some other product causes health problems (think of asbestos), rather than facing lawsuits for the costs imposed on us, the manufacturer could sue governments for restraining them from killing more people. The same thing could happen if our governments impose more stringent regulations to protect us from the impact of greenhouse-gas emissions.

Rules and regulations determine the kind of economy and society in which people live. They affect relative bargaining power, with important implications for inequality, a growing problem around the world. The question is whether we should allow rich corporations to use provisions hidden in so-called trade agreements to dictate how we will live in the twenty-first century. I hope citizens in the US, Europe, and the Pacific answer with a resounding no.

“If you see something, say something…to a government agency and we’ll put you in jail”

In other threats-to-free-speech news, Wyoming’s new environmental/ag gag law:
[T]he new law makes it a crime to gather data about the condition of the environment across most of the state if you plan to share that data with the state or federal government.

The Clean Water Act and other federal environmental laws recognize that government officials lack the resources and sometimes the political will to address every environmental problem. Ordinary citizens therefore play an integral role in carrying out these laws. The statutes authorize citizens to bring lawsuits against polluters and recalcitrant government agencies, and citizen scientists have long played an important role in gathering information to support better regulations.

The Wyoming law transforms a good Samaritan who volunteers her time to monitor our shared environment into a criminal. Idaho and Utah, as well as other states, have also enacted laws designed to conceal information that could damage their agricultural industries—laws currently being challenged in federal court. But Wyoming is the first state to enact a law so expansive that it criminalizes taking a picture on public land.

The new law is of breathtaking scope. It makes it a crime to “collect resource data” from any “open land,” meaning any land outside of a city or town, whether it’s federal, state, or privately owned. The statute defines the word collect as any method to “preserve information in any form,” including taking a “photograph” so long as the person gathering that information intends to submit it to a federal or state agency. In other words, if you discover an environmental disaster in Wyoming, even one that poses an imminent threat to public health, you’re obliged, according to this law, to keep it to yourself.

Anyone with a passing familiarity with our Constitution will recognize that the Wyoming law is unconstitutional. It runs afoul of the supremacy clause because it interferes with the purposes of federal environmental statutes by making it impossible for citizens to collect the information necessary to bring an enforcement lawsuit. The Wyoming law also violates the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech because it singles out speech about natural resources for burdensome regulation and makes it a crime to engage in a variety of expressive and artistic activities. And finally, it specifically criminalizes public engagement with federal and state agencies and therefore violates another right guaranteed by the First Amendment: the right to petition the government.

By enacting this law, the Wyoming legislature has expressed its disdain for the freedoms protected by the First Amendment and the environmental protections enshrined in federal statutes. Today, environmentally conscious citizens face a stark choice: They can abandon efforts to protect the lands they love or face potential criminal charges. [links removed]
Another take.

Catholic employment ethics

I posted last month about the church finally accepting the resignation of a Missouri bishop, Robert Finn:
Finn…waited six months before notifying police about the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, whose computer contained hundreds of lewd photos of young girls taken in and around churches where he worked. Ratigan was sentenced to 50 years in prison after pleading guilty to child pornography charges.

Finn pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of failure to report suspected abuse and was sentenced to two years’ probation in 2012. Ever since, he has faced pressure from local Roman Catholics to step down, with some parishioners petitioning Francis to remove him from the diocese.
It was the first case in the US of a bishop being removed for such an offense, and only came about after a long campaign of public pressure. But really, he was just protecting a child pornographer. That’s hardly as serious as tweeting anti-hate messages:
A priest claims he lost his job as director of Seton Hall campus ministry because of a pro-LGBT Facebook post he made.*

Rev. Warren Hall posted on Twitter Friday afternoon that he was “fired from SHU for posting a pic on FB supporting LGBT ‘NO H8’. I'm sorry it was met with this response. I'll miss my work here.”

Jim Goodness, a spokesman for the Archdiocese, declined to comment on the specifics of why Hall was removed from the campus ministry position, but did confirm that Hall's “term as director of campus ministry is ending.”

Goodness said Hall will still serve as a priest in the Archdiocese of Newark, but will have a new assignment.

Current and former students replied to his tweet with angry reactions to the news.

“Unfathomable,” user Vito Amato wrote on Twitter. “No better representative of my alma mater than you, Father.”

Hall did not immediately respond to a request for an interview, but did post on Twitter that his supporters should use the incident as a reason to have discussions on LGBT issues within Catholic colleges.

* Of course we can’t be sure this was the reason, but it does seem in character for the institution.