Catholic University fires professor who invited 'abortion doula' to speak with psychology class

Flags fly outside McMahon Hall on the campus of Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
Flags fly outside McMahon Hall on the campus of Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. | Wikimedia Commons/The Catholic University of America

The Catholic University of America ended its contract with a professor who invited a speaker who told students that her work as a doula includes helping men deliver babies — which she called a "seahorse birth" — and coaching pregnant women through abortions. 

On Jan. 23, Rachel Carbonneau spoke to students at the Washington-based institution after psychology lecturer Melissa Goldberg invited the doula to address her class, Psychology 379: Lifespan Development. After the lecture, Catholic University promised that Carbonneau would not speak to the class again. 

In a Tuesday statement to The Christian Post, a Catholic University of America spokesperson directed the outlet to a message President Peter Kilpatrick shared with the community about the incident. 

The president confirmed that the Catholic University of America had terminated its contract with the professor who invited Carbonneau to speak to the students after gathering evidence proving the content of the class did not align with the school's mission and identity.

"As a Catholic institution, we are committed to promoting the full truth of the human person, and to protecting human life from conception to natural death. In our rigorous pursuit of truth and justice, we engage at times with arguments or ideologies contrary to reason or to the Gospel," Kilpatrick stated. 

"But we do so fully confident in the clarity given by the combined lights of reason and faith, and we commit to never advocate for sin or to give moral equivalence to error," the statement continued. "As witnessed by the life and virtue of St. Thomas Aquinas, whose feast we just celebrated as a community, such engagement with opposing ideas helps us both to grow in our command of truth and to respond to error with empathy, compassion, and mercy." 

According to Kilpatrick, the university's administration first learned about the content of the guest speaker's lecture the day after it took place and began gathering information. The administration received word that a student recorded the lecture and planned to share it with the media, Kilpatrick said, but the recording was not shared with the school's faculty members.

"While we were unable to confirm what exactly was said in the class, we did determine that the speaker's views on life issues and on the anthropology of the human person were not consistent with our mission and identity as a faithful Catholic university and that she should not be allowed to address the class again," Kilpatrick wrote.

In a recording provided to The Daily Signal last week, Carbonneau told a student who asked how abortion ties into her doula work that "This is a space I feel comfortable navigating." The lecturer is also heard on the recording saying that she works with trans clients.

"I have some men who have given birth; it's amazing. We call it seahorse birth," the doula said. "It's lovely, especially when it's a water birth; it's fantastic."

At one point during the recording, Carbonneau encouraged students to "normalize" the idea of "pregnant men," which refers to pregnant women who identify as men.

“I think just normalizing it, right? Using the gender-neutral language, talking about pregnant men as pregnant people, pregnant women, pregnant men, pregnant humans,” she said.

As The Daily Wire reported, a reading assignment provided to students explained that those who identify as trans or nonbinary are capable of becoming pregnant if they have ovaries or a uterus, which is why terms like "pregnant parent" are used. The assignment also used the phrase "people who were assigned male at birth."

Regarding her views on abortion, the lecturer said that she understands her position on the issue conflicts with Catholic teachings, as she was once a student at the university. 

"I have the honor and the privilege of working with families that have had to make the hardest decision of their entire lives, and I will tell you because I work with so many people that are having what we would consider an elective abortion in sort of the legal language," Carbonneau said, "it is a crushing decision you have to make."

The Christian Post contacted Carbonneau for comment, but she declined to issue a statement for the record.

Kilpatrick encouraged those concerned about academic matters to contact a faculty member, a department chair, a dean or the provost's office.

"Here at Catholic University, we have the unique opportunity and common blessing to pursue truth, to grow in faith, and to exercise charity," the university president continued. "Our studies aim at producing wisdom, which includes excellence in living and sharing the truth with others. May our common study help us to understand life, to love goodness, and to promote and protect the dignity of the human person."

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: Follow her on Twitter: @Samantha_Kamman

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