Dr. Steven Miles, a world-renowned scholar, author and anti-torture activist, has won many awards in his career on the faculty of the University of Minnesota's Center for Bioethics. But the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has bestowed an especially rare distinction on Miles, one that puts him in excellent company:
He just got Tutu'd.
As you recall, Nobel Peace Prize winner and Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu recently was barred from speaking at the University of St. Thomas. Now Miles, who has written extensively about torture practices authorized by the Bush administration and who has warned that America is becoming "a torturing society," has received the Tutu treatment.
Miles was invited months ago to talk about torture and its effects on society before masses at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Minneapolis on Sunday. The invitation was issued by the peace and justice ministry at St. Joan's, which has a tradition of social justice work in the Twin Cities. In addition, Miles was scheduled to speak Tuesday to an adult education class at the church.
But last Wednesday, four days before Miles was scheduled to speak, the archdiocese intervened: St. Joan's was ordered not to let Miles talk before mass. Or Tuesday, either.
He was persona non grata.
According to a spokesman for the archdiocese, Miles was barred from St. Joan's because he supports abortion rights, a position "contrary to the teachings" of the church. Miles acknowledges that, but says he had no intention of speaking about abortion and that he sent the text of his talk on torture to the archdiocese.
"I wasn't asked about my position on abortion, euthanasia (he opposes it), divorce, papal infallibility or the Nicene Creed," he says. "The issue is whether I have something relevant to say to Catholics on torture."
On that, there is no doubt. Miles believes passionately that torture violates fundamental rights of life and dignity. And causes abortions.
Miles is a geriatrician. But he was a recent vocal critic of a state Department of Health effort to spread false data linking abortion to breast cancer. And 30 years ago when the local Catholic paper threatened to publish the names of doctors performing abortions in the twin cities, he wrote a letter to the editor of the diocese paper asking that his name be included since he supported a woman's right to choose abortion. Miles will instead be speaking at the Carondelet Center in St. Paul, at 7 p.m. Tuesday.