Markkula Center of Applied Ethics

Bishops' Letter on Affirmative Action

William Spohn

William Spohn, the John Nobili Chair of Religious Studies at SCU, is the principle drafter of a letter on affirmative action for the Catholic Bishops of California, due out in April.

Noting that a proposition opposing affirmative action will likely appear on the November 1996 ballot in California, Spohn says the letter is "not a critique or endorsement of a particular ballot initiative." Instead, Spohn hopes the document will examine "what kind of resources we get from faith to look at the issue."

Spohn believes the issue is inconclusive morally: "You can make arguments for justice on both sides, which I do in the draft."

To resolve the question, Spohn adopts a religious approach. "I try to reflect on the question looking at the story of Jesus," he says. "What were his priorities? Can we make some transfer to what our priorities should be?"

Christ, Spohn says, emphasized that a society could be judged by how it treats the poor and marginalized. From that point of view, Spohn argues that Catholics should not abandon affirmative action programs.

Spohn serves on the steering committee of the Markkula Center.