CAMPUS CHRONICLES: USD Drag Show Draws Fire, But Is Really a Moment for Encounter

April 16, 2014

University of San Diego students at the drag show.

The decision by the University of San Diego (USD), a Catholic school, to host a drag show was controversial, catching even the Vatican’s eye. However, one professor there says there is much more to this drag show than critics understand and it should be a moment for learning.

“Supreme Drag Superstar III” was the third annual drag show at USD, hosted by the campus’ LGBT group called PRIDE and promoted as a “celebration of gender expression.” According to U-T San Diego, the show features “a brief academic talk on the history cross-dressing and information booths,” in addition to the costumed musical performances.

Two local attorneys, Charles LiMandri and Thomas McKenna, protested the drag show by writing to the Diocese of San Diego and the Congregation for Catholic Education at the Vatican. The Diocese refused to comment and the Congregation turned down their complaint as it “lacks standing” for action against the University.

For its part, the University of San Diego has defended the show. Tim O’Malley, a spokesperson, said nothing about it violates Catholic teaching and stated further:

“We do not mean to demean our critics. Gender expression and identity, for some people, is not an area to be explored. For some people, that simply is wrong…However, the law of the church is silent on cross dressing. There no evidence that cross dressing is inherently homosexual.”

Emily Reimer-Barry, a theology and religious studies professor at USD, wrote about drag shows and transgender people in a post on the blog Catholic Moral Theology. She explains that each semester she invites a trans person to speak to undergraduate courses in sexual ethics in an effort to complicate and humanize what students preconceptions about the transgender community. While the post includes helpful definitions and suggestions, she also makes clear the importance of events like USD’s drag show, relating it to a transgender friend of hers, Jackie:

“Each time I hear Jackie’s personal story, I realize that Catholic parishes and Catholic institutions (like hospitals and universities) have a long way to go before all transgendered people will feel welcomed and included. I’m proud that at the University of San Diego we are trying to raise awareness of these issues in events like last night’s PRIDE’s Celebration of Gender Expression Supreme Drag Superstar. The drag show is fun as well as educational, and it helps students on my campus think more concretely and creatively about sexuality, gender, inclusion, and justice…

“For those who find such an event to be inconsistent with the Catholic identity of the university, I would suggest that to be church in our world today means engaging with the full reality of human experiences. It is a problem that so few people are aware of the terminology and basic facts about diverse expressions of gender identity.”

Furthermore, Reimer-Barry believes the drag show allows for self-reflection on how each person performs a gender identity and how we relate to our self in terms of sexuality and gender. This reflection helps with how we view the experiences of others, and “learn more about the diversity of God’s creation.” To conclude, she appeals to Pope Francis’ witness, writing:

“Pope Francis wrote in Evangelii Gaudium: ‘Whenever we encounter another person in love, we learn something new about God’ (no. 272). The pope reminds us that ‘A Church which goes forth is a Church whose doors are open. Going out to others in order to reach the fringes of humanity does not mean rushing out aimlessly into the world. Often it is better simply to slow down, to put aside our eagerness in order to see and listen to others.’ (no. 46). What powerful words in this context– What would it mean to have the doors of the church open to the transgender community? What would it mean to walk with students who are questioning their gender identity?…if the drag show helps GLBTQ students and their allies at my school to know that they are loved, supported, and included in this community, then we are doing something good and something special.

“I believe we need a much deeper theo-ethical engagement on these issues. The natural law tradition of Catholic theology invites us to reflect on human experience in order to draw norms about what promotes human flourishing; yet theologians sometimes collapse or confuse sex and gender, or we fail to include the life experiences of GLBTQ persons in our methodologies…We may think we have a long way to go, but a framework of listening and learning from the experiences of others will help us achieve much. This theology of accompaniment, like the drag show, can be a fun learning experience. And we can realize together that in the eyes of God each one of us is fabulous.”

Drag shows have previously caused controversies at Catholic schools and parishes, including in San Francisco and in New York. Thankfully, the University has defended the student-led drag show to promote awareness of the complexities surrounding gender and sexuality. What if other Catholic institutions, often so quick to shut down such initiatives, thought like Reimer-Barry and saw drag shows as an opportunity to see God in new ways and offer support to LGBT people?

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


CAMPUS CHRONICLES: University of Notre Dame Athletics Closer to Full LGBT Acceptance

March 22, 2014

Matt Dooley

College athletics are rapidly opening to gay athletes, and Catholic schools have played their part in making college sports more welcoming. Two reports out of the University of Notre Dame (UND) reveal just how quickly change is spreading.

Matt Dooley, a senior tennis player at UND, came out as gay in an essay for OutSports earlier this month. He details his struggle, including a suicide attempt sophomore year when “Death was better than accepting — or revealing — that I was gay.” Dooley writes of a Catholic upbringing that was not vocally anti-gay, but made it clear being gay was problematic. Building upon a successful athletic career in Texas, he began attending Notre Dame, of which he writes:

“I arrived on the campus of Notre Dame completely aware of the conservative environment and what to expect. This institution’s religious affiliations and its resulting culture can be easily described as a pressure cooker for someone struggling with his sexual orientation. While I was excited by the prospect of playing and winning tennis matches for the university, I was beginning to tire of the mental burdens that are unavoidably associated with being closeted – burdens that are compounded for an athlete. Unable to entertain the possibility of ever coming out, I pushed forward and paid little attention to my worsening mental state.”

Eventually, Dooley came out to his parents and then teammates who accepted him with love, and finally to himself. You can read his full essay at OutSports, which is well worth a read. The South Bend Tribune reports that the Notre Dame community’s response to Dooley’s coming out has been “overwhelmingly positive.” Dooley is now involved with the campus’ “You Can Play” initiative, which seeks to make athletics a welcoming place regardless of sexual orientation, race, or gender identity.

ESPN reports prominent Notre Dame voices have affirmed Dooley’s coming out, including Alex Coccia, student body president who led the movement for more LGBT rights at Notre Dame, and Ryan Sachire, the tennis coach:

” [Coccia:] ‘(The) question was: “Are you an ally or are you not an ally?” The question now is: “Why wouldn’t you be an ally?”…That seems to be the sentiment among students. The vast majority of students are supportive.’ …

“Coach Ryan Sachire said it has been business as usual with the team.

” ‘The guys have said, “OK, it’s part of Matt, it’s who he is, that’s great. We love him. He’s still a great teammate of ours and we’re going to move forward as a team and not think about it.” ‘ “

Brian Kelly

In a related story, Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly spoke to the Chicago Tribune after National Football League prospect Michael Sam came out in a move applauded by many, including President Obama, Fr. James Martin, and even Cardinal Timothy Dolan (sort of). Kelly said he would welcome gay players on his team, even given the University’s Catholic identiy of which he said:

” ‘The university still is about embracing diversity…They necessarily don’t agree with homosexuality, but they certainly, in terms of teaching, embrace diversity. … That’s in who we are. I think the university would feel as though they are still embracing diversity and one’s personal rights. That doesn’t necessarily mean we agree with homosexuality.’

” ‘Now as it relates to the head football coach, it’s about supporting. It’s about putting together a locker room that creates an environment for that player to feel comfortable.’ “

The University of Notre Dame is the most prominent Catholic college to openly welcome LGBT athletes so far, but is not the first. Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas wholeheartedly supported Jallen Messersmith, a basketball player, when he was reportedly the first college athlete to come out last year. Yet, work remains before every LGBT athlete at Catholic schools can safely come out and echo Dooley’s words:

“I have also learned to value myself and accept my sexuality as something that’s neither good nor evil, but is just an essential part of who I am. I’ve learned to respect myself and expect it from others. I have learned to trust again and, maybe most importantly, I’ve realized that I am not alone. There are others just like me, combatting the same fear of abandonment and worthlessness every single day…

“I share this story in hopes of sending a single message to other gay athletes like me: No matter the circumstance or situation, you are never alone.”

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


CAMPUS CHRONICLES: Loyola Chicago Limits Weddings to Straight Catholics

March 5, 2014

Madonna Della Strada Chapel at Loyola Chicago

Illinois’ first same-gender couples were married last week after a judge’s ruling found withholding marriage licenses until June 1 of this year to be unconstitutional. At the same time, Loyola University in Chicago, a Jesuit institution, began implementing a new policy banning same-gender couples and others from marrying on its campus.

The new policy comes as a response to one lesbian alumna’s request to marry at Loyola, denied by the University on the basis they only allowed marriages recognized by the state of Illinois. At the time of her request, marriage equality was not in effect in the state. In Bondings 2.0‘s previous coverage of that incident, students and alumni had expressed hope that Loyola would use Illinois’ passage of marriage equality as a way to welcome same-gender couples.

Until now, there had been no official policy about on-campus weddings and only about 15 ceremonies were hosted in a given year. DNAinfo Chicago reports on what the new policy entails:

“The policy, enacted in December, allows only Catholic-sanctioned weddings — between a man and a woman — at the school’s iconic Madonna della Strada Chapel in Rogers Park. All other ceremonies would be forbidden campuswide, university officials said…

“Wedding receptions, regardless of religious or gender identification, would be permitted in any of the university’s other venues, like at Loyola’s popular Cuneo Mansion and Gardens in Vernon Hills, Ill…”

Though specifically targeting same-gender couples, this will also exclude mixed-gender marriages by alumni from other religious traditions or civil ceremonies. There are questions surrounding the legality of this new policy, with the Windy City Timereporting:

“Loyola’s religious affiliation and mission affords the university exemptions granted under the equal-marriage law, which states that religious organizations are not required to provide their facilities for wedding ceremonies and receptions…

“However, the law’s definition of ‘religious facilities’ states that educational facilities are not exempt. With Loyola’s standing as both a religious organization and an educational institution, there could be room for interpretation based on how the law is worded. But the wedding and reception venues offered by the university aren’t necessarily used for educational purposes.”

Regardless, students and alumni are disappointed that Loyola did not make the right decision morally speaking. Paul Kubicki, the head of a campus LGBT group, said students were “exceptionally disappointed” and stated further:

” ‘Instead of sort of taking the braver approach and embracing the LGBTQ community as they have in the past, they’ve stopped short’…

” ‘It will be indigestible to the community as a whole. I think a lot of people really resent it…I can’t imagine it sticking around for very much longer.’ “

The students have support in alumni, as well as the local community. Michael Jarecki is a 2001 graduate who will withhold from donating or supporting the school while this policy remains.  He told DNAinfo Chicago:

” ‘I was extremely disappointed because that policy is not reflective of the Loyola that I know…To me, this seems like two steps backwards.’…

” ‘If Loyola doesn’t see there are consequences to their actions, it won’t change…Why go through the work to promote Loyola when they are personally rejecting me as a gay man?’ “

The Huffington Post’s report of this new policy places it within the context of a larger trend within contemporary Catholicism:

“Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of the LGBT Catholic organization DignityUSA, told The Huffington Post Loyola’s policy is consistent with actions by other Catholic institutions in response to same-sex marriage legalization.

” ‘As gay marriage comes to more and more places, the Catholic landscape gets more complex,’ Duddy-Burke said. ‘Bishops reach out to churches and give these kinds of orders: Priests are told not to do this, not to officiate and not even be present at same-sex weddings.’ “

Illinois’ implementation of equal marriage rights was a prime opportunity for Loyola University in Chicago to augment an existing commitment to LGBT inclusion, but administrators missed it. The Loyola community now excludes far too many couples and their families from committing to each other in love.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


CAMPUS CHRONICLES: Gonzaga U. To Implement Transgender-Inclusive Policies

February 24, 2014

Gianni Giuliani, a transgender graduate student at Gonzaga University

While existing resources are available for transgender students at Gonzaga University Spokane, Washington, administrators knew more could be done to support gender-diverse students. The Gonzaga Bulletin, a campus newspaper, reports on upcoming changes:

“These new policies would focus on specific areas of the college system that could create barriers for transgender students. Some of these changes would include the addition of gender-neutral bathrooms, a system in which students in transition can discretely change their name on all school-related records, a policy that would permit transgender students to live in the residence where they are most comfortable, as well as make medical resources easily available and non-discriminatory.”

Jaime Hollis, coordinator for special populations, said at least two motivations prompted these policies changes. The first was wanting to conform the University to Washington State law which protects sexual identities. The second is that even with the LGBT Resource Center and supportive staff in other departments, without official policy, transgender students face an uphill challenge. This could be detrimental to Gonzaga’s admissions in the future as people identify at younger ages as transgender due to broader acceptance and information in society. Hollis is quoted as saying:

” ‘If you look at the trend, [with] access to the Internet people are identifying younger as transgender because they now have the language to identify what they’re going through…Because of those dynamics, I think it’s really likely that we’re going to see an increase in trans students at all levels of education.’

“Hollis wants a system to be in place before the school has to deal these challenges.”

It appears making Gonzaga a more trans-inclusive campus will help existing students as well. The head of the University’s LGBT club, HERO, denied knowing any transgender students who were a part of it and spoke to the difficulties of being out at the school given its location in a small, rural city. The Bulletin spoke with one transgender student, Gianni Giuliani, who attended Gonzaga for undergraduate studies and is now a graduate student:

“Giuliani said he faces no major challenges on campus today, but he said that things were harder for him as an undergrad at GU from 2005 to 2009 when he was in the middle of his transitioning process.

” ‘It was really uncomfortable having to change my name and gender through the registrar’s office…Although they weren’t particularly nasty to me, it was just kind of an odd feeling … I felt they could have been more accepting of what that process is all about.’

“While Giuliani is an out and active member of the Spokane transgender community and regularly volunteers at the Inland Northwest LGBT resource center, he has never made a point of coming out on campus.

” ‘I wasn’t out…I never tried to blend in and make a big deal of it. I didn’t tell anyone. I just tried to integrate so people probably just assumed I was another guy. I might not have taken that route if there were policies in place to ensure safety and inclusion. I’d have felt like it was OK to come out.’ “

Gonzaga University was one of the first Catholic, and the first Jesuit, college in the United States to offer an LGBT Resource Center starting in 2004. The University is continuing to take its commitment to the LGBT community seriously by focusing on specific policy reforms, rather than just statements of welcome.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


CAMPUS CHRONICLES: DePaul University’s LGBTQ Minor is Model for Other Colleges

January 5, 2014

DePaul University in Chicago is both the US’ largest Catholic college and one of the most LGBT-friendly, having previously hosted transgender workshops on campus and elected one of the nation’s first openly gay student body presidents. Another first was the University’s LGBTQ Studies program, which alum Mike Sweitzer-Beckman recently wrote about at the National Catholic ReporterHe first heard about the program during a reception with DePaul’s president in 2006, saying of the event:

“The president spoke, and we were blown away, mostly upon hearing that DePaul was the first Catholic university in the country that had an LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) studies program. Here was a priest speaking in public about the need to support a curriculum that honors the historic oppression of this community. We were blown away.”

Gary Cestaro, the program’s founding director, explained just how the Catholic college established an LGBTQ studies and noted the lack of true opposition, at least on campus:

“The minor was established in 2005 and had a lot of broad support from the ground up and the top down, growing organically out of DePaul’s culture and commitment to social justice. There was already a history of interest in and advocacy for LGBTQ issues among students, staff and faculty. At the academic level, study of sexual identity was growing everywhere, not just at DePaul, so many members of faculty were writing, publishing and teaching on these identity issues…

“We had universal enthusiastic support from the bottom to the top,’ Cestaro said. ‘This fits in very well with DePaul’s mission and commitment to social justice.’ There were some voices that objected, however, including Cardinal Francis George in a weekly bulletin and Catholic Citizens of Illinois, who published this letter.”

Undeterred, the University launched the program and now describes it in the following language (and you can also see a listing of relevant courses by clicking here):

“The LGBTQ Studies program analyzes sex and sexuality within many different fields of inquiry. A minor in LGBTQ Studies will enable DePaul students to devote significant study to the experiences of people who do not conform to culturally dominant identities of sexuality and gender: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer. Such an endeavor is profoundly interdisciplinary by nature and draws on university resources and faculty expertise in a wide array of disciplines. Students in this minor will have the opportunity to analyze the experiences of LGBTQ people on their own terms, as well as through critical perspectives on sexuality and gender as complex social, cultural, biological, and historical phenomena.”

Sweitzer-Beckman points out that, true to the University’s Catholic identity, faith identity and Catholic teachings are constitutive part of the minor. Alumni who have graduated with the LGBTQ Studies minor, of which there are about 40, include several who are now acting for LGBT justice through their professional lives, writing, and ability to articulate their beliefs well. As Sweitzer-Beckman concludes: 

“It might take a little bit of imagination, but a minor in LGBTQ studies can co-exist at a university steeped in Catholic tradition.”

It seems fitting to ask then: which Catholic college will be next?

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


CAMPUS CHRONICLES: Pride Group & Campus Ministry Teaming Up at Georgetown University

December 27, 2013

Liturgy at Georgetown University

Students at Georgetown University attend one of the  leading LGBT-friendly Catholic colleges in the U.S., and Bondings 2.0 has previously covered previously efforts by the University in this regard, including welcoming two openly transgender students this fall. In another hopeful sign, Campus Ministry will now officially partner with GU Pride, the campus’ LGBTQ student group, to ensure the spiritual needs of all students are being met.

Tim Rosenberger, a sophomore, highlighted this new collaboration in Georgetown’s newspaper, The Hoya. He is an openly gay student writing about his experiences:

“Most Georgetown students won’t be surprised to hear that the LGBTQ experience on the Hilltop [G.U. campus nickname] is a uniquely uplifting one, but few may realize how many of their classmates have directly experienced the ill effects of a less inclusive theology. When I came to Georgetown last year, I was utterly unprepared for the warm and welcoming religious community that embraced me. My senior year of high school had provided me with some interesting reflections on my faith that had left me somewhat soured on Christianity…

“Coming to Georgetown provided me with a completely new context for spirituality in which members of my community celebrated difference and strengthened one another through our different ways of relating to God.”

Rosenberger believes Georgetown has room to grow, and he reports on a positive step in that direction:

“We should engage [LGBTQ] issues in theology classes and not shy away from difficult discussions merely to avoid awkward confrontations and political incorrectness. We should be leaders in the ongoing debate regarding inclusion within the Church’s worldwide body…In our own community, we can continue to make ministry resources accessible for students that do not actively seek them out.

“In partnering with GU Pride, campus ministry is boldly reaffirming its commitment to ministering to the spiritual needs of all students…GU Pride leaders, exhibiting the same boldness, overlooked the somewhat shaky reputation that religious organizations have on LGBTQ issues in order to form a meaningful partnership. From leading prayer groups for gay students to providing opportunities for Bible study and participation in religious services, campus ministry has done a great deal to make LGBTQ students feel they have a place within the religious community at Georgetown.”

Too often, LGBT students struggle to harmonize their faith identity with their sexual orientation or gender identity. While campuses host LGBT groups for students, there is still some times a division between these organizations and the faith-based ones. Georgetown University’s outreach by Campus Ministry to meet students where they are and seek to minister as needed is a hopeful sign that these divisions can be healed. The fact that they consulted and partnered with the campus LGBT group bodes well for the success of their future outreach. Hopefully, more Catholic colleges and universities will follow this lead and offer LGBT-affirming spiritual initiatives in 2014.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


CAMPUS CHRONICLES: Was Banning the Legion of Mary the Best Possible Response to Their Anti-Gay Message?

December 7, 2013

National University in Galway, Ireland

A state-run university in Ireland has banned a campus chapter of the Legion of Mary from the school after the group posted posters inviting students to become part of the Courage movement, a Catholic ministry to lesbian and gay people which promotes chastity and has been known in some instances to promote reparative therapy to attempt to “change” a person’s sexual orientation.

Officials from the National University in Galway said they made their decision because of the school’s “pluralist ethos” and its policy of “protecting the liberty and equality of all students and does not condone such behaviour” according to The Journal.ie.

RTE.ie reported that the poster’s message invited students with ” ‘same sex attractions’ to ‘develop an interior life of chastity … to move beyond the confines of the homosexual label to a more complete identity in Christ.’ “

The Guardian news report offered some background as to why the university came to its decision:

“The university said it had reviewed the actions of the society in the context of the college’s code of conduct and policies governing harassment. It said this led to the immediate suspension of the Legion of Mary, which is understood to have only a few members in its college society.

“The societies chairperson at the university, Patrick O’Flaherty, said he had been contacted by a number [70] of students who were upset or felt threatened by the content of the poster.

“In a statement, the university said it would not condone the production and dissemination of any material by students that discriminated against other students.”

The Legion of Mary’s response to the university’s action is curious.  On one hand, according to RTE.ie:

“Representatives of the Legion did not respond to an invitation to attend a meeting to consider the issue.”

Yet, on the other hand, the same news story reported:

“However, after the suspension was imposed, a committee member did write to the group apologising for any distress that had been caused.

“She said the content on the document had been taken directly from a website. It was not aimed at attacking any person or group of people and was not intended to hurt or offend.”

Yet, the group also had a bit of a rocky history in regard to its application to become a recognized society on campus, according to RTE.ie:

“The group had applied for status as a college society in September of this year and at one point had around 100 members.

“As part of the application to become a fully-fledged society, its committee was asked to provide information as to its aims and objectives.

“This did not happen. Concerns about the lack of clarification contributed to the decision to suspend the society.”

London’s Telegraph newspaper published an essay on this controversy by Padraig Reidy, a senior writer at the Index on Censorship. While Reidy is not sympathetic with the Legion of Mary’s views on homosexuality, he defends their right to express their views on a campus.  He wrote:

“. . . [W]e are in a curious position where a non-violent, non-intimidatory message from an orthodox Catholic position has been banned from a university campus. Without a trace of irony, the university claims that it is ‘committed to protecting the liberty and equality of all students.’

“The university Legion of Mary has said it was not their intention ‘to offend or upset any person or group of people.’ It probably wasn’t. In their own weird little way they probably genuinely think they’re offering real ‘support’ for gay people.

“But it doesn’t matter whether I, or the university authorities, agree with their idea of support or not. The issue at stake here is that they have peacefully put forward their views, without threat or abuse, and have still been punished, with even evidence of the Legion’s student society status removed from NUI Galway’s website.

“Universities are meant to be places where people learn to argue and find their way as adults. How this can happen when students are “protected” from even the slightest controversy, I really don’t know. Believers in intellectual and religious liberty should start praying for the Towers of Ivory.”

There are a lot of issues in this story which can be seen as black and white.  Was the university correct in banning the group or was this censorship, as Reidy claims?  Did the punishment fit the offense?  Was it LGBT students or Catholic students who were experiencing discrimination?

While I do not condone the message of the Legion of Mary’s posters, I wonder if perhaps there could have been a teachable moment here.  The fact that the Legion of Mary apologized shows there might be some opportunity for discussion with them. Perhaps a meeting between the Legion of Mary students and LGBT students would have helped to develop toleration and respect.  The recent example of Providence College, a Catholic school in Rhode Island, is instructive here.  When that school’s administration cancelled a public lecture by a pro-marriage equality speaker,   students on campus organized an evening of discussion and dialogue about the case, which resulted in a re-invitation to the speaker for the spring semester.

As the world mourns the death of Nelson Mandela, let us remember one of the greatest institutions he established was South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, set up for victims of apartheid to tell their stories, but also to foster healing for that wounded nation.   I think the Catholic community, and all communities that struggle with LGBT issues, such as the National University in Galway, would do well to follow Mandela’s model.

–Francis DeBernardo,

 


CAMPUS CHRONICLES: Students Call Loyola Chicago to Welcome All Weddings

December 6, 2013
Christine Irvine and her fiance

Loyola University Chicago students are petitioning their college to allow same-gender marriages in light of Illinois’ new marriage equality law. A recent editorial in the student newspaper raised the issue, following up on a recent controversy when a lesbian student was refused access to campus for her wedding.

Christine Irvine hoped to have her wedding at Loyola, but administrators at the Jesuit-run institution rejected this request on that grounds they only allow marriage ceremonies recognized by the state of Illinois. Irvine began a Change.org petition, which has gained nearly 2,900 signatures.  The petition states, in part:

“Because of our sexual orientation, because we are gay, we are banned from celebrating one of the most meaningful days of our lives on Loyola’s campus…

“Loyola claims to embrace social justice and attempts to be a ‘home for all our students –  embracing all races, sexes, gender identities, religions, ethnic backgrounds, socio-economic classes, sexual orientations, and abilities.’

“We call on Loyola University Chicago to live up to these values and create a home for all, regardless of sexual orientation, by ending the discriminatory policy banning same sex ceremonies on campus.”

USA Today reported that though no official policy is in place, a Loyola spokesperson commented, before marriage equality became law in the state, that there were guidelines, and campus facilities could be rented for social events, if not the wedding ceremony. Now that Illinois recognizes same-gender marriages, the spokesperson also said Loyola would develop a policy for on-campus weddings.

This changing reality caused the editorial board of student newspaper, Loyola Phoenix, to call on the administration to continue current policies, which would now allow same-sex couples. The editors write:

“The PHOENIX Editorial Board would like to use this opportunity to encourage the university to uphold its current policy and permit all ceremonies recognized by the state to occur in its venues, with the exception of Madonna della Strada Chapel…

“While we recognize that Loyola has the right to change its policy in light of the recent change in Illinois law, we believe that the current policy should remain in effect as it is written in order to maintain Loyola’s Jesuit values of inclusion and social justice…

“In choosing to stand by its current policy, Loyola ensures that it will remain an accepting space for all students, staff and community members, such as Irvine, and one that promotes equality and compassion in accordance with our collective virtue of social justice. Loyola can maintain space for its traditional Catholic beliefs, as well as its progressive Jesuit values.”

The outcome of both Irvine’s complaint and any developments in Loyola’s wedding policy are unclear, but students and alumni of the University are encouraged to make their LGBT-affirming voices heard to administrators.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


CAMPUS CHRONICLES: Comparing Universities Minimizes the Extent of LGBT Welcome

November 11, 2013

Georgetown U. Students during “Coming Out Day”

Religion and Ethics Newsweekly,  a PBS show, recently produced a segment with the provocative title “What does it mean for a school to be Catholic?” Heavily focusing on LGBT issues as a means of discussing religious identity, the segment contrasts Georgetown University, Washington, DC,  and Ave Maria University, Florida. However, Religion and Ethics Newsweekly ultimately portrays a false image of how Catholic higher education is integrating LGBT matters as part of their Catholic identities today by comparing the institutions.

The segment begins with Georgetown, showing students celebrating “Coming Out Day” and interviews Kevin O’Brien, SJ, vice president for Mission and Ministry. Of the University’s religious identity when welcoming LGBTQ students with extensive resources, O’Brien says:

Kevin O’Brien

“To quote something Father Hesburgh from Notre Dame would often say, ‘The Catholic university is a place where the church does its thinking.’ And if that is to be the case, then we have to permit this free exchange of ideas.

“The purpose of the [LGBTQ] center is not to undermine the church’s teaching. It is a center for education. We try to teach our students and faculty and our alumni about issues of sexuality, of sexual identity and gender. That’s an expression of our Jesuit tradition of cura personalis, caring for each person mind, body, and spirit, in their unique individuality.”

This pastoral concern for the well-being and success of LGBT students at Georgetown, which this year has openly welcomed two transgender students, is sharply contrasted by the president of Ave Maria University, Jim Towey. Bordering on fundamentalism, Towey attacks institutions like Georgetown for being accepting of students’ varying sexual orientations and gender identities. Joining Towey are two students from Georgetown displeased with their university’s LGBT outreach.

Thomas Lloyd

Also speaking out for Georgetown students is Thomas Lloyd, president of the campuses’ LGBT organization. Lloyd speaks to the convergence of Jesuit and Catholic traditions meeting LGBT equality:

“By recognizing pride, Georgetown has become more true to its Jesuit values. Commitments to social justice are some of the most important and historically grounded parts of Catholic doctrine.

“I wouldn’t even think about how to reconcile my queer identity with my Catholic faith identity if I hadn’t come to Georgetown. What does it mean to be gay and Catholic? Can those two go together? And my experience at Georgetown with Jesuits and with other people who are Catholic and identify as queer on campus show me that you can.”

Where Religion and Ethics Newsweekly ultimately falls short is in equalizing the voices of those who support LGBT people and those who seek Catholic institutions which shun such topics. Of nearly 220 Catholic colleges and universities in the US alone, more than half are listed by New Ways Ministry as gay-friendly campuses for allowing gay-straight alliances, staff resources devoted to LGBT students, and/or  policies or programming which educates and affirms on issues of gender and sexuality.  It makes it seem that there is an even split of pro-gay and anti-gay Catholic campuses, when the reality is that more and more Catholic campuses are, in fact, becoming more pro-gay.

In short, Ave Maria’s president and students interviewed are not indicative of where Catholic higher education stands on equality. Progress remains, but each week there are advances made as students, faculty, and staff advocate for and implement changes to make campuses more inclusive. Perhaps more telling than this contrast is the piece reported on earlier this fall that said: “Forget the Pope: Catholic Universities are the Future of the Church.”

For more information on what is happening in regard to LGBT issue at Catholic colleges and universities, go to the “Categories” tab in the right-hand column of this page and search “Campus Chronicles,”  our blog’s series which follows the news on these developments.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


CAMPUS CHRONICLES: Macklemore, Marriage Equality, & Constructively Addressing Conflict

October 27, 2013

Macklemore

Bondings 2.0 started the “Campus Chronicles” series a year ago with the desire to highlight  the struggles and successes for LGBT welcome at Catholic colleges universities. While many challenges still exist, we also recognize that campuses contain many hopeful signs of where the Church overall may be headed. In that light, this post features two colleges which have seen both sides of the coin recently. Creighton University, in Omaha, Nebraska, and Providence College, in Providence, Rhode Island, constructively dealt with controversies related to marriage equality in ways that signify the progress being made and the work which still remains.

Creighton University

The Students Union Program Board at this Jesuit school sponsored a ticket giveaway to a concert by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, which initiated student protests due to the artists’ outspoken support for marriage equality. Macklemore, who was raised Catholic, topped charts in 2012 with his song “Same Love” and since then continues to advocate for LGBT equality.

Students protested the ticket distribution in a letter to the Student Union and University President, causing the giveaway to be delayed while administrators met with the protestors. Two protesting students also wrote a letter to the editor in the campus newspaper, The Creightonianexplaining their views. They requested that Creighton cancel the ticket giveaway, so as to not be seen supporting an artist who happens to support marriage equality.

Creighton administrators, however, allowed the giveaway to proceed.  Omaha.com reported on the administrators’ statement, as well as general student reactions:

“The university said it is focused on educating students on social issues and that, ‘in the past, the university has hosted debates on the issue of same-sex marriage. We have had open sessions on this topic which centered on (Catholic) tenets of understanding and inclusion.’ “

“Dozens of students and alumni took to Twitter to complain about the delay in the ticket giveaway.”

The news website also noted that last year Macklemore and Lewis performed at a number of Catholic schools, including Boston College, University of San Francisco, and St. Joseph’s University, Philadelphia.  They also note that Creighton has allowed previous performers who have conflicted with Catholic teaching on marriage and other issues:

“In the past, Creighton has hosted artists and speakers whose values don’t match up with the university’s. Some have since come out in support of gay marriage. Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas, which performed at Creighton in 2004, has publicly pushed for President Barack Obama to do more to support gay marriage. In October, Creighton sponsored a concert free for students that featured 3OH!3, a band widely criticized for sexism and misogyny in its lyrics.”

Providence College

In September, Providence administrators cancelled a planned lecture by philosophy professor John Corvino on marriage equality. The decision raised serious questions about the College’s welcome for LGBT students and academic freedom. Students and faculty met that same week on the night of the cancelled event to discuss these issues. What followed was a growing student movement, a strong resolution condemning the College’s action from the Academic Senate, and national media attention.

Now, The Brown Daily Herald reports these actions resulted in positive change. The lecture was rescheduled for this coming spring, which will now be a debate with leading anti-equality activist Sherif Girgis. Additionally, the school’s President Brian Shanley apologized for the way in which the decision was made. Most important of all, the Board of Trustees adopted a non-discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation and gender identity. As the Herald reports:

“The student congress and faculty senate voted last year to change the college’s non-discrimination policy statement, but the Board of Trustees had yet to approve it, said Catherine Jones, a senior at Providence College. If the demands were not met by Friday at 5 p.m., the students wrote in their email, they planned to hold a silent demonstration that Saturday during a celebration honoring the opening of a new campus building, Terrones said.

“On Friday at about 3:30 p.m., Shanley announced that the school’s Board of Trustees had amended the policy to protect students of all gender identities and sexual orientations from discrimination on campus, Terrones said.”

The Friarfighters, as the group leading this movement call themselves, cancelled the protest amid promises to continue pushing Providence administrators towards a greater acceptance of LGBT people on campus.

Lessons?

The events at both Creighton University and Providence College offer students at Catholic colleges, and those who support them, at least two lessons.

First, for the most part the leadership in Catholic higher education increasingly understands the need to create inclusive, safe campus for all sexual orientations and gender identities. There is tremendous progress being made, and in the Creighton case it was the administration who largely defended the Macklemore giveaway against student anti-LGBT activists. Administrators can be forces for good on LGBT issues, and often the best approach is for students, faculty, staff, and administrators to work as partners to enhance inclusivity and Catholic identity.

Second, acceptance of equality is not yet universal, and some Catholic colleges remain deficient in protecting and affirming their LGBT community members. This does not mean however growth is not possible, but it may require students, or administrators, taking action. At Providence College, students successfully organized to persuade the Board of Trustees into adopting a non-discrimination policy which will tangibly improve the welcome for LGBT people on that campus.

Finally, students, employees, and alumni can on other Catholic campuses can take a first step by helping the schools to adopt employment non-discrimination policies. Such policies make words of welcome become real and tangible.  For more information on how to do this, you can click here or contact Bob Shine at youngadults@newwaysministry.org.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


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