If You Can Teach, You Can Teach

May 14, 2014

Is the University of Notre Dame’s approach to inclusion instructive for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and other dioceses which have released teacher contracts targeting LGBT people and their allies?

One alumnus says yes, and the University’s example would strengthen Catholic schools, too. Josh Pichler, class of 1996, writes in The Enquirer“If you want to see how a Catholic institution makes the gay community feel welcome without violating its principles, check out a recent video produced by the University of Notre Dame.”

Pichler is referring to a newly released campaign by the school’s athletics department to end homophobia and transphobia, launched via a video last week and reported on by Religion News Service. The video includes athletes from each team at Notre Dame affirming the central theme, “If you can play, you can play,” and has athletic director Jack Swarbrick saying,

“Because the university values LGBTQ students in the Notre Dame community, as indeed it values all of its students, the university is committed to fostering an environment of welcome and mutual respect that is grounded in its Catholic mission.”

The video also features tennis player Matt Dooley, a Catholic student who came out earlier this spring. It was made in partnership with You Can Play, an organization dedicated to more inclusive athletics and founded by a 2006 alum of Notre Dame who has also worked with Jason Collins and Michael Sam. You can view it below or by clicking here.

So how can this campaign at Notre Dame impact diocesan teaching contracts?

According to Pichler, the University is an example of how Catholic institutions promote acceptance for LGBT people and, indeed, bolster their Catholic identity. He points out that Notre Dame’s video is, in part, an advertisement in the school’s efforts to capture top athletic talent. This is no different than employers recruiting high quality professionals, and Pichler writes further:

“The Archdiocese of Cincinnati is not a Fortune 500 company, but it has to attract talent and take care of its staff like any other organization. The archdiocese’s new contract for its teachers – which forbids public support of gays in any manner – puts many of its employees who have gay friends or relatives in a horrible position…

“Imagine you’re an archdiocesan teacher and one of your loved ones is gay, getting married and invites you to the wedding. Even if there’s ultimately no risk to your job for attending, how would you feel about signing that contract? How would you feel about your employer?”

Pichler believes that the new contracts, and any efforts which go against the acceptance of LGBT people and their allies, will deeply damage Catholic schools by turning away top talent, both teachers and students. To conclude, Pichler notes the irony that Notre Dame’s athletic director would not be welcome in Cincinnati’s Catholic schools simply for his participation in the “You Can Play” video.

As Bondings reported yesterday, one teacher, Molly Shumate, has already publicly resigned from teaching in Cincinnati over the contract and others have begun organizing. The archdiocese, as well as Honolulu, Cleveland, and Oakland, should follow Notre Dame’s lead and make their education policy: If you can teach, you can teach.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


CAMPUS CHRONICLES: Students Question Notre Dame’s Commitment to LGBT Inclusion

April 24, 2014

University of Notre Dame

For decades, University of Notre Dame students and alumni advocated to implement more inclusive campus policies towards LGBTQ people at the school. Many believed the 2012 pastoral plan, “Beloved Friends and Allies,” was a step forward, but now the University’s commitment is being called into question as a new, constroversial student organization, Students for Child-Oriented Policy (SCOP), has emerged.

The campus debate over SCOP began when the nascent student group launched a petition and hosted two events calling for the University to defend heterosexual marriage more explicitly.

In mid-March, SCOP co-hosted a panel discussion called “Marriage, the Church, and the Common Good.” It featured leading anti-marriage equality speakers, including Jennifer Roback Morse of the Ruth Institute and Ryan Anderson of the Heritage Foundation. In April, the student group held a daylong conference to organize student leaders who oppose LGBT rights in Indiana and again included speakers from institutions such as the Family Research Council and the Ruth Institute.

However, students from both sides of the marriage equality debate have reacted negatively to SCOP’s presence on campus.  These students launched a petition which explainins their nuanced opposition to SCOP.  In essence, they state that they are more against the organization’s attack on LGBT people, especially in terms of parenting, than SCOP’s beliefs about marriage. The petition authors write:

“As a Catholic university, we acknowledge and uphold the church’s teaching that is not in favor of same-sex marriage. However, SCOP does not reject same-sex marriage on moral or religious grounds in their club petition; rather, this petition takes issue with the University’s formal recognition of SCOP as a club due to the following: 1) SCOP’s incorrect implications that same-sex parenting is damaging to children – this blatantly ignores all empirical data in this field of the social sciences (summarized below) that actually indicates the opposite is true. 2) In ignoring this data, SCOP’s policy discriminates against all non-traditional family structures in a way that is in direct opposition of the university policy on diversity inclusion and message of love and acceptance…

By endorsing the SCOP as a club under it’s current specifications the University is sending the message that it is ignorant of the facts surrounding same-sex parenting and that it tolerates discrimination based on sexual orientation, not that we, as a community, embrace all people as created with dignity in the loving image of God.”

PrismND, the LGBT student organization started as part of the University’s pastoral plan, also opposes SCOP, and they released a letter which was published in campus newspaper, The Observer. Concurring with the petition that discussion over marriage is expected at a Catholic college, these students also object to SCOP’s perceived failure to respect the LGBT community.

About SCOP’s April conference, the PrismND letter noted that one speaker, Evangelical Bishop Harry Jackson Jr., commented that being gay is “becoming almost, if I can use the phrase, the flavor of the week.” He concurred with materials from sponsoring organizations that sexual orientation is a choice, one which he views as harmful. The Family Research Council’s materials insinuated that homosexuality is linked to child abuse, mental illness, and substance issues, and advocated reparative therapy, according to PrismND’s letter. PrismND leaders write:

“When the University of Notre Dame released its official statement ‘Beloved Friends and Allies’ more than a year ago…It called for ‘a safe and supportive environment for all members of the Notre Dame community’ and said that ‘the University deplores any offenses against that fundamental human dignity and calls for an abiding spirit of inclusion within the Notre Dame community.’…

“SCOP’s sponsorship of these [anti-gay] views during the conference stands in sharp contrast to the mission of the University and the Catholic Church to provide pastoral care to GLBTQ individuals. We maintain that the inclusion of these positions at the conference by SCOP is harmful to GLBTQ students and Notre Dame’s commitment to them.”

It is worth noting that SCOP’s introduction this spring came at the same time Indiana’s legislature was considering a constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality, and this assuredly will not be the final battle over LGBT rights there.

Having attended a Catholic university where monitoring of speakers limited academic freedom and free expression, I am always wary of any attempt to curtail campus initiatives. At dozens of Catholic colleges in the US, LGBT groups and events are denied recognition because they do not conform to a specific and selective view of Catholic teaching. As a Church and as educators, it seems prudent to move away from linking every speaker, group, and event as an endorsement from the hosting institution. The University should eliminate anything which is overtly violent or hateful, but allow that which is distasteful or even offensive to both sides of a debate. Doing so would enable freer thought from students, which could foster more fruitful and open dialogue overall on a range of issues. And in an open dialogue, PrismND and their allies would defeat opponents of LGBT justice with their ideas. For surely the ideals of love and justice, of human dignity and civil rights, are far more persuasive than those used to defend discrimination and denial.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


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


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