Jesuit Professor Hopeful About Catholic Future on LGBT Issues

July 1, 2013

Paul Crowley, SJ

Earlier this month, Bondings 2.0 reported on Michael O’Loughlin’s article about “Being Gay at a Catholic University,” which dove into the cultures around LGBT issues present on a variety of campuses.

O’Loughlin has posted a longer version of his interview with Paul Crowley, a Jesuit priest and professor of systematics at Santa Clara University, who once wrote that being gay is “an invitation to a different way of looking at things, and toward a deeper embrace of the very gospel that threatens to subvert our most cherished notions about the God whose name is Love.” Below, Bondings 2.0 offers a few quotes from the interview that seem telling about the future of Catholicism in the US, and you can read the full interview at Religion News Service.

When asked about the students at Santa Clara University, Crowley identifies open minds as a prevailing attribute.  The majority support and are comfortable with the LGBT community on campus.  When he is asked about their response to the official teachings on homosexuality that Crowley presents in class, he responds with a telling example of how young adults view the hierarchy’s teachings:

“When I teach my human sexuality course, I give my students the official church documents, first without commentary, tell them to read them, and then to come back to class to discuss them. They come back and ask, ‘Is this serious? Do they really mean this?’ They just can’t believe it. That’s almost the universal reaction…As a matter of intellectual responsibility, I need to help them develop a critical mind and an informed critique, and not rest content with their a gut reaction that it just shouldn’t be taken seriously. I think it’s important to try to understand these teachings from the inside out, whether you agree with them or not.”

So what would an alternative message more salient to LGBT Catholics and younger Catholics be? Crowley believes messages of love are lacking, but this has not impeded Catholics from living their faith in LGBT-affirming ways:

“What the world really needs to hear, and what we so deeply need to hear, is a message of loving mercy and inclusion, rather than judgment.  The language of ‘objective disorder’ has proved to be very problematic, to say the least. On one level, all that LGBT people in the Catholic Church are asking for is an affirmation of who they are as human beings, people whom God loves. If you say anything like this in church, people come up to you and say, ‘Thank you Father for being so courageous!’ Well, it’s not courageous, it’s just the Gospel!…

“People are living their Catholic lives, in spite of what the church says about how to live their lives. I know several gays Catholic couples. One couple adopted two children.  They attend the local Catholic church with their children, both of whom have been baptized at the parish and attend the parish school.”

And how does Crowley think the future of the Church will be, based upon his students. He speaks in hope about a new reality in the world where LGBT equality is a given for younger generations, and in hope that the Catholic Church will adapt to this changed reality:

“So the church is going to have to do some deeper thinking about how to accommodate itself to new realities, which is what we’ve always done, after a few fits and starts. It takes a couple of hundred years, usually, but it will have to move faster than that now…

“For all of us, you never know what lies ahead, and you have to continue to live life, and be hopeful for the future. You want your students to leave your classroom in hope, and not in discouragement or despair. I have so much hope in them for the future. The church and the world need people like this. I think it’s so exciting. I see it in the younger generation, such great hope.”

For more stories from Catholic universities that express this hope about the upcoming generation of Catholic students, visit our ‘Campus Chronicles‘ series on the right.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


CAMPUS CHRONICLES: ‘Being Gay at a Catholic University’

June 21, 2013

collegeIn the past decade, whenever people ask me where I see the most hopeful situations for LGBT people in the Catholic Church, I have consistently answered, “Catholic colleges and universities.”  More than any other sector in the Catholic world, these institutions have established solid practices, programs, and policies which recognize the equality of LGBT students, faculty and staff.  New Ways Ministry has tried to document the growth of this pro-LGBT movement on Catholic campuses by maintaining a list of gay-friendly Catholic schools.  We also try to update our supporters by the posts we run on this blog entitled “Campus Chronicles.”  Throughout the year, we are frequently in touch with personnel from Catholic campuses, offering them advice, resources, and information.

The movement for gay-friendly Catholic colleges and universities received a major boost this week with the publication of an article entitled “Being Gay at a Catholic University” on ReligionandPolitics.org.   Authored by Michael O’Loughlin, himself a graduate of a Catholic college which wrestled with how to welcome LGBT people, the essay is a wonderful snapshot of the diversity of approaches that schools are taking to respond to the new needs.

Michael O'Loughlin

Michael O’Loughlin

The essay is a wonderful read, and I recommend viewing the entire text.  Below I will provide some germane excerpts with commentary.

O’Loughlin’s  essay is more than just a survey of representative Catholic schools.  He delves into some of the more important questions that the presence of gay-friendly schools implies for the future of Catholicism.  In his introduction he lays out several:

 What do the future lay leaders of the Catholic Church, still one of the most politically potent institutions in the U.S., believe about gay rights? How do their schools shape their views? And how will they shape the Catholic Church?”

One of the school’s he visited was DePaul University, Chicago, the largest Catholic university in the nation, and the only one that has an LGBTQ Studies minor, in addition to many other supportive programs.  DePaul, like other gay-friendly schools, sometimes gets criticized for not being truly Catholic.  Religious Studies Professor and Chair James Halstead offered a pertinent answer:

“When I asked what he thought about the critics who questioned DePaul’s Catholic identity because of the minor and various LGBT student groups, Halstead lamented that Catholic universities are subjected to charges of being ‘un-Catholic’ or ‘not Catholic enough’ because of issues of sex and sexuality—a charge, he said, that comes from both the left and right. ‘To measure the Catholic identity of a university by asking if it has a LGBT program or not, Jesus, help us all. Do people really think that’s at the heart of Catholic Christianity? To me, it’s just not.’ Instead, he wishes that Catholic schools were judged on how well students answer the deep questions’ such as where they come from and what it means to be human, all in the search for truth. ‘Truth really is a process of emerging, in goodness and beauty, friendship and love,’ he said. ‘Rational people can figure this stuff out. Reason, enriched by faith, is going to reveal truth.’”

Indeed,  when O’Loughlin visited the Jesuit-run Santa Clara University, California, he discovered that far from diluting Catholic identity, being LGBT-friendly was an enhancement to the faith life of students.  He describes a conversation with Max Silva, a student:

“Silva, a rising junior, came out in high school in Santa Barbara. Raised nominally Catholic, he didn’t dive into his faith until he enrolled at Santa Clara, exploring what it meant to be gay and Catholic. He leads a group called GASPED (Gay and Straight People for the Education of Diversity), which he views as a sort of social justice ministry, offering diversity education to the campus community. Of being out at a Jesuit school, he said, ‘It really does come down to the school’s Jesuit philosophy and its Jesuit ideals. It focuses on Catholic social teaching, especially the social justice aspect, instead of focusing on the sexual ethics and homosexuality aspect.’ The school, he said, approaches these issues from the ‘very Jesuit idea of educating the whole person, discerning your experience of Catholicism in an educated way.’ ”

At St. Anselm College, New Hampshire, creating a welcoming environment for LGBT students provided an opportunity for religious renewal for the campus, as described by Sue Gabert, the director of campus ministry:

Gabert. . .explained that the college had conducted a community-wide survey about diversity and discrimination shortly after students organized back in 2005. The students, faculty, and staff who identified as gay reported the campus environment to be unwelcoming and even abusive. So the school hosted a forum to talk about the issues. ‘There was so much respect and care for people’s stories. It was one of my most graced moments at the college. What we heard most is that people were happy we were talking about these issues. It was something that some people felt was taboo, so the fact that we were talking about the challenges we face as a Catholic institution and welcoming all people in a fair and inclusive way was good,’ she said.

At New Ways Ministry, we have heard similar things from parishes who welcome LGBT people.  The experience turns out to be a re-evangelization of the entire parish community, not just an outreach to LGBT people.

Not all the Catholic schools O’Loughlin visited were gay-friendly.  One notable exception was Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, for which O’Loughlin lists a series of repealed gay-friendly policies over the past three decades, and which this year, once again, rejected a student proposal to establish a gay-straight alliance.   The juxtaposition of Catholic University’s retrograde policies with other campuses’ more progressive experiences offers an important example:

“The contrast of resources available to students at DePaul and CUA is exemplary of a polarized U.S. Catholic Church, especially as it grapples with LGBT issues. By some estimations, nearly a quarter of the funding used to campaign against marriage equality efforts in the 2012 election came from official Catholic sources, including various dioceses, Catholic state conferences and lobbying groups, as well as the Knights of Columbus. . . .

“Just like the generational divide in the general population on issues of LGBT rights, the laity and the bishops appear to be separated by an expanding chasm, one that one that seems poised to widen in years to come.”

In other words, what is happening on campuses mirrors the experience of the entire American church generally.

For those who strive for equality and justice for LGBT people in the Catholic Church, the concluding paragraph of the essay offers amazing hope:

“The future laity of the Catholic Church is still being educated at Catholic colleges and universities. The Catholic laity as a whole is already in favor of same-sex marriage and is accepting of their gay family and friends. It seems this trend will only accelerate further as graduates of Catholic schools mature into adults. Some say that bishops, by leading the fight against same-sex marriage, are widening the gap between themselves and their flock. But on Catholic campuses, gay students are carving out spaces for themselves, and finding allies not only among their peers, but also in professors and priests alike.”

O’Loughlin, who blogs at Religion News Service, added a post on the day his article was published which contains the entire text of his interview with Systematic Theology Professor Paul Crowley, SJ.  It’s definitely worth a read, too.    Both the essay and the extended interview are wonderful contributions to the ever-growing conversation on LGBT issues and the Catholic Church.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Catholics Among Christian Leaders Supporting LGBT Rights in Uganda

July 25, 2012

The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights has released an open letter by American Christian leaders expressing solidarity with LGBT Ugandans as their that nation continues to consider anti-gay legislation. Among the 46 signatories are 28  who are connected with Catholic institutions (see below).

The announcement on the Kennedy Center’s website states:

“Washington — July 24, 2012 Today, a group of 46 American Christian leaders issued an open letter expressing solidarity with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Ugandans in the face of “increased bigotry and hatred.” The letter, coordinated by Faith in Public Life, Human Rights First and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, comes as a new Political Research Associates report released today accuses, among others, evangelicals such as Pat Robertson, Catholics and Mormons of setting up campaigns and fronts in Africa designed to press for anti-gay laws. . . .

” ‘It’s important for Ugandans to know that not all Evangelical and Catholic leaders think LGBT people should be criminals,’ says Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda and the 2011 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award laureate, ‘This letter from prominent American Christians is a crucial step in our efforts to introduce Ugandans to more positive and loving Christian messages in contrast to the harmful rhetoric from our own pastors that only leads to more violence and hate.’ “

In part, the text of the letter reads:

“Regardless of the diverse theological views of our religious traditions regarding the morality of homosexuality, the criminalization of homosexuality, along with the violence and discrimination against LGBT people that inevitably follows, is incompatible with the teachings of our faith.

“As American Christians we recognize that groups and leaders within our own country have been implicated in efforts to spread prejudice and discrimination in Uganda. We urge our Christian brothers and sisters in Uganda to resist the false arguments, debunked long ago, that LGBT people pose an inherent threat to our children and our societies. LGBT people exist in every country and culture, and we must learn to live in peace together to ensure the freedom of all, especially when we may disagree. We condemn misguided actions that have led to increased bigotry and hatred of LGBT people in Uganda that debases the inherent dignity of all humans created in the image of our Maker. Such treatment degrades the human family, threatens the common good, and defies the teachings of our Lord – wherever it occurs.”

“We condemn misguided actions that have led to increased bigotry and hatred of LGBT people in Uganda that debases the inherent dignity of all humans created in the image of our Maker. Such treatment degrades the human family, threatens the common good, and defies the teachings of our Lord – wherever it occurs.”

To read the full text of this letter and to see the full list of signatories, click here.

The signatories associated with Catholic institutions are:

Ambassador Thomas P. Melady
Former U.S. Ambassador to Uganda and the Vatican

Gerald J. Beyer, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Christian Social Ethics Department of Theology and Religious Studies, Saint Joseph’s University

Nicholas P. Cafardi
Dean Emeritus and Professor of Law, Duquesne University

M. Shawn Copeland
Associate Professor of Systematic Theology, Boston College

Rev. Paul Crowley, S.J.
Santa Clara Jesuit Community Professor, Religious Studies Department, Santa Clara University

Nancy Dallavalle, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Religious Studies, Fairfield University

Francis Schüssler Fiorenza
Stillman Professor for Roman Catholic Theological Studies, Harvard Divinity School

Jeannine Hill Fletcher
Associate Professor of Theology, Fordham University

Sister Mary Ann Hinsdale, IHM, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Theology, Boston College

Bradford E. Hinze, Ph.D.
Professor of Theology, Fordham University

Rev. James Hug, S.J.
President, Center of Concern

John Inglis
Chair and Professor, Department of Philosophy, Cross-appointed to Department of Religious Studies, University of Dayton

Reverend Raymond B. Kemp
Senior Fellow, Woodstock Theological Center, Center for Social Justice DC Community Fellow, Georgetown University

Paul Lakeland
Aloysius P. Kelley S.J. Professor of Catholic Studies, Director, Center for Catholic Studies, Fairfield University

Rev. John Langan S.J.
Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Professor of Catholic Social Thought, Georgetown University

Rev. Bryan N. Massingale, S.T.D.
Professor of Theological Ethics, Marquette University

Joseph A. McCartin
Associate Professor of History, Director, Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, Georgetown University

Alex Mikulich
Loyola University, New Orleans

David J. O’Brien, Ph.D.
University Professor of Faith and Culture, University of Dayton

Christopher Pramuk
Associate Professor of Theology, Xavier University, Cincinnati, OH

Thomas J. Reese, S.J.
Senior Fellow, Woodstock Theological Center, Georgetown University

Stephen F. Schneck, Ph.D.
Director, Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies, The Catholic University of America

Sister Nancy Sylvester,IHM
President, Institute for Communal Contemplation and Dialogue

Terrence W. Tilley
Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., Professor of Catholic Theology Chair, Theology Department, Fordham University

Edward Vacek, S.J.
Boston College

Todd Whitmore
Associate Professor of Christian Ethics, University of Notre Dame

Tobias Winright, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Theological Ethics, Saint Louis University

Sandra Yocum, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Religious Studies Department, University of Dayton

Almost 42% of Uganda’s population is Catholic, the largest denomination in this predominantly Christian nation.   As Bondings 2.0 has reported before, Catholic opposition to anti-gay legislation is critical to insure that LGBT people there are protected.  You can read about the importance of such support here and here and here and here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


The Ups and Downs of LGBT Issues on Catholic College Campuses

April 1, 2012

Jamie Manson

Jamie Manson’s essay, “As Culture War Rages, What’s the Status of LGBT Rights on Catholic Campuses?” takes an unflinching look at how issues about sexual orientation and gender identity are being treated in various locales. The news might be a bit of a mixed bag.

Manson, an award-winning columnist for The National Catholic Reporter who recently led a focus session on Catholic young adults and LGBT issues at New Ways Ministry’s Seventh National Symposium, points out many of the good things that are happening:  the recent More Than A Monologue conference series, the offering of domestic partner benefits at some campuses, the establishment of LGBT centers on two national campuses, that over 100 schools are listed on New Ways Ministry’s gay-friendly Catholic college list.

She also observes, however, that job security for LGBT faculty and staff can be precarious.  More worrisome is the culture of fear about LGBT topics that still exists on Catholic campuses:

“For all the advances on some Catholic campuses, a culture of fear still looms heavily. Though nearly twenty scholars and program directors were contacted for comment on this article, only three were willing to speak on the record.

“This silence, whether self-imposed or ecclesiastically-ordered, raises important questions about the future of younger theologians and scholars at Catholic universities. What is the impact on academic integrity when new faculty members fear that they might be denied tenure, or get their university in trouble with a bishop, if they publish ideas or speak to the media about controversial topics?”

This fear and silence was in evidence just a few days ago when Anna Maria College, a small Catholic school in Massachusetts, rescinded their invitation to Victoria Kennedy, widow of Senator Edward Kennedy, in part because of her support of marriage equality.   But perhaps as evidence of the mixed bag that Manson describes, it is also true that another Catholic college in Massachusetts, Boston College School of Law, will, in fact, be hearing Ms. Kennedy as their commencement speaker this spring.   You can read the full story of the Anna Maria College decision here.

Still as we’ve said before, Catholic colleges are one of the areas in the church where New Ways Ministry sees the most progress in the area of LGBT issues.  Manson’s article offers three reasons.  The first reason is the fact that the majority of Catholics are supportive of LGBT issues:

For [Professor Paul]Lakeland [of Fairfield University] . . . the divide on LGBT issues, ‘is not between church and academy, but between the institutional voice of the episcopate and the bulk of the Catholic population.’

“According to a 2010 study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 49% of white Catholics support gay marriage, up 5% from the previous year’s poll. A 2011 study by the Public Religion Research institute found that ‘when same-sex marriage is defined explicitly as a civil marriage,’ support increases to a staggering 71%.”

The second reason focuses on the mission of a university:

“Paul Crowley, SJ, professor of theology at Santa Clara University, a Jesuit school located in the middle of Silicon Valley, sees not so much of a divide between bishops and universities as ‘a difference of approach.’

“ ‘The Catholic university should be a place where there is more room than there is in some other sectors of the Church for free exploration of ideas and questions that people may raise,’ said Crowley. ‘This isn’t to deny a legitimate, normative role for the Church’s teaching in the intellectual life of a Catholic university.’

Campuses are pluralistic places with students and faculty who represent a diversity of religious traditions, races, ethnicities, and sexual expressions. ‘So, in regard to the Church’s teaching on homosexuality, the Catholic university should be a natural place to ask, “what are the lived implications of the Church’s teachings?’” Crowley said. ‘How do you, in a reality-based way, negotiate the Church’s teachings with human lives? ‘ ”

The third reason offers, perhaps, the most promise for a future Catholic church that promotes equality and justice for LGBT people:

“The Pew Forum’s 2010 study of ‘Religion Among Millennials,’ demonstrated that 72% of Catholics between the ages of 18 and 29 believe that homosexuality should be accepted by society.

“One professor who asked to remain anonymous told me, ‘The views of younger people are a sign of hope.’ ”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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