Priest Removed from Seton Hall University Comes Out as Gay

June 3, 2015

Fr. Warren Hall

Seton Hall University’s former director of campus ministry, removed from his position recently after publicly supporting the NOH8 campaign, has come out as gay. Father Warren Hall, who is also a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, which owns Seton Hall,  has begun to speak publicly about the employment incident which led to his removal.

These incidents are raising important questions about Newark Archbishop John Myer’s decision to remove Hall and the broader issue of openly gay priests in the age of Pope Francis.

Fr. Hall’s Coming Out

Fr. Warren Hall came out as gay in an interview with Outsports,  a gay sports news website.   He said that a year ago a student directly asked the priest if he was gay. This question was a first for the campus minister while at Seton Hall, Outsports reported. Hall, who often encouraged students to be honest with themselves and others about their identity, said it was his own moment to be open and authentic:

” ‘That student was right…I have to be myself. I can’t worry what other people think.’ “

Until his recent removal, Hall remained out to only a small circle of friends at the University.  His removal from his job prompted him to come out more publicly. Hall said:

” ‘The best way to live is to live honestly. Honesty with oneself is the most important thing, but you have to be honest with other people…I’m not afraid of those questions [like the student’s] anymore.’ “

For the first time, Hall also provided an account of his removal from Seton Hall. The priest claimed that his firing was based on the NOH8 Campaign graphic he posted on his Facebook page as a way oppose racism and bullying. According to the National Catholic Reporter, another priest saw the graphic and reported Hall to church officials. The article further described the chain of events:

“Hall said he was called in to explain the post, first by the university and then by the archdiocese…He agreed to delete the post and his explanation of its intent seemed to put the matter to rest, he said…Then, on May 11, as he was giving an exam to his sports and spirituality class, Hall was told to call Myers.

” ‘None of us want bullying,’ he said Myers told him, ‘but you have a further agenda here, and I can’t have you at Seton Hall because of that.’ “

The Archdiocese of Newark, through spokesperson James Goodness, continues to deny that Hall’s support for LGBT people caused his removal, though he now acknowledges that the social media post did trigger an assessment of Hall. A statement from the Archdiocese released after Hall’s coming out emphasized that “Catholic priests were required to live in “chaste celibacy” and to “respect and obey the authority of the Church,'” reports the New York Times

Seton Hall’s Response to LGBT Issues

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, suggested in the Times report that the Seton Hall community would likely be largely supportive of a gay priest, as would be the case at the majority of Catholic higher education schools in the U.S. DeBernardo added that Hall’s ability to influence young adults towards LGBT support would be quite limited because young people are overwhelmingly supportive already.  DeBernardo stated:

“Young people — even young Catholic people — are already on board with L.G.B.T. issues…So even as the director of campus ministry, what could Father Hall have done or said that could have influenced them any more positively than they already are?”

Seton Hall denies recognition for an LGBT student group, which most U.S. Catholic colleges provide, though an informal gruop called Allies exists at the school. A former gay student, Anthony Romeo, who suffered a hate crime while at the University and later sued the school, wrote in The Huffington Post about the dissonance between Seton Hall administrators and its students:

“While Catholics everywhere are embracing a more tolerant and, imagine this, a more loving attitude towards GLBT persons, Seton Hall refuses to do so. So it should surprise no one that Reverend Warren Hall alleges that he was fired for posting a message of solidarity with the GLBT student community. Seton Hall can dress it up in any way they’d like, but it’s hard not to feel that at Seton Hall, you can only support certain students, and the gay ones don’t count.”

Are Seton Hall University administrators intent on limiting LGBT community members’ full recognition and participation? The Setonian, a student newspaper, mentioned the case of another employee discriminated against for advocating for LGBT civil rights. Additionally, Professor King Mott was removed as an associate dean and forced to take a leave of absence after writing in a New Jersey newspaper in 2005 about the church’s discrimination against LGBT people.

Still, the wider community of students seems quite supportive of LGBT people. College basketball star Derrick Gordon, an openly gay athlete who is transferring to Seton Hall from the University of Massachusetts, said Seton Hall was among those schools where he did not experience homophobia from potential coaches and teammates, reported USA Today.

petition in support of Fr. Hall started by Seton Hall students has gained nearly 9,000 signatures. You can add your signature here.

Gay Priests in the Age of Francis

Outside the University, Hall’s coming out is a test case for how Archbishop Myers and other religious superiors will handle openly gay priests in the era of Pope Francis, whose famous “Who am I to judge?” quote was specifically about gay priests.

Fr. James Bretzke, a moral theologian at Boston College, says attitudes on the topic are evolving and there is a “greater openness” from this pope, reported NJ.com.

Fr. Donald Cozzens of John Carroll University, Cleveland, said gay priests are “some of the most gifted” in the church, but are forced to stay closeted because of pressures from church leaders. For people in the pews, a priest’s sexual orientation is of much less concern. Cozzens stat4ed:

“Catholics want good pastors, men who are compassionate and generous with their time and energy. They want ‘ministers of mercy’ who make God’s word come alive…I don’t think they really care about their priest’s sexual orientation. This is especially true of Catholics on our college campuses.”

Archbishop Myers’ decision to remove Hall is under increasing criticism given the emerging reality of LGBT issues. In an editorial, The Star-Ledgerwhich recently described Myers’ mandatory retirement in 2016 as “a moment that should be celebrated with singing and dancing in the streets,” asked:

“So where is that respect, compassion and dignity [called for in Catholic teaching]? Why remove Hall from his post, against the will of his parishioners? Who really has the agenda here?

“Remember…[Myers] was the one who said gay parents are bad for children, and gay marriage is a threat to religious freedom; that all Catholics must embrace his views, and those who refuse should not take Holy Communion…

“So why remove this priest from his position? Myers is the one who should go.”

As much as Myers and the Archdiocese of Newark claim “This isn’t a big thing,” (in the words of spokesperson James Goodness), the removal of Fr. Hall is having a great impact. It appears he was removed for merely supporting LGBT people; what happens next, now that the priest has come out as gay, will be critical not only for Hall but for all priests. Fr. Hall has asked for a six month sabbatical. As of yet, there is no word from the Archdiocese on his next assignment.

Here is one suggestion for the archdiocese: Fr. Hall’s decision to come out is courageous and, in being open and authentic, he is a model for students. For this very reason, the best re-assignment for him would be right back to the classrooms and Campus Ministry of Seton Hall University.

This post is part of our “Campus Chronicles” series on Catholic higher education. You can read more stories by clicking “Campus Chronicles” in the Categories section to the right or by clicking here. For the latest updates on Catholic LGBT issues, subscribe to our blog in the upper right hand corner of this page.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


U. of Dallas Student to President: Apologize for Speaker or Admit That LGBT Students Are Unwelcome

May 31, 2015
University of Dallas commencement

University of Dallas president Thomas W. Keefe is being asked to apologize anti-gay remarks made at the Catholic school’s commencement ceremony earlier this month.

In an open letter, newly graduated Maxwell Adam Frazier called on Keefe to make amends for the the Texas school’s commencement address by conservative activist and alum Brent Bozell, which Frazier described by the student as an “aggressive and politically charged tirade.”

Bozell’s speech suggested Christians were persecuted because LGBT rights were advancing, as he cited:

“Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson publicly quotes Scripture and is suspended from his television show for being un-Christian. The state advocates the destruction of the family and the sacrament of marriage as a moral good. A Christian minister appears on CBS to defend the sanctity of marriage and is labeled the leader of a ‘hate group’. . .

“When the government orders you as the owner of a small bakery to facilitate the perversion of the sacrament of marriage, you must refuse and be prepared to face criminal prosecution.”

These remarks were met with a standing ovation from those at commencement and tacit approval of administrators like President Keefe who did nothing to challenge Bozell’s extremist rhetoric. This speech and the administration’s response encapsulate Frazier’s experience as a gay student at UD, as he wrote in the letter:

“Bigoted students are empowered. They are given a voice, and their homophobia goes unchallenged by the tolerant students. These cancerously homophobic students are not only accepted but applauded and hailed as heroes. The tolerant students are complacent and happily unaware of the homophobia. It’s almost a willful ignorance. They don’t notice the homophobia right in front of them but rather join their peers in applauding the bigot out of conformity. Those that notice, those that care, aren’t given a voice. Your LGBT students and their allies are not empowered to make a positive change at this university. Your homophobic and toxic students couldn’t begin to ask for more power. There is no dialogue. We are not welcome, we are not wanted.”

Frazier described the campus climate as “homophobic and toxic”:

“We only recently were removed from the dreaded list of top twenty homophobic schools, but from my experience here that news was sour. The only way that could have happened is for the other schools to have become exceedingly more homophobic, as my non-academic life at UD cannot be described as anything but homophobic and toxic.”

Frazier believes the University of Dallas must choose whether to change or be honest that LGBT students are unwelcome. To not enact change and still invite LGBT people is to “deceive and mislead” prospective students who will suffer due to the campus’ hostile atmosphere. He said the University is faced with a difficult choice:

“So we are at a bit of a crossroads: either UD needs to make a change or it needs to honestly declare ‘we do not love our gay students. We do not care that they feel safe or welcomed. We would be better off without them, and we find no reason to accommodate for their existence, let alone their attendance. Their security, success, and spirituality simply mean less to us.’ “

Brent Bozell

Frazier suggested there be an apology for Bozell’s speech, which ruined an otherwise celebratory day for many, and that the school should consider revoking his honorary degree.  UD  also should establish a gay-straight alliance to support students, he added. A GSA is not political, nor does it oppose Catholic teaching for it would function as a space for “those who wish to be understood and those who wish to understand.”

To sign Frazier’s petition calling on President Keefe to make an apology, visit it at Change.org by clicking here. For other commencement news, visit our recent coverage here. To read more about news of LGBT issues on Catholic campuses, click on “Campus Chronicles” in the “Categories” box in the right hand column of this page, or you can click here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


CAMPUS CHRONICLES: LGBT Issues Play a Role in Catholic Colleges’ Commencement Ceremonies

May 17, 2015

Cardinal Dolan speaking at The Catholic University of America’s commencement, Washington, DC, in 2012.

It’s commencement time across the country, and LGBT issues seem to be popping up both negatively and positively at some Catholic schools’ graduation ceremonies.  Here’s a round-up of some of them, followed by some brief reports on other LGBT news at Catholic colleges.

Le Moyne College

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York is addressing Le Moyne College graduates today with hundreds promising to ignore his speech after asking for Dolan’s removal.

Nearly 750 students from the Jesuit college in Syracuse, New York,  signed a petition against the College’s choice of Dolan as their commencement speaker. Student organizers argue that Dolan’s previous remarks against LGBT people, alongside questions about his role in covering up clergy abuse make the cardinal an unqualified speaker, reported WSYR Syracuse. Senior Kate Bakhuizen explained to NY1:

” ‘I think that, as a group, a group of people who have their own identity, we have decided that Cardinal Dolan doesn’t really embody the values that we’ve been taught at a Jesuit school.’ “

Le Moyne president Linda LeMura defended the choice of Cardinal Dolan, but also spoke positively of these students –rare admission from an administrator facing protest:

” ‘It’s an inherent part of the Catholic intellectual tradition to challenge questions of authority. That it’s OK to ask the big questions and, in fact, at the end of the day, it actually makes us better Catholics, if you will. Better citizens’…

” ‘I think it’s something you hope for in a college setting. You know, that young people are thinking critically about issues and that they’re willing to take stands on things that they believe in and even more so in a Catholic Jesuit setting, where we promote the importance of social justice.’ “

Student organizers promised a silent protest during Dolan’s speech at commencement exercises, saying they will respect the cardinal’s speech while making their disagreement known. What is remarkable here is President LeMura’s defense of the students’ actions and recognition that critical challenge should be valued, rather than suppressed on Catholic campuses.

Lavender Graduations

At least eight Catholic colleges hosted lavender graduations this year, which are separate ceremonies officially sanctioned by the institutions to honor LGBT graduates . Schools with lavender graduations include:

Other News

The following are news items about LGBT issues in Catholic higher education with links provided below for more information:

Fordham University, New York City, is making progress towards implementing gender-neutral restrooms next fall, reported campus newspaper The Fordham Observer. This is the outcome of ongoing discussions between a student group, The Positive, which advocates for gender rights, the student government, and University administrators.

Georgetown University student Tim Rosenberger, who is openly gay and a Republican, lost his bid in the election for student president at the Washington, DC, school, reported The Washington Blade.

St. Thomas Aquinas College, Sparkill, New York, cancelled a drag show organized by the campus’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance Club because campus president Margaret Mary Fitzpatrick worried about “unintended consequences.” However, students speaking to USA Today confirmed the campus is still very welcoming, and also noted that Fitzpatrick suggested the school should first host lectures about gender identity and the role of drag in the LGBT community, as a way of preparing the entire campus for a possible future drag show.  Bondings 2.0 discussed the importance of drag shows in educating students on gender diversity and identity a few weeks ago, a post you can access here.

Graduation time at Catholic colleges and universities can often be ripe with controversy.  Sometimes commencement ceremonies are attacked by conservative groups for featuring pro-LGBT speakers. None such cases have emerged yet this year. In fact, there seems to be more good news than bad this year, especially with Le Moyne College’s students displaying the type of critical thinking and Gospel witness that Catholic education hopes to produce.

Congratulations to all those graduating this spring!

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


NEWS NOTES: Baptisms, Hermits, Movie, and Protests

May 11, 2015

News NotesHere are some items that you might find of interest:

1)  At an ordination in Rome, Pope Francis told 19 priests “With baptism, you unite the new faithful to the People of God. It is never necessary to refuse baptism to someone who asks for it!”  According to The National Catholic Reporter’s Joshua McElwee, these words “may be interpreted to rebut Catholic priests who refuse to baptize children of same-sex couples.”

2)  The bishop of Northampton, England, has removed three members of a hermit community from a local presbytery after they refused to continue distributing vicious anti-gay material, according to The Tablet

3) On America‘s blog, Nathan Schneider gave a positive review to “Owning Our Faith,” a short film produced by the LGBT ministry at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church, Manhattan.   Bondings 2.0’s very favorable review can be found by clicking here.

4)  Some graduating seniors at LeMoyne College, a Jesuit school in Syracuse, N.Y., will be protesting the school’s commencement speech this year, which is to be given by N.Y.C.’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan, according to TWCnews.com.  Dolan’s record of being critical of LGBT equality is part of the motivation for the students’ protest.

5)  At the annual March for Marriage in Washington, DC, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, who is president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, spoke against marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples, calling it “the greatest social experiment of our time,”  according to The Catholic Sun.  Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, also attended the rally and gave the opening prayer.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


CAMPUS CHRONICLES: Love Without Concrete Expressions Isn’t Christian Love

May 9, 2015

Boston College students partake in Support Love Day, during which the “For Here We Are All One” campaign was announced

Students at Boston College and the University of Notre Dame are challenging their universities to enact more concrete means of LGBTQ support, showing that even schools which offer a welcome sometimes do so without providing real pastoral care.

For Here All Are One

Seniors just weeks away from graduation have released an open letter to Boston College administrators as part of a new movement called “For Here All Are One,” a phrase drawn from the school’s alma mater.

More than 400 seniors and alumni affixed their signature to the letter calling for an LGBTQ resource center with the promise to withhold donations until it is opened, reports Boston Magazine. The letter, written by student government leaders Nanci Fiore-Chettiar, Connor Bourff, Ben Miyamoto, and Sean O’Sullivan, says, in part:

“Until administrators are allowed to fully and openly express their support as allies, Boston College will continue to send the message that LGBTQ students are not supported, do not matter, and do not belong…

” ‘Without the support of institutional policies, there will continue to be students on this campus who think it is acceptable to use derogatory and homophobic slurs; student groups will continue to be unfairly limited because of their affiliation with the LGBTQ community; alumni will continue to reflect on Boston College as a university that caused pain and does not practice what it preaches; students will continue to fear reactions from their roommates, classmates, professors and peers; students will continue to be afraid to be who they are.’ “

The letter also states that those signing are proud of Boston College and hopeful their efforts will improve the community. Administration spokesperson Jack Dunn, however, called the letter an “unproductive gesture that will do little to advance dialogue.”

Some students note that Boston College’s support of LGBT students is mixed, with administrators cancelling several major LGBT-positive programs without explanation in recent years. Senior Tyler Bean writes in campus magazine The Gavel about feeling unsupported as a gay man while expecting more precisely because of the school’s Catholic identity:

“I was made in the image and likeness of God; therefore, I am good and deserve love. God created me gay and He makes no mistakes. God knows that I am gay, He has always known…I know that God cares about me, but I am left asking myself, does BC care about me and the rest of the GLBTQ community?

“All I know is that if BC does care, it clearly does not care enough…lthough I will miss BC, I am ready to leave an institution that lacks the resources and support the GLBTQ community needs and deserves. I hope that in the future BC chooses to live out its Jesuit values by caring for the whole person of every person.”

If you are an alumus of Boston College and would like to sign the letter, you can do so here. For more information on recent LGBT incidents at BC, see campus newspaper The Heights or For Here All Are One’s video on YouTube.

Out at ND

Student participating in Out at ND's launch event

Student participating in Out at ND’s launch event

The University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana, answered a decades-long call for LGBT outreach in 2012, announcing its pastoral plan “Beloved Friends and Allies” which recognized a student group, Prism ND, improved advisory structures, and hired a full-time staff member to focus on LGBTQ campus issues.

A new group, Out at ND, now claims that though these efforts are necessary, they are insufficient. University programming cannot recognize the goodness of same-gender relationships or publicly endorse marriage equality, a gap this new group hopes to fill. Member Jake Bebar explained to WNDU:

” ‘Notre Dame’s culture is pretty unique. We’re the number nine LGBTQ unfriendly school in the nation right now…We’re really trying to do something that fixes that a little bit…We’re trying to make a social change.’

Bebar was clear that Out at ND is not a challenge to Prism ND, but serves a complementary role in its unofficial capacity. Unlike many student groups we report on at Catholic campus, Out at ND leadership will not be seeking university recognition.

What each of theses two campus developments reveals is the limitations of Catholic education’s efforts to welcome sexual and gender diverse people. The church’s colleges have been at the forefront of LGBT outreach in recent years and Bondings 2.0‘s “Campus Chronicles” series attests to this trend. Indeed, this welcome has been an essential first step, but it must be followed now by concrete expressions of Christian love for LGBT students such as resource centers, staff members, and programming. As before, it is true now that students will accept nothing less.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


CAMPUS CHRONICLES: Drag Shows and Rainbow Proms Among Spring Celebrations

April 23, 2015

University of San Diego students at the 2014 drag show

The University of San Diego (USD), a Catholic campus in Southern California, hosted an LGBT-centered social event, which, once again, critics claim undermine the school’s Catholic identity. But, as one theologian notes, it is precisely by offering events which celebrate sexual and gender diversity that the church’s educational mission is fostered.

An event at USD entitled “Celebration of Gender Expression: Supreme Drag Superstar IV” was held last week as part of a seven-day program focused on Sexual Assault Awareness. While intended to be enjoyable, the program’s description points to the educational value as well:

“Transgender & Transsexual? Gender expression & gender identity?  What do these have to do with Sexual Assault Awareness Week?  Statistics show that the Trans Community is at a drastically higher risk for sexual and relationship violence.  Learn more about this important issue.”

This is the drag show’s fourth year and, as usual, it is drawing criticism from some conservatives. USD administrators, however, support the program. Last year, an appeal by these critics to the Vatican was dismissed.

USD is not the only Catholic college hosting LGBT-focused social events. Drag shows have been held at Seattle University and Loyola University Chicago, while other schools hold rainbow proms like Santa Clara University and Gonzaga University. Kristen Grewe of Santa Clara, who coordinates their Rainbow Prom, explained the significance of such events to their campus newspaper:

” ‘The goal is a big celebration of the LGBTQ community…Whether that’s those individuals celebrating themselves, allies celebrating that they exist or just celebrating our efforts to try and make Santa Clara more visibly accepting, we want to give people the opportunity they may not have gotten in high school.’

” ‘We decide with this event what we want to say to the community…We focus on queer empowerment, queer history, the queer movement and what it means to be queer on this campus and in the world.’ “

The stakes for trans* students on Catholic campuses are especially high, enough so that USD theology professor Emily Reimer-Barry reflected on the drag show as a “matter of life and death.” Writing at Catholic Moral Theology, Reimer-Barry discussed the high profile suicides of transgender teens Taylor Alesana and Leelah Alcorn before asking two very relevant questions:

“What responsibility do I have as a cisgender Catholic when I learn of stories like Taylor’s or Leelah’s? How can my faith tradition work to make the world safer and more just for all people, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation? These questions take on new urgency each April as my school prepares to host the drag show, an annual event sponsored by PRIDE.”

Noting critics, Reimer-Barry affirms the drag show at the intersection of quality theology and good pastoral care. She writes, in partial response to Alcorn’s famous request to “fix society”:

“What does it mean to fix society? What can the Catholic community do? At the very minimum, we should name bullying as wrong. Second, our schools should be places where questioning and transitioning teens feel safe to explore their own identities and to dress in the way that feels right to them. We should have support groups and counseling services for students in crisis, and encourage students to recognize the signs of depression and the warning signs for suicide. Often peers are the first to know when someone needs help. Our schools should be places not of shame or microaggressions but of hope, support, and love. And when an adult has the opportunity to discuss sexual behavior with a teen we should encourage self-care and responsibility. We can foster open discussion of sensitive issues and encourage students to keep asking questions. And as people of faith we should help students to see that God loves them, no matter what, and that each person is precious in the eyes of God.”

Furthermore, the drag show and similar events celebrating LGBTQ communities helps the church’s theological reflection. Last year, Reimer-Barry noted that the annual show is a moment for encounter:

“But it must be said that Catholic teachings are part of a dynamic faith tradition that must learn from new data as it is presented. The best theologians of the tradition—including those who shaped the above teachings—did so as people in particular historical-cultural contexts. As a tradition that has developed over time, Catholicism must engage the latest research in sociology, psychology, biology, and the rest of the sciences. And there is still so much we do not understand about our sexuality…So we must be careful not to overstep our claims when we discuss ‘church teaching on gender ideology.'”

Finally, Reimer-Barry offered insights broadly applicable for our church in how questions of sexuality and gender identity are approached:

“I believe that I have a responsibility to listen and learn from people whose life experiences are different than mine…I belong to a pilgrim Church, a Church with the doors open, a Church called to transform the darkness of the world by the light of Christ. I am proud to work in a Catholic university that hosts a drag show as a way to raise awareness about gender diversity. While the drag show will not ‘fix society,’ it represents one small step towards a more inclusive, intellectually rigorous, and joyful approach to the complexity of human experiences of sexuality.”

In these closing words, the goodness and, indeed, necessity of drag shows, rainbow proms, and other social events that open up affirming and inclusive spaces in Catholic education becomes readily apparent. Caring for students in their differences, expanding the perspectives of all in the community, cultivating shared understandings through dialogue, and celebrating the goodness of God’s creative power found in human diversity are all very Christian values. Catholic colleges and universities, rather than weakening their Catholic identity, strengthen it tenfold by building rainbow bridges over their campuses.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


CAMPUS CHRONICLES: Jesuit Schools Gather to Discuss LGBT Issues on Campus

April 16, 2015

Students and campus personnel from Jesuit colleges and universities across the U.S. gathered at Georgetown University, Washington, DC, last month for a weekend conference about LGBT issues at their school.

Image from dotCommoweal.org

Entitled “IgnatianQ,” the meeting was organized by GU Pride, Georgetown’s LGBTQ student organization, but was also supported by the university’s administration, campus ministry, and LGBTQ Resource Center, the first of its kind on a Catholic campus.  In an interview with The Hoyathe campus newspaper, Thomas Lloyd, president of GU Pride, explained the need for such a meeting:

“IgnatianQ is a very unique space. There are very few people who understand what it means to do LGBTQ work in a Jesuit context and there are unique challenges, concerns but also rewards … for me personally doing LGBTQ work has been how I’ve made my meaning. . . .

““I’ve always said the most important part of LGBTQ work in this [Jesuit] context is to affirm that we have a duty to LGBTQ students because our context demands it. It’s part of supporting the whole person. It’s part of being a universal church and a universal community, and a university community,”

In another Hoya article, Fr. Greg Schenden, SJ, campus chaplain, echoed the Jesuit grounding of this conference:

“The purpose of this student-led conference is to help students from Jesuit universities grow in their faith and appreciate their worth as human beings. These values are central to the Jesuit commitment to cura personalis — care for each person in their uniqueness.”

Jesuit values were the focus of one of the keynote speakers, Dan Cardinali, who is an openly gay 1988 alumnus of Georgetown and now the director of Communities in Schools, the largest dropout prevention organization in the country.

According to a news report on the conference in The Hoya, Cardinali described his struggle with sexuality while a student, and then explained how, while he lived as a Jesuit for a while after graduation, he came to understand a positive Catholic approach to LGBT people:

“As a Jesuit, I was gifted with a set of opportunities to give back to the world. It prepared me for what I do now. I realized that being gay and being Catholic … can go together, as long as we believe in the dignity of [the] human person. Overtime, we would be able … to have the courage that [it] takes to make changes. . . .

“If you believe that God is in the world, and that he never abandons, it is our life journey to discover that. There are tools to discover that, and once we made that discovery, it will prepare us for the world in unimaginable ways.”

Elizabeth Donnelly

Other speakers included Elizabeth Donnelly, a Catholic philanthropist who offered her experience on speaking about women’s equality in the church as a model for speaking on LGBT issues; Deacon Ray Dever, a father of a transgender woman, who described his family’s experiences in a Bondings 2.0 blog post last December; and Lisbeth Melendez-Rivera, the director of Catholic and Latino/a Initiatives at the Human Rights Campaign.

Among the participants at the conference were a group from Santa Clara University, a California Jesuit school.  A news story in their campus newspaper,  The Santa Clara, summarized the experience of their delegation to the event:

“Students had the opportunity to collaborate and brainstorm ways to get more support, resources, visibility and acceptance for LGBTQ groups at their respective schools. This allowed representatives to network and share strategies for improving student engagement.

“ ‘It was cool to see how progressive some universities are and how some universities didn’t have any resources at all,’ said sophomore Adrian Chavez. ‘Santa Clara seemed to fall more in the middle of it, leaning progressive.’ ”

The Georgetown meeting was the 2nd annual gathering of its kind. The first meeting was held at Fordham University last year, under the theme, “Finding God in the LGBTQ Jesuit Campus Community.” The theme of the this year’s meeting was, ““Forming Contemplative Communities to Ignite Action.”

Georgetown sophomore Samuel Boyne, a participant at IgnatianQ, summed up his reaction to the meeting for the campus newspaper:

“I think that IgnatianQ was an essential event to host at Georgetown. As a school dedicated to educating its students on being men and women for others, the messages for which the conference stands for coincides with our Jesuit values. Specifically, as it is vital for students to come together in an environment like this to discuss the intersection of faith and the LGBTQ community. . . . Overall, the opportunity to speak openly about these issues is a definite step forward.”

Catholic college campuses are among the most important leaders of LGBT equality in the Catholic Church.  The IgnatianQ conference is just one more example of how they are paving the way for a brighter future.

To read more about news of LGBT issues on Catholic campuses, click on “Campus Chronicles” in the “Categories” box in the right hand column of this page, or you can click here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related articles

dotCommonweal: “Ignatian LGBTQ & Ally conference turns two”

The Hoya: Georgetown to Host IgnatianQ

The Georgetown Voice: “Georgetown to host allied Catholic universities at second annual IgnationQ conference”

 

 

 

 

 

 


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