Transgender Student: Catholic Church Nearly Killed Me. Georgetown Saved Me.’

November 8, 2015

Lexi Dever, center, taking part in Georgetown’s National Coming Out Day celebrations

Much of Catholic higher education in the U.S. is fairly supportive of LGBTQ students. Many colleges offer supports as is evident in New Ways Ministry’s gay-friendly colleges listing, though these supports vary in quality and intensity.

Schools often face conservative critics who wrongly claim such supports contradict church teaching and endanger ecclesial affiliation. Common to all such schools, however, is a refusal to let more restrictive interpretations of Catholic identity interfere with meeting students’ needs.

A recent essay from Georgetown University student Lexi Dever, who is transgender, makes clear why, in her words, these supports are “of fundamental importance” on Catholic campuses.

Writing in Georgetown’s campus newspaper, The Hoya, Dever describes a Catholic upbringing riddled with suicide attempts and deep pain about her gender identity:

“I was raised a Catholic. My father is an ordained deacon. I was an altar server for my entire youth. . .I know Catholic teaching inside and out. I was never told that the LGBTQ community had anything positive to offer to the world. Catholicism was everything.”

Coming to college, Dever still suffered deeply thinking she was an “abomination” and a “freak” but the University’s queer community helped her see “a world where I could exist and not hate myself.” Dever, an employee of the LGBTQ Resource Center, wrote positively of the University community:

“Georgetown does go against the Catholic Church in its acceptance of the queer community. In the ideal that we should respect each other, Georgetown embodies Catholicism better than the Vatican itself.

“Georgetown has made a space for me and for the queer community. Some Palestinian guy once said that we should love our neighbors as we love ourselves and when asked for clarification, he used a story about a Samaritan to illustrate that our neighbor is anyone in need. You may know the story. . .

“The Catholic Church nearly killed me. Georgetown’s refusal to go along with all of its teachings saved me.”

Georgetown University’s manifold LGBTQ initiatives saved Dever’s life, she stated. To critics who would eliminate such supports, Dever said she would not be here if such programs did not exist: “I would very literally be dead.” Indeed, as she pointed out, transgender individuals suffer abhorrent rates of suicide and violence far surpassing societal averages. She continued:

“Have I told you yet that the average lifespan of a transgender person is 31 years? Let me clarify that: my lifespan is 31 years. If I am ‘average,’ I will be dead within the decade. Let that sink in for a second. There’s a reason I’m not thinking about marriage, children or even long-term career plans. I do not want to plan for a life I probably will not get to live.”

When it comes to Catholicism, or even religion generally, Dever expressed no plans to return to church membership, saying the scars inflicted “will never heal.” She did appeal to Catholic students though, particularly those of a more conservative bent who would undermine LGBTQ supports. Noting that October was Respect Life Month, she wrote:

“I would like to make a request as you celebrate this. Lead by example. Respect life. Respect queer lives. Respect mine.”

Lexi Dever’s column (which you can and should read in full by clicking here) establishes plainly why Catholic campuses must, as a moral imperative, provide adequate resources and supports for LGBT community members. Regular readers of Bondings 2.0 will recall numerous posts about how Georgetown University has previously led the way for LGBT inclusion in Catholic education. Other posts in our “Campus Chronicles” series reveal just how far Catholic higher education in the U.S. and elsewhere has to go before all are welcomed, safe, and affirmed.

Readers who have followed this blog regularly will also recognize Dever’s name, as her father, Deacon Ray Dever, has written two moving reflections about family life for Bondings 2.0. You can read his reflection for the Feast of the Holy Family at the end of 2014 by clicking here, and you can read his call for a World Meeting of All Families by clicking here.

Georgetown’s neighbors at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, should take note. Though repeatedly denied, the school’s unofficial LGBTQ student group called CUAllies is once again pushing for equal rights on campus and university recognition. Recent changes in Washington, D.C.’s human rights laws mean the University is no longer legally protected in denying LGBT students equal access, reported campus newspaper The Tower. Students will be gathering off campus tonight for a meeting to discuss next steps.

Administrators at Catholic University and other church-related institutions should take note of Lexi Dever’s story, and those of  their own LGBTQ community members, so they can be moved to make the Gospel choice and ensure all students’ needs are being met.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

On Synod’s First Day, Differing Opinions on What Can Be Expected

October 6, 2015

As I mentioned last week, I’m in Rome for the first part of October to observe the proceedings of the Vatican’s synod on marriage and family topics.  Of course, lingering over the proceedings are the strong echoes from last week’s incredible set of news stories:  that someone arranged for Kim Davis to meet Pope Francis in Washington, DC; that Pope Francis himself arranged to meet with a former student who is a gay man with a partner, who also met the pontiff; the announcement for a priest at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that he is gay.


Archbishop Bruno Forte, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, and Cardinal Peter Erdo at the midday press briefing for the synod’s first day.

As the synod progresses, I’ll be posting here both from news articles, as well as some of my personal impressions. Today, the first day of the synod, there was not much news on any particular topic, especially LGBT concerns. Cardinal Péter Erdő, of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary, who is the synod’s general relator, commented on lesbian and gay issues, though not with much significance or specificity.    The National Catholic Reporter noted his comment:

“The cardinal also spoke of the church’s ministry to gay and lesbian persons, addressing the topic of persons with ‘homosexual tendencies.’

” ‘It is reiterated that every persons should be respected in their dignity, independent of their sexual tendency,’ he said. ‘It is desirable that pastoral programs might set aside a particular attention to the families in which persons with homosexual tendencies live.’ “

At the midday press conference, the comments from three bishops, including Erdo, were similarly non-committal. Perhaps the most significant line of the day came from Paris’ Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, a synod president, who said that if people are expecting “a spectacular change in the Church’s doctrine you will be disappointed.”

This sentiment was echoed by Italian Archbishop Bruno Forte, the synod secretary, who said of the meeting:

“It will not lead to doctrinal changes, because it is about pastoral attention, pastoral care. We are about resonating pastorally.”

The cautionary tone of these prelates differed greatly from the more open tone that Pope Francis expressed in opening the first session of the synod.  The National Catholic Reporter noted:

“Pope Francis has called on the hundreds of prelates gathered for his second worldwide meeting of Catholic bishops on family issues to remain open in their deliberations to the call of the Holy Spirit, repeating his frequent assertion that God is a God of surprises. . . .

” ‘It is the Church that questions itself on its fidelity to the deposit of the faith, so that it does not represent a museum to be looked at or only to be safeguarded, but a living spring from which the church drinks to quench thirst and illuminate the deposit of life,’ the pontiff said of the Synod.

” ‘The Synod is also a protected space where the Church goes through the action of the Holy Spirit,’ said Francis.

” ‘In the Synod, the Spirit speaks through the language of all people who allow themselves to be guided by God who always surprises, by God who reveals to the little ones that which he has hidden from the wise and intelligent,’ he said.”

Of course, since the Spirit speaks though “all people,” LGBT people should have been invited to speak at the synod. As well as a lot more women.  Mary McAleese, former president of Ireland and the mother of a gay son, said at a Catholic LGBT conference in Rome this weekend (more on this event in another post) that she thought that the composition of the family synod as all unmarried men was “absurd” because not one of its voting members ever had to change a baby’s diaper.

On Sunday, at the Mass opening the synod, Pope Francis, commenting on the day’s liturgical readings, re-affirmed the magisterium’s selection of the heterosexual norm for marriage.  The Huffington Post reported:

Francis dedicated one third of his homily to the topic of love between man and woman and its role in procreation.

” ‘This is God’s dream for his beloved creation: to see it fulfilled in the loving union between a man and a woman, rejoicing in their shared journey, fruitful in their mutual gift of self,’ he said.

“He also spoke of the ‘true meaning of the couple and of human sexuality in God’s plan,’ a clear reference to heterosexual marriage.

“But Francis also stressed that the Church must be more welcoming, charitable, compassionate and merciful to all people, particularly those whose lives have been wounded and who those find it difficult to adhere to all of the Church’s regulations.

“The leader of the 1.2 billion member Church said the person ‘who falls or errs must be understood and loved.’

” ‘The Church must search out these persons, welcome and accompany them, for a Church with closed doors betrays herself and her mission, and, instead of being a bridge, becomes a roadblock,’ he said.”

While I do hope that the Church will at some point make doctrinal change, I think that any positive steps in pastoral care would also be a good next step.  Doctrine does not change over night.  The first step is dialogue, and Pope Francis has been encouraging that at this synod and through his other messages.  Dialogue can bring about change in pastoral practice, which is a very important step.  Following pastoral practice is the step of theological reflection on that practice, noting what the Church has experienced and learned.  Only after theological reflection will a change in doctrine occur.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry







A Divided Response to Transgender Persons at Georgetown’s Campus

July 20, 2015

Alexa Rodriguez

One step forward, one step back. This is the two-step experienced by the trans community at Georgetown University’s campus as its affiliated hospital faces a discrimination complaint at the same time that the Washington, DC, school recently instituted a policy to let transitioning students change their names.

Alexa Rodriguez, a trans woman, filed a complaint under D.C.’s gender identity-inclusive Human Rights Act against MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, which allegedly denied her breast implant surgery in May. The Washington Blade reported:

“[Rodriguez] said the refusal came on May 8, five months after one of the hospital’s highly regarded breast surgeons, Dr. Troy Pittman, examined her and cleared her for the surgery contingent upon approval for coverage of the procedure by her health insurance provider. . .

“Much to her dismay, Rodriguez said a hospital employee who schedules Dr. Pittman’s appointments told her by phone on May 8 that the hospital was no longer taking transgender women for treatment or surgery.”

Rodriguez said a female trans friend was also denied services that week, after the friend had been asked by a scheduler whether she was biological woman or not. Ruby Corado, who heads the LGBT community center “Casa Ruby,” in DC, reported at least two other trans women denied breast surgery at the hospital. Both Rodriguez and Corado know trans women who received breast implants at the hospital as recently as January.

MedStar Georgetown University Hospital spokesperson Marianne Worley denied any discrimination, but added the hospital does not provide comprehensive gender transition services and prefers not to do them in a “one off manner.” Rodriguez is receiving integrated care at the renowned Whitman-Walker Health, which frequently refers patients to Georgetown for treatment, according to communications director Shawn Jain. Rodriguez was one of those referred. The relationship between Whitman-Walker and Georgetown is in question because the hospital’s statement will “present some very real and tangible access to care issues,” according to Jain.

Worley’s follow up statement noted the hospital’s Catholic identity and its adherence to the bishops’ healthcare directives. This is significant, as The Blade reports:

“One source familiar with the hospital who spoke on condition of not being identified said some members of the medical staff at the hospital reported hearing that transgender-related surgery was discontinued earlier this year after complaints were lodged by conservative Catholic officials affiliated with Georgetown University.”

Legally, Georgetown University Hospital’s position seems precarious, even if claiming religious exemptions, if it offers similar services to cisgender patients because it is accountable to public accommodations laws in D.C.:

“Brian Markovitz, a civil rights attorney who has represented clients in cases before the D.C. Office of Human Rights. . .said the fact that Whitman-Walker handled the gender transition-related aspects of Rodriguez’s medical treatment, which Georgetown says it may not have the expertise to do, could undermine a claim by Georgetown that it was legally justified in refusing to perform the surgery.

“” ‘They could be running afoul of the Human Rights Act because they are providing implants for cancer patients and other people, and because they’re doing that and they’re not going to do it for this individual they’re running the risk of liability,’ Markovitz said.”

Markovitz said this could snowball into a First Amendment case if the hospital claims religious liberty exemptions, already a heated issue for D.C. in recent months.

Georgetown students celebrate on National Coming Out Day

Meanwhile, across campus, the LGBTQ Resource Center announced on Facebook that name changes are now accessible to students. In the statement, the Center reports:

“In partnership with the Office of the University Registrar, we are glad to announce that all students may now request a chosen name under their My Access profile, which is different from the legal name, if they wish to do so. They do not need any permissions, or fulfill any other requirements to avail of this. They may also request to have their “middle name” removed if it has gender identifying markers.”

This newly selected name will be used on all non-legal documents, including, importantly, class rosters. The Center thanked senior administrators as well as students “whose courage in being visible makes all the difference.” Georgetown University was the first Catholic college to welcome openly trans students two years ago.

Georgetown University has been at the forefront of Catholic education’s increasing welcome of LGBTQ community members, as the name change implementation suggests. If the University’s affiliated hospital has discriminated against trans women, specifically over concerns about Catholic identity, they should not only look to the law but to the words of Catholic leaders like England’s Monsignor Keith Barltrop who clearly called for the church to support individual’s choices to transition, as Bondings 2.0  reported last week.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese Spells Out Falsehoods and Possibilities in Marriage Equality Responses

July 6, 2015

In Bondings 2.0’s continuing effort to try to chronicle all the key Catholic reactions to the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling,  we’ve mostly been compiling snippets of responses into a series of posts [For a complete list of past reaction posts, see the bottom of this post, below my signature.]

Father Thomas Reese, SJ

Father Thomas Reese, SJ

Yet one Catholic commentator’s analytical response stands out over the rest of them for its incisive distinctions and its hopeful suggestions, and so it warrants examination in a post of its own.  Jesuit Father Thomas Reese, a columnist for The National Catholic Reporter is a seasoned church observer and political analyst who has responded to the court ruling by writing a column explaining “How the bishops should respond to the same-sex marriage decision.”

Reese doesn’t usually mince words, but even for him, his opening paragraph was particularly pointed:

“With the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage throughout the United States, the U.S. Catholic bishops need a new strategy going forward. The bishops’ fight against gay marriage has been a waste of time and money. The bishops should get a new set of priorities and a new set of lawyers.”

His enlightening factual account cuts through the rhetoric of some marriage equality opponents who have tried to predict a religious freedom nightmare looming:

“First, let’s make clear what the decision does not do. It does not require religious ministers to perform same-sex marriages, nor does it forbid them from speaking out against gay marriage. These rights are protected by the First Amendment. The court has also made clear that a church has complete freedom in hiring and firing ministers for any reason.”

Reese then analogizes marriage equality law with divorce law, something bishops in the past vociferously opposed, but later, after passage, have come to accept.  He extends this analogy into some specific recommendations:

“Today, Catholic institutions rarely fire people when they get divorced and remarried. Divorced and remarried people are employed by church institutions, and their spouses get spousal benefits. No one is scandalized by this. No one thinks that giving spousal benefits to a remarried couple is a church endorsement of their lifestyle.

“If bishops in the past could eventually accept civil divorce as the law of the land, why can’t the current flock of bishops do the same for gay marriage? Granted all the publicity around the church’s opposition to gay marriage, no one would think they were endorsing it.”

Perhaps most importantly,  Reese exposes the falsehood that religious liberty will be compromised because of marriage equality.  He shows, through a number of examples, how in the past Catholic church leaders, civic leaders, and business people have accommodated themselves, in a morally justified manner, to new laws they may disagree with:

“Let’s be perfectly clear. In Catholic morality, there is nothing to prohibit a Catholic judge or clerk from performing a same-sex marriage. Nor is there any moral obligation for a Catholic businessperson to refuse to provide flowers, food, space and other services to a same-sex wedding. Because of all the controversy over these issues in the media, the bishops need to be clear that these are not moral problems for Catholic government officials or Catholic business people.

“Again, Catholic judges have performed weddings for all applicants, including Catholics who are getting married in violation of church teaching. Catholic business people have provided services to any wedding party, including those of divorced Catholics marrying outside the church. Similarly, there is no moral problem for them to do the same for gay couples.”

Yet, Reese doesn’t stop there.  In addition to recommending that bishops give up their resistance to marriage equality  (“It is time for the bishops to admit defeat and move on. Gay marriage is here to stay, and it is not the end of civilization as we know it.”),  he also suggests that they start to be pro-active in other areas of LGBT equality.  For example, Reese observes:

“Currently, there is no federal law forbidding discrimination against gay people in employment or housing, but an increasing number of states are enacting such legislation. Will the bishops fight the passage of these laws out of fear of their impact on Catholic institutions?

The better strategy for the U.S. bishops is to imitate the Mormon church that worked together with gay activists on the enactment of laws against discrimination in employment and housing in Utah. . . . John Wester, now archbishop of Santa Fe, N.M., supported this legislation when he was bishop of Salt Lake City.”

Reese’s pragmatic approach also covers possible religious freedom questions which may emerge.  His principle is that gay and lesbian couples should not be treated any differently by church institutions than any other couple who does not exemplify the Church’s sexuality teaching:

“For example, Catholic colleges and universities that provide housing for married couples are undoubtedly going to be approached for housing by same-sex couples. Unless the schools can get states to carve out an exception for them in anti-discrimination legislation, they could be forced to provide such housing.

“But since they already provide housing to couples married illicitly according to the church, no one should see such housing as an endorsement of someone’s lifestyle. And granted all the sex going on at Catholic colleges and universities, giving housing to a few gay people who have permanently committed themselves to each other in marriage would hardly be considered a great scandal.”

By the same principle of equal treatment, Reese says the church could grant employee spousal benefits in the same way that they do for others couples in what the Church would call “irregular marriages.”

Towards the end of his essay, Reese tackles the complicated question of adoption by lesbian and gay couples, and he critiques the claim made by Pope Francis and other bishops that children need a mother and a father.  This kind of thinking, he notes, is not valid:

First, it casts doubt on the millions of single parents who are heroically raising their children without spousal support.

“Second, it has a narrow vision of the family. The church has traditionally recognized the importance of uncles, aunts and grandparents in the raising of children. There will be other sexes in the extended families of these children.

“Third, often, same-sex couples adopt children whom no one else wants. Would these children be better off in foster homes or orphanages?

“Finally, there is no evidence that children of same-sex couples suffer as a result of their upbringing. The original study that argued that children raised by same-sex couples did not do as well as those raised by heterosexual couples has been proven faulty.”

And after noting the wealth of social scientific research on the healthy development of children raised by lesbian and gay couples, Reese states:

“Just as Pope Francis depended on scientific consensus when dealing with the environment, the church should also consult the best of social science before making sweeping assertions about children and families.”  [The link in this sentence was added by Bondings 2.0, not by Reese.]

Reese concludes with a clarion call for the U.S. bishops to widen their pastoral and teaching scope beyond the area of sexuality:

“It is time for the U.S. bishops to pivot to the public policy priorities articulated by Pope Francis: care for the poor and the environment and the promotion of peace and interreligious harmony. Their fanatical opposition to the legalization of gay marriage has made young people look on the church as a bigoted institution with which they do not want to be associated. As pastors, they should be talking more about God’s compassion and love rather than trying to regulate people’s sexual conduct through laws. “

I have nothing more to add to Reese’s remarks other than to say that I think this is the best Catholic analysis I have read so far on the marriage equality ruling by the Supreme Court.   If you want to read the entire essay by Reese, and I recommend that you do, click here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Previous blog posts of Catholic commentary on Supreme Court marriage equality ruling:

July 5: Tending to Christ’s Blood: The U.S. Church’s Post-Marriage Equality Agenda

July 4: Life, Liberty, the Pursuit of Happiness, and Catholic Values

July 1: Father Martin’s Viral Facebook Post on ‘So Much Hatred From So Many Catholics’

June 30:  Here’s What Catholic Bishops Should Have Said About Marriage Equality Decision

June 29: Catholics Continue to React to Supreme Court Marriage Equality Ruling

June 28: Some Catholic Reactions to U.S. Supreme Court Ruling on Marriage Equality

June 27: A Prayerful Catholic Response to the U.S. Supreme Court Decision

June 26: New Ways Ministry and U.S. Catholics Rejoice at Supreme Court Marriage Equality Decision


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

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 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


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