Is Chick-fil-A Unsafe for Catholic Schools?

Are Catholic campuses made less safe for LGBTQ students when Chick-fil-A outlets are present? According to some students, the answer to this question is a clear “yes.” This spring, disputes over the fast food chain erupted at both Duquesne University and Fordham University.

The popular fast-food chain has become synonymous with anti-LGBTQ issues since 2012 when it was learned that its CEO, Dan Cathy, spoke out strongly against marriage equality and the chain’s foundation had donated millions of dollars to oppose same-gender marriage initiatives.

chick-fil-a-secret-menu-mealAt Duquesne, the Student Government Association passed a resolution asking administrators to reconsider opening a Chick-fil-A on campus. The resolution was prompted by concerns from Lambda, a gay-straight alliance. Rachel Coury, the group’s president, told campus newspaper The Duke:

“‘I’ve tried very hard within the last semester and a half to promote this safe environment for the LGBTQ+ community. . .So I fear that with the Chick-fil-A being in Options that maybe people will feel that safe place is at risk.'”

Coury and her peers in Lambda are concerned because of Chick-fil-A’s ties to, in her words, “specifically anti-gay organizations” like Focus on the Family and the now defunct Exodus International. According to the company, it no longer funds groups with social-political agendas, instead focusing on youth and education initiatives.

University spokesperson Bridget Fare countered the Student Government and Lambda claims by saying student reactions are overall quite positive and that the company “has assured [Duquesne] that they do not discriminate.”

As an aside, Donald Trump, Jr. attacked the Duquesne students in a tweet, saying: “Luckily these students wont likely have to tackle issues more stressful than a yummy chicken sandwich in their lives… Oh Wait #triggered”.

At Fordham, University administrators rejected a proposed Chick-fil-A because of negative student reactions. Campus groups, including the Rainbow Alliance and United Student Government, were consulted, according to campus newspaper Fordham Observer. Concerns were expressed about not only the company’s LGBT-negative record, but diet-based problems tied to a fast food chain.

In a move to quell negative responses, Chick-fil-A offered to partner with Rainbow Alliance for on campus programs. This was roundly rejected by the Alliance’s membership with Co-President Renata Francesco saying, “[W]e’re not going to partner with an institution, a corporation that has so strongly supported other institutions that work to destabilize and demolish movements for queer equity.”

The administration’s decision to reject Chick-fil-A is not necessarily being celebrated at Fordham. Students have been critical of the University’s failure to provide transgender-inclusive accommodations. Roberta Munoz, co-president of the Rainbow Alliance, said, “I don’t want to pat them on the back. You can’t say ‘Oh you’re such a great ally’ when there’s still so many issues with our queer students. Like great, love it, but keep going.”

While not condoning the corporation’s policies, I think what students should consider is what is how Catholic schools should prioritize their efforts to provide LGBT supports. Chicken sandwiches seem far less pressing than the need for gender-neutral restrooms. Keeping perspective will help strengthen student efforts by focusing resources and not allowing school officials to easily dismiss students’ demands.

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.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, June ??, 2017

 

 

Students Protest Catholic School’s Decision to Remove Rainbow Flag

Controversy over LGBT issues in one of Canada’s Catholic school systems has once again made headlines, resulting in unfortunate harm during Pride celebrations.

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Students protesting at Blessed Oscar Romero High School

To mark Pride, students at Blessed Oscar Romero High School in Edmonton, Alberta, hung a rainbow flag in the school with some additional rainbow decorations. The next day, students drew a rainbow flag in chalk at the school’s entrance. CBC reported what happened next:

 

“On Tuesday morning, student president-elect Francis Nievera was called into the principal’s office. He said he was told all the decorations must come down because the chalk was being tracked inside, which he said was understandable. But those weren’t the only reasons.

“‘They said putting up flags was a political statement and it made some people uncomfortable and we need to make everyone feel comfortable,’ said Nievera, an openly transsexual and transgender Grade 10 student. ‘To have it all torn down in less than a day kind of sucked.'”

Lori Nagy of the Edmonton Catholic School Board denied claims the decorations were authorized, and said the school’s principal was willing to support other pride celebrations. Nonetheless, Nievera’s invitation, students protested, according to the CBC: 

“Prior to the protest, a video shows an emotional Nievera, near a handful of supporters including the school mascot, address students from the stage in the school cafeteria.

“‘We have to take down all the decorations today,’ he said, setting off boos from the crowd. ‘But I just want to say because of this I really don’t feel safe.'”

“‘If you guys want to help support pride week, even though all of this will be taken down, feel free to come outside and protest.'”

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The chalk rainbow flag in dispute at Blessed Oscar Romero High School

Students gathered at the chalk rainbow flag as other students used power washers to remove it. According to the CBC, “More than 30 students refused to return to class.”

Kennedy Harper, who helped organize the school’s Pride celebrations, said administrators threatened protesting students with suspension. She commented further:

“‘It seems like along with the chalk they were just washing away their identity. . .It felt really good for a little while, seeing the school really come together and standing up for the rights of minorities whether they’re part of the LGBTQ community or not.'”

Shortly after all the decorations had been removed , school administrators then said that the flags would be allowed for the remainder of the week.

This is hardly the first time Edmonton’s Catholic school system has been roiled in LGBT-related controversies. A student at the neighboring St. Joseph Catholic High School was also asked to remove a rainbow flag he wore during a school ceremony. The Edmonton Catholic School Board’s actions in 2015 around a transgender policy saw meetings erupt into a “shouting match” as the Board approved a draft policy allowing  “just discrimination” of some youth. Elsewhere in Alberta, a former bishop referred to LGBTQ policies being implemented in Catholic schools “totalitarian” and “anti-Catholic.”

The situation at Blessed Oscar Romero adds to this list of avoidable, damaging incidents where LGBTQ students are made to feel less than comfortable and even unsafe in Catholic education. No harm was caused by allowing some minor Pride decorations to be displayed, but much harm was done by power washing them and ripping them away.

Once again, it is young students in Catholic schools who are the ones leading our church to be more just and inclusive for LGBT people. And of these students’ commitment to justice for all people, Monseñor Romero would likely be very proud.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, June 19, 2017

 

 

Missouri Diocese Issues Guidelines on Accepting Students from ‘Non-traditional’ Families

The Diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri, has issued a set of guidelines which encourage its Catholic schools to be open to accepting students from “non-traditional” families, including those with LGBT members.  At the same time, the guidelines require all parents to make a pledge of loyalty to church doctrine.

In what may be the first set of such policies in the U.S. church which stress conversation, the Jefferson City diocese has established the guideline that “Wherever possible, enrollment is the goal,”  according to a news report in The Fulton Sun.

op-story-lgbt-safety-300x250The guidelines were issued by Sister Elizabeth Youngs, diocesan superintendent of schools, and were approved by Bishop John Gaydos, the diocesan bishop.

While the guidelines emphasize conversation and acceptance, they also offer the requirement of parents signing a “Covenant of Trust,”  which the news report describes as enumerating:

“. . . a school’s expectations regarding how parents are to validate the church’s teachings at home.

” ‘We are not going to change what it is that we teach in compliance with our church to make somebody else comfortable, Youngs said.

Another goal of the guidelines is to emphasize evaluation of the situation.  The guidelines offer the following recommendations:

” . . . ‘[S]pecial needs’ of students — which include being a member of the LGBT community or having parents who are — are to be evaluated in the same manner as learning, physical and psychiatric disabilities: A Catholic school is willing to make accommodations up to a point, but past that, students from non-traditional families are probably better served elsewhere. The documents provide frameworks for pastors and principals to lead those conversations with parents.”

If it is found that a parent has violated the “Covenant of Trust,” then the student may be expelled from the school.  The newspaper reported:

“If it becomes clear through a student’s conduct that the partnership parents agreed to in the covenant is not going to work out, Youngs said, schools may ask parents to withdraw their student. The same is already true of discipline issues and of students outgrowing the resources a school is able to provide for needs like learning disabilities.”

The good news here is that the Diocese of Jefferson City appears to be willing to dialogue with parents, rather than rejecting students outright because of LGBT issues.  Dialogue and conversation are always beneficial.  It is interesting to note that The Fulton Sun reported that some critics of the policy would like an outright ban on LGBT students or students whose parents are LGBT.  The diocese has not chosen to do this, so the new policy is at least a first step.

In fact, one diocesan administrator sees that dialogue will be important not even for working with nontraditional families, but with the Catholics who oppose support for non-traditional families.  The news article stated:

“[Associate Superintendent of Schools Sister Julie] Brandt said any bridges that can be built with opponents of the diocese’s guidance can use the same processes the documents lay out: encouragement of dialogue and conversations about questions.

” ‘By being able to engage in some civil conversation, and not just accusatory conversation, I think we all grow,’ she said.

” ‘I really believe the Holy Spirit is active in our church,’ she added. Through prayer, ‘the Spirit is guiding us in this, even in the midst of what at times seems to be challenges and disagreements.’ “

The bad news is that asking parents to sign a “Covenant of Trust” already singles them out as people who are suspect, treating them as people who are accepted only under certain conditions.  Will other families whose lives, beliefs, and actions violate other areas of church teaching face the same penalties as non-traditional families or are only sexual and gender matters singled out?

Another negative is that it seems that school officials will be monitoring students from nontraditional families to see if the parents are violating the “Covenant of Trust.” The news article reported:

“As for fears of whether parents will abide by the agreements they sign on to, ‘how can we monitor anything that we ask parents to do?’ Youngs said.

” ‘We’re not living in the houses with families,’ Brandt said. They do make observations of the students’ actions, though, like a student saying, “‘Well, my mom says this isn’t right.'” “

The Diocese of Jefferson City’s policies have value as a transitional step toward full acceptance of families with LGBT members.  It is a step forward, much better than the more draconian policies instituted in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 2015.

The Jefferson City policy can be successful if it is used as a genuine tool of welcome, instead of a tool for suspicion.  Perhaps the experience of conversations with so many families of very different compositions will help to move towards a new policy where all will truly be welcome.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, June 15, 2017

Related article:

Jefferson City News Tribune:  “Diocese schools get advice on ‘non-traditional’ families”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Helping LGBTI Students ‘Live Life to the Full’

A few weeks agoBondings 2.0 reported on a set of guidelines to prevent bullying on LGBT students which was issued by the Catholic Education Service of the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales.  That effort is now joined by a similar set of guidelines, entitled “Live Life to the Full,” for a group of Catholic schools in Australia.

The Age newspaper reported:

“Edmund Rice Education Australia has distributed resources to its 52 schools and will soon run training to help teachers create a safer and more inclusive environment for gay and transgender students and LGBTI families.”

Edmund Rice Education Australia (EREA) is a network of schools run by the Irish Christian Brothers.   The group’s executive director, Wayne Tinsey, commented that the church and Catholic schools have been too “silent” for too long on the issue of LGBTI students being bullied.  He explained to the newspaper:

“We are not trying to be provocative and we are not trying to create divisions. Our core belief is that of inclusion – bullying, harassment and discrimination totally contravenes that and has no place in our schools.”

The EREA issued a “Safe and Inclusive Learning Communities Statement,” as well as a set of “Resources for School Principals, Leaders & Teachers,”  both of which can be found by clicking their titles.  Additionally a “Report on Safe and Inclusive Learning Communities” was produced, and which can be requested by writing to info@erea.edu.au.  Information about all three documents can be found by clicking here.

In the “Statement,” EREA provided both scriptural and papal justifications for providing such guidelines:

“Our sacred scripture reminds us (Genesis 1) that each and every
person is made in the image and likeness of God. Therefore, each
person has their own inherent dignity and is intended by God to grow
to fullness. For EREA, this means supporting each young person to
achieve growth and liberation through pastoral as well as academic
and co-curricular support.

“Jesus, the great includer, challenges us with a radical vision of love
and inclusion. Pope Francis takes up this challenge: ‘We would like
before all else to reaffirm that every person, regardless of sexual
orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated
with consideration, while ‘every sign of unjust discrimination’ is to be
carefully avoided, particularly any form of aggression and violence.’
Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia: The Joy of Love, 19 March 2016.

While the EREA report offers 21 recommendations for schools to follow, the report’s summary singles out the following four as “first tasks that ought to be considered”:

6.2 “It is recommended that a ‘whole school approach’ be adopted by each Catholic secondary school that clearly reflects an awareness of the presence of same sex attracted individuals in its student community.
6.4 It is recommended that each Catholic secondary school includes in its discrimination and harassment policies, guidelines and procedures that address homophobia, along with sexism, racism and other forms of violence.
6.5 It is recommended that Catholic secondary schools review their existing policies, procedures, guidelines, programs and practices to ensure that they are inclusive of the needs of same sex attracted students.
6.8 It is recommended that each Catholic secondary school should seek to create an inclusive and supportive environment in which staff and students feel confident to explore issues of identity, difference and similarity.”

In the “Resources” document, the EREA addresses the concern that discussing LGBTI issues in a Catholic school may not be religiously appropriate.  Their response:

“The largest misconception that prevents faith-based schools (and educators) from addressing issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity is the conflation of sexuality and sexual practice as synonymous terms of identity expression. Because a student is an LGBTI person does not automatically mean that they are or will be sexually active. Fundamentally, when schools address the concerns and issues of LGBTI students, they should do so within the context of student health, safety and human rights. Sexual orientation and gender identity concerns can be addressed respectfully within all faith-based contexts.”

The “Resources” also discuss how to respond to a variety of other objections from faculty and parents.

These materials were produced because the EREA leadership felt that materials from the Australian government’s “Safe Schools Initiative” were inappropriate for their schools.  They are based on research done by Jesuit Peter Norden in 2007 who examined how Catholic schools can be more supportive of LGBTI students.

While such a document will help students and families in schools, it’s important to also note that it will do so primaily by ending the stultifying and deadening “silence” which Tinsey described above.  The Age article quoted one administrator who made this point:

“Gerald Bain-King, principal of one Edmund Rice school, the Christian Brothers’ College in St Kilda, said the initiative would allow Catholic schools to have more effective conversations with young people who may be coming to terms with their sexuality.”

And, as the “Statement” explains, all students will benefit from such a program:

“Homophobia diminishes the dignity of all. The existence and acceptance of homophobic attitudes in a school can perpetuate narrow gender stereotypes.”

The publication of this resource adds to the growing list of ways that Catholic schools can become more welcoming and inclusive places.  Next week, Bondings 2.0 will report on a new, inclusive policy for Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri, in the U.S.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, June 3, 2017

Semesters End with a Hate Crime, a Walkout, and a Lavender Graduation

Yet another academic semester is in the books. Today’s post features news highlights from around Catholic higher education.

Creighton University Responds to Hate Crime

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Note found at Creighton University with anti-gay slur blurred out at the top

Community members at Creighton University were shaken when a gay student, Joseph Gray, discovered a hateful note pinned to the door of his dorm room. The note said:

“Kill yourself. Leave our school. Gays are not welcome in Nebraska or Creighton.”

Gray reported the note to University officials, saying he “shouldn’t have to come back to where I sleep and worry about what I’m going to see” when he and other gay students have to worry about on-campus bullying in the daytime.

Fr. Daniel Hendrickson, S.J., the University’s president, released two statements. In the first statement, he said the note was “a breach of the Jesuit values we all share as the Creighton community, values which bind us all in the common mission of ensuring Creighton is a safe, respectful, inclusive place.”

Following up, Hendrickson said he was “very troubled” by the note and confirmed it was being investigated by the administration.

Gray told WOWT 6 News, a television station in Omaha, that while the note was only frustrating to him, similar acts could be far more damaging to other students. He wants administrators to help the note’s author understand the harm such hate speech causes.

Notre Dame Graduates Walk Out on VP Pence

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Students walking out of Notre Dame’s commencement ceremony as Vice President Pence speaks

As Vice President Mike Pence began addressing the University of Notre Dame’s commencement last week, more than 150 graduates and their families silently walked out in protest. They were greeted outside the ceremony by some 300 additional protestors, reported the South Bend Tribune.

Xitlaly Estrada, a graduate who participated in the walkout, said the protests were because students were “for racial justice, for immigrant rights, for LGBT rights, for every marginalized group that’s been targeted by Pence’s actions.”

Student organizers with We Stand for ND cited Pence’s opposition to LGBT rights as a key part of the protests. The statement said:

“During his time as governor of the state of Indiana and now as a Vice-President, Pence has targeted the civil rights protections of members of LBGT+ community. . .Pope Francis has bestowed upon the world a call. . .to acknowledge and respect the humanity of sexual minorities, and to bring down all walls that separate us.”

Georgetown Students Celebrate Lavender Graduation

Students at Georgetown University once again celebrated a Lavender Graduation organized by the LGBTQ Resource Center by recognizing the achievements of some 120 LGBTQ graduates, according to the campus newspaper, The Georgetown Voice.

Fr. Greg Schenden, S.J., the Catholic chaplain, said the University supports LGBTQ students “precisely because we are Catholic and Jesuit.” The Voice reported that “University President John DeGioia spoke about the activism that led to the founding of the LGBTQ Resource Center.”

Georgetown University has hosted a Lavender Graduation each year since 2009, and there are at least seven other Catholic colleges who have held such ceremonies in previous years.

Holy Cross Students Share Campus Experiences

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Sample posters that were part of Holy Cross’ students listening campaign

Student leaders at the College of the Holy Cross recently displayed posters with quotes from LGBTQ+ community members about what it means to be a sexual and/or gender minority on the campus.

The Student Government Association said the project sought to raise such voices because, according to the campus newspaper, The Crusader, “In order for us to become more welcoming to people in the lgbtq+ community, we need to listen closely to what those already here are saying.”

Responses were gathered through an anonymous survey, and were mixed between positive and negative statements. Some students said they felt supported, while others said they could not be out at Holy Cross or had to begin commuting. One poster read, “Being queer at Holy Cross means you’re an activist simply by existing whether you want to be or not.”

Fordham University Raises Trans Awareness

Students at Fordham University celebrated the Transgender Day of Visibility in late March by hosting a screening of “The Trans List,” a documentary about prominent trans people like Laverne Cox and Bamby Salcedo, founder of the TransLatin@ Coalition. A discussion followed and student journalist, Sam Deassis, raised questions in the campus newspaper, The Fordham Observer, about the practical implications of trans awareness for their campus community.

Fordham has already taken steps to be more supportive of transgender students by implementing gender-neutral restrooms and hosting a Transgender Day of Remembrance vigil in 2015.

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.

–Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, May 26, 2017

SYMPOSIUM: Bishop Stowe Brings Message of Admiration and Respect

It has been almost a month since New Ways Ministry’s Eighth National Symposium, “Justice and Mercy Shall Kiss:  LGBT Catholics in the Age of Pope Francis,” took place in Chicago. Things have finally slowed down enough that we are able to report on it to you.  Over the next few days, we will be providing several posts about symposium highlights.

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Bishop John Stowe, OFM, Conv., addresses the symposium while New Ways Ministry co-founder Sr. Jeannine Gramick listens.

Based on the response of the over 300 participants, one of those highlights was the presence and speaking participation of Bishop John Stowe, OFM, Conv., of Lexington, Kentucky.  Stowe provided two scriptural reflections at the meeting, one at the Friday evening opening prayer service (Matthew 12:1-14) and one at the Saturday morning prayer service (Luke 6:37-45).

The National Catholic Reporter’s  Patricia Lefevere interviewed Stowe at the meeting and reported on his talks.  She noted that he expressed his respect for LGBT Catholics and supporters for their steadfastness in remaining in the Church:

“Stowe said he is humbled by those who have pursued ‘a life of faith in a church that has not always welcomed or valued’ them or their worth. As a shepherd, he needs to hear their voices and take seriously their experience, he said, adding that both the presence and persistence of LGBT Catholics inspired him.

“They’ve shown ‘a valuable expression of mercy’ in calling the church ‘to be more inclusive and more Christ-like despite being given so many reasons to walk away,’ he said.”

Stowe also used his reflection time to discuss his approach to moral questions:

“In reflecting on Matthew 12:1-14, the bishop told the LGBT assembly that in his reading of Christian morality, he finds the infinite value of the human person to be ‘the touchstone and foundation for determining the morality of a given act or issue. Christian morality is more concerned with the well-being and dignity of the person than with rules, norms or commandments. Jesus seems to teach this on many occasions,’ Stowe said.”

In his interview with Lefevere,  the bishop also explained another motivation for his participation in the symposium:

” ‘New Ways Ministry made me want to come here,’ the bishop told NCR during a 40-minute interview at the gathering. He has been observing and admiring the group’s outreach to LGBT Catholics over several years, he added.”

Stowe also discussed the fact that when it became public that he would speak at New Ways Ministry’s event, some conservative Catholics in his diocese and elsewhere publicly criticized him:

” ‘The flack has been enormous and continues on the blogosphere’ and from ‘self-righteous strangers online and those who subscribe to these feeds,’ Stowe said, calling some of the posts and e-mails ‘vicious.’ . . .

“Among objectors, Stowe believes there are many who are sincere Catholics and are ‘really struggling’ with all the issues around homosexuality. He said he hopes and prays ‘for a culture of encounter’ to ensue so ‘we can become fully engaged with those who want to live the Catholic life and who love the Catholic Church. … Why would we want to turn our backs on them?’ he asked.”

The bishop also commented on his response to young Catholics who are often much more supportive of LGBT equality than older generations.  He noted that negative actions towards LGBT people risks alienating “a whole generation” of young Catholics.  He explained how he approaches this pastoral issue:

“Stowe said that on his many visits to confirmation classes, teens in his diocese ask: ‘Why can’t gay and lesbian people be themselves? Bishop Stowe, why can’t they love who they want?’

“He said he admires how well young people know that the church believes each person is of value. But they also know that LGBT persons are not always welcomed or treated fairly in the church, he said.

“He tries to acquaint them with church teaching on the dignity of each human being, citing passages in the 1965 Second Vatican Council document Gaudium et Spes (the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World) and other examples. He indicates how discrimination leads to dehumanization, frequently expressed in bullying, abuse, sometimes violence and even death.

” ‘We have to listen to our young people and pay attention to things like this,’ the bishop insisted.”

In introducing Bishop Stowe to the symposium participants, New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director Francis DeBernardo explained that he had heard the Franciscan bishop speak at a conference and was impressed with his message:

” ‘I couldn’t believe what I was hearing,’ DeBernardo said, comparing Stowe’s words to those of Pope Francis and to St. Francis of Assisi. All three men seemed to be saying that ‘it was the church’s job to take the Gospel to the margins,’ DeBernardo said.”

For a meeting whose title and theme focused on Pope Francis, it was very appropriate to have a bishop speaking who so aptly echoed many of the pontiff’s affirming messages for LGBT people.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, May 22, 2017

Newman University Recognizes LGBTQ Group; The Catholic University of America Holds Out

As another school year wraps up, students at Newman University, Wichita, Kansas,  are celebrating a new LGBTQ student group. Today’s post shares this story and an opposite one from The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.  Both stories highlight the importance of such groups.

Newman University Welcomes LGBTQ Group

Facing student pressure, Newman University administrators approved an LGBTQ student group this spring.

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Ruben Lerma

Ruben Lerma led efforts for a recognized group at the school, which he decided to attend because it offered him generous financial aid despite his lack of U.S. citizenship. But being gay, Lerma was skeptical of attending a Catholic institution. The Witchita Eagle reported:

“He overheard other students on campus talk about how gay people should go to hell, he said, and how the legalization of gay marriage would lead gays to want to get married to animals. Some of his friends would point out other students on campus who, he was told, hated gay people.”

These experiences propelled Lerma to make a public speech his junior year, acknowledging that he was not the only gay person on campus and, “If for their sake, if not mine, you should make [the campus] more amiable, make the environment better.”

Student interest in an LGBTQ group spread quickly, building on existing alumni support and a more general overhaul on campus about how the school handles diversity.

In response to this pressure, administrators formed a committee to figure out how the school could better support LGBTQ students like Lerma. The Eagle reported that the committee, “which included nuns, priests, students, faculty, and administrators,” is modeled on the University of Notre Dame’s pastoral plan for LGBT students.

The plan, supported by Newman University staff, recognizes a new student group called Kaleidoscope. Student Adviser Ami Larrea, who helped form the group, explained the name:

“‘A kaleidoscope has all these different colors and shapes, but they somehow come together to make this really awesome picture and it’s beautiful even though it’s all different. . .That was important for us. We are LGBTQ, but we are different colors, different shapes and sizes, and it all looks great.'”

The plan, unfortunately, reveals the compromises which LGBTQ students are often required to make in more conservative Catholic environments. The Eagle reported:

“The Notre Dame-type model included language that emphasizes that the club cannot contradict the Catholic view that LGBTQ students should be ‘chaste,’ because sex is condoned only in marriage between a man and a woman.

“‘The University exhorts all to hear and live the Church’s teaching that ‘the deliberate use of the sexual faculty, for whatever reason, outside of marriage (between man and woman) is essentially contrary to its purpose’ and is considered gravely sinful,’ the plan reads.”

Dean of Student Affairs Levi Esses affirmed this mission, saying the group would be a “very supportive atmosphere” for students to remain celibate outside of heterosexual marriage. Nonetheless, students are celebrating the plan even with its compromises:

“Kevin Clack, who will be the group’s first student leader, said he doesn’t think the language in the pastoral plan means the group won’t be able to talk about dating and romance. But LGBTQ students have a lot of concerns, and Clack said he doesn’t expect the group to focus on sexuality more than any other group on campus, including the Black Student Union, of which he is also a member.

“Clack doesn’t agree with the language about what constitutes a true marriage but thinks compromise was necessary to get the group started.”

Catholic University of America Denies LGBTQ Group Again

Meanwhile, administrators at The Catholic University of America again denied students’ application for a recognized LGBTQ group, CUAllies.

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John Garvey

Speaking at a town hall with students, President John Garvey explained his rationale, according to campus newspaper The Tower:

“‘We’re not going to officially sponsor CUAllies. But that should not, I hope, be the measure of our support. . .We do not want to endorse a whole set of propositions that our culture insists on sexuality and gender. . .Neither do we want to ignore the needs of our gay and lesbian students. We ask all freshmen to take a pledge when coming here, we offer a counseling center, and Father Jude has a chaplet initiative.'”

Earlier this spring, the University hosted lesbian Catholic speaker Eve Tushnet who promotes celibacy for lesbian and gay people. In response, CUAllies President Carly Tomaine told The Tower that in keeping with Tushnet’s message about inclusion, “[The university] needs to publicly acknowledge [CUAllies] because no one wants to be pushed to the side.”

Administrators have rejected student and alumni requests for CUAllies to be recognized since 2008, leading one alumnus to publish a post on Buzzfeed recently titled “Reasons Queer Youth Should Not Attend Catholic University of America.”

Student demands at both Newman University and Catholic University make clear the importance of recognized LGBTQ student groups that act both as safe spaces and campus educators. Thankfully, more often than not, we report on Catholic institutions which are recognizing, not rejecting such groups.

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.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, May 21, 2017