Gay Alumnus: Acceptance Must Prevail at Notre Dame and in the Catholic Church

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University of Notre Dame

Acceptance is a Catholic value, and one that needs to be lived out by the church. This truth takes on new meaning in the United States after last Tuesday’s election, and the potential damages to human rights that a new president might bring.

But a month before ballots were cast and counted, one gay alumnus from the University of Notre Dame had already issued his call for the University and the church to practice acceptance. Jack Bergen, class of 1977, was motivated by the discrimination that his daughter and her wife, both also Notre Dame grads, experienced because of a Catholic institution.  He wrote in campus newspaper The Observer [a hat tip to Queering the Church blog for alerting us to this essay]:

“The way I practice my faith these days is to believe and act as we were taught growing up: to be honest, treat everyone with respect, show love and compassion especially for those less fortunate and most of all to try to help others build a better community. It is with this strong belief that I desperately would love to see the Catholic Church be so much more inclusive of people like myself, my daughter and her family and the many other Catholics who also happen to be part of the LGBT community as well.”

Bergen’s call happened because he has “personally seen the impact of the current state of intolerance,” as when his gay daughter-in-law lost her job at a Catholic high school. Bergen’s daughter and her wife have left the church, and have taken their daughter with them too, a loss for the church. His call also happened because he is a gay man and a Catholic himself, sharing. He shared a snippet of his own story:

“After about eight years of marriage, I began to suspect that something wasn’t right. After much soul searching, I realized I had to be truthful to myself and my family. . . Fast forward 25 years. I am now married to my husband. . . I also have the privilege of being the national chair of the LGBT Alumni group of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s GALA ND/SMC [Gay and Lesbian Alumni of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College].”

His call for the University, and the church generally, is clear:

“I encourage our school, Notre Dame, as the premier Catholic institution of higher education in the U.S., to use its position of influence to take the lead amongst its Catholic peers and step forward with words, action and deeds to more fully embrace LGBT Catholics. Take Pope Francis’s own vision during this Year of Mercy and become more merciful and inclusive. Embrace his wish for more tolerance and love and move away from the fear and distrust so often taken with the LGBT community.”

Bergen said acceptance must be concrete, and cited former Notre Dame president Fr. Theodore Hesburgh’s promotion of civil rights in the 1960s as evidence it could be done:

“[Hesburgh’s] unabashed vision and drive to push for equality for all humans, regardless of their background or skin color. Like Fr. Ted did in the ’60s, Notre Dame should speak out against the firing of teachers, coaches, even cafeteria workers who lose their jobs in Catholic schools simply because they are gay (it is happening ever day). Notre Dame should encourage greater tolerance and publicly condemn hatred and bias demonstrated by groups who disenfranchise LGBT individuals and seek to pass laws not only limiting rights, but in many cases, removing rights.”

Bergen is not only a concerned alum who wants his granddaughter to graduate from Notre Dame, he is a loving grandfather who seeks for his granddaughter’s “entire family be welcomed into the Catholic Church,” just like, he said, Pope Francis would do.

In uncertain times, when many people are afraid and the future is troubling, hearing such clear and energized calls for love and acceptance is a helpful reminder of our calls to love unconditionally and to be unafraid in seeking justice.

–Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, November 12, 2016

University of Notre Dame Reportedly Denies Safe Housing to Transgender Student

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Eve on Notre Dame’s campus

The University of Notre Dame reportedly failed to provide a transgender student with housing, the latest incident as many Catholic colleges and universities grapple with gender identity issues.

Ronan Farrow of NBC’s “Today Show” reported in June about Eve, a transgender Notre Dame student, in a segment following up the show’s 2015 report about her.

Eve, who just finished her junior year at the South Bend, Indiana, school, began transitioning while in college. This positive step in her life has made campus life difficult for her when it comes to housing, restrooms, and other issues.

Regarding housing, Notre Dame has only single-sex dormitories. The news piece claimed the University has not supported Eve as she seeks to move from the all-male dorm in which she had lived to an all-female dorm.

Eve said in the 2015 report that, for the most part, other residents referred to her by her new name and “treated [her] exactly the same as before.” Still, the all-male dorm is not ideal for her. Her former Resident Assistant said compassion is many people’s priority.  Still some residents had come to him with questions about a woman living in their dorm.  Some saw Eve as simply a man dressing as a woman who was living in their dorm. As for the administration’s response, Eve told NBC:

“I expect, honestly, that the University is hoping that as soon as I leave, no one will ever try this again.”

Eve’s mother, Teresa, like many parents of LGBT children, said she simply wants “what’s best for” her child. And an all-female dorm would be significantly safer.

Safety is a question, too, when it comes to restroom use. Eve stated, “I am safer using a women’s restroom.” But beginning to use women’s restrooms has been”really scary,” she told NBC, because if she is reported, she could be expelled. But, Eve said, “people don’t even consider the safety of the [transgender] individuals.”

Eve said socializing is incredibly difficult, and, with no support system on campus, she has caused experienced depression. She told NBC in the 2015 report, “being trans is a small part of who I am” and there is far more to her life.

Eve will be entering her senior year this fall, finishing her degree in math and aspiring to be a teacher. After repeated requests for safer housing were ignored, she will be living off campus. According to NBC, officials at Notre Dame declined to comment,which host Matt Lauer said was a surprising response. But the University of Notre Dame is not the first, nor the only Catholic institution responding to increased transgender visibility and awareness.

A number of Catholic schools refuse to support LGBT students and even oppose protections for them. At least five Catholic schools have sought religious exemptions from federal Title IX protections which ban LGBT discrimination. Colleges approved for exemptions by the Department of Education are  Belmont Abbey College, North Carolina, Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, St. Gregory’s University, Oklahoma, and John Paul the Great Catholic University, California. The University of Dallas, Texas, has a pending application.

On the positive side, as Bondings 2.0 has reported in the past, many schools have proactively sought to support transgender students. Gender-neutral housing options have been implemented at some schools, such as the College of the Holy Cross , Massachusetts. Gender-neutral restrooms exist at some schools, such as Fordham University, New York. And transgender student Lexi Dever said that even though the Catholic Church nearly killed her, Georgetown University had saved her.

Greater awareness and more legal protections mean gender identity issues on Catholic campuses will not be going away any time soon. Education officials should not ignore or oppose the well-being of transgender students. All students in Catholic education deserve to feel safe, welcomed, and affirmed.

Know of more news happening for LGBT inclusion in Catholic higher education? Let us know in the ‘Comments’ section below or send a tip to info@newwaysministry.org.

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

CAMPUS CHRONICLES: Notre Dame Offers Benefits to Same-Sex Couples, While Set to Host “Gay in Christ” Conference

University of Notre Dame’s campus

The University of Notre Dame’s progress on LGBT issues has been a gradual process, but one that is making headway since the unveiling of the University’s pastoral plan in 2012. Still, recent incidents show a campus in tension on this path to full inclusion.

Last week, Notre Dame and its sister school, Saint Mary’s College, notified employees that benefits would now be available to same-gender spouses as marriage equality becomes law in Indiana. A university email obtained by the South Bend Tribune, said in part:

“This means that the law in Indiana now recognizes same-sex marriages and the University will extend benefits to all legally married spouses, including same-sex spouses…

“Notre Dame is a Catholic university and endorses a Catholic view of marriage. However, it will follow the relevant civil law and begin to implement this change immediately.”

Notre Dame is one of the first religiously-affiliated colleges to observe the new law, as other Christian universities are refusing to comply with the latest court rulings. One staff member who is openly gay, Aaron Nichols, said of the announcement:

” ‘Being an out staff member, I feel a lot more confident that my concerns are being heard and responded to…The university is no longer acting in a vacuum…That makes me proud to be ND.’ “

However, not all members of the Notre Dame community are reacting positively. Aleteia reports that Holy Cross Father Wison D. Miscamble, a history professor, spoke with young alumni in Washington, DC on the topic: “For Notre Dame: Battling for the Heart and Soul of a Catholic University.” He gave out Notre Dame president Fr. John Jenkins’ personal email and encouraged alumni to write negatively of the decision.

Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend added his criticism, saying Notre Dame should have waited for a “study of what the law requires” so that Catholic institutions are not “compelled to cooperate in the application of the law redefining marriage.” In response, President Jenkins said Rhoades was consulted before and after the decision’s announcement, and a University spokesperson defended Notre Dame’s decision.

Additionally, the University is set to host a traditionally inclined conference titled “Gay in Christ.” The conference, hosted by the Institute for Church Life and the Gender Relations Center, will “explore how Catholic institutions can coexist comfortable with gay Catholics” and focus on pastoral outreach, according to Indiana Public Radio.

Institute director John Cavadini said the conference has been a point of controversy on campus, adding:

” ‘I feel like our imaginations get cramped. . . We get caught in ways of thinking and don’t allow ourselves to think a little bit farther and this conference is meant to help us think a little bit farther.’ “

However, the conference is not as open ended as Cavadini portrays it. “Gay in Christ” focuses on outreach to “self-identified gay Catholics who accept Church teaching,” and speakers are predominantly Catholics advocating celibacy as the only option for lesbian and gay people. In fact, a writer for Slate recently highlighted the conference and torturously argued that the path of celibacy could be a path for acceptance of lesbian and gay people in the Church.

Bondings 2.0 has previously covered how dangerous and damaging mandatory celibacy can be for LGBT persons, the majority of whom do not discern that God is inviting them to such a lifestyle.

While Notre Dame is to be commended for the several initiatives it has made in enacting the pastoral plan, “Beloved Friends and Allies,” the presence of such a conference on campus proves there is still work to be done.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

EXCLUSIVE: Laity & Nuns Cause High School to Reverse Decision Against Lesbian Alumna

Sarah Rupert-Sullivan, left, with wife, Molly

Proving that Catholic religious and lay people have  the power to effect change in our Church, a Maryland high school has reversed its decision to deny same-gender couples recognition in the alumnae newsletter.

In January, news broke that Notre Dame Preparatory School, Baltimore, had rejected 2003 alumna Sarah Rupert-Sullivan’s announcement about her marriage to wife, Molly, from the school’s “Class Chatter” notes in the alumnae newsletter. The administrators of Notre Dame Preparatory, which is run by the School Sisters of Notre Dame, cited a conflict with Church teaching as the reason for the decision, but over 1,600 people signed a petition in support of Rupert-Sullivan and her wife. You can read Bondings 2.0‘s original coverage of the event by clicking here.

Having learned of the news, alumna Pat Montley, a former School Sister of Notre Dame herself, wrote to the administrators about her own negative experience with the same situation. A decade ago, her own same-gender wedding announcement was rejected, and each class note submitted since has had any reference to her partner expunged. Writing to the Schoo Sisters of Notre Dame’s Mid-Atlantic provincial team, Montley statd, in part:

Patricia Montley, left, with wife, Sally Wall, and granddaughter Alexa

“I am sending the letter to you now in the hope that that you will find it persuasive in reversing this policy.  You would not be alone among local Catholic schools in having a more open policy…

“My teachers at Notre Dame Prep played an immeasurably important role in my life–not just in helping me develop and pursue a life of the mind but in the formation of my conscience and habits of the heart.  I will always be grateful for that training and feel an immense affection for many of those teachers.  Though most are no longer living, I am still in touch with and have visited most who are…and am happy to say they have embraced Sally as my partner/spouse and rejoice in our marriage.  I hope that you can do the same, and that this embrace can be reflected in SSND schools’ publication policy…

“Over the years, I have repeatedly submitted entries to class notes that included a mention of Sally, as schoolmates have done with their spouses…Sadly, each time, her name and any references to her were expunged.  I implore you to try to understand how hurtful this is, what it feels like to have the primary, sustaining relationship in my life rejected and unacknowledged by my alma mater–which, ironically, provided the spiritual values that have made me capable of and desirous of having such a loving and long-lasting relationship in the first place.  It breaks my heart.”

Sr. Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of New Ways Ministry, who was a School Sister of Notre Dame before transferring to the Loretto Community, wrote her own letter to the provincial leadership. In it, she stated:

Sister Jeannine Gramick
Sister Jeannine Gramick

“This unfair policy makes me feel sad because SSND supported me in lesbian/gay ministry from the early 1970s to the late 1990s. Three SSND General Superiors and three SSND provincial leaders supported this ministry for many decades—at a time when lesbian/gay issues were very unpopular. These leaders believed in the human rights of lesbian and gay people, despite the opposition of some church leaders.

“It is distressing that SSND is now maintaining a reactionary stance in its schools when the tide of public opinion has shifted dramatically. According to a number of recent polls, most U.S. Catholics today now support same-sex marriaege (53% according to the 2014 survey from the Public Religion Research Institute)…

“The basic principle of the Church’s social teaching is that all human beings have dignity and worth and should be treated fairly and equally. In school publications, administrators would not treat males and females differently by publishing information about males, but not females, or vice versa. Administrators would not treat people of color differently by publishing information about white students, but not about Black students. Similarly, administrators need to treat people uniformly, whatever their sexual orientation.

“I urge you to change all SSND policies that discriminate against sexual minorities. To do otherwise is not worthy of us as women religious who profess to follow Jesus’ Gospel of love, service, and care for all God’s people.”

These two missives accompanied letters from many alumnae and community members, who have now been notified of a new policy regarding class notes that respects LGBT people and their relationships. In an email, Sister Patricia McCarron, headmistress, writes:

“After much thoughtful and prayerful discernment regarding concerns expressed about the content of ‘Class Chatter,’ Notre Dame Preparatory School has arrived at a policy which we believe respects individuals and upholds the school’s Catholic identity.

” ‘Class Chatter,’ or information submitted by alumnae of Notre Dame Preparatory School, exists for the purpose of alumnae-to-alumnae communication.

“Publication does not signify endorsement by Perspectives or its sponsoring bodies, Notre Dame Preparatory School and the School Sisters of Notre Dame. Notre Dame Preparatory School is an independent, Catholic school for girls which upholds the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

This incident, and the positive outcome that emerged from a poor decision against a lesbian couple, is proof that Catholics, lay and religious united, can indeed respond to school and parish level actions which do not reflect a more inclusive and welcoming tone which even Pope Francis demonstrates. Through sharing personal stories and wisdom with Church officials decisions can be reversed.  This kind of dialogue can help to  build up policies more in keeping with the Catholic tradition of justice and mercy.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 

If You Can Teach, You Can Teach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

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

University of Notre Dame

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

CAMPUS CHRONICLES: University of Notre Dame Athletics Closer to Full LGBT Acceptance

Matt Dooley

College athletics are rapidly opening to gay athletes, and Catholic schools have played their part in making college sports more welcoming. Two reports out of the University of Notre Dame (UND) reveal just how quickly change is spreading.

Matt Dooley, a senior tennis player at UND, came out as gay in an essay for OutSports earlier this month. He details his struggle, including a suicide attempt sophomore year when “Death was better than accepting — or revealing — that I was gay.” Dooley writes of a Catholic upbringing that was not vocally anti-gay, but made it clear being gay was problematic. Building upon a successful athletic career in Texas, he began attending Notre Dame, of which he writes:

“I arrived on the campus of Notre Dame completely aware of the conservative environment and what to expect. This institution’s religious affiliations and its resulting culture can be easily described as a pressure cooker for someone struggling with his sexual orientation. While I was excited by the prospect of playing and winning tennis matches for the university, I was beginning to tire of the mental burdens that are unavoidably associated with being closeted – burdens that are compounded for an athlete. Unable to entertain the possibility of ever coming out, I pushed forward and paid little attention to my worsening mental state.”

Eventually, Dooley came out to his parents and then teammates who accepted him with love, and finally to himself. You can read his full essay at OutSports, which is well worth a read. The South Bend Tribune reports that the Notre Dame community’s response to Dooley’s coming out has been “overwhelmingly positive.” Dooley is now involved with the campus’ “You Can Play” initiative, which seeks to make athletics a welcoming place regardless of sexual orientation, race, or gender identity.

ESPN reports prominent Notre Dame voices have affirmed Dooley’s coming out, including Alex Coccia, student body president who led the movement for more LGBT rights at Notre Dame, and Ryan Sachire, the tennis coach:

” [Coccia:] ‘(The) question was: “Are you an ally or are you not an ally?” The question now is: “Why wouldn’t you be an ally?”…That seems to be the sentiment among students. The vast majority of students are supportive.’ …

“Coach Ryan Sachire said it has been business as usual with the team.

” ‘The guys have said, “OK, it’s part of Matt, it’s who he is, that’s great. We love him. He’s still a great teammate of ours and we’re going to move forward as a team and not think about it.” ‘ “

Brian Kelly

In a related story, Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly spoke to the Chicago Tribune after National Football League prospect Michael Sam came out in a move applauded by many, including President Obama, Fr. James Martin, and even Cardinal Timothy Dolan (sort of). Kelly said he would welcome gay players on his team, even given the University’s Catholic identiy of which he said:

” ‘The university still is about embracing diversity…They necessarily don’t agree with homosexuality, but they certainly, in terms of teaching, embrace diversity. … That’s in who we are. I think the university would feel as though they are still embracing diversity and one’s personal rights. That doesn’t necessarily mean we agree with homosexuality.’

” ‘Now as it relates to the head football coach, it’s about supporting. It’s about putting together a locker room that creates an environment for that player to feel comfortable.’ “

The University of Notre Dame is the most prominent Catholic college to openly welcome LGBT athletes so far, but is not the first. Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas wholeheartedly supported Jallen Messersmith, a basketball player, when he was reportedly the first college athlete to come out last year. Yet, work remains before every LGBT athlete at Catholic schools can safely come out and echo Dooley’s words:

“I have also learned to value myself and accept my sexuality as something that’s neither good nor evil, but is just an essential part of who I am. I’ve learned to respect myself and expect it from others. I have learned to trust again and, maybe most importantly, I’ve realized that I am not alone. There are others just like me, combatting the same fear of abandonment and worthlessness every single day…

“I share this story in hopes of sending a single message to other gay athletes like me: No matter the circumstance or situation, you are never alone.”

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry