CAMPUS CHRONICLES: IgnatianQ Again Gathers Jesuit Students for LGBTQ Solidarity–And Other Campus News

May 5, 2016

12771924_1081553981909058_7175108364027864592_oIt should be surprising to regular readers of Bondings 2.0 to learn that Catholic higher education is leading our church towards more supportive and affirming LGBT practices. Today’s post highlights several developments concerning LGBTQ issues which happened this spring across the U.S.

Jesuit Students Again Gather for LGBT Conference

Students, faculty, and staff from Jesuit colleges gathered in April for the third annual IgnatianQ conference, organized under the theme “Celebrating Identities: Queer Solidarity at Jesuit Schools.”

The conference, facilitated this year by students at Seattle University, received support from many offices and organizations on campus including Campus Ministry, reported student newspaper The Spectator. Keynote speaker Kathy Talvacchia, a religion scholar who is Associate Dean of Academic and Student Affairs at New York University Graduate School of Arts and Science, spoke about the influence Ignatian spirituality has had in her life as a lesbian Catholic woman. Workshop presenters included staff members at Jesuit institutions and outside LGBT organizations.

The annual conference aims to “promote LGBTQ solidarity, leadership & advocacy among US Jesuit institutions and the larger church. This year’s conference included more programming related to transgender issues and intersectional identities.  The 2015 conference took place at Georgetown University, Washington, DC.

Lavender Graduations Increase at Catholic Campuses

Lavender graduation ceremonies, which celebrate LGBTQ graduates and their allies, are happening at Catholic colleges across the U.S. this spring. Ceremonies will be held at:

The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY; DePaul University in Chicago, IL; Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.; Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, CA; Saint Mary’s College of California in Moraga, CA; Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, CA; Seattle University in Seattle, WA; University of San Francisco in San Francisco, CA.   If you know of a Catholic campus that is hosting a lavendr graduation ceremony, please share that information in the “Comments” section of this post.

Drag Shows Premiere on More Campuses

Drag performances hosted on Catholic campuses are increasing, too. Gonzaga University in Washington State hosted its first ever drag performance as part of LGBT+ Pride Week festivities. Other Catholic schools continued performances, including the fifth annual show at the University of San Diego, the seventh annual show at DePaul University in Chicago, and the tenth annual show at Seattle University.

Ending Commencement Controversies

Finally, Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese questions whether controversies about commencement speakers and honorees at Catholic colleges are finally ending. Many times these controversies are tied to a speaker’s support for LGBT equality and provoked by forces in the church which seek to ban free inquiry and dissent. Reese wrote in the National Catholic Reporter:

“It is time to admit that these policies were foolish from the beginning and ought to be a dead letter today. Colleges and universities in good conscience can ignore these failed rules and use their own judgment in the selection of commencement speakers and honorary degree recipients. If their judgment is faulty, they can certainly be criticized, but not simply because they broke an inappropriate rule.”

Reese noted that “censorship is an admission of failure” that church leaders have not convinced Catholics of their positions. Regardless, he continued, the era of banning persons who question church teaching or advocate positions at odds with the bishops is dead. Whether this will be true is unknown, but the University of Notre Dame’s decision to honor Vice President Joe Biden and former Speaker of the House John Boehner with minimal criticism is certainly progress for LGBT advocates and for the church.

Know more good 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


Title IX LGBT Exemptions Will Not Disqualify Catholic Colleges from NCAA

April 13, 2016

campusprideshamelistThe National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) will not disassociate from religiously-affiliated colleges, including some Catholic ones, that have requested Title IX waivers. Such waivers would allow schools to discriminate against someone based on the person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression.

LGBT organizations Campus Pride and Soulforce requested, in a letter to NCAA officials, that the NCAA disqualify schools which fail to protect LGBT students by seeking such exemptions. NCAA Chief Inclusion Officer Bernard Franklin responded in his own letter, defending the Association’s record on LGBT issues and deferring the matter of Title IX waivers to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex-based discrimination, has been interpreted recently to include LGBT protections. While religious exemptions are not new, application of these provisions has risen sharply as civil rights based on sexual and gender identity have expanded. 43 colleges requested exemptions in 2015 compared to just one college in 2013.

At least five Catholic colleges are among those who have requested such exemptions, according to a report from the Human Rights Campaign. These include Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina, Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio, John Paul the Great University in Wyoming, St. Gregory’s University in Oklahoma, and the University of Dallas in Texas.

Schools which receive exemptions are essentially enabled to discriminate at will on the basis of sexual and gender identity. Jocelyn Sun of Soulforce, writing at Believe Out Loud, explained further why such exemptions are so deeply problematic:

“Title IX isn’t just about LGBTQI students in faith-based institutions. . .It’s about debunking the myth that you have to choose between being a Christian and all the other identities God gave you. It’s about educators not having to pick between investing in and building trust with students and making a living. It’s about holding our universities accountable to be the community we’ve dreamed of and are working hard to create.”

The NCAA’s decision not to sanction colleges which have sought Title IX exemptions is puzzling because it seems wrong to include schools in its athletics programs that institutionally advance prejudice. These exemptions also highlight the difference between the many Catholic colleges supportive of LGBT students and the five schools seeking exemptions. While there is a lot of progress to celebrate, there is much work to be done in college athletics and in Catholic higher education.

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: Transgender Digital Archive Opens at Holy Cross

February 27, 2016

digital-trans-archiveThe Digital Transgender Archive was launched at the Jesuit-Sponsored College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachusetts, last week. Below, Bondings 2.0 highlights this and other developments in Catholic higher education related to LGBT issues as part of our “Campus Chronicles” series.

Transgender Archive at Holy Cross

The College of the Holy Cross launched the Digital Transgender Archive last week, the first of its kind organizers say. The archive will include “a compendium of historic documents, oral-history transcripts, photographs, and newsletters” about transgender people and issues, reported The Boston Globe.

The archive is the idea of English professor K.J. Rawson, who now directs it, after Rawson was challenged finding accessible transgender materials during doctoral research. 21 institutions and organizations will ultimately contribute materials to the archive. It is being well received according to Rawson, meeting needs beyond simple academic research:

” ‘A number of transgender individuals have already reached out with gratitude to find a history they weren’t able to find and read about before. . .To know that they’re not alone in this, and it’s not the first time someone is experiencing what they’re experiencing. That this has been happening for a really long time.’ “

You can visit the Digital Transgender Archive by clicking here.

La Salle Students Back Gender-Neutral Housing

Four-fifths of participating students in a student referendum at La Salle University voted to back a gender-neutral housing proposal by sophomore Nicholas Lario. The proposed policy would apply to the Philadelphia-area University’s townhouses and allow LGBTQ students to access safe and more comfortable housing options.

La Salle’s administration has no position on the issue, though president Colleen Hanycz said it would receive “careful and thoughtful consideration,” according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Campus Pride reports 200 colleges and universities in the U.S. provide gender-neutral housing, but La Salle University would be a trendsetter in Catholic higher education if the proposal moves forward.

Christendom College Republicans Withdraw Over Gay Rights

College Republicans (CR) at Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia, withdrew from state and national affiliations because the College Republican Federation of Virginia added sexual orientation as a protected class within its policies, reported CrossMap. Representatives from the Christendom CR’s said they were concerned they would have to include LGB students in their organization and formed a new group, the Christendom College Political Action League.

Assumption College’s LGBTQ Group Profiled

A recent article in campus newspaper Le Provocateur profiled Assumption College’s LGBTQ group, AC Allies. Guided by Campus Ministry, whose director Paul Covino mentors the group, AC Allies hosts weekly meetings and partners with other campus organizations for education programs at the Worcester, Massachusetts, school. Covino said it is a “great consolation. . .the sentiment expressed by the students in the group that they feel accepted on our campus.”

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


Transgender Support Growing in Catholic Higher Education

February 11, 2016

1375111113093Boston College students are advancing a trans-inclusive non-discrimination policy for their Jesuit-sponsored school. Below, Bondings 2.0 reports on this news and other LGBT developments, two of which reveal Catholic higher education’s growing commitment to support trans* community members.

Boston College May Include Trans* Nondiscrimination Protections

Boston College’s GLBTQ Leadership Council, a segment of student government, has prepared a report about adding gender identity and expression to the College’s non-discrimination policy. BC administrators will decide ultimately whether to insert new language or not, reported campus newspaper The Heights, which noted:

“Despite this, the proposal still remains a good first step toward its goals and, even if rejected, acts as a symbolic gesture declaring UGBC’s [Undergraduate Government of Boston College] stance when it comes to this issue.”

Widespread support among college students for more expansive LGBTQ protections will hopefully weigh on administrators’ response. Existing BC policies already include sexual orientation as a protected class. Among Catholic colleges, Georgetown University (GU)  has been the first to explicitly protect trans* students, faculty, and staff from discrimination, and the school has made some of the most progressive strides in this regard. The Heights article concluded that Boston College could, along with GU, help set a precedent for Catholic schools on trans* inclusion.

Georgetown University Hospital Dispute

A news story from The Georgetown Voice, the campus newspaper of the Washington, DC Jesuit university, highlighted difficulties that trans* students often face in receiving quality healthcare. Willem Miller, a trans junior, waited a week before going to the University’s health services because he felt uncomfortable seeking treatment there. About his hesitation, The Voice reported:

“This trepidation toward Georgetown’s health care institutions is common among the members of the small population of out transgender and gender nonconforming students. One member of this community, Lexi Dever (COL ‘16), a transgender woman and a Student Assistant for the LGBTQ Center, initially expressed her apprehension about these services in absolute terms “[I have] never [visited]the Student Health Center, I’ve never called GERMS, and I have no intention of those things changing,” she said. Dever, like Miller, attributes this steadfast hesitance to a belief that these institutions are not suited to meet the specific needs of transgender students.”

These students identified a lack of trans-specific resources or training as reasons why Georgetown University’s health services were inadequate. The article also noted a discrimination complaint against MedStar Georgetown University Hospital filed with the D.C. Office of Human Rights by a trans woman, Alexa Rodriguez, who was allegedly denied surgery last year because of her gender identity.

Systemic issues about inadequate healthcare for trans* communities are widespread, Since Georgetown University has made strong efforts to welcome openly trans* students, hopefully the school will address these healthcare challenges as part of the Jesuit model of caring for the whole person.

Loyola Marymount Provides Safe Space for LGBT Mormons

A weekend conference for an organization of LGBT/SSA [Same Sex Attracted] Mormons and families was hosted  recently by Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California. Entitled “Knit Together in Unity and Love,” the mid-January gathering aimed to support LGBT-affirming Mormons, provide an inclusive community, and encourage participants to “make valuable contributions” both inside and out of the Church of Latter Day Saints.

Catholics and Mormons can celebrate that this collaboration not only advances LGBT equality, but ecumenical relations too.

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


Belmont Abbey College Misrepresents Church Teaching to Discriminate Against Trans Students

December 19, 2015

3877664057_2320d1c5f6_zLGBT groups are criticizing Belmont Abbey College, North Carolina, for attaining a religious exemption which allows the school to discriminate against transgender and gender-nonconforming students.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex-based discrimination, has been interpreted recently to include LGBT protections. While religious exemptions are not new, application of these provisions has risen sharply as civil rights based on sexual and gender identity have expanded.

In a January 2015 letter to the U.S. Department of Education, Belmont Abbey’s president, Dr. William Theirfelder sought an exemption for the school. Citing a California legal case affording a transgender student equal rights, Theirfelder said the College “would not be able to make similar accommodations consistent with our Catholic beliefs.” College spokesperson Rolando Rivas concurred, saying the exemption was necessary to operate “in congruence with the teachings of the church.”

Belmont Abbey College, a Benedictine school, is now able to discriminate on the basis of gender identity in ten areas including “employment, the admission of students, housing and the provision of facilities like restrooms and locker rooms.” Abbot Placid Solari, Chancellor, said students will be treated based on assigned sex rather than gender identity. The president explained further, telling The New York Times:

“Among those beliefs, [Theirfelder] said, was a rejection of the idea that the ‘resolution of tension between one’s biological sex and the experience of gender’ can be found through gender reassignment surgery or the ‘adoption of a psychological identity’ typically associated with the opposite sex.”

Advocates, which include Campus Pride and the Human Rights Campaign, are calling attention to nearly three dozen colleges which have sought religious exemptions to LGBT protections from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. The New York Times explained:

“The exemptions are in some cases wide-reaching and exempt schools from abiding by provisions of the law that they feel are inconsistent with their religious beliefs on a range of topics, including gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status and whether a person has had an abortion.”

Critics are questioning these exemptions because recipient institutions, like Belmont Abbey College, still receive government funding. Victoria M. Rodriguez-Roldan of the National LGBTQ Task Force said:

“What these universities are seeking is a license to discriminate while still receiving taxpayer money, and they are doing it out of an animus toward transgender people. . .It is what it is: discrimination and the unfair treatment of transgender people.”

 

Shane Windmeyer of Campus Pride, who is Catholic himself, told Gaston Gazette:

“Families and young people deserve to know that this list of schools are not loving, welcoming, safe spaces to live, learn and grow — and taxpayers should definitely not have to pay for a private college to openly discriminate against anyone.”

Windmeyer added that failure to support LGBT youth and young adults, particularly in religious communities, is linked strongly to higher rates of mental health issues, self-harm, and suicide.

For all Belmont Abbey College’s claims about Catholic identity, it misrepresents church teaching on gender identity.

There is no clearly articulated teaching on gender transition or on the gender norms the College seeks to enforce. While a clear doctrinal affirmation may not yet exist regarding gender identity questions, there are no clear prohibitions either. London’s Monsignor Keith Barltrop, tasked with LGBTQI outreach by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, has even said gender identity issues are a pastoral, not doctrinal, issue and the church should support those individuals who decided to transition. Other Catholic colleges, such as Georgetown University or Fordham University, have established supports for trans students consistent with a Catholic identity. One student, Lexi Dever, claimed Georgetown saved her life because it welcomed and nourished her as a trans student.

Belmont Abbey officials are obviously unaware that their policy is not supported by Catholic teaching, as they claim. In fact, their policy is undermining Catholic education and an approach to gender that is rooted in the Gospel and seeks the good for each and every student. Students at Belmont Abbey College deserve an apology. The Catholic faith, in whose name this exemption was claimed, demands better.

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


LGBT Employees Must Be Protected at Catholic Institutions

October 1, 2013
Jim Smith

Jim Smith

Regular readers of Bondings 2.0 know the shameful trend of LGBT employees at Catholic schools and parishes being terminated for their sexual orientation, gender identity, and support for marriage equality.  Less known are the ways that Catholics are taking action against these discriminatory policies and other steps to make Catholic schools welcoming for LGBT people.  In today’s post, we have news of such actions from Minnesota, Washington State, and California.

Jim Smith, program manager of DignityUSA and a Minnesota resident, recently  authored an article on the trend in The Star Tribune. He begins the essay, written in the name of the Equally Blessed coalition:

“The list keeps getting longer.

“At an accelerating rate, Catholic schools and churches around the country are firing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees who have decided that they can no longer deny who they are and whom they love…

“At a time when even Pope Francis himself is urging the church to move beyond what he calls its ‘obsession’ with sexual issues, Catholic schools and parishes are intensifying the judgmental behavior that the pope urged Catholics to eschew in a recent interview with Jesuit publications.”

Equally Blessed LogoSmith references the dual departures at Totino-Grace High School of William Hudson and then Kristen Ostendorf in his home state as part of the ‘obsession.’ He then asks why the bishops and administrators so quickly terminate LGBT people if their aim is to defend teachings on marriage:

“Catholic parishes don’t fire heterosexual musicians who choose to get married at City Hall rather than in a Catholic Church. Catholic schools don’t check up on heterosexual teachers to determine whether they might have remarried without having their previous marriages annulled, or whether they are using artificial contraception. If the hierarchy were defending what it defines as Catholic principles, it would have to fire individuals in marriages that the church does not recognize as sacramental. But it does not.

“When gay, lesbian or transgender people attempt to live openly as the individuals that God created them to be, however, the hierarchy is suddenly zealous to defend its doctrine. This double standard is increasingly obvious both to lay Catholics…and the general public.”

While this hypocrisy is evident, there has been little recourse for terminated employees at religious institutions, although a recent ruling in favor of a transgender educator could be changing this reality. Regardless, Smith admits he cares less about the legality of discriminatory firings and more about Catholic teachings of dignity and equality, alongside the good that LGBT employees provide in the Church’s institutions.

Many who echo Smith’s beliefs are acting for change in Catholic institutions. Two examples come from the West Coast in September, and are only the latest in organizing efforts at schools and colleges nationwide to make campuses more LGBT-friendly.

In Seattle, Washington, LGBT and ally students in Catholic high schools are responding to hostile environments by requesting officially-recognized gay-straight alliances. Students have lobbied Archbishop Peter Sartain with a petition, letters, and calls to allow for the formation of these alliances, reports the Ballard News-Tribune.  The story quotes a lesbian student:

“ ‘It’s important to have that support and have that community of people you know you can always go to when you’re having a bad day,’ said Katie, a recent graduate of a high school where she helped found a GSA group. To avoid endangering the school’s accreditation, the Ballard News-Tribune is not naming the school.”

In Glendora, California, silent protesters tried to attend a school board meeting for St. Lucy’s Priory, a Catholic high school. The protesters were there to support fired gay educator of seventeen years Ken Bencomo, but were turned away and the school continues to deny Bencomo was fired for his sexual orientation. Their efforts gained 90,000-strong petition as well, as reported in the Glendora Patch

For full coverage of those employees fired from Catholic institutions, view Bondings 2.0‘s Labor Day post commemorating them.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


CAMPUS CHRONICLES: Cancellation of Marriage Lecture Leads to Community Reflection

September 28, 2013

Providence College students at Thursday night’s forum

The decision by Providence College to cancel an event called “The Meaning of (Gay) Marriage” has ignited controversy and raised questions about academic freedom at the Catholic school located in the capital of Rhode Island. However, the cancellation became more than a typical controversy around Catholic higher education and LGBT issues when students organized a constructive forum to replace the event.

The New York Times reports that an administrator notified faculty members last Saturday that a lecture by John Corvino, a philosophy professor at Wayne State University, Michigan, was cancelled because it defied the school’s Catholic identity.  The Times report states:

“In his e-mail announcing the cancellation, Hugh F. Lena, the provost and senior vice president of Providence College, cited a document produced by the American bishops in 2004, ‘Catholics in Political Life,’ to support the decision. And he said that college policy ‘dictates that that both sides of a controversial issue are to be presented fairly and equally.’ “

John Corvino

John Corvino

Nine departments and programs at the College were co-hosting the event scheduled for last Thursday, September 26th, and Dr. Dana Dillon of the Philosophy Department was to present the bishops’ position on marriage equality during the event. Cancelling in light of these facts caused many faculty to question the College’s commitment to academic freedom. The local chapter of the American Association of University Professors released a statement yesterday condemning the decision, which you can read in full at The Providence Journal. For his part, Corvino released two statements, one about the initial cancellation and one after the rescheduling, writing in the former:

“As a fellow scholar I am offended on Dr. Dillon’s behalf…For her provost to declare her unprepared, however, is an affront to scholarly autonomy and academic freedom. It also does not speak well of Provost Lena’s confidence in his philosophy and theology departments that he believes that no one there can persuasively articulate the Catholic position on marriage with a week’s notice.”

Student reactions echoed faculty concerns, but also wondered what message Providence College sent to LGBT community members in so brusquely treating Corvino and the issue of marriage equality. The campus LGBT group, called SHEPHARD, released a statement emphasizing the progress being made on campus.

Other students launched “Fighting for Academic Freedom” a Facebook page, as a form of protest.

In place of the cancelled lecture on Thursday night, students organized an open forum to discuss the administration’s decision, LGBT issues, and marriage equality. The forum included testimonials from students , as well as small group discussions wrestling with questions like, “Why is open and honest dialogue about gay marriage important to you? To the broader Providence College community?” and “How do we stay true to Providence College’s identity as a Catholic, liberal arts institution?” It ended with a larger discussion aimed at creating constructive next steps. One professor who attended wrote in an email:

“I attended the event last night and was bowled over by what came forth from our students; they compelled me to look at this whole thing with new eyes. The hurt that was expressed by our students with same-sex attraction (forgive me for being ol’ fashioned) when confronted by the efforts their college would go to prevent a gay academic coming to campus filled 64 Hall. . . .[I]t would take a person with a stone-heart not to be moved by their sense of injury that the college they call ‘home’ would act this way. I could not but help of thinking about the question Pope Francis posed when explaining his famous “who am I to judge?” comment: When God looks at a gay person, does God see a gay person or just a person? I heard lots of persons last night, and it alerted me to the reality that this is not simply a question about policy, about who said what to whom and when, but also a question of how Catholics speak about the issue of homosexuality.”

Providence College has announced that John Corvino will debate Sherif Girgis, a well-known anti-equality activist, this coming spring. Yet, for many faculty and students at the school this incident has been an occasion to come up with ways that the campus could be more welcoming of LGBT people and issues.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry