Sandra Laguerta, Religion & Ethics Editor
University students, faculty, and staff continue to wait for the decision of the Student Activities Office concerning the approval of AllianceND, the proposed gay-straight alliance (GSA) for Notre Dame. While many in the campus community strongly endorse the official recognition of a GSA, many faculty, students, and alumni have also expressed concerns about the role and impact that an approved GSA would have on Notre Dame’s public image. Many have also expressed concerns about a GSA specifically in regards to its relationship with Catholic teaching and the Catholic identity of the university. In order to consider and understand these concerns, the Irish Rover investigated similar approved clubs at Catholic universities and colleges across the nation.
Several Catholic universities and colleges have a GSA (gay-straight alliance), a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning/Queer (LGBTQ) center, or a similar club or resource center. At Georgetown University, a Jesuit Catholic institution in Washington DC, GU Pride, under different names, has existed as the University’s official GSA since 1977.
After a physical assault of a gay Georgetown student in 2007, an “Out for Change” Campaign was organized by students, and three Working Groups were established by the University to address Education, Resources, and Reporting on LGBTQ issues on campus. Since August 2008, an LGBTQ Center at Georgetown has been very active in providing support services, educational events, and programming for its community concerning these issues.
The mission of the LGBTQ Resource Center states: “Inspired by the Catholic and Jesuit principles of respect for the dignity of all, cura personalis, equality, and education of the whole person, the Center seeks to establish a safe, inclusive and welcoming environment for LGBTQ community members and promote better understanding and integration with the entire campus community.”
The LGBTQ Resource Center “[envisions] Georgetown to be an institution which promotes equity and affords wholeness for its lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning students, faculty, staff, and alumni consistent with Jesuit values and principles.” In many ways, the Center achieves its mission and vision through its extensive programming and support services, such as discussion and support groups for the LGBTQ community, resources to health and safety services, counseling services, and prayer groups.
Several annual events and programs, however, have come under sharp criticism from Catholic circles, events including National Coming Out Week, Gender Liberation Week, Pride Week, and a Lavender Graduation. According to the LGBTQ Resource Center website, Gender Liberation Week “focuses on breaking down gender constructions and what it means to be transgender and what defines sex, gender, gender expression, gender identity and sexual orientation.” Coming Out October or “OUTtober” events have also been scrutinized, due largely to the LGBTQ’s invitation to Ty Cobb, Senior Legislative Counsel at the Human Rights Campaign, an organization known for its advocacy of gay marriage equality, to speak, and to its “kiss-ins,” where GLBTQ couples kiss publicly together at a specific time.
As a University approved club, Georgetown University Pride (GU Pride) has also been involved in the creation of “Catholic Association of Students for Equality” (CASE), initiated by Georgetown student Thomas Lloyd, vice-president of GU Pride and founder of CASE. The group is “an association of student run LGBTQ groups on Catholic campuses.” It has been criticized for its open advocacy for same-sex marriage.
CASE’s formation statement states, “The sacrament of Matrimony, we were taught, imbues a loving relationship with a grace ‘intended to perfect the couple’s love and strengthen their indissoluble unity.’ And yet, we are denied the ability to fulfill this duty to our family, to our beloved, and to God.” No action has been taken by Georgetown to disassociate from CASE, despite the latter’s open advocacy contrary to the Catholic teaching on marriage.
Boston College’s GLBTQ Leadership Council (GLC), a governing body of the Undergraduate Government, supports many groups and organizations that promote GLBTQ awareness. These groups include Allies of Boston College, Prism and Horizons support groups for those who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Questioning, and a Lesbian and Gay Faculty, Staff, and Administrators Association (LGFSAA). Approved in 2003, the Boston College’s Allies Constitution states that it “will respect the Jesuit, Catholic mission and heritage of Boston College…and shall not sponsor or support programs that involve public protests, petitions or activities and events that conflict with University policy or that University officials judge promote positions or behavior inconsistent with BC’s religious traditions.”
President Father William Leahy, SJ, also approved of BC Allies’ mission, stating, “It is essential that the topic of sexuality be examined in the Boston College community in light of Scripture, our Christian, Catholic roots and moral teachings, and contemporary culture. In particular, I think we need to come to a fuller appreciation of sexuality as a gift from God that not only shapes human identity and relationships but that also calls us to integrity, generosity and personal responsibility.”
Although the University provides for it students through a variety of organizations, including BC QueerPeers, BC Allies, the GLC, Graduate Pride Alliance for graduate students, a Lamda Law Students Association of LGBT students, staff, and faculty of the Law School, and a GLBT Inclusive Fellowship of Theology Students (GIFT), some events or resources hosted by these clubs seem to directly contradict Church teaching.
In March 2012, the GLC hosted a Gala with speakers from the LGFSAA, and Grace Sterling Stowell, executive director of BAGLY (Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth). BAGLY’s website states, “Our approach to programming and services is youth-centered, non-judgmental and “sex-positive” (meaning we think consensual sex is natural and healthy) [sic].” It also promotes belief “in sexual freedom…[and] in condoms….”
Boston College Allies also seems to explicitly support a lifestyle of sexuality that is not in accordance with the teachings of the Church. T-shirts being sold at many of their main events, especially during National Coming Out Week include stick-figure images of man-man, woman-man, and woman-woman figures holding hands are printed with “Support Love” on the bottom of the image. Due to the legalization of gay marriage in Massachusetts in 2004 and the revocation of the Defense of Marriage Act in 2010, Boston College, as seen on their LGFSAA website, provides the resources to access benefits for same-sex couples.
At the University of Notre Dame, the Core Council for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Questioning Students, established in 2006, grew out of the Standing Committee on Gay and Lesbian Student Needs that began in 1996-97 and continued for ten years. The Core Council’s structure of eight undergraduate students and four administrators from the Division of Student Affairs were made to allow the group “to work more effectively with appropriate contacts in Student Government and throughout the Notre Dame community.”
In February of this year, the Progressive Student Alliance of Notre Dame’s “4 to 5 Movement” united with the unofficial LGBTQ Group at the Catholic University of America, CUAllies. Catholic University previously had a university-recognized Organization
for Gay and Lesbian Student Rights from 1988 to 2002. However, Victor Nakas, Associate Vice President for Public Affairs, stated in a 2009 Washington Post article that the original group was dissolved because it began to advocate positions contrary to Church
teaching. Since the dissolution, CUA has denied official club status to CUAllies, because of the concern that CUAllies will eventually become an advocacy group that would contradict the teachings of the Church.
Co-President of the Progressive Student Alliance, Alex Coccia, stated in his September 7 interview with the Irish Rover that the proposed AllianceND “will not do events that go against Church teaching.” Additionally, the Student Activities Office would have “the right to deny…or not approve an event because it wouldn’t fall in line with either the Alliance’s mission or the mission of the University.”
In addition, the Alliance’s constitution, states that “the purpose of AllianceND is not to address LGBTQ issues that are in opposition to the Catholic identity of the University.” Such neutrality has been criticized by some members of the Notre Dame community—including Father William Dailey, CSC, in the September 27 issue of the Rover—and continues to be a point of concern for Catholics.
In an October 22, 2012 talk sponsored by the Orestes Browson Council and co-sponsored by the Institute for Church Life, the Gender Relations Center, and the Knights of Columbus, Ron Belgau, a Catholic and a homosexual, mentioned the need for a GSA to address vocation, by referencing Eve Tushnet, a celibate, lesbian Catholic.
“A vocation is not a no but an affirmation of something. All sorts of sufferings come with this vocation but the vocation is to say yes,” said Belgau. A vocation is not a “no to gay sex” but the affirmation to something. As with all vocations, there are sufferings and crosses that must be taken up. If a GSA is to be approved on campus, neutrality does not seem to be an adequate answer; a GSA has a great potential, however, to aid in the discernment of the vocation of celibacy for all of its members.
Sandra Laguerta is a senior studying theology. She is that pesky student who, after correctly identifying the East and West Church fathers in the Basilica of Sacred Heart’s stained-glass windows, won ten dollars from the Basilica’s great rector, Father Peter Rocca, CSC, after naming the saints’ respective feast days. Email her at email@example.com.