New affinity group affirms Alumni Association’s commitment to inclusion, diversity

The University of Notre Dame Alumni Association (UNDAA) announced the creation of the Alumni Rainbow Community (ARC ND) on June 25, 2021. The group’s stated purpose is “to celebrate the presence and enrich the experiences of the LGBTQ members of the Notre Dame family and their allies.”

ARC ND, whose official launch is projected to take place in January 2022, will replace the unofficial Gay & Lesbian Alumni of Notre Dame & St. Mary’s (GALA). This development signals the beginning of a new chapter in the history of the university’s engagement with gay and lesbian groups, as it adopts and rebrands GALA, which publicly supports gay marriage. Since its inception in 1992, GALA has sought official recognition by the university, but, until this summer, its appeals have been rejected or have not received formal response. GALA’s most recent appeal for official recognition was rejected in 2016.

ARC ND is not, however, the first LGBTQ group officially recognized by the university. In 2013, PrismND, “Notre Dame’s first and only official LGBTQ+ undergraduate student organization,” was granted official club status. Unlike GALA, PrismND purports to adhere to Church teaching regarding homosexual actions. PrismND’s website directs inquirers to the university’s “Beloved Friends and Allies Pastoral Plan,” which “affirms the Church’s position that persons who identify as gay or lesbian ‘must be accepted with respect compassion, and sensitivity,’” that “‘God has created every human person out of love and wishes to grant him or her eternal life in the communion of the Trinity,’” and that “at the same time…. ‘homosexual persons are called to chastity.’”

The majority of GALA’s officers and several trustees are persons in same-sex marriages, and the organization openly opposes Church teaching. In a 2016 letter to the Alumni Association, GALA member Gregory Bourke relayed his experience as an active member of his parish and a member of a same-sex marriage as evidence “that it is quite possible to be both openly gay, married, and still an active and fully functioning member of the Catholic Church.”

In past years, GALA has sent Notre Dame students to Camp Pride, a pro-gay marriage program, hosted the late openly gay Episcopal bishop Gene Robinson for a talk on the compatibility of Christian faith and homosexual sex, and celebrated the 2015 Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage, among other activities which run counter to the Church’s teaching on marriage. Presumably, ARC ND will take the same oppositional stance on Church teaching, because, as UNDAA director Dolly Duffy stated in the GALA launch video, the Alumni Association has been working with GALA “to incorporate their supportive mission into the fabric of our affinity groups structure.”

Sycamore Trust president Bill Dempsey, in an interview with the Rover, stated that the university’s recognition of GALA does not, in fact, represent any major change. Dempsey asked: “Have you heard a single homily [on campus] on homosexual sex? It’s a dead letter; it’s been a dead letter at Notre Dame for all these years. It doesn’t make sense to talk about a change.”

Dempsey predicted that reception of the decision by the broader alumni community will likely be split into three camps between those who support the university’s gradual shift toward secular elite standards of inclusivity, those who “don’t appreciate the degree to which the Catholic identity of the university has been attenuated over the years,” and “many [who] just don’t want to hear about it.”

The decision has already created rifts in at least some quarters of the alumni community. In a comment on the Sycamore Trust’s August 18, 2021 bulletin regarding ARC ND, Frank Freidhoff said: “The Notre Dame Club of OKC has essentially disbanded as a result of the announced organization of ‘ARC’…. The result of [the club’s] stated support for ARC was the resignation of three Board members and the eventual resignation of the Club President.”

Time will tell whether our university’s approach to the Catholic Faith is centered around inclusivity and toleration or the teachings of the Church lived out with charity and truth. PrismND, UNDAA director Dolly Duffy, and president of GALA/president-to-be of ARC ND Paul Burke did not respond to requests for comment. The Rover will continue to stay abreast of ARC ND’s activities as related to the Catholic Church’s teachings.

Josh Gilchrist is a junior in the Program of Liberal Studies with a supplementary major in theology. When he’s not in the library or the PLS lounge, you can find him running around the lakes, mixing drinks, or enjoying a good conversation over a cigar. You can reach him at

Photo credit: ARC ND