The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. rejected a proposed LGBTQ student organization last week less than a day after the University of Notre Dame released its comprehensive pastoral plan to address student concerns over sexual orientation on campus.
CUAllies, the unofficial organization that received the denial in a private meeting with University President John Garvey, released a statement that read, in part:
“CUAllies aims to foster a safe, welcoming, and affirming outlet to students that identify as LGBTQ in the particular Catholic setting of the University. The proposal submitted a new vision, tone, and willingness to fully embrace Catholic identity, while supporting a marginalized community, and has hosted speakers, service projects, and prayer vigils in its unofficial position. The group undoubtedly brought those who identify as LGBT to a place where they could participate in the Catholic faith.”
Administrators cited fears that CUAllies could instead become an “advocacy” organization contradicting Catholic teaching, surprising student leaders who conscientiously demonstrated the pastoral and personal nature of the organization since its inception in 2011.
Former Director of CUAllies, Ryan Fecteau was quoted in a National Catholic Reporter story, describing the faith-oriented perspective that CUAllies members hold:
“If any university in the United States should understand and act to ensure that people participate in Catholicism and feel comfortable doing so, it should be The Catholic University of America. In essence, yesterday, Catholic University denied CUAllies and LGBT students communion. They said to us that we are not valued enough to participate in this community of faith…We have worked on this for nine long months…This denial is not only coming from the University that we love; it also comes from the Church that we cherish and contribute to.
“I am hopeful that students who identify as LGBT will feel not only feel welcomed as a students, but as a participants in God’s love through our Catholic Church. This means every facet at CUA must take a proactive approach towards fostering such a community…”
Student leadership of CUAllies expects to continue the pastoral dialogues, social events, service projects, and prayer opportunities in its continued unofficial capacity next semester. According to Fecteau, Garvey said more discussion on LGBT issues on campus is needed. There is speculation that student government will host a campus-wide referendum over the matter as well.
New Ways Ministry staff member, Robert Shine, who is also a 2012 theology alumus from The Catholic University of America noted in the CUAllies press statement how the school’s decision diminishes not only LGBT students’ faith, but the life of the campus:
“In my daily experience supporting LGBT-positive efforts on Catholic campuses, I am inspired by the sacrificial love and integration of faith and sexuality that students express where campuses focus on inclusion. My alma mater’s persistent rejection of my friends and peers falls gravely short of Christ’s witness that abundant love always trumps doctrine. This decision rejects pastoral considerations for political gamesmanship, but more importantly the University and the Catholic Church lose out on the necessary and life-giving contributions made by LGBT students, faculty, staff, and administrators.”
Now, Friends of CUAllies, an organization formed to support LGBTQ efforts at CUA, is campaigning with a simple pledge to:
“Support LGBTQ students by fostering a safe and welcoming campus at The Catholic University of America, so that the dignity and goodness of each person as made in God’s image is unquestionably affirmed.”
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry
For New Ways Ministry’s listing of gay-friendly Catholic colleges and universities, visitnewwaysministry.org/gfc.
For further information on New Ways Ministry’s efforts in Catholic higher education and to get involved, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.