It’s commencement time across the country, and LGBT issues seem to be popping up both negatively and positively at some Catholic schools’ graduation ceremonies. Here’s a round-up of some of them, followed by some brief reports on other LGBT news at Catholic colleges.
Le Moyne College
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York is addressing Le Moyne College graduates today with hundreds promising to ignore his speech after asking for Dolan’s removal.
Nearly 750 students from the Jesuit college in Syracuse, New York, signed a petition against the College’s choice of Dolan as their commencement speaker. Student organizers argue that Dolan’s previous remarks against LGBT people, alongside questions about his role in covering up clergy abuse make the cardinal an unqualified speaker, reported WSYR Syracuse. Senior Kate Bakhuizen explained to NY1:
” ‘I think that, as a group, a group of people who have their own identity, we have decided that Cardinal Dolan doesn’t really embody the values that we’ve been taught at a Jesuit school.’ “
Le Moyne president Linda LeMura defended the choice of Cardinal Dolan, but also spoke positively of these students –rare admission from an administrator facing protest:
” ‘It’s an inherent part of the Catholic intellectual tradition to challenge questions of authority. That it’s OK to ask the big questions and, in fact, at the end of the day, it actually makes us better Catholics, if you will. Better citizens’…
” ‘I think it’s something you hope for in a college setting. You know, that young people are thinking critically about issues and that they’re willing to take stands on things that they believe in and even more so in a Catholic Jesuit setting, where we promote the importance of social justice.’ “
Student organizers promised a silent protest during Dolan’s speech at commencement exercises, saying they will respect the cardinal’s speech while making their disagreement known. What is remarkable here is President LeMura’s defense of the students’ actions and recognition that critical challenge should be valued, rather than suppressed on Catholic campuses.
At least eight Catholic colleges hosted lavender graduations this year, which are separate ceremonies officially sanctioned by the institutions to honor LGBT graduates . Schools with lavender graduations include:
- College of Saint Rose (Albany, NY)
- DePaul University (Chicago, IL)
- Georgetown University (Washington, D.C.)
- Loyola Marymount University (Los Angeles, CA)
- Saint Mary’s College of California (Moraga, CA)
- Santa Clara University (Santa Clara, CA)
- Seattle University (Seattle, WA)
- University of San Francisco (San Francisco, CA)
The following are news items about LGBT issues in Catholic higher education with links provided below for more information:
Fordham University, New York City, is making progress towards implementing gender-neutral restrooms next fall, reported campus newspaper The Fordham Observer. This is the outcome of ongoing discussions between a student group, The Positive, which advocates for gender rights, the student government, and University administrators.
Georgetown University student Tim Rosenberger, who is openly gay and a Republican, lost his bid in the election for student president at the Washington, DC, school, reported The Washington Blade.
St. Thomas Aquinas College, Sparkill, New York, cancelled a drag show organized by the campus’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance Club because campus president Margaret Mary Fitzpatrick worried about “unintended consequences.” However, students speaking to USA Today confirmed the campus is still very welcoming, and also noted that Fitzpatrick suggested the school should first host lectures about gender identity and the role of drag in the LGBT community, as a way of preparing the entire campus for a possible future drag show. Bondings 2.0 discussed the importance of drag shows in educating students on gender diversity and identity a few weeks ago, a post you can access here.
Graduation time at Catholic colleges and universities can often be ripe with controversy. Sometimes commencement ceremonies are attacked by conservative groups for featuring pro-LGBT speakers. None such cases have emerged yet this year. In fact, there seems to be more good news than bad this year, especially with Le Moyne College’s students displaying the type of critical thinking and Gospel witness that Catholic education hopes to produce.
Congratulations to all those graduating this spring!
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry