Who Should Be Allowed to Speak on LGBTQ Issues at Notre Dame?

The University of Notre Dame is under fire for allowing a speaker who formerly identified as gay and is now living as a chaste Catholic to lecture on campus. Daniel C. Mattson is the author of the book, Why I Don’t Call Myself Gay: How I Reclaimed My Sexual Reality and Found Peace,. in which he details his failed relationship with a man, which was followed by his finding the Catholic Church’s teachings on homosexuality, culminating in a decision to live a chaste life.  

In a series of opinion pieces in the student newspaper The Observer, individual students and alumni have protested the lecture, calling for the greater inclusion of LGBTQ students on campus, and the need for the inclusion of queer students as a protected category.

In a written response to the lecture, Notre Dame students Michael O’Dea and Mary Szromba write:

“The importance of this subject cannot be overstated: Rhetoric has power. The rhetoric of people like Mattson creates a culture of exclusion and repression. Though we believe the opinions expressed by Mattson to be harmful and glaringly unsupported, we understand that he has a right to express them on our campus. All we ask is that those who are most affected by these opinions be allowed to do the same.”

The students go on to write about the lack of fair treatment between traditionally-focused Catholic groups on campus, and LGBTQ groups saying:

“While groups like SCOP [Students for Child Oriented Policy] are permitted to host lecturers like Mattson who have unconventional qualifications and are in favor of a traditional interpretation of Catholic theology, PrismND, Notre Dame’s LGBTQ student organization, is not permitted to invite speakers with opposing views.”

An Observer editorial  noted that political groups, such as College Democrats, are able to speak out in favor of LGBTQ rights, while queer affiliated groups and their allies are not. The editorial also critiqued Notre Dame’s rocky history with LGBTQ issues:

“We recognize the University’s precarious position: As a Catholic institution, some of Notre Dame’s interests will undoubtedly be in tension with the interests of the LGBTQ community on campus. As the inclusion policy shows, the University has attempted to adopt a position of tolerance — a tolerance which itself did not exist for quite some time in the University’s history. The University has routinely denied LGBTQ clubs official recognition since the 1980s. But in reality, the current position is simply a symbolic gesture that Notre Dame hides behind to give the appearance of acceptance while acting merely through tolerance, a nuance that we believe matters. Merely pledging tolerance while keeping LGBTQ students out of the official nondiscrimination policy violates the spirit of the University’s commitment to its LGBTQ community members.”

In a response to the editorial , GALA ND/SMC, a LGBTQ alumni group that does not have the official recognition of Notre Dame, applauded the students’ work saying:

“We support an institutional response that removes the de facto practice of restricting LGBTQ student voices and activism that ends the culture of silence or outright rejection from major academic departments that allows this to persist. Until then, we hope students know that generations of alumni stand together and say to every LGBTQ student that you are authentic and you are loved.”

Mattson’s views are particularly harmful for LGBTQ Catholics. He said in a recent interview that:

“The idea of there being ‘homosexuals’ and ‘heterosexuals’ had never before been conceived when these terms were made up in 1862. From those words, you had to make people to fit those words. We have to see things clearly as they are and give them their right names; we’re experiencing a new Tower of Babel: come, let us make a name for ourselves. You may consider yourself ‘gay’ or ‘bisexual’ or ‘pansexual’ or something else; what you’re really doing is taking on the name of God and declaring ‘I am what I am.’ This litany of sexual identities is a form of idolatry and a rebellion against God.”

Unfortunately, this is not the first time that Notre Dame has been the host of an anti-LGBTQ speaker. In 2017, Vice President Mike Pence was the keynote graduation speaker, which caused a walkout of over 100 students.

While Catholic institutions hold their own views, college campuses should be a place of discussion and learning-on both sides. To hold a lecture from someone with such damaging views towards LGBTQ students, and then not allow for a rebuttal by other student groups means that Notre Dame LGBTQ students and allies are held to a different and unjust standard.

Kaitlin Brown, New Ways Ministry, May 8, 2018

Related articles:

The Observer:  Faith and homosexuality can coexist

The Observer: Author explores sexuality, Catholic faith”

8 replies
  1. Mary Jo
    Mary Jo says:

    Wow. What a travesty. What a dangerous and horrible place to send your child for collage. One has to ask why one would attend such an unjust institution, and one of the most expensive colleges at that. Pay to be berated.

  2. Marianne Nichols
    Marianne Nichols says:

    Higher learning? I think not; what students learn is that different opinions are not allowed or respected. Dis-grace-ful


    If Notre Dame has any coherent internalised appreciation of Roman Catholic Tradition it would be concerned about the blood shed and death that their university endorsed research and development for the United States Department of Defense or the number of murderers that they have graduated without compunction from their ROTC graduates. Institutionally ND is a hollow charade of moral righteousness.

    DON E SIEGAL says:

    Who Should Be Allowed to Speak on LGBTQ Issues at Notre Dame?

    First Amendment: Freedom of speech clause

    One cannot discuss this question absent the First Amendment rights. This is especially true in a university venue. Differing points of view must always be allowed to be presented even if they contradict mainline knowledge. So clearly, the university has the right to invite Daniel C. Mattson to speak. At the same time, those who are opposed to the LGBT positions of Mattson also have the right to protest his presentation in a peaceful manner.

    It is also clear that the LGBT community at Notre Dame should have the First Amendment right to have speakers that are more favorable to modern thought on LGBT issues.

    • mike toner
      mike toner says:

      Regardless of your views on this particular speaker, campus or administration, people need to remember that the first ammendment has only to do with the GOVERNMENT restricting speech. The first ammendment has nothing to say about other institutions restricting speech – only the government…”Congress shall make no law….” Not saying that Notre Dame is right – just that this is not a first ammendment issue…

  5. Sarasi
    Sarasi says:

    “This litany of sexual identities is a form of idolatry and a rebellion against God.”

    Wow. That must have been some bad relationship.

  6. Chardin
    Chardin says:

    What is clear here is that all opinions are welcome except those that are contrary to the LGBTQ world view. Anyone who wanted to and had the intellectual courage could simply search the UND web site to see that those living a gay or lesbian lifestyle would find a very affirming network of allies there (http://www.grc.nd.edu/category/lgbtq) It’s just that they don’t want anyone challenging their narrative so they call names and act out.

    • etseq
      etseq says:

      How can there be a “gay and lesbian lifestyle” if those categories are somehow metaphysically invalid? Same with “LGBTQ world view”? It is difficult to take seriously people who think pre-modern theology should govern this debate. Even if they dress it up with sophisticated post-structuralism, these arguments have no traction is modernity…


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