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
The Observer: “Faith and homosexuality can coexist”
The Observer: “Author explores sexuality, Catholic faith”