Andrew Keyes, a graduating senior at Saint Anselm’s College,New Hampshire, has been forced to resign from his role of Grand Knight at the school’s chapter of Knights of Columbus (KofC) over controversy surrounding his sexuality.
After Keyes brought his boyfriend to a formal party sponsored by the KofC chapter, fellow Knight Andrew Cilento reported the incident to Father Benedict Guevin, OSB, chaplain of the Saint Anselm’s chapter. Guevin asked Keyes to resign, fearing an emerging scandal. According to Guevin, Keyes’ continued leadership would prove a hypocritical frame: disobeying Church teaching while leading an organization which promotes it. To not resign, Guevin said, would be “an action that can lead to confusion and doubt regarding the church’s teaching.”
St. Anselm’s College is a generally LGBT-friendly campus, including having recently sponsored a Visibility Day. Because of this supportive atmosphere, Keyes reported to America magazine that he thinks another entity was involved in his ouster:
“. . .Mr. Keyes believes his case went beyond his otherwise supportive campus and that Father Guevin was pressured by the Knights of Columbus Supreme Council to ask for the resignation.
“But the Supreme Council disputes this, saying in a statement to America, ‘It is not our practice to make a determination on someone’s Catholicity’ and ‘the Supreme Council did not direct the local chapter to take action on this issue.’ For his part, Father Guevin acknowledged in an email that he reached out to the Supreme Council and was given the choice to do nothing or to ask for Mr. Keyes’s resignation.”
Surprisingly, Fr. Guevin acknowledged that if Keyes had been secretive about his sexuality and relationship, there would not have been a controversy. America reported:
‘Father Guevin echoes the Knights’ statement, saying Mr. Keyes’s sexuality—he identifies as bisexual—is not the problem. He maintained that the issue was not the role of L.G.B.T. persons in the church but student leaders scandalizing others by publicly opposing Catholic teaching.
“ ‘If Mr. Keyes were gay and private about it and kept his private life private, there would be no issue,’ Father Guevin told the Hilltopper, a campus newspaper.”
New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director, Francis DeBernardo, told America that the incident “goes against the trend of Catholic higher education,” as he observed that St. Anselm’s and many other Catholic colleges would not have made an incident out of Keyes’ decision.
The Manchester Union-Leader reported that St. Anselm’s College said they had no role in the decision:
“St. Anselm College spokesman Michelle Adams O’Regan said the Knights of Columbus Council is not a student-funded or college-funded organization.
” ‘It operates under the authority of the Knights of Columbus headquarters in New Haven, Conn. Saint Anselm College has no authority over action taken by its membership, the chapter chaplain or the organization’s national office,’ O’Regan said.
An article in The Hilltopper, a campus newspaper, said that some student Knights have resigned over the treatment of Keyes.
In addition to his resignation, Keyes was “stripped of his responsibilities” as an altar server and master of ceremonies at the college’s campus church, and “has not been scheduled to serve at Masses” since, according to America. He “finds it a little painful to attend Mass with his peers and has not felt motivated to go since the incident.”
“It’ll take a little while to get back to the faith and the church,” Keyes said in an interview with America, “but I’m still holding on.”
Many other Catholics facing similar situations of discrimination have been holding on, too. Yet, they shouldn’t have to go through this tension. At the heart of Catholic teaching lies an inherent dignity and worth of every person, worthy of respect.
This teaching was not extended to Andrew Keyes. While the Knights of Columbus do good in our churches and our society, they must do better with treatment of LGBT persons in our communities. Keyes’ leadership proves that one can identify as LGBT and still maintain a strong sense of faith and integrate into Church communities. His example shows that there is no contradiction in being LGBT and Catholic.
–Lindsay Hueston, New Ways Ministry, May 21, 2018