About two weeks ago, Bondings 2.0 reported on the story of Canisius College student-athlete Emily Scheck whose parents ended financial support for their daughter’s education when she came out as a lesbian. Our post focused on the overwhelming support Scheck received from schoolmates, campus administration, and LGBTQ people from around the U.S.
Since that time, the president of Canisius, a Catholic, Jesuit-sponsored school in Buffalo, New York, has released a statement in support of Scheck and all LGBTQ people that is worth noting because it can serve as a model for Catholic institutions everywhere. Mr. John Hurley’s message can be summed up in the short phrase that the members of the school “stand in solidarity” with Emily, but his whole message is intelligent, eloquent, and Catholic. He begins by noting:
“Emily’s story struck a chord with so many of us because, to be honest, we would like to believe that love and acceptance for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, is a given. Her story reminded us that the pathway to acceptance, love and tolerance remains a difficult one for many.
“Canisius College was and is supportive of Emily. Our staff in Athletics and Student Affairs have been exercising the cura personalis [care of the person] that characterizes Jesuit education.”
Hurley said that when the news media was on top of the story, the school was asked how it could defend its position of supporting a lesbian student against critics who would be opposed to such a stuand. Hurley offered the following answer to that question in his statement:
“The answer is so eloquently explained in Rev. James Martin, S.J.’s recent book, Building A Bridge, a book that urges that we find ways to build bridges between the Catholic Church and our LGBTQ brothers and sisters who too often have been marginalized. Our faith – and indeed the Catechism of the Catholic Church – requires that we treat our LGBTQ brothers and sisters with respect, compassion and sensitivity. This is a requirement of Catholic colleges and universities. And so, our response to ABC News was simply this: It is precisely because we are Catholic and Jesuit that we support students such as Emily and it is precisely because we are Catholic and Jesuit that we will continue to stand in solidarity with all of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters and treat them with respect, compassion and sensitivity.” (emphasis added)
Nothing is theologically or doctrinally incorrect in Hurley’s statement. It plainly and simply states the truth about Catholic teaching. This realization begs the question of why more Catholic schools, parishes, and other institutions don’t make similar statements of solidarity. Why wait until a controversy erupts and a student or parishioner is in a crisis situation? Catholic leaders often issue statements of solidarity, but very few do so in regard to LGBTQ people.
Hurley’s statement helps not only Emily Scheck but also the scores of LGBTQ students, faculty, and staff of Canisius College. They have heard that, despite the numerous negative messages from church leaders, this Catholic school supports and appreciates them and their gifts. And they have heard that the leaders do this because of the values that the Catholic faith extols.
It would be such a simple thing to do, but it would have such a wide impact on the lives of so many. Do you think that your Catholic parish, school, or other institution could do something like this? Who’s up for taking it upon themselves to ask the leaders of their Catholic communities to do so? Don’t be shy! Simply share this blog post with your colleagues and let them see Hurley’s full statement. They can use his statement as a model and/or adapt it to their local community’s values.
If you do take up this cause, let us know either in the “Comments” section of this post or via email at info@NewWaysMinistry.org. If you are able to succeed in getting your community to make such a statement, let us know, and we will be glad to publicize that fact, along with the statement. That would be a great way to encourage others to do likewise.
But don’t gauge your effectiveness on whether or not your community makes such a statement. The simple fact that you bring up the idea and have a discussion is a step in the right direction. It will make it so much easier in the future to raise such issues. Change happens little by little. Breaking the silence is a powerful first step.
So, who’s up for it? How many hands do I see raised?
—Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, December 4, 2018