After pushback from a student, Seton Hall University has removed a link to Courage International from its website. Courage is an organization that promotes celibacy as the only authentic option for gay and lesbian Catholics.
The Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, which owns and operates Seton Hall, still points members to Courage through its own website. But Seton Hall’s website no longer features the group after two months of pressure from Adam Varoqua, a senior psychology and social and behavioral sciences major.
Courage has come under fire in the past for framing homosexuality as a psychological disorder or addiction. It promotes a 12-step process to help gay and lesbian Catholics remain celibate. Although celibacy is widely recognized as a legitimate choice for people of any sexual orientation who choose this path, many LGBTQ Catholics and allies take issue with the suggestion that it is the only way for them to authentically live their faith.
Local chapters of Courage have from time to time also promoted forms of gay conversion therapy, a practice that drastically increases the risk of teen suicide.
Varoqua told The Setonian, Seton Hall’s student newspaper, that he brought up the issue with the campus Diversity and Inclusion Committee after learning about Courage’s listing as a resource for students.
From there he was directed to campus ministries, and then on to a meeting with Monsignor Anthony Ziccardi, the University’s Vice President for Mission and Ministry.
Varoqua says that Ziccardi claimed in their meeting he did not have the authority to remove the link to Courage. But a week later, the link was gone.
The Setonian shared part of a statement issued by Ziccardi:
“‘Although allegations of unsafe practices are found on the Internet by a variety of persons and organizations, no evidence could be found that Courage was ever found liable for damages in an American court of law,’ Ziccardi said in his statement.
“Ziccardi went on to say that because the Office of Mission and Ministry had no way to prove or disprove said allegations, ‘not only the link to Courage but also two entire webpages of referrals to any and all other outside organizations (including non-Catholic worshipping communities) were removed for the sake of caution.’
“‘We realized we could only assure the quality of our own services, no one else’s,’ Ziccardi said.”
In 2015, Seton Hall had fired popular campus minister, Fr. Warren Hall, because of his social media support for LGBTQ people. Hall, who later came out as gay, eventually was suspended from the priestly ministry by then-Archbishop John Myers.
Varoqua expressed to The Setonian his frustration with the way the Courage incident had been handled, but also said he hoped it could motivate the University’s leadership to greater inclusivity moving forward:
“Varoqua said he would appreciate it if the Provost or the President could send out an email ‘recognizing our basic rights and liberty and condemning hatred and bigotry. It would also be nice to have the Archbishop extol the priesthood to actually accept people who are LGBTQ+ and to show love, something Jesus would do.’
“‘More importantly though, I want people who are LGBTQ+ to know that we are not alone, that we are loved, and that we deserve to be heard. Our lives and our struggles matter and we will not be silenced,’ Varoqua said.”
–Jonathan Nisly, February 5, 2019