Faculty members at a Montana Catholic college have published an op-ed in support of LGBTQ students who recently clashed with the administration over the cancellation of a campus drag show.
Several professors at Carroll College, Helena, expressed their support in the Independent Record, the city’s daily newspaper. Last month, the college’s Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) canceled their drag show because the school’s administration imposed numerous restrictions on the event, including a dress code.
The ten faculty members who signed the op-ed, representing six academic departments, congratulated the students for their inclusive leadership:
“The Gay Straight Alliance took the lead, attempting to convey a message of inclusivity, and they were joined by many others. Throughout the process, they demonstrated maturity, thoughtfulness, positivity and compassion. These students exemplify the promise in Carroll’s Mission Statement to welcome ‘all persons of good will’ and to support the dignity and ‘equality of opportunity’ for all, especially ‘individuals or groups who are marginalized.’”
The authors decried the administration’s limits on academic expression and intellectual discovery, showing that these principles are within the framework of church teaching.
“Carroll administration censored the drag show because it raised concerns about the ‘fit’ between such an event and our mission as a Catholic College. We strongly disagree with this decision. Academic freedom is the primary obligation of a Catholic college. Carroll’s Mission Statement strongly affirms its ‘commitment to the principle of freedom of inquiry.’ Our Academic Freedom Policy upholds ‘freedom of inquiry in all learning environments at Carroll.’ St. John Paul II, in Ex corde Ecclesiae, wrote that Catholic colleges must engage with ‘the aspirations and contradictions of modern culture.’”
“Committed to freedom of inquiry, a Catholic college is precisely the place where official Church teaching is put into conversation with the most recent research in neuroscience, biology, philosophy, gender studies and all other academic disciplines. A Catholic college must engage with, rather than avoid, the controversies in contemporary culture, including issues of gender identity.”
It is inspiring and encouraging to see these various faculty members take a strong stance in support of their LGBTQ students through the submission of their op-ed essay.
The power and efficacy of their support lies not only in rooting their message in Carroll College’s mission statement, but also in Pope John Paul II’s apostolic constitution Ex corde Ecclesiae that requires Catholic universities and colleges to explore challenging, multifaceted topics, especially ones that affect a student’s educational environment and experience. Issues of sexual orientation and gender identity should fall squarely within the topical scope mandated by Pope John Paul II.
Social justice goals are relevant to sexual and gender identity, and are firmly compatible with church teaching and the mission of Catholic education. All too often we read and hear that authentic LGBTQ identity and expression are somehow incongruent with the Catholic Church and/or within Catholic educational environments. The courageous faculty members at Carroll College powerfully articulate otherwise with sound theological principles and with grace.
—Brian William Kaufman, New Ways Ministry, April 21, 2020