An April week brought to campus an LGBT protest of Vice President Pence, acknowledgment that the Gender Studies Program contradicts Catholic teaching, and celebrations of both same-sex marriage and pro-life champions.
NOTRE DAME, IN — A lot went on at Notre Dame just a few weeks ago.
On the LGBT front, Notre Dame student and alumni proponents of LGBT rights conducted a rainbow flag anti-Pence protest; the director of the Gender Studies Program acknowledged that the Program collides with Catholic doctrine; and the GALA presentation of awards to proponents of gay marriage was held on campus for the first time.
Simultaneously and as if by design as a counterpoint, the Center for Ethics and Culture held its annual Evangelium Vitae pro-life celebration.
For starters. There is more.
We begin with the most startling and consequential of these events: the acknowledgment by the director of the Gender Studies Program that the Program as conducted contradicts Church teaching.
The Gender Studies Program versus the Church
On April 29, the Gender Relations Program and GALA (the Gay and Lesbian Alumni Association of Notre Dame and St. Mary’s) sponsored a panel discussion on the gay rights campaign in conjunction with GALA’s annual awards celebration. (More on that later.)
Mary Celeste Kearney, the director of the Program, was a panelist. As recounted in the National Catholic Reporter, she “shared the challenges she’s faced on a high profile Catholic campus.” “Raised as a Catholic,” NCR reported, professor Kearney “ told her audience that a fundamental principle of gender studies flies in the face of traditional Catholic teaching.”
“Gender studies,” she said, “defines gender as a social formation that impacts all of our various identities, relationships, opportunities, employment and points of agency – for everyone.” But the Church, she said, “argues that gender is biologically determined or ordained by God.” Academic freedom protects faculty teaching concepts in the gender studies department that might contradict Catholic teaching.
To be sure, this may come as no surprise even to outsiders who have been attentive. Take the Gender Studies program for high school students that caught the eye of the National Review. It reported that students are asked “to explain how they know for sure whether they are male or female.”
Are you male or female? How do you know? When you were a baby, did your parents dress you in pink or blue? Who dressed you, fed you, changed your diapers – your mother or father?
We have heard what one irate parent thought of this. Surely she was not alone.
Then we noted an Observer article about a panel on bisexual and transsexual issues that included an account of Dr. Abigal Palko’s ahead-of-its-time advocacy of “bathroom activism” for transsexuals. Dr. Palko was then director of undergraduate studies in the Gender Studies Program.
Whatever might be said for the eccentric notion that academic freedom licenses Notre Dame professors to undermine fundamental Church teachings in the classroom, surely nothing can be said for the university’s sponsorship of a program that fosters this dissent.
In an earlier bulletin we described GALA’s support of gay marriage, its efforts and successes in promoting its agenda on campus, and its petition (still pending) to be recognized by the Alumni Association as an official alumni organization. We report now on a new GALA success: For the first time, GALA held its Thomas Dooley awards dinner on campus.
What was not new was its celebration of gay marriage.
The principal awardee, St. Mary’s alumna Kristen Matha, “is married to her wife Kendra, who together raise their son Micah.” And GALA’s award for Distinguished Academic Achievement went to Joseph Pequigney (ND ’44), who dragged Shakespeare out of the closet by purportedly demonstrating that his sonnets were homoerotic and, indeed, that there was a “consummated sexual relationship” between Shakespeare and a male lover. Mr. Pequigney “and photographer Steven Mays have been together for 48 years and were married in 2008.”
LGBT Pence Protest
As we’ve reported, a number of student organizations have protested Vice President Trump’s selection as Commencement speaker. As one group put it, he is “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, offensive, or ostracizing to members of our community,” and students “feel unsafe with the presence of Mike Pence on our campus.”
During this third week in April, student LGBT supporters renewed the protest by distributing some 500 rainbow flags on the campus and hanging them from windows in dormitories, the Hesburgh Library, Nieuwland Science Hall, Geddes Hall with its theology faculty quarters, and perhaps other buildings.
They did this, according to the president of the student LGBT club and other demonstrators, to protest Pence’s opposition to same-sex marriage, his support of the religious liberty of organizations and individuals to decline to collaborate in actions they consider immoral, and his support for reparative therapy for homosexuals who desire it.
That is to say, they object to Vice President’s appearance at Notre Dame because he joins the Catholic Church in its teaching respecting marriage and its position respecting the religious liberty of individuals and institutions like Notre Dame.
The president of the LGBT club (PRISM), a graduating senior and popular student who was also president of the student body, was the 2017 recipient of the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C. Award, one of seven Leadership awards to graduating seniors. He is an advocate of same sex marriage who attributes the Church’s doctrine on homosexual sex to “centuries of homophobia.”
The flag demonstration also served to welcome GALA to the campus. GALA in turn raised money for the project and urged “as many alums as possible to attend the Dooley Award Weekend and to see firsthand all the rainbow flags to be hung from dozens of buildings around campus.”
Update: The Washington Post reported yesterday that protesting students plan to walk out of the commencement when Pence speaks; that they “expect scores of students and many more family and friend to participate”; and that “the university is OK with that.”
Simultaneously, on April 29 elsewhere on the campus, the Catholic face of the university shone in the Evangelium Vitae celebration sponsored by the Center for Ethics and Culture.
The Center rightly describes the Evangelium Vitae Medal as “the nation’s most important lifetime achievement award for heroes of the pro-life movement.” This year the medal and the $10,000 prize went to the Jérôme Lejeune Foundation for its and its founder’s groundbreaking work with Down syndrome children and others with genetic disorders.
Bishop Kevin C. Rhodes celebrated, and 25 Holy Cross priests concelebrated, the opening Mass (which you can view here); Pope Francis sent a greeting; and there were a number of notables among the 400 dinner guests. The guests included Father Bill Lies, C.S.C., Vice President for Mission Engagement, but not Father Jenkins, who has never attended.
All this in a week in April on the Notre Dame campus, contested territory.
As if by way of preface, a month earlier in the online Notre Dame Magazine a priest who is associate director of Campus Ministry observed that “the landscape of sexual orientation and of gender identity is changing” and that “the Church must listen to and read the signs of the times,” as it had respecting, for instance, slavery. “There are many ways to love and to give our selves to one another,” he said. “That we love may be more important than how we love.”
Annual Breakfast Reminder
If you’ll be at Notre Dame for Reunion Weekend (or you’re in the vicinity) plan to attend Sycamore Trust’s annual breakfast meeting on Saturday morning June 3. Our principal speaker will be Professor Gerard Bradley of the Law School, who will discuss the presidential election as it may affect the interests of the Church and Notre Dame. Click on the link below for tickets or to register for a live broadcast of the event.
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