NOTRE DAME, IN — In the wake of last year’s approval of a gay student organization, another breaker in the gay rights tsunami has hit Notre Dame.
A recent move by Notre Dame students to advance the Church’s teaching on gay marriage was promptly countered by strong opposition from gay rights supporters. The students faithful to Church teaching have asked Father Jenkins to recognize their club and to support the Church’s teaching. The opposing students have urged Father Jenkins to deny both petitions. Father Jenkins will soon decide.
Read on for the details, but if you support the pro-Church students, do not fail to sign their petition.
Student Marriage Initiative
The recent emergence of student support for Church teaching on marriage with assistance from some faculty organizations is the first significant sign of resistance to the powerful pro-gay sentiment among faculty and students that led to last year’s recognition of a gay student organization.
The first event was a March conference on the Church and marriage. It was organized by Mike Bradley, the editor-in-chief of the Irish Rover and sponsored by the Center for Ethics and Culture, the Institute for Church Life, the Toqueville Forum, and several student organizations. The outstanding panelists included Sherif Girgis and Ryan T. Anderson, coauthors with Robert P. George of the definitive “What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense.” Go here for a summary and here for a video.
At the same time, a new organization, SCOP (Students for Child-Oriented Policy) was formed by students from the Irish Rover, ND Right to Life, the Orestes Brownson Council (teachings of the Church), Rodzinka (love, fidelity marriage and family), the Edith Stein Project (gender, sexuality, and dignity in Catholic perspective), the Fellows of the Toqueville Program (religion in American Democracy), and the Marine and Navy ROTCs. Its president is graduate student Tiernan Kane.
SCOP seeks support for the proposed Indiana constitutional amendment barring gay marriage.
We aim to build up a network of students across Indiana that will unite in favor of child-oriented policies–especially regarding marriage…. We reject the view that the young have agreed to redefine marriage.
In pursuing its mission, SCOP has taken two actions that have sparked controversy: a conference on marriage and a petition.
The petition cites the Church’s teaching on marriage and the university’s declared mission to encourage “a way of living consonant with a Christian community.” It ends:
We call on the University administration to make a clear stand in support of the true definition of marriage and to take serious and sustained action to improve the public understanding of this natural institution.
This is in the context of the statement “Marriage as a Covenant Between One Man and One Woman” by Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne/South Bend and his fellow Indiana bishops, on the one hand, and on the other the announcement by the president of the University of Indiana that his school will oppose the “intolerant” amendment.
The university looks forward to lending a strong voice in the effort to ensure that the state’s Constitution is not altered to codify an intolerance that is not representative of the best of Hoosier values.
Indiana University has been followed so far by two other Indianaschools, DePauw University and Wabash College.
SCOP’s April conference on marriage included as speakers Professor Gerard Bradley of the law school and Arina Grossu (’06) a former Sycamore Trust board member and president of ND Right to Life, who is now with the Family Research Council.
The OppositionThe SCOP petition triggered immediate student opposition through a malign petition charging SCOP with “discriminat[ing] in direct opposition of [sic] the university policy on diversity inclusion and message of love and acceptance” and with “blatantly ignoring all empirical data” respecting the effect of homosexual parenting on children. More, “[C]learly, this group is not actually in the pursuit of knowledge and truth, nor do they want what is best for children.”
The petition, which asked Father Jenkins to deny SCOP recognition, quickly gathered over 600 signatures. While the SCOP petition has marginally more signatures, many fewer are students.
In an excellent overview, Irish Rover managing editor Alexandra DeSantis reported that the signers of the anti-SCOP petition include two officers of PrismND (the gay student organization) and “more than one-third of the Gender Relations Center student FIRE Starters, whose responsibility is to ‘foster dialogue.'”
The anti-SCOP petition is both baseless and contrary to the Church’s position.
Its centerpiece — that “all empirical data” show that “same sex parenting” is not “damaging to children” — is flat out wrong. As the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has said, the studies “are mixed, at best.” See especially the analysis by Notre Dame’s nationally prominent sociologist Dr. Christian Smith of the most recent study and its critics.
More, the effects of homosexual parenting go beyond academic performance, “psychological adjustment,” and the like. Parents are role models for children. The sexual behavior that same-sex parents model is gravely immoral in the eyes of the Church.
And so it is simply not true, as these students awkwardly phrase it, that the Church does not “anywhere deplore couples of the same sex in raising children.” Indeed, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, who is shortly to be honored at Notre Dame’s commencement ceremony, ended Catholic adoption services rather than comply with state law requiring same-sex placement. So did Cardinal Donald Wuerl in Washington D.C. So did the Illinois bishops in their state.
Finally, the claim of these students that they don’t oppose Church teaching is a matter of form, not substance. They must still say that at Notre Dame, but not only do they press the principal argument advanced in court against laws banning gay marriage, but they explicitly tout the benefits to children of gay marriage (“gay marriage leads to more favorable outcomes for children”).
As to the conference, PrismND complained about a remark by Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr., presiding bishop of the International Communion of Evangelical Churches (“being gay was the flavor of the week”) and about the views of the Family Research Council, though not about what its representative said at Notre Dame. (See the response by the SCOP president, Tiernan Kane.)
On this rickety — to put it gently — foundation, PrismND charged that SCOP, in sponsoring the conference, had violated the administration’s declared “spirit of inclusion.”
Hindrance by the Administration
SCOP sought permission to promote its petition in the student center before its April 3 conference, but the Student Activities Office referred the matter to the Gender Relations Center and delayed until too late. The SAO administrator questioned the petition’s accuracy and said it seemed to disparage “unmarried parents.” The concerns were so frivolous as to invite suspicion, particularly since permission was belatedly granted.
Lessons and Predictions
It remains for Father Jenkins to decide whether to grant SCOP recognition, to support publicly the Church’s teaching, and to respond to the anti-SCOP representations. May is the likely time.
To deny SCOP recognition would be shocking. We do not expect it.
It is another matter to expect Father Jenkins to support publicly the Church’s position on gay marriage in the context of the Indiana debate. As Michael Bradley has observed, the administration “has been entirely mute” on gay marriage.
To be sure, Notre Dame leadership certainly has taken public policy stands before. Consider, for example, civil rights legislation and, more recently, Father Jenkins’s call for immigration reformand nuclear disarmament. But those stands were popular with the faculty and liberal academe. Opposition to gay marriage would stamp Notre Dame as impossibly Catholic.
Father Jenkins has recently censured a student Republican club leader for what he considered uncivil criticism of students who demonstrated against Ann Coulter when she spoke at a club event. It may be debatable whether a university president should call fouls in the absence of obvious malice and deliberate slander, but at any rate the policy should be even-handed. The students’ criticism of SCOP was warrantless and offensive, and there might be virtue in showing that pro-gay speech is not a preferred category, if indeed it is not.
After the approval of the gay student organization we have had gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson on campus excoriating the Church for its stand on gay marriage, National Coming Out Day on campus, and now PrismND calling for the censuring of students who bring to campus speakers who say, or whose organization has said, anything PrismND considers “demeaning.” Nor, anti-SCOP petitioners insist, should students be heard to support Church authorities in their opposition to same-sex parenting.
As in society generally, now at Notre Dame the plea for justice and charity for homosexuals and lesbians has morphed into intolerance for those who oppose any part of the gay rights agenda.
Let us pray that Father Jenkins counters this drive by recognizing SCOP, publicly aligning Notre Dame with the Church and Notre Dame’s bishop on gay marriage, and making it clear that reasoned views on controversial issues are welcome on this campus, whether or not they conform to strongly-held contrary opinion. That should be especially true when the views support Churchteaching
To that end, we urge you to sign the SCOP petition here and now. Time is short.