Notre Dame’s Non-Heteronormative Welcome Week

.@NotreDame sterilizes Welcome Week of "heteronormative messages that created an unwelcoming or awkward environment for many students.” #GoCatholicND Click To Tweet

In our last two bulletins, we cited the University’s embrace of Pride Month and the Notre Dame Alumni Association’s establishment of an official alumni LGBTQ “affinity group” as evidence of a cultural shift at the University from treatment of homosexuals with “respect and compassion,” which the Church demands, toward acceptance of same-sex marriage and homosexual sex, which the Church condemns. We now continue this analysis with a report on how the administration’s approach to “diversity and inclusion” in Welcome Week for freshmen has reflected this subversion of Church teaching.

For the most part, we rely on an Irish Rover report about Welcome Week, but we open with a related Notre Dame Observer report about a revelatory change in the Welcome Week program.

Welcome Week’s “Inclusivity” and “Allyship” Messaging

Welcome Week and its companion Kickoff ND! introduce the University to freshmen with a series of events and activities such as the Debartolo Performing Arts Center “Art Attack,” which promoted its “arts crawl” for students with the profane collage below.

One tradition of Welcome Week has been song and dance numbers –“serenades” – composed by freshmen of the various dormitories and performed for each other.

But not this year. Lauren Donahue of the Division of Student Affairs and Program Director for New Student Engagement ruled them out because past serenades have conveyed “heteronormative messages that created an unwelcoming or awkward environment for many students.”

Messages, that is, reflecting the view that “heterosexuality is the only normal and natural expression of sexuality.”

Thus, Ms. Donahue followed Gender Studies, student government, the Director of Staff Diversity and Inclusion, the Gay and Lesbian Alumni Club of Notre Dame, and their allies in opposition to a heteronormative Notre Dame in ways we have recorded.

“Kind of a bummer,” declared an evidently heteronormative female student and Welcome Week planner.


The Heteronormative Catholic Church

To the extent that Notre Dame is not heteronormative, it is not Catholic. “Homosexual acts,” the Church teaches, are “acts of grave depravity” that are “intrinsically disordered” and “contrary to the natural law,” and accordingly “Under no circumstances can they be approved.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2537)

The Church’s related and essential instruction that homosexuals “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity” and that “every sign of unjust discrimination should be avoided” guides individuals and institutions in how to act toward homosexuals, but it does not make its fundamental teaching any less heteronormative.

“Inclusivity and Diversity” Subverting Catholic Identity

Now we turn to the Irish Rover investigative report on the training of the students serving on the Welcome Week committees, where we again meet Ms. Donahue, the co-director of the committees.

We commend to you the entire article, which we reproduce in the Appendix with the permission of The Irish Rover, for a detailed account of the training provided students on the committee by Ms. Donahue and her associate Andrew Whittington. In sum, the report recounts how, according to a number of student participants, the instructors’ single-minded dedication to “inclusivity and diversity” subverted an introduction to Notre Dame’s Catholic identity for fear it would offend.

One student reported, for example:

I can’t recall one time when the word “Catholic” was said without a negative connotation…[T]he majority of the time spent considering Catholicism was when dealing with how to make others not feel uncomfortable by the Catholic identity of Notre Dame. The only real goals…were to be inclusive (have inclusive thoughts, use inclusive language) and to be an ‘ally’ to others.

Another student:

The committee’s purpose has been presented to us as more of a “woke” collection of students who are meant to spread the message of our secular culture that embraces relativistic acceptance with no holds barred.

She added:

Our training included an exhaustive list of rules, such as wearing BLM or ally pins and not assuming gender.

And LGBTQ pins as well, according to another student:

I’m being asked to wear visible signs of my allyship—not to Catholic teaching, but to an allyship with the LGBTQ+ movement, despite the numerous conflicting views between the two that have not been addressed.

Again, another student:

I believe the committee as a whole seeks to severely minimize the Catholic identity of the University in a well-intentioned yet destructive effort to preemptively pursue the comfort of non-Catholic new students.

Concurring, another student added:

There was never any conversation…on how to promote and uphold the Catholic mission of the school. At Notre Dame, especially when trying to display our values (which is the goal of the committee), we ought to celebrate the Catholic tradition and mission of the University, not ‘deal’ with it.

Finally, the student who noted she had been encouraged to wear a symbol showing she was an LGBTQ ally told the Rover that the instruction warning against assuming anything about a student’s religion “suppresses any kind of conversation surrounding our Catholic identity and how students who attend Notre Dame are going to be engaging with Catholicism on some level.”

She continued:

The training we received did offer a history lesson of the founding of Holy Cross and the holiness of St. Andre Bessette, but it immediately used this as a springboard into our two pillars of “allyship” and “inclusion” that had no visible anchoring in Catholic teachings, and instead advocated for inclusion seemingly at the expense of our identity as a Catholic institution. I feel little support for any programming that would introduce students to the Catholic character of the university.


While there were a few Catholic events during a packed week largely devoted to orientation, social gatherings, and entertainment – a Mass, a visit to the Grotto, a retreat – none countered the message that the University’s dedication to “inclusion” trumps its dedication to Catholic doctrine. To the contrary, the events included a “LGBT Welcome Back Picnic” and a “Trivia Night” about Schitt’s Creek, a TV show praised as “a role model for queer families.”

More generally, if the students assigned to accompany the freshmen during the week do not seem to cherish the Catholic character of the school, they will not inspire the Catholic freshmen to participate in the life of the Church or the non-Catholics to respect it.

In sum, the Welcome Week episode is one more example of the way in which the “diversity and inclusion” campaign that has swiftly come to dominate higher education can undermine the Catholic identity and mission of the University of Notre Dame.


Storytelling and Welcome Week

The University has recently sent a volley of gift solicitations in the form of short and hopefully appealing stories about Notre Dame. At least two recent messages were about Welcome Week, one signed by parents of an alumnus. Learning one of the parents might be a university officer, we asked. Understandably but regrettably, there was no response. He is in fact Associate Vice President, Development, for Storytelling and Engagement. (Did they test market that title? Just asking.)

Students voice concerns about restructured Welcome Week

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