Catholic Student Center Exploiting the Sacred

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by William Mahoney, Ph.D.  •  •  September 10, 2020   

'Tithes' to pro-Planned Parenthood organization

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VALPARAISO, Ind. ( - An Indiana Catholic student center is using sacramentals to promote wearing masks and maintaining 6 feet of distance in social settings.  

"How to Wear Your Mask"  poster

Saint Teresa of Avila Catholic Student Center (STACSC) at Valparaiso University, a Lutheran university in Indiana, is using an icon of its patron saint to demonstrate the proper way to wear a preventative mask and a thurible to show 6 feet of space.    

In a poster titled "How to Wear Your Mask," St. Teresa of Ávila appears separately in four quadrants, each with a mask over a different part of her face. One shows the mask over her eyes, with a caption underneath that reads, "No, no, no, not like that."

While some responded that the poster is "so cute," others found it excessive or irreverent.

"It is overkill for trying to make a point," said one Catholic, who requested anonymity. "It is tasteless and even bordering on blasphemous."

"It is irreverent and disrespectful," said another, who also asked to remain anonymous. "An icon is a representation of the holy — meant to raise our minds and hearts to God."

"To have a mask all over the depiction of a saint is offensive," added the Catholic.

'Tithing' to a Secular Organization

"As individuals we are called to be good and generous stewards with God's manifold gifts," reads an excerpt from STACSC's bulletin on Sunday under the subheading "Stewardship."

"Tithing is the means whereby we have the opportunity to give thanks to God; with that in mind, the community of St. Teresa of Ávila tithes weekly. This week we will tithe to United Way COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund," concludes the section.

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But Michael Hichborn of Lepanto Institute told Church Militant, "we tithe to the Church, not to a secular organization that funds gravely immoral acts."

The United Way blog posted a piece in 2017 titled "6 Reasons Minnesota's Still Behind in LGBTQ Equality." United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania raised funds in 2016 for the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center.

Thuribles are reserved for liturgical use only. They are not toys or props.

United Way Worldwide (UWW) is the leadership and support organization for local United Ways.

UWW states it "does not control funding decisions by local United Ways. In many instances, funding for Planned Parenthood is the result of specific direction from individual donors, including those from the United Way Worldwide Donor Advised Giving program."

'Thurible Swinging' Range

According to the webpage, STACSC "is a vibrant, welcoming, Catholic community serving the students of Valparaiso University and our local families. We strive to provide a life-changing encounter with Christ as we connect, grow and serve."

Fr. Chris Stanish swinging a thurible 6 feet away

The student center carries out this mission in various ways, including "celebrating the Eucharist and other sacraments," "learning more about the Catholic faith and other faiths," "working for social justice in service to others" and "respecting the diversity of all peoples."

The STACSC also uses liturgical practices to explain maintaining distance while wearing a mask.

"Love thy neighbor ... from 6ft apart or 'thurible swinging' range," reads a STACSC social media post that has an image of the student center's pastor, Fr. Chris Stanish, swinging a thurible near a woman roughly 6 feet away.

"While I hail their creativity — I am not that clever really — they should have used a tape measure," said one Catholic reacting to the post. "It is misuse of a scared object. Thuribles are reserved for liturgical use only. They are not toys or props."

Church Militant reached out to STACSC and the Gary diocese for comment but received no response as of press time.

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