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MANASSAS, Va., July 31, 2015 (Kimberly Scharfenberger) - Catholic colleges are called to minister to same-sex attracted students with love and support, while emphasizing a commitment to chastity, prayer and the Church's clear teachings on sexuality and marriage, argued Fr. Paul Check, director of the Courage apostolate, in an interview with The Cardinal Newman Society.
Especially in light of the Supreme Court's recent decision to legalize same-sex marriage, Catholic colleges should not conflate love with total acceptance and advocacy of same-sex behavior, Fr. Check stressed. He noted that there are ways to offer true love and healing to same-sex attracted students without falling into advocacy.
Fr. Check warned against the danger of "sentimentality," which is distinct from "compassion." He explained that "compassion is based on truth," whereas "sentimentality is often attractive, but has no depth beneath it." Moreover, sentimentality is "only one half of the Gospel — it's as if Jesus only said to the woman caught in adultery 'Neither do I condemn you,' without saying 'Go and sin no more.'"
It is important to draw the distinction between "love" and "complete acceptance of modern society's distorted sexual landscape," Fr. Check explained.
Student Support Groups Engage in Advocacy, Scandal
Fr. Check's vision for outreach to same-sex attracted students is sorely needed in many Catholic colleges. In recent years, the Newman Society has reported increasing cases of Catholic colleges participating in pride parades, marriage redefinition advocacy, gender theory discussions and similar events under the umbrella of "love" and "acceptance."
Georgetown University's student organization GU Pride is described as encouraging "a more just and open society, one in which all LGBTQ people fully accept themselves and are accepted by the world around them." Rather than addressing same-sex attraction in light of the Catholic faith, GU Pride has hosted events such as the annual "OUTober," wherein students are encouraged to "'come out' as proud LGBTQ Hoyas and Allies." Last year, the month-long October celebration included lectures from transgender activists, same-sex marriage advocates and gender theorists.
Santa Clara University has an official Rainbow Resource Center which purports to provide a "safe space" for students, faculty and staff. However, the Center annually supports a "Rainbow Prom" for students. In 2014, the prom's theme was "Say 'I Do' to Marriage Equality," and in 2015, students were encouraged to bring same-sex dates to the prom.
In 2013, the University of San Diego defended its annual drag show featuring transgender activists and released an official statement claiming that "the event supports the Church's teaching on the innate dignity of the human person, and by illustrating cross-dressing, it does not promote either behavior or lifestyle that is contrary to the teachings of the Church." Even though The Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education later said the event was a "scandal," the drag shows have continued on campus.
Loyola University Chicago has similarly defended its annual drag shows and told the Newman Society in 2012 that the University "relishes the opportunity to engage ideas and different points of view."
Employment Benefits Contradicting Church Teaching
Additionally, several Catholic colleges have extended benefits to same-sex partners of employees, despite the evident contradiction of Church teaching such a move entails. Late last year, Father Timothy Lannon, SJ, president of Creighton University, supported the University's decision to offer same-sex benefits. "I can only imagine Jesus being so welcoming of all people," he reportedly stated.
But, as Fr. Check outlined in his interview, such a perspective is a distortion of the true Gospel message. "There is no doubt that God loves same-sex attracted people, but that content of love is something we have to explore more carefully," he said. Catholic colleges should not "love people ambiguously," he continued. "If all we say to our neighbor is 'God loves you' and 'We don't judge you,' then we haven't given them the fullness of the Gospel or the truth and we haven't given them the fullness of charity."
Other Catholic colleges that provide same-sex spousal benefits as of 2014 include Georgetown University, the University of Notre Dame, Boston College, Marquette University, Cardinal Stritch University and Alverno University.
How Catholic Colleges Can Effectively Reach Students
Father Check advised Catholic colleges to focus on the virtue of chastity in particular, noting that colleges should "not only address the question of homosexuality, but also the question of chastity." He elaborated:
For many young people, chastity suggests "what I'm not doing." They assume it's the same thing as abstaining, or merely restraining sexual desire. But we know the Church's teaching on chastity to be far fuller than that and it arises out of her understanding of what spousal love should be. This touches on the complementarity of the sexes and the procreative faculty.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the homosexual inclination "is objectively disordered" and that chastity is a virtue which "seeks to permeate the passions and appetites of the senses with reason" and involves a lifelong dedication to "self-mastery." Chastity is also described as involving a "cultural effort," which "presupposes respect for the rights of the person, in particular the right to receive information and an education that respect the moral and spiritual dimensions of human life."
"In campus ministry and student life, if we're going to take a real interest in the care of young people, then we have to think very thoughtfully about how to help them understand why chastity is part of the Good News," Fr. Check continued. "Chastity leads to fulfillment of the heart. Unchaste behavior of any kind will bring about sadness, pain and regret and may lead to loneliness and isolation."
Father Check added that student ministries should also draw attention to modern problems like contraception, the acceptance of which goes back at least 50 years, and subsequently paved the way for the normalization of same-sex unions.
"Once society began to disassociate sex from childbirth within marriage, the path towards normalizing same-sex unions was prepared," he noted. Colleges would do well to recognize this direct correlation between contraception and the dissolution of marriage, and focus on encouraging students to resist such trends, Fr. Check argued.
"I would suggest that today, we have more physical intimacy than we may have ever had in human history because of the efficacy of sterilization and chemical contraception in preventing pregnancy," said Fr. Check. "But I would also suggest that we live in an era where we have more unfulfilled hearts, more regret, more sadness, more loneliness and more disillusionment in the sphere of love and relationships." To understand the connection between these societal trends is crucial in properly forming students, he continued.
Father Check recommended a two-fold method for reaching young people on college campuses. "First, we need to rededicate ourselves to the study of all the virtues," he explained. "In this case, by focusing on the virtue of chastity and using that as the platform from which we can have more specific discussions about homosexuality."
"Secondly," he continued, "we must appeal to the lived experiences of men and women with same-sex attraction who understand the Church’s teaching and let their voices help us find a path forward." In this way, students with same-sex attraction will receive the love and support they need without confusion concerning the Church’s distinct teaching on homosexuality and marriage.
"When we live outside our human nature, when we don't have confidence and trust in what the Church teaches about chastity and marriage, then we are putting ourselves in harm's way," he said.
In August, Courage will host a conference in preparation for the Philadelphia World Meeting of Families in September and the Vatican Synod on the Family in October. The conference aims to help educators and students understand Catholic teaching on homosexuality and chastity to improve their ministry to same-sex attracted people.
Originally published by Catholic Education Daily, an online publication of The Cardinal Newman Society.