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WORCESTER, Mass. (ChurchMilitant.com) - The College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts is retaining its Crusader mascot, in spite of calls to remove the politically incorrect term.
On February 3, the president of the Catholic school, Rev. Philip L. Boroughs, S.J., and John Mahoney, chair of the Board of Trustees, confirmed in a statement emailed to students that Holy Cross "will continue to be known as the Crusaders."
The statement noted the "literal definition of the word, 'one who is marked by the cross of Christ,'" is in accord with the school's "Jesuit and Catholic intellectual and spiritual tradition" since 1925, when the Crusader moniker was adopted.
Boroughs and Mahoney discussed how the literal definition of "crusader" differs from the modern one and is "representative of our Catholic, Jesuit identity and our mission and values as an institution and community. We are not simply crusaders, we are Holy Cross Crusaders":
We are crusaders for human rights, social justice, and care for the environment; for respect for different perspectives, cultures, traditions, and identities; and for service in the world, especially to the underserved and vulnerable. We engage in dialogue between faith and reason and uphold the importance of reflective learning, critical thinking, thoughtful analysis and holistic education that encompasses the health of body, mind and spirit.
The statement came a day after the editorial staff of The Crusader, the school newspaper, announced in a press release that its name will be changed to The Spire — in reference to the twin spires of Holy Cross' main building, Fenwick Hall, the oldest structure on campus. Its first edition was published on February 9.
"The decision comes after much deliberation, dating back to last year's editorial board, and is the result of a long process conducted with the intention of making sure the student paper best represents the Holy Cross community and its tradition," stated the press release. "It should be noted that this decision was made independent of the college administration, and with no knowledge of what the Board of Trustees will decide in their upcoming meeting on the Crusader mascot and moniker this Saturday."
On February 6, 2017, 48 members of the Holy Cross faculty co-signed a letter to the editors of The Crusader, asking them along with the student body to begin discussions about changing the name of the paper in response to increasing anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States.
"In response to the growing anti-Muslim tensions in our country, and to the fact that the Ku Klux Klan official newspaper shares the same name as our own," the letter began, "we the undersigned faculty members encourage the Editorial Board, and the Holy Cross student body in general, to initiate a discussion about changing the name of the Holy Cross student newspaper 'The Crusader.'"
The faculty quoted the college mission statement in their defense of accepting and supporting people of different cultures: "Informed by the presence of diverse interpretations of the human experience, Holy Cross seeks to build a community marked by freedom, mutual respect, and civility."
The Crusader replied to the faculty letter with a response, in which it expressed "solidarity" with the faculty's concerns, and encouraged dialogue on the issue.
We are not simply crusaders, we are Holy Cross Crusaders.
"We, the Editors-in-Chief, wish to voice our solidarity with the 48 members of Holy Cross faculty who have proposed a discussion on the propriety of the name The Crusader," the response begins. After inviting students to attend several events discussing the potential name change, the editors announced the paper would be publishing commentary on the issue.
"Over the remainder of the semester, we will be publishing a series of editorials on the topic of The Crusader's name from students, faculty, and staff alike," they said.
The letter concluded with reference to the paper's storied past since 1925, emphasizing that the connection between the name and imagery of the crusader align with its college's Catholic mission and goals.
After the editor's response to the letter, Boroughs assembled a committee of students, alumni, faculty and staff to hold discussions last fall concerning the appropriateness of the Crusader moniker and mascot.
The group weighed in on the following question: "In what ways do you think the Crusader moniker and mascot are appropriate, or inappropriate, representations of the College, given our mission, values and identity?"
The committee held two campus events to dialogue on the subject and maintained an open online comment forum, which closed November 26. The group presented its findings to Boroughs and the College Board of Trustees last month.
The February 3 statement claims that the "Crusades were among the darkest periods in Church history."
But historians disagree. The crusading Christians of the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries fought both to defend their homeland from the invading Muslims and to preserve their Christian heritage. The crimes committed in the name of the Crusades were the fault of individual soldiers, and never an official part of the Crusades; in fact, such crimes ran directly contrary to the Catholic virtues expected among medieval knights and soldiers, and were punished severely.
The Crusader mascot depicts a warrior, "an armored sword-wielding, cross-bearing icon of the Christian knights of the Crusades," a centuries-long struggle to reclaim the Holy Land from Muslim invaders.