The University of Notre Dame has refused to allow an organization for LGBT students to form at least 15 times, and for 15 years has refused to add sexual orientation to its nondiscrimination statement. Now, the university has announced a new comprehensive plan called, “Beloved Friends and Allies: A Pastoral Plan for the Support and Holistic Development of GLBTQ and Heterosexual Students at the University of Notre Dame.” The plan, to be implemented by next summer, includes hiring a full-time student affairs professional who will serve as advisor to a new LGBT student organization that will be a permanent part of the university (as opposed to a club that would only be temporary). Unfortunately, the news is not all good.
According to university President Fr. John Jenkins, the organization’s roots will be based in Catholic teaching, and in an interview with The Observer, glossed over the implications of what that really means:
JENKINS: It’s a rich teaching about the role of sexuality, about intimacy, about human relations, about responsibilities to the community, about relationships to the Church and I’m not evading the question but to put this in a ‘well you can do this, you can’t do that,’ is to distort the issue. I would just invite those who are wondering about it to look at this plan to reflect upon catholic teachings about these issues because I think this can be an opportunity for all of us to think about this more deeply, and at least that, that’s a wanted result.
But the “Beloved Friends and Allies” plan does specify what students can or cannot do. In accordance with the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it is based on a foundation that God demands chastity of people who are LGBT:
Thus the call to chastity represents a divine invitation to develop relationships characterized by equality, mutuality, and respect, qualities of a deeply spiritual nature, beckoning us “to follow and imitate the one who has chosen us as his friends, who has given himself totally to us and allows us to participate in his divine estate” (CCC, 2347). In beautiful terms, the Catechism proclaims that the virtue of chastity, “blossoms in friendship” and “leads to spiritual communion.” Indeed, “chastity is expressed notably in friendship with one’s neighbor. Whether it develops between persons of the same or opposite sex, friendship represents a great good for all” (CCC, 2347). […]
At the same time, the University also adheres to the Church’s teaching concerning homosexual actions. As a result, “Homosexual persons are called to chastity” and to “friendship,” and should cultivate “the virtues of self‐mastery that teach them inner freedom” (CCC, 2359). Indeed, each and every student at Notre Dame is called to nothing less. All Notre Dame students are urged to understand and live the teachings of the Church relative to their lives and expressions of sexual intimacy.
This is particularly troubling for a university to endorse. Rather than progress for LGBT students, the new plan is more as a lateral move from ignoring them to condemning them. Catholic teaching is nothing short of a life sentence of sexual repression, denying those with same-sex orientations from ever having the opportunity to love or be loved. The Church’s Courage ministry, which promotes this chastity teaching, utilizes the same shaming tactics as ex-gay therapy to produce the same harmful and ineffective results.
Notre Dame students and their allies made national news this year with a campaign demanding that “It Needs To Get Better” on their campus. Perhaps they shouldn’t change their messaging anytime soon.