If you had walked into Loyola University’s McCormick Lounge last Thursday, you would’ve seen a video of Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” playing on a projector. You also would have heard Paul Kubicki, a junior majoring in Philosophy, say, “This is the beacon of gay theology.”
Advocate, Loyola’s LGBTQA organization, was having its weekly meeting. The dichotomy of the LGBTQ community and the Catholic Church is one that has been bridged in many liberal places like Loyola. However, since conservative Pope Benedict XVI took over in 2005, even places like Loyola are in danger. This is a pope who once said gay marriage undermined “the future of humanity itself.”
Kubicki summed it up simply by saying, “This pope sucks.”
Because of progressive theologies, some universities are being stripped of their Catholic affiliations. The Vatican did this to Pontifical Catholic University in Peru over the summer. What it all comes down to is scripture, and how strict the Magisterium’s interpretation is at the time.
Father John Kartje, the chaplain and director of Northwestern University’s Sheil Catholic Center, said that although revelation is continually unfolding, the Church’s doctrines have always been grounded in scripture,
At the end of the day, I don’t try to pretend that we’ll have a deeper conversation,” Kartje said. The Catholic Church overall says homosexuality to the length of complete intimacy isn’t coherent with the understanding of sacramental marriage.”
A Story of Resistance
Standing firm by that conviction is Notre Dame University, which is still debating whether or not a gay straight alliance should be allowed on campus. In fact Notre Dame still doesn’t include sexual orientation in its nondiscrimination clause.
Nathan Lamp, a sophomore transfer to Northwestern from Notre Dame, was involved in the movement to change these policies. Four out of five people between the ages of 18 and 30 support gay rights, and so their organization was named The 4 to 5 Movement. They pushed for recognition of a gay straight alliance and for sexual orientation to be included in the nondiscrimination clause.
“It’s hard to feel accepted…when there’s that kind of institutional un-acceptance of the LGBTQ community,” Lamp said.
He helped plan events, collect petitions and organize rallies to change the un-acceptance, especially the nondiscrimination clause.
The state of Indiana does not require universities to have nondiscrimination clauses that include sexual orientation. Lamp said Notre Dame feels they shouldn’t have to do anything unless forced to do so.
“There’s no reason to stop them from expelling a student or firing a faculty member because of that person’s sexuality or gender identity,” Lamp said.
Illinois, on the other hand, requires institutions to include sexual orientation in their nondiscrimination clauses, which explains the policies of Catholic institutions DePaul University and Loyola.
A Story of Discrimination
Loyola University is a Jesuit institution, which are typically known to be the most liberal of the Catholic schools. Advocate leader and senior Travis Olson said he didn’t even consider the religious aspect of Loyola when deciding whether or not to attend.
“I heard about it as a gay school before I really knew what it meant to be a Catholic school,” Olson said.
Despite being in a more open environment than that of Notre Dame, Olson said Advocate is under strict scrutiny. There has especially been controversy over Advocate’s annual drag show, which places the LGBTQ community on a big, public stage. Olson said this scrutiny is good for students because they learn how to speak about their cause and how to defend themselves.
“It prepares students better for the real world,” Olson said.
This real world consists of organizations like the Cardinal Newman Society, a Catholic organization strongly in support of conservative values. The society has been outspoken in its opposition to Loyola’s annual drag show.
Cardinal Newman Society President Patrick J. Reilly wrote to Loyola’s President, “Events like this not only undermine the sacred trust parents have in Loyola University, but may lead to serious personal and social problems caused by confusion about sexuality. Drag shows debase the human person and are an affront to Catholic teaching on the dignity of the human person.”
Yet another conservative group, TFP Student Action, is targeting Catholic universities that have gay straight alliances. On their website, they list the 111 Catholic institutions that have clubs and ask viewers to register a protest. The site also includes posts about the nature of homosexuality and how it is affecting the Church.
One such post, subtitled “Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing,” said, “Homosexual predators, calling themselves ‘Catholic’ while violating the most basic norms of Christian morals, further the ‘auto-demolition’ of the Church.”
Out of Touch
Groups like these that are Pope Benedict XVI’s major supporters are not in the majority, but they are loud.
“This pope is extremely conservative and he’s completely out of touch with the views of most Catholics,” Kubicki said.
In truth many Catholics are supportive of gay rights. A recent study by Pew Research Center shows 46 percent of Catholics support gay marriage, which makes Catholicism one of the most supportive religious sects. The study does clarify that the increased acceptance came from those who did not attend church frequently.
There are still pockets of conservatism like Notre Dame where gay marriage and gay rights are peripherally discriminated against. Father Kartje has experienced parishes like this.
“There would be things like LGBT prayers groups wanting to get together…these were people saying we want to try to live out this life,” Kartje said. “And then flyers were getting ripped down or ugly things being written on them.”
Although Kartje said these people were in the minority, he does believe that Catholics need to “belly up to the bar” and live out the teachings of treating the LGBTQ community as neighbors.
A Conclusion of Disillusion
Nathan Lamp transferred from Notre Dame because he did not feel supported there. And after 14 years of Catholic school, he says he doesn’t feel fully supported in the Church.
“Because of the way I’m seeing church officials treat issues around sexuality, I can’t say I feel super comfortable staying with the Church,” Lamp said.
Travis Olson has a gay friend who has wanted to be a Catholic priest since having a vision of Jesus at age eight. And now he’s experiencing one of the greatest struggles of his life as he considers leaving the church. Olson doesn’t understand why he hasn’t left already.
“I just question, why do you stay? Why do you torture yourself this way?” Olson asked.
Father Kartje hopes the Catholic Church will begin to live out its teachings more strongly and actually support the LGBTQ community, even if they don’t support their expression of love.
“What I think rarely gets mentioned is that far more heterosexuals are not living out the teachings of the Church than homosexuals.”
Paul Kubicki went to a Catholic high school where he was accepted, but said, “It’s hard to look at the Church and not be heartbroken and watch these doctrines torture individuals.”
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote in 2006, “one way in which the Church can aid persons with a homosexual inclination is by nurturing the bonds of friendship among people.”
Father John Kartje believes the community should support LGBTQ Catholics. “I think it’s important for us as a Church to say to LGBT Catholics, ‘what we’re asking of you is an incredible sacrifice, and we know that,” Kartje said.