Willamette Week is reporting that University of Portland President Father William Beauchamp, C.S.C., touched off controversy during an annual fireside chat on Monday, Feb. 18.
According to The Beacon, during his talk, Fr. Beauchamp was asked about several issues, including the University’s non-discrimination policy. A student reportedly voiced concerns about “the absence of sexual orientation in the university’s non-discrimination policy.”
Fr. Beauchamp cited the Board of Regent’s Statement on Inclusion, which was adopted in May, 2011. He said that the University does not discriminate based on sexual orientation. Beauchamp added that the Statement is a pledge by the University, whereas a non-discrimination policy is legally binding.
He explained that if the University added sexual orientation to the non-discrimination policy, it could be interpreted by courts to include sexual practices, legally requiring the University to condone sexual practices which go against Catholic Church teaching.
“The Catholic Church has certain expectations regardless of whether you’re heterosexual or homosexual,” said Fr. Beauchamp. “We know that there are faculty and staff in same-sex relationships on campus. They are not public about it and we don’t ask them.”
Senior Casey Anderson reported that following Fr. Beauchamp’s speech, a “Redefine Purple Pride” Facebook group gained more than 800 members, many from California, and not students at the University. A Change.org online petition was also launched, with the intention of getting the University to change its policy.
"As a gay male faculty member, I have always felt that I had to walk on eggshells to some degree," wrote someone by the name of Chad O'Lynn on the petition's web site. An individual with the same name serves as assistant professor in the School of Nursing. "I believed I had to accept the status quo as a condition of my employment. The lack of an anti-discrimination statement and the past refusal to accept scholarships from GLBT organizations led to a community leader's refusal to accept an honorary doctorate from the University of Portland."
In response to the backlash, Fr. Beauchamp sent a letter to the campus community.
In it, he cited the University's Statement of Inclusion:
At the University of Portland, a Catholic University guided by the Congregation of Holy Cross, all dimensions of our communal life—teaching and learning, faith and formation, and service and leadership—are informed and transformed by prayer, scripture, and the Christian tradition. Our belief in the inherent dignity of each person is founded upon the social teaching of the Catholic Church. At the center of that teaching is the fundamental mandate that every person, regardless of race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation,social or economic class, age, or disability shall be treated with respect and dignity.
Fr. Beauchamp also used the opportunity to remind the community that the University is a Catholic institution.
University of Portland is a Catholic university, founded and guided by the Congregation of Holy Cross. As a Catholic institution, we follow the teachings of the Church. We also abide by the laws of federal and state government. The government has respected our right to create policies that we believe reflect the teachings of our faith, and that is what we have done.
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