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Catholic Education Daily


Salon Writer Uses Rape Case to Attack Franciscan University of Steubenville

In an article at, writer Molly McCluskey attempts to draw a connection between her experiences as a high school student attending a Franciscan University of Steubenville summer conference and the “culture” that she says led to the rape of a 16-year-old girl by the public high school football team.

Of her experience of a Steubenville Youth Conference, she writes:

We heard lectures on the sanctity of life in all its forms, the perils of evil, on God’s plan for marriage. We were told that God had a purpose for us, that we were part of a larger community of believers who would be sheltered as long as we led a pure life. We left thinking that nothing bad could ever happen, or if it did, we could survive the test to have a closer relationship with God, as narrowly defined.  We thought we were better, because we were told we were better, that all our sins would be forgiven, that we were chosen. (Twenty years later, that theme still holds. The title of this year’s conference is“Chosen.”)

Then using the word “chosen,” she tries to connect her retreat experience and what she describes as an “evangelical fundamentalist” culture with the actions of the football team’s rapists. She continues:

That girl was 16, too, and the Steubenville she saw was a much darker place than the one I experienced. Her tale rips me up, because she was victim of a culture that was not safe, where football was the religion and the boys were the chosen ones.

McCluskey then describes how she left town, and left the Catholic Church of her youth, never having attended the university she attacks.

In response, other writers have pointed out McCluskey's errors. They point out that the only connection between the Catholic university and the local high school football team are the fact that both reside in the city of Steubenville. Beyond that, they show that there’s absolutely no connection.

Franciscan University of Steubenville graduate, Sam Rocha, responded to McCluskey’s article with one of his own. Writes Rocha:

What you wrote and published was either stupid or duplicitous — or both.

You see, the term‘ Steubenville’ actually refers to at least three things in this context: Franciscan University of Steubenville (FUS), The City of Steubenville (COS), and Steubenville High School (SHS).

You might reply that the University is located in the city, and the high school is a public institution of the city, so that marries them together, somehow. If you did try that strategy you would only further reveal very weak thinking — wait, I thought you valued critical thinking? — and how little you know or understand anything about FUS, COS, and SHS.

From the title to the penultimate paragraph, you use the term ‘Steubenville’  multiple times without ever making a single distinction. Not one qualifier. Zero. Nada. You grouped together the University (that hosts the conferences), the city, and the high school.

What a mess.

GetReligion writer Terry Mattingly also dismantles McCluskey’s piece. Responded Mattingly:

So there we have it. There is no connection at all, really, other than that this author has experienced Steubenville and it is a place in which there are two truly scary subcultures and one, the rape-booze-football-sexting culture, is a bit more dangerous than the other. These two cultures must be connected, somehow, even though the conservative Catholic culture would condemn the hellish acts that are causing the national headlines.

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