Friday, November 28, 2014

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Coming Out Day ‘Morally Problematic and Pastorally Catastrophic’

The University of Notre Dame celebrated National Coming Out Day and even hung posters in dormitories encouraging participation, leading one student to call it “morally problematic and pastorally catastrophic.”

“I was surprised to see the posters,” wrote Michael Bradley, a senior, in The Public Discourse.

The university’s Gender Relations Center (GRC) cosponsored the event last month with the newly formed gay-straight alliance, PrismND. In December of last year, President Fr. John Jenkins, introduced its pastoral plan titled “Beloved Friends and Allies: A Pastoral Plan for the Support and Holistic Development of GLBTQ and Heterosexual Students at the University of Notre Dame.” At the time, Fr. Jenkins told The Observer that the plan grew out of the university’s mission as a Catholic institution and is “directed by that fundamental mission in a profound way.”

In a National Catholic Register article around that time, Fr.Bill Miscamble of Notre Dame was quoted as worrying that such an organization seemed “likely to develop into an advocacy group promoting the gay lifestyle.” He predicted that the university’s sudden turnaround on this issue would damage the Catholic mission of the university.

Maureen Doyle, the GRC’s assistant director for LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered or Questioning) Initiatives, defended the celebration to Bradley saying:

We are called to support our brothers and sisters in Christ, which includes celebrating the multitude of identities that make each of us unique and beautiful individuals. For students who may be struggling with different aspects of their identity . . . celebrations like NCOD help reiterate for them that this campus is a safe space, an inclusive community, where they will find support and understanding as they work to answer the question, “Who has God called me to be?”

Bradley wrote that he believed that a Catholic university such as Notre Dame acknowledging and celebrating NCOD does a “disservice” to students who are struggling to understand their sexual attractions.

“Notre Dame cannot host events the purpose of which is to tell its students who identify as LGBT that their identification as LGBT is worthy of celebration, while simultaneously aiming to form those students in the Christian sexual ethic,” wrote Bradley. “Notre Dame has no reason to celebrate patterns of same-sex attractions or bisexual attraction, or confused understandings of one’s sexual identity as male or female, as ‘beautiful.’”

Bradley said he feared that the institution’s celebration of NCOD could “alienate students” struggling with their sexuality. “The celebratory and exultant nature of NCOD may communicate to those students who wish to remain private—or are unsure—about their sexual struggles that anything short of a proud proclamation constitutes a ‘closeting’ or a denial of who they truly are and are meant to be.”

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