Adam Cassandra / June 16, 2016
The entire nation was horrified by the massacre at an Orlando, Fla., nightclub last weekend that claimed 49 victims with dozens more injured.
All people of goodwill rightfully condemn this act of terror, and it’s appropriate to pray for the victims and their families. Catholic leaders around the country have expressed their deep sympathies, shared by all of us at The Cardinal Newman Society.
But the statements of several Jesuit educators in response to the attack are ambiguous and potentially misleading, in part because their universities have repeatedly undermined Catholic teaching and a correct understanding of homosexuality and gender confusion.
It’s been reported that the nightclub where the shooting occurred was a popular hangout for individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) or by some other sexual attraction, and it seems likely that this played into the shooter’s motives. So the Jesuits rightfully display compassion by consoling students and faculty members, many of whom may claim such “orientations.”
But there is no genuine compassion that denies Truth, and Catholic educators have a responsibility to be clear in leading students to the Truth. They do not need to fall into the trap of defining students by their sexual desires and expressing solidarity with the “LGBTQ community.”
Sadly, this is precisely what was done by the leaders of a number of Jesuit colleges — many of which, along with other Catholic colleges, purposefully foster separation among students through departments and programs that reinforce and even celebrate students’ identification as LGBTQ.
The Cardinal Newman Society’s decades of monitoring such concerns at Catholic colleges across the country — including pride events, activism conferences, “lavender graduations,” housing and records policies, etc. — reveals a noticeable lack of grounding in Church teaching on human sexuality in students’ education. Rather than leading students to unity through the Truth in Christ, the main emphasis of LGBTQ outreach and ministry at many Catholic colleges is to accept and celebrate disordered sexual attractions and, by implication, immoral sexual activities.
These misguided efforts seek a more accepting and inclusive campus environment, but instead they sow disunity on campuses, in the community and in the Church by promoting “pride” in disordered sexual desires instead of nurturing a deeper understanding of human dignity and human sexuality through the teachings of Christ and His Church. All students on campus — those who identify as LGBTQ and those who do not — are thus led to confusion.
In one especially harmful statement about the attack, Father Brian Linnane, S.J., president of Loyola University Maryland, told students and staff “today we are all GLBTQ+” in solidarity with people who struggle with sexuality and gender:
The mass shooting in Orlando this weekend is a horrific act of hate and terrorism, and we are called to respond with righteous anger, conviction, and courage.
As we reflect and respond, I am particularly concerned with assuring those in our community who are GLBTQ+ that we stand shoulder to shoulder with them in condemning this crime and advocating for justice. Just as the French said in January 2015 that we are all Charlie Hebdo, today we are all GLBTQ+. The attack on this community represents a grave assault on the genius, beauty, and freedom of our American society.
Charlie Hebdo is a magazine that was attacked for its cartoons; GLBTQ+ is a claim to a personal identity marked by sexual inclinations that are, according to Catholic teaching, contrary to the natural order and God’s will for mankind. Fr. Linnane’s assertion that “we are all GLBTQ+” sends a confusing and harmful message to students and the general public, accepting that certain people are defined by their sexual attractions, and appearing to condone a lifestyle that encourages mortal sin.
Without clarity, even general statements about solidarity with the “LGBTQ community” from Catholic college leaders could lead students to misunderstand the message. Such statements may appear to “recognize and tacitly endorse the sexual identities promoted by the LGBT Community — identities bound up fundamentally with the gender ideology promoted by the Community,” as Elliot Milco writes at First Things this week:
There can be no question … that at present the label “LGBT” and its components represent more than simply a fact about the dispositions, lifestyles, or biologies of various individuals. They represent a highly developed political and anthropological ideology, which makes hard claims about human nature and desire, morality, the structure of the family, and the proper use of bodies.
To be clear, everyone who identifies with any of the labels that go into “LGBTQ…” is worthy of our love, our sympathy, and our solidarity in their quest (with all Christians) for the truth, for justice, and for eternal happiness. But what we share with our brethren on account of our common humanity does not nullify what divides us in terms of our choices and beliefs about happiness, justice, and the truth.
And so, here’s the rub: The Catholic Church and the LGBT Community have divergent understandings of human nature, personal identity, the proper use of bodies, and the requirements for happiness.
Milco said it would be “an evangelical failure, and a failure of charity” for statements to express solidarity with the LGBTQ community while remaining ambiguous about Catholic teaching.
“The mission of the Church with respect to the LGBT Community is to oppose the fetishization of gender identity,” he writes. Like the bishops, the duty of Catholic college leaders “is to tell LGBT people that they are known and loved as more than just exemplars of a sexual type.”
The claim Milco was responding to by Father James Martin, S.J., an editor at America magazine and frequent speaker at Jesuit colleges, that we cannot properly express sorrow for the victims in Orlando without identifying them by their sexual attractions and behavior is misguided and uncharitable. Their most important “identity” is as a human being made in the image and likeness of God.
Helping students understand and embrace their relationship with God as His creations, and how that impacts their identities as human beings, should be of primary concern for Catholic educators in their mission to lead students to Truth.