Is the pope Catholic? We've had fun with that question a time or two.
But here's a more pressing question: Is Catholic doctrine allowed at a Catholic university?
In case you've missed this week's headlines, I'm talking specifically about Georgetown University.
I first became aware of this controversy when I saw a tweet from Fort Worth, Texas, Bishop Michael Olson, who asked:
The Washington Post has a pretty extensive story — fairly quoting sources on both sides — on what's happening:
A Catholic student group at Georgetown University that promotes the benefits of traditional marriage risks losing its funding and other university benefits after being accused of fostering hatred and intolerance.
Love Saxa advocates for marriage as “a monogamous and permanent union between a man and a woman,” the group states in its constitution. That definition of marriage happens to be in line with that espoused by the Catholic Church, raising the question of how administrators at Georgetown, the United States’ oldest Catholic and Jesuit institution of higher learning, will handle the controversy if it eventually comes before them.
“I suppose the question for Georgetown is whether they think Catholic kids can still be Catholic there,” said Chad Pecknold, a theology professor at the Catholic University of America.
About half of the student body identifies as Catholic, according to the university. Seventy-five percent of Catholics ages 18 to 29 favor same-sex marriage, compared with 22 percent who oppose it, according to the Pew Research Center.
Two students lodged a complaint against Love Saxa, arguing that the group’s definition of marriage violates university standards governing sanctioned student groups and demanding that it be defunded and removed as an officially sanctioned student group. The complaint stops short of calling for the group to be banned. Student organizations, per university rules, are ineligible for funding and other benefits if they “foster hatred or intolerance of others because of their race, nationality, gender, religion or sexual preference.”
I do have a couple of questions about that lede:
1. Is the traditional marriage group's funding really at risk at this point? Keep reading, and it sounds like the Student Activities Commission will make an initial ruling, which could be negative. But — and this is an important "but" — the group could appeal the decision to the university administration.
And based on the administrators quoted by the Post, they have no issue with Love Saxa:
For now, the university appears to see no conflict between its own values and those of Love Saxa.
“As a Catholic and Jesuit institution, Georgetown listens deeply and discerningly to the plurality of voices that exist among our students, faculty, and staff and is committed to the care of each member of our community,” said Rachel Pugh, a university spokesperson.
“We strongly support a climate that continues to provide students with new and deeper contexts for engaging with our Catholic tradition and identity,” Pugh added. “Love Saxa is one of many groups operating on campus with positions that affirm the teachings of the Catholic Church. We also support a climate that is welcoming to all students and supporting of our LGBTQ communities.”
“Our Catholic and Jesuit identity … certainly affirms Love Saxa’s existence,” said Rev. Mark Bosco, the vice president for mission and ministry at Georgetown.
2. Is that "happens to be in line with that espoused by the Catholic Church" phrasing in the second paragraph the best the Post could do? It seems overly wordy and a tad blustery. Why not simply say the group's definition of marriage "conforms with Catholic teaching?"
Those are my nitpicky journalistic quibbles with the story. But as I indicated above, the piece overall is helpful and balanced.
Meanwhile, the issue itself will be interesting to watch play out.
Image via Wikimedia Commons