Gay Groups on Catholic Campuses

The Washington Post featured two stories this weekend on gay student groups at DC’s two most prominent Catholic universities–Georgetown and Catholic University of America.  When most people think of Catholic universities in DC, they think of the Jesuit-run Georgetown.  But CUA, which has much closer ties to the Vatican, is considered the “more Catholic” of the two and has a reputation for being very conservative when it comes to social issues.

“We might not be an official group, but we’re winning,” said Robby Diesu, a senior political theory major from New York who is a founder of the group. “We have our own community. . . . It’s empowering.”

But the group has a self-imposed list of topics that are off-limits: pre-marital sex, gay sex, birth control, gay marriage and behavior not permitted by the Catholic church.

Despite the university’s refusal to sanction the group, the students say they want to respect the campus’s conservative nature and rules. Instead, they focus on helping gay students who are trying to navigate campus and educating the rest of the student body about gay issues.

“Everything that we are doing, it’s Catholic, it’s what the church is about,” said David Freerksen, a junior economics major from Delaware who came out in middle school and converted to Catholicism in high school because of the religion’s emphasis on community service.

The story’s strength is that it presents a different view of what a gay group looks like on a religiously conservative campus. While the article could have included more discussion of the Vatican-approved approach to LGBT ministry, the article did a nice job of presenting all sides while showing the challenges of running an LGBT group on an orthodox Catholic campus.

The WaPo also had a story on the LGBTQ student center at Georgetown. The article doesn’t break any new ground, but does provide an interesting history of Georgetown’s evolution on LGBT issues.

At Georgetown, students are encouraged to question their faith, learn about other religions and discuss sensitive topics such as the culture of casual sex on college campuses, said the Rev. Kevin O’Brien, executive director of campus ministry. Such discussions are integral to the university’s mission and do not conflict with its Catholic identity, he said.

“We don’t have a political agenda. We don’t have a lifestyle agenda. We’re concerned about helping our young people,” he said. “It’s something that we’re really proud of.”

The article points out that Georgetown continues to have problems with alleged hate crimes occurring on or near campus, but suggests the university has been very responsive to LGBT concerns. I’m curious that there was no one quoted who was opposed to the LGBTQ center. Surely there is someone on the Gtown campus who is opposed to the university’s pro-gay response.

I would have liked a story that contrasted the two schools and put the response to LGBT students on Catholic campuses in a larger perspective. The CUA piece does that, to an extent, but it seemed a lost opportunity to have a single story that gave the larger picture.

Still, they are strong stories with lively quotes and do a nice job of telling the history, which is important to understanding the current situation.

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