LTE: Theology Professor Responds to “LTE: A Response to ‘Looking Forward to a Progressive Future'”

Dear Editors,

This comes as response and correction to Ms. Grace Dietrich’s ill-informed letter opposing the establishment of an LGBTQ+ resource center on campus. She shows alarming ignorance of the Catholic Church’s official position regarding the support and respect due to members of the LGBTQ+ community, as also of a significant current book on the same topic by the single most widely read Catholic author of the day, the Jesuit Rev. James Martin, S.J.—not to mention Pope Francis’s own demonstration of support and compassion for gay persons and families, which has stopped short of “opposing” Catholic doctrine.

The official stand of the USA Catholic bishops can easily be found in their pastoral letter of 1997, Always Our Children: A Pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual Children and Suggestions for Pastoral Ministers. The fact that they oppose marriage equality in no way compromises the 1997 letter. The current book is by none other than Father Martin, S.J., Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity (2017), currently ranked by Amazon as #2 in sales of books on Catholicism and #1 in the field of social issues in Christian living. His earlier books on Jesus, the saints, and Jesuit spirituality remain authoritative in their fields.

Ms. Dietrich makes the curious and illogical step of assuming that a resource center would necessarily advocate positions contrary to the official teachings of the Catholic Church. She says or implies, for example, that a resource center would promote marriage equality and same-sex sexual activity. The numerous such resource centers at Jesuit and other Catholic colleges do no such thing. (I visited a remarkably well supported LGBTQ+ resource center at the Jesuit Santa Clara University and found no such advocacy.) Indeed, by her implication that a resource center would promote same-sex intimacy, then we should also shut down co-ed dormitories and all co-ed social functions, dances, the senior ball, and so forth. Do they all promote sexual activity? Hardly. (Does it happen? Probably.) The logic would be the same for programs regardless of orientation.

The point of any resource center is to assist people and the wider community in understanding their own identities, gifts, challenges, and limits. As a place for for dialogue, listening, and understanding, any resource center does that by definition. If Catholic colleges need anything, they need resources to articulate a Catholic position in a way that assists personal growth and a sense of calling, all the more so for those whose identities are socially, economically, or otherwise in a minority or subject to social bias: a clear rationale for LGBTQ+ programming. It is precisely such students as Ms. Dietrich who need such a resource center, regardless of their orientations. And indeed, in my over 30 years at Boston College, the progress in this area has been considerable.

I could not go so far as the original column by Mr. Razis in assuming that the strategic plan is hostile to such a center. Much less would I presume to advise University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J. on his priorities. But the notion that an LGBTQ+ resource center would promote positions contrary to Catholic teaching is demonstrably false, poorly informed, and deeply biased.

Fr. James M. Weiss
Associate Professor, Department of Theology
Director, Capstone Senior Seminar Program
Director, Cross Currents Seminars

Featured Image by Abby Paulson / Creative Director

 

  • Karl Salzmann

    Respectfully, Father, this letter is shameful.

    You’re using your position to criticize a student who happens to disagree with you. God forbid that you have another such student in any one of your classes, lest you vituperate that student’s character as well.

    Who does that? Even if Miss Dietrich showed “alarming ignorance” (and “alarming” in what way? To whom? We need substantial adjectives here), you show ignorance in throwing caution to the wind and criticizing a student who respectfully expressed her viewpoint, founded on Catholic doctrine.

    The Catechism states, “Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.”

    Your argument is that establishing this kind of center would not approve of homosexuality. How is that possible? If the center is for giving LGBT, etc., people more resources with which to live out their homosexuality–information, etc.–how can that be anything but contrary to the Church?

    The Catechism further states, “Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.”

    If the resource center did this, I’d be fully onboard with the idea, and I’d say that it does not stand against the Church. I’m highly skeptical of that, however. I’m sure you know best: would such a center do this?

    All that to one side, you are more than entitled to your own views, Father. You should even write in about them and express your side as a priest. Criticizing a student who does not have as much authority as you, simply because you disagree, is, as noted, truly shameful, and unbecoming of a man in your position.

    KJS

  • Karl Salzmann

    I had a comment here. What happened to it?

  • Karl Salzmann

    Hello?