Notre Dame University has long refused to allow the formal establishment of a gay organization on campus, citing its adherence to Catholic teaching. Those days are over, reports the Notre Dame newspaper:
Though this is a historic decision in Notre Dame’s efforts to better serve a diverse student body, University President Fr. John Jenkins said the plan for the unnamed student organization is a natural progression of previous initiatives.
“In the 1990s, as I said, we created the Standing Committee [on Gay and Lesbian Student Needs]. In 2006, that was changed to the Core Council [for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Questioning Students], and various initiatives were undertaken in conjunction with those efforts,” he said. “I see this as the next step to be more effective.”
The story is long, and full of ameliorative bureaucratic-speak (e.g., “external benchmarking,” “Spirit of Inclusion”) that sidesteps the obvious questions about reconciling this decision with Catholic teaching. The closest it comes is in this exchange between the reporter (JC) and Father Jenkins (JJ), from the transcript:
JC: Speaking of the University’s Catholic mission, I know you said that was an important aspect of how you thought about this. Can you develop a little for me, what are the practical limitations of “activities consistent with Notre Dame’s Catholic allegiance and commitments?” What kind of practical limitations will this club have because of that aspect of the Catholic mission?
JJ: You know it would be impossible to state that in a sentence. It’s a rich teaching about the role of sexuality, about intimacy, about human relations, about responsibilities to the community, about relationships to the Church and I’m not evading the question but to put this in a ‘well you can do this, you can’t do that,’ is to distort the issue. I would just invite those who are wondering about it to look at this plan to reflect upon catholic teachings about these issues because I think this can be an opportunity for all of us to think about this more deeply, and at least that, that’s a wanted result.
Translation of JJ’s statement: “I’m avoiding the question.” And the reporter helped him avoid this question too, by not asking obvious follow-ups to compel the university president to speak clearly about a highly contentious issue, instead focusing on procedural matters. It’s almost as if the reporter approved of the university’s move, and was throwing him a lifeline. I’m not surprised that Notre Dame is doing this, but it is irritating when priests and administrators who make these consequential decisions try to mushmouth and spin their way through the implications of what they’ve done, and sympathetic media, intentionally or not, give them an out.