What makes someone a good Christian? The answer to this question is rather subjective due to a number of aspects: what you consider a sin, how often you should go to church, etc. One trait of a good Christian that remains true and known is that he loves his neighbors – or at least he is supposed to (Matthew 22:39). Unfortunately, as we see the world moving forward, the Catholic Church is falling further behind. Many Christians seem to use religion as a shield to hide behind instead of adapting to our changing society. They see religion as an excuse to discriminate against their own neighbors, based on race, gender and sexuality.
Somewhere along the line came the idea that queer members of our society are not welcome within Catholicism. These days there is absolutely no place to discriminate against people and exclude them from religion for not fitting a definition of Christianity that is never stated in the Bible to begin with. Simply because they follow ideas that are proven mistranslations of the book on which they claim to base their lives, some Christians feel the need to spread hatred on people unlike themselves.
In reality, there isn’t much difference between these two supposed sides: both live in the same society, share similar joys and losses, and some even practice the same religion – but there remains such a divide. And why is that? It seems reasonable that students who feel their own identity is disrespected and threatened choose not to associate with those who provoke these feelings.
The University of Portland is a Holy Cross Catholic University. Even as a non-religious person, attending a Catholic school has immense benefits, which our student body is grateful for. However, with religion comes turmoil, which has happened several times over the past academic year. Students at this university have struggled to find support due to the school’s failure to live up to both their mission statement and their statement of inclusion. At the University of Portland, the the priests promised that “as disciples of Jesus [they] side by side with everyone. This promise has been flagrantly violated by the very person who should guide us in our religious endeavours.
They keep saying, “Like them, we are burdened with the same struggles and beset by the same weaknesses,” but that obviously couldn’t be further from the truth. They don’t struggle to find security in their own home. They do not struggle to access resources. They have no trouble finding someone to confide in or keeping bits of themselves a secret. They don’t have to fight based solely on their sexuality. In a survey of students regarding Pastoral Resident in Lund, 95% of students surveyed do not believe the mission statement is being upheld in our community. Clearly, the mission statement is not being followed in some aspects of our community.
As for the University of Portland inclusion statement, our school states that “everyone, regardless of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, social or economic class, age, or disability, should be treated with respect and dignity.” Of students surveyed, 95% believe the UP statement of inclusion is not accurately represented, with one student sharing that “residents and the RA/CA community support the statement of diversity and inclusion, but rez life in general does not”. . Again, that promise has been broken. We have been disrespected by those who are supposed to support us through the process of making a home here in Portland. Respect for people with identities other than your own is simple, we ask to be treated with fairness. We ask to be treated as human beings, fairly and kindly despite the so-called “differences”.
These misrepresentations of the Holy Cross within the University of Portland community cause damage to the student body. Unfortunately, disrespectful actions on the part of specific members of the pastoral community don’t just make them look bad; they negatively impact the lives and well-being of LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC students in the room. One of the most important aspects of enjoying time at school is making it a home. Because of the lack of respect students feel for these misrepresentations of Catholicism, we cannot feel safe in our home. Simply existing in this environment brings a level of stress that no student should ever experience.
On top of that, the students were given absolutely no resources to debrief the pressure of this situation. Typical resources are simply not equipped to handle the number of students who have been harmed by living with someone who makes them feel unsafe and unwelcome. Again, RAs were asked to take on the role of therapist, which they shouldn’t have to do when they’re also directly impacted by this situation. Here at Lund Family Hall, we were asked to face our pastoral resident, to have a “community talk”, essentially asking the gay residents to introduce us to someone who repeatedly turned out to be a threat to our well-being.
With this event, the students came together to share their opinions on the situation. One student says in the survey that he can only feel comfortable in Lund if we are not forced “…to live amidst homophobia and hostility under the guise of ‘faith’ or ‘religion’ “. Student opinions should be valued the most because we are the biggest part of the community and deserve to be valued.
In light of all that has emerged recently, it is important to remember that so much support has been shown for the safety and well-being of LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC students for which we are beyond grateful. However, it is completely unacceptable to have people in positions of power who have repeatedly proven themselves unfit for their jobs and who continue to raise concerns about them.
The overwhelming majority of Lund Family Hall residents and other members of the community call for respect. We feel invalidated, hurt, threatened and ignored by the current senior executives in our room. As the survey concluded, we believe that “Father. Dan’s presence at Lund Family Hall is a danger to gay students. His ignorance and bigotry about the experiences of marginalized communities make him unsuitable for living in a dormitory.” Students from all walks of life are suffering from the lack of justice we receive, with theology students sharing “as a Christian myself, I am deeply hurt and upset that this is how the father is. Dan chooses to represent religion. It’s a position of power and authority and he abuses it” and “As a Catholic, I believe in Jesus’ message of love for all above all else. I don’t think the current pastoral resident loves everyone the same way Christ did” (Inquiry).
Pr. Dan’s opinions hurt others, and that’s something we can’t change. However, his prospects prove that this work is not suitable for him because he is committed to working precisely with everything students – something he clearly cannot do. In the survey, 100% of the students questioned expressed their discomfort with the Father. Dan continuing his role the same way he does now. In the role of resident pastoral, loving one’s neighbor is taken at face value, because we live side by side, and this love has not manifested itself.
We deserve the love and respect of our senior executives. There is no place in our beautiful community for people who do not support all students. As we approach the end of the year, let this remind us that we will not be silenced. We will continue the conversation until our rights are respected. Our sexualities, our races and our genders are not to be discussed. It’s who we are and we deserve to feel safe in our homes.
If you want to check out the survey results, you can find the link in my Instagram bio (@reid.kc).
Reid Colkitt is a freshman at UP. They can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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