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Notre Dame

A war-of-words has engulfed the University of Notre Dame recently, with dueling student petitions dividing the campus and prompting a debate over whether the venerable Catholic university should take a stand in support of traditional marriage.

The controversy started early last month, when an informal group of Notre Dame students, Students for Child-Oriented Policy, launched a petition that called on administrators to “make a clear stand in support of the true definition of marriage and to take serious and sustained action to improve the public understanding of this natural institution.”

In conjunction with its petition, SCOP organized an April 3 conference titled “For Richer, For Poorer, For Children: The Definition and Importance of Civil Marriage.” Prior to this conference, Notre Dame senior Alfredo Guzmán-Dominguez, president of the Orestes Brownson Council, requested permission from the Student Activities Office to promote the marriage petition in the campus student center.

But the Student Activities Office’s programming director told the group the petition must be reviewed by the university’s Gender Relations Center before a promotional table could be hosted, Guzmán-Dominguez told The College Fix. This process made it impossible to get approval in time to set up a table to publicize the petition and the conference.

“She noted concerns that the petition was ‘inaccurate’ and that the petition’s quotation of Notre Dame’s mission statement might imply that unmarried parents are not engaging ‘in a way of living consonant with a Christian community,’” Guzmán-Dominguez said.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame students launched a counter-petition against the conjugal marriage petition and the new Students for Child-Oriented Policy group.

This counter-petition not only opposes official recognition of the SCOP, but also asks university officials to renounce it “unless (its members) reformulate club policy, in which childhood outcomes should not be included as a defense against marriage.”

“The petition sought to deny us official recognition as a student club and so the ability to organize events through which to explore and explain our club’s perspective,” Notre Dame senior Tim Kirchoff, a member of SCOP, told The College Fix. “It accused us of not entering into responsible discourse about social science before we had a meaningful opportunity to do so in the context of a wider conversation. There’s something just a little silly about that.”

But the counter-petition claims that SCOP’s motives “can only be interpreted as discrimination against individuals based on sexual orientation.” Their petition goes on to assert that “clearly, this group is not actually in the pursuit of knowledge and truth, nor do they want what is ‘best’ for children.”

The counter-petition takes issue with Students for Child-Oriented Policy on the false grounds that the group incorrectly asserts “that same-sex parenting is damaging to children.” The anti-SCOP petition argues that such an assertion “blatantly ignores all empirical data in this field of the social sciences that actually indicates the opposite is true.”

This claim, however, is contested by an amicus curiae brief filed by a group of social science professors in the 2012 Supreme Court cases Hollingsworth v. Perry and US v. Windsor; and this Public Discourse article by Ana Samuels that presents an extensive overview of the social science data directly contradicting the “no-differences” argument featured prominently in the anti-Students for Child-Oriented Policy petition.

The SCOP petition cites the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Notre Dame’s mission statement, and a university document called “A Pastoral Plan for the Support and Holistic Development of GLBTQ and Heterosexual Students at the University of Notre Dame” to make its case.

“SCOP does not solely aim to address the redefinition of marriage,” Tiernan Kane, president of Students for Child-Oriented Policy, told The College Fix.  “SCOP has not contributed to the ongoing social-science debate about family structures—but rather asserted a right of every child to the care of his or her mother and father.”

Kane defined SCOP as “a group of Notre Dame students concerned that policy be made with special attention to how it will affect children—and committed to advocating children’s rights.”

Kirchoff had authored a letter to the editor to Notre Dame’s mainstream campus newspaper, the Observer, encouraging students to attend the April 3 conference with an open mind, in the same “tolerant” way Notre Dame students are asked to view PrismND, the university’s gay-straight alliance, and the 4 to 5 Movement, a gay-rights student club.

The April 3 SCOP conference featured presentations by evangelical bishop Harry Jackson Jr., Professor Gerard Bradley of the Notre Dame Law School, Professor Daniel Mark of Villanova University, and Robert Oscar Lopez, among several other speakers.

Following the conference, the president and vice-president of PrismND co-authored a letter to the editor published Monday in the Observer.

“We are not opposed to the existence of SCOP,” the Prism leaders’ letter stated, “nor to the discussion it intends to have. Rather, we condemn the part of the discussion that degrades the lives of those who identify as GLBTQ in order to further its purpose.”

Reached for comment, PrismND president, sophomore Bryan Ricketts, said his views on the conference “were represented well in the editorial.”

Meanwhile, two out of five of PrismND’s officers have signed the Stop-SCOP petition, as well as more than one-third of the Notre Dame’s Gender Relations Center student FIRE Starters, whose responsibility it is to “foster dialogue” and “promote open and inclusive discussion.”

University of Notre Dame spokesman Dennis Brown did not respond to a request for comment. Campus administrators have yet to publicly speak out on the controversy.

During the 2013-14 school year at Notre Dame, PrismND, the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning student group was established on campus. This gay-straight alliance hosted “National Coming Out Day” observances and lectures, and the university also established a pastoral plan called “Beloved Friends and Allies: A Pastoral Plan for the Support and Holistic Development of GLBTQ and Heterosexual Students at the University of Notre Dame.”

College Fix contributor Alexandra DeSanctis is a student at the University of Notre Dame.

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Campus Reform reports this morning that the president of Notre Dame University–a Roman Catholic Institution–has praised a newly formed Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual, Transgender, and Queer (GLBTQ) student group on campus, calling it “a big step forward.”

Father John Jenkins is an ordained Catholic priest, in addition to his role as president of Notre Dame.

Official doctrine of the Catholic church forbids all sexual activity outside heterosexual marriage.

“Its explicit Catholic heritage, as well as its origin and tradition as an institution of the Congregation of Holy Cross, calls the University to cultivate the love of God and of neighbor in all its members,” says a statement on the university website.

Read the full story here.

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The University of Notre Dame will mark the annual “National Coming Out Day” observance today with lectures on the sociology of coming out as well as makeshift doorframes set up around campus meant to encourage students to “come out” as whatever they want to come out as.

Now in its 25th year, National Coming Out Day, marked on Oct. 11, aims to encourage lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people to “come out” – or tell others about their sexual preferences for the first time.

At Notre Dame – a private, Catholic university that launched a pro-homosexual pastoral care plan this semester – the observance will take shape in part through the doorframe exhibits.

“To commemorate the event, the (Gender Relations Center) will be co-sponsoring a ‘Coming Out of the Closet’ event with PrismND, setting up makeshift doorframes around campus and inviting individuals to ‘come out’ as anything – a business major, a country music fan, a lover of bad horror movies,” the Notre Dame website states. “Join us … as we celebrate the endless variety of identities that make each and every one of us unique.”

“The Gender Relations Center promotes moral formation consistent with Catholic identity, mission and values,” the website adds.

In addition to the closet campaign, lectures on ‘the sociology of coming out’ are slated to take place on campus today. They’re sponsored by PrismND, a group founded this year and billed as “Notre Dame’s first official student organization dedicated to serving the LGBTQ and ally community on campus.”

Several Notre Dame administrators were sent emails Thursday afternoon by The College Fix seeking comment. Campus officials did not respond.

However John Ritchie, director of TFP Student Action, a conservative student Catholic advocacy group, said no Catholic university should mark coming out day.

“The national coming out day is a propaganda tool designed by the homosexual movement,” he said in an email Thursday to The College Fix. “It attempts to normalize sinful behavior that violates the law of God, natural law and God’s orderly plan for mankind. There’s absolutely no reason why any Catholic university should participate in this event, which only serves to undermine the moral teaching of the Catholic Church.”

“More than ever, college students need to hear about the benefits of practicing the forgotten virtue of chastity,” he added. “But you rarely hear about virtue anymore, even on many Catholic campuses. … Maybe the University of Notre Dame will take notice and start a national day for purity, instead of fostering a day that promotes the homosexual agenda.”

National Coming Out Day observances at Notre Dame have reportedly occurred before, but this year’s event comes on the heels of the recent hiring of a fulltime employee to implement the university’s relatively new pastoral initiative titled “Beloved Friends and Allies: A Pastoral Plan for the Support and Holistic Development of GLBTQ and Heterosexual Students at the University of Notre Dame.”

The employee is tasked with organizing “speakers, conferences, retreats, support groups, and other programs all designed for the support, holistic development, and formation of GLBTQ and other members of the Notre Dame community,” the plan states.

Today’s observances on campus also take place as controversy continues to swirl over comments Pope Francis recently made in an interview in which he said the Catholic Church should focus more on loving their neighbors and less on hot-button issues.

Jennifer Kabbany is associate editor of The College Fix.

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Let’s see:

The University of Notre Dame opens its doors to illegal immigrants. (August)

Norte Dame launches a gay-friendly campus campaign. (August)

The president of Notre Dame’s College Democrats pens an op-ed in the Catholic university’s mainstream campus newspaper defending gay marriage by arguing the Bible is so filled with contradictions one can’t use it to cite a religious argument against such unions. (September)

And now, this:

Notre Dame students resurrect leftist blog (October)

Lefty’s Last Cry is back in action.

Need we say more?

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The list of universities that accept students who are in the country illegally continues to rise.

Notre Dame was the latest, adding itself to a list that includes Dartmouth, Stanford, Duke and the University of Chicago, CNN reports.

What’s more, “Columbia, the University of Pennsylvania, Yale, Harvard and Princeton say applicants are considered regardless of their citizenship and immigration status, but they wouldn’t comment on whether they currently have undocumented students enrolled,” CNN reports.

“These universities also say that undocumented students are eligible for financial support.”

The article quotes Yale University junior Juan Carlos Cerda, who said he knows of at least three other students at Yale who are undocumented.

As previously reported by The College Fix, Notre Dame’s decision was done to “strengthen our incoming class and give deserving young people the chance for a Notre Dame education,” Don Bishop, associate vice president for undergraduate enrollment, stated.

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The president of Notre Dame’s College Democrats, Adam Newman, recently penned an op-ed in the Catholic university’s mainstream campus newspaper defending gay marriage by arguing the Bible is so filled with contradictions one can’t use it to cite a religious argument against such unions.

“Anyone who simply interprets the Bible literally will end up with a contradictory set of beliefs and not have as full an understanding of the main message the Bible conveys: God’s unending and unquestionable love for his creation (including gay people),” Newman wrote on Sept. 10 in The Observer. “… We should realize that cherry-picking a specific verse out of the Bible to justify a policy position is wrong, especially when it is used to denigrate God’s creation.”

The editor-in-chief of the independent conservative newspaper on campus, Michael Bradley of The Irish Rover, quickly sent in a rebuttal. The Observer didn’t publish it, or at least hasn’t yet. So Bradley decided to publish his piece in the Rover instead, arguing Newman’s train of thought was “incoherent” and “confused.”

Newman seeks to advance the thesis that it is wrong to mine the Bible for isolated proof texts, sans any broader interpretational hermeneutic, in support of one’s positions on public policy. I agree. I therefore find it ironic that Newman mines the Bible for isolated proof texts—I suspect he had recourse to Google searches—in order to support his conclusion that biblical mine-proofing is wrong. We can bracket this methodological and logical blunder, though, and pursue his thesis directly.

Let’s bracket too for the moment the fact that many Americans who support same-sex marriage buttress their own views by citing, sans any broader hermeneutic, isolated biblical passages about equality, dignity, “God’s creation” and “God’s love,” as Newman does.

As a strictly factual point, Newman is fundamentally wrong about which biblical passages are “most relevant” to contemporary discussions of marriage. The Jews’ perspective on marriage—a natural institution rooted in the sexual-reproductive complementarity of man and woman—is expressed firmly and unequivocally in their creation narratives, in which this reality of sexual complementarity is woven into the order of God’s creation itself.

Click here to read more.

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