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Students cry because Catholic chaplain opposes pride flag, follows ‘theological beliefs’

A former staff member said the Catholic priest ‘was using his theological beliefs and conflating those with policy’

University of Portland students “passed around” tissues during a recent open meeting with Dan Parrish, a professor and Catholic priest, because of his statements on human sexuality and against the rainbow pride flag.

“Boxes of tissues were passed around the room as the night went on,” The Beacon, the campus newspaper at the Catholic university reported. “Emotions were high, and students of all backgrounds came to speak their minds,” at the meeting Tuesday.

Parrish (pictured) is a pastoral resident, meaning he lives in a residence hall. He reportedly had shared messages on social media and in email that upset students. He is also the men’s basketball team chaplain.

“Screenshots taken by students of Parrish’s Twitter account show him liking content that these students describe as sexist, transphobic and racist, as well as posts against masks and mandatory COVID-19 vaccination,” the campus newspaper reported. The newspaper did not describe any of the tweets further and didn’t include any photos, so there’s no way to know what they said. Parrish has since deleted all but 44 tweets on his account.

“I’m very careful about what I post on Twitter because I know, as you said, I’m a public person,” Parrish said at the meeting.

MORE: University of Portland students claim right to redefine Church teaching

“Every morning when I get up and put [on the white cleric’s collar] I realize ‘Dan doesn’t get to be Dan today, I have to be Fr. Dan.’ And so I have to be careful what I say, be careful how I act,” he said. “I’m a public person and my job is to care for all of you.”

Parrish had reportedly emailed two hall directors asking them to reconsider hanging the LGBT pride flag. “In my opinion, the pride flag is used not only for inclusive purposes, but in a variety of different ways to support causes that do not align with Catholic teaching,” Parrish told students at the town hall.

He suggested in his email that the crucifix is the best sign of inclusion.

Former hall director Mary Markham, who received the email, questioned why the Catholic priest was using his “theological beliefs” to guide his decision-making.

“I was thrown off by that email for a lot of reasons, but part of the reason is that that has not been my experience with a relationship with a pastoral resident,” Markham said. “I think that he was using his theological beliefs and conflating those with policy.”

Students also questioned the Catholic priest on his “version of Catholicism” according to the campus newspaper’s paraphrase.

Parrish said the Church does not accept some actions of the LGBT community, such as same-sex marriages.

“I think it was a very unproductive conversation that needs a lot more work,” one former student told the newspaper.

Other students at the Catholic university said the priest’s views on LGBT issues make him unfit to serve as a pastoral resident. “It concerns me because I do not believe that with that positionality he is able to support them in the way that he should” a student said.

MORE: Catholic University of America removes abortion from health plan

IMAGE: UP Beacon

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Matt has previously worked at Students for Life of America, Students for Life Action and Turning Point USA. While in college, he wrote for The College Fix as well as his college newspaper, The Loyola Phoenix. He holds a B.A. from Loyola University-Chicago and a M.A. from the University of Nebraska-Omaha. He lives in northwest Indiana with his family.