Taken at face value, the logic appears sound: Bigotry is “bad” and, as a consequence, bigots must not be tolerated on diverse and inclusive university campuses.
And so, at George Washington University (GWU) in Washington, DC, the Reverend Gregory Shaffer—who has served at GWU’s Newman Center for the past five years—must be removed because he is…well, um…a bigot.
According to the GW Hatchet, GWU’s independent student newspaper,it has been alleged that Fr. Shaffer’s “bigotry” is reflected in his anti-homosexual and anti-abortion beliefs and statements.
For example, after President Barack Obama performed a pirouette regarding so-called “homosexual marriage” in May 2012, Fr. Shaffer posted the following statement in the GW Catholic Forum:
As Vatican II states, God is the author of marriage. He has defined marriage as between a man and a woman. So, marriage is between a man and a woman. Period. This is not just divine law, it is natural law (the law imprinted on each of our hearts about good and evil). Every single rational person knows that sexual relationships between persons of the same sex are unnatural and immoral. They know it in their hearts. And, yet, they go against what their hearts tell them when they try to argue for same-sex relationships and “gay marriage”. President Obama is the latest person to enter into this with his comments this week in support of same-sex marriage. He knows in his heart that marriage is between a man and a woman; he stated this as recently as a few years ago. Neither he nor anyone else has the authority to redefine marriage. God is the author of marriage; He has the sole authority to define marriage. No human being can redefine marriage, especially a politician in an election year.
Statements like this—which restate the Catechism of the Catholic Church—are said to have alienated at least 12 students to the point they have quit GWU’s Newman Center. It is reported that they have said, “Oh, I would go to church all the time, but I don’t like Father Greg” (emphasis added).
Could it have been about young people like these GWU Catholic students that St. Paul instructed Timothy:
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
Even worse yet, one GWU senior—Damien Legacy—took offense with Fr. Shaffer’s counsel. According to the Hatchet, Legacy spent considerable time at the Newman Center during his first two years at GWU, serving at Mass and even considering the possibility of becoming a priest after graduation. However, after Legacy told Fr. Shaffer that he and another GWU senior—Blake Bergen—were involved in a homosexual relationship, Legacy claims that Fr. Shaffer accused him of immorality, lacking in faith, and called him “intrinsically disordered.”
To have my faith leader view me that way, just because of one piece of the way that God made me, and to think that one part is responsible for the destruction of my human dignity, it just didn’t…I can’t even begin to describe the mental conflict that it creates.
Legacy and Bergen are now coordinating a campaign at GWU seeking to have Fr. Shaffer ousted. Plans include:
- Creating a video containing the statements of several students who have left GWU’s Newman Center to arouse anger in the student body, thus forcing school officials to act.
- Filing a formal complaint with the administration and conducting prayer vigils outside the Newman Center.
- Distributing a letter to high-ranking administrators, citing research that connects homophobic behavior to loss of appetite, insomnia and other detrimental psychological consequences.
- Requesting GWU’s Student Association defund the Newman Center which reportedly collected $10,000 in funding this year.
For his part, Fr. Shaffer believes that religion and unrestricted speech “play a vital role at a diverse university like GW.” But, Legacy wants GWU administrators—similar to their peers at other institutions, like New York University—to vet and evaluate religious leaders before allowing them to work with campus-affiliated groups.
So why shouldn’t Fr. Shaffer be allowed to restate Church teaching at GWU? After all, GWU’s Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion, Terri Harris Reed, told The Hatchet:
GW strives to maintain a community where individuals’ are free to express their religious beliefs and also respect the rights of others who have differing beliefs…[and also] supports free speech and takes seriously the role a university should play in encouraging expression of many points of view, even those we dislike or disagree with.
With GWU’s Office of Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion in the “early stages of a review,” Vice Provost Harris Reed said, “…it is premature to speak about the possibility or feasibility of any changes.”
Will the “tolerant” be “intolerant” of Church teaching in a diverse and inclusive community that “supports free speech and takes seriously the role a university should play in encouraging expression of many points of view, even those we dislike or disagree with”?
Time will tell just how tolerant, diverse, and inclusive the GWU community really is.
To read the article in The Hatchet, click on the following link:
To read Fr. Shaffer’s post in the GW Catholic Forum, click on the following link: http://gwcatholicforum.blogspot.com/2012/05/no-human-being-can-redefine-marriage.html