Cancelled GLBT dance challenges BC's focus
Published: Monday, December 5, 2005
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
The Issue: BC denies GLBT dance due to conflict with the church What we think: BC should follow Jesuit values, not Catholic doctrine
The battle for equality on campus has been a long and arduous one. Last semester, the Rally for Equality showcased not only how far the campaign for equal rights has come, but also how important this cause is to a large portion of the Boston College community.
The cancellation of a GLBT "safe zone" dance by the administration last week has only done damage to this crucial campaign. While some may see the University's decision as insignificant, for many it is an issue of great importance, and one that may have grave consequences in the quest for equal rights on BC's campus.
Though there are many potential motives for the cancellation, the University has made it clear that this decision was based primarily on BC's role as a Catholic university, and the seeming implications that follow that. A statement by Jack Dunn, University spokesman, said that BC "cannot sanction an event that is exclusive and that promotes a lifestyle that is in conflict with church teaching and the Jesuit, Catholic mission and heritage of Boston College."
This decision was not made by the church, but by the administration. Office of the Dean for Student Development (ODSD) and Student Affairs concluded that this dance was against the Catholic and Jesuit ideals of BC. The decision by the University was not, however, a breach of the somewhat misleading non-discrimination policy conceived just last year, which actually provides little protection in regard to discrimination based on sexual orientation.
As much as people might want to place the blame solely on the University, there is a central issue beyond simply the actions of the administration that must be addressed: the church and BC's relationship to it.
Church doctrine is certainly important to many Catholics, and it is especially so for University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J., and BC as a Catholic university. BC's Catholic tradition is not something to be taken lightly, as it defines the college as a premier university and an institution that educates men and women not simply through book knowledge, but through service and hands-on experience in the community.
The Vatican recently released a statement saying that it "cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies, or support the so-called 'gay culture.'" Though some support the report, that announcement has caused quite a stir and much anger among supporters of homosexual rights.
Because it has long been a goal of BC's to be not only one of the country's top universities, but also the premier Catholic university in America, it would seem not only logical, but required that the University should abide by these doctrines.
But the problem isn't that simple.
The question at this point is whether BC is willing to sacrifice its Jesuit ideals of compassion and understanding in order to stay in the good graces of the Vatican. In a message titled "Answering society's call" on the BC Web site, Leahy said that "Boston College endeavors to educate a new generation of leaders for the new millennium - men and women who will be capable of shaping a new century with vision, justice, and charity - with a sense of calling, with concern for all of the human family."
Certainly justice, charity, and a "concern for all of the human family" are not consistent with banning GLBT students from holding a dance as an AIDS Awareness Week fundraiser simply because of their sexual orientation.
Whatever the ultimate goal is, BC sits at a crossroads. On the one hand, it can remain devout to each and every doctrine of the church, even if that means treating members of the aforementioned "human family" as if they are something less than that. On the other hand it can educate students in the values of tolerance and understanding that seem to get lost far too often.
BC is an incredible institution because it remains faithful to the Jesuit ideals of "men and women for others" and social justice for the greater glory of God - not because it follows church doctrine to the letter.
BC's rise in national prominence has been fast and significant, but the University can go much farther. As BC aspires to become one of the top universities in the country - and steps have certainly been made to do so - it has a choice to make. Regardless of varying views on homosexuality, every BC student wants their BC diploma to mean more 20 years down the line as BC becomes an even more respected university.
But will that be possible if a school that claims to espouse the values of a man who accepted prostitutes as his equals cannot give the same respect to gays, lesbians, and bisexuals?
The answer will become clear as BC decides what path to take.