Opinions, Column, Featured Column

Bodies Are People, Too

The hook-up culture prevails, on and off campus, and it is naive to think that students on the receiving end of a Jesuit education are not a part of this culture, too. Ever had a friend drunkenly and passionately hug someone you didn’t recognize at a party? Was his explanation something along the lines of “We went on Appa together!!!”? This is exactly what I’m talking about—the blatant contradiction of a well-educated, I-heart-Jesuits person letting his under-educated, nighttime body leap into a terrifying miasma of alcohol and hormones. Boston College embraces the Jesuit education of the person, but falls short in the education of the body. There is nothing being done on campus by the University to encourage an understanding of healthy—both physically and mentally—sexual relationships.

BC’s service-oriented culture exists here because of the many wonderful Jesuits and non-Jesuits who have dedicated their lives to service. I am mostly referring to those who coordinate programs and help make volunteering in our free time a reality, but teaching, in and of itself, is certainly a form of service, too. This demographic of influential folks includes students, as well: Appalachia, 4Boston, and Arrupe leaders inspire and provide guidance to their fellow students according to the Jesuit way. Other student groups abound, driving this point home. BC has a realistic goal of getting students involved in helping others through service. It works—as a Jesuit, Catholic institution, the University exerts a powerful influence on what students choose to do with their free time during the day, and this is one of its defining goals. As a Jesuit, Catholic institution, however, BC has no realistic goal and exerts zero influence on what we as students choose to do at night with the rest of the student body’s student bodies.

The University’s only guiding words of wisdom for its students is: “Incidents of sexual intercourse outside the bonds of matrimony may be referred to the Student Conduct System” (Section 4.6.8 of the BC Student Guide). Students are shocked to find out that these trite and threatening policies that deal with their bodies even exist, despite not being strictly enforced (thank God). We benefit from the Jesuit, Catholic traditions of service, spirituality, and the holistic education of the person. These strong traditions, however, carry with them some other strong traditions that are definitely not shared by a majority of students on a Catholic college campus—stances on gay marriage, contraceptives, and pre-marital sex, just to name a few. Catholics around the country see their faith as the guiding force in their lives. Nonetheless, this same set of doctrines and beliefs fails to address the reality that 95 percent of people report having sex before marriage. For BC students, participation in the hook-up culture is our parallel to this statistic. The divide between what is practiced and what is preached hits home at BC. On-campus realities are not realistically addressed by school policy. Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done to bridge the gap.

Poor Pope Francis. He, more than anyone, understands this divide. He lived it for 18 years in the villas miserias slums of Buenos Aires, and he continues to deal with this issue well into his newest position at the top of the Catholic Church. In his first big Church document, “Evangelii Gaudium,” (The Joy of the Gospel), Francis explicitly says, “Realities are greater than ideas.” This drastically progressive statement is a manifestation of the Pope’s years of experience in the slums of Buenos Aires, a place where what the Church does—not what it stands for—is what counts. The long-debated issues of divorce, remarriage, and communion were a common theme during the Pope’s time there. Rev. Augusto Zampini, who used to serve with the Pope in Argentina, gives these issues some perspective.

“When you’re working in a shantytown 90 percent of your congregation are single or divorced, you have to learn to deal with that,” Zampini said. “Communion for the divorced and remarried is not an issue there. Everyone takes communion.”
For the man who used to be known affectionately as “Father Jorge,” Church doctrine could be tossed out the window when it meant offering the community he lived in a service that mattered. Years later, this same man was ushered through the doors of the Vatican as Pope Francis. Certain members of the Church would claim that the question, “Is the Pope Catholic?” has become less of a rhetorical question ever since.

Francis outlined his papal policy around the premise that “realities are greater than ideas,” suggesting that the reality of being Catholic is more than just following Church doctrine, whether you are the Pope or a college kid. It is frustrating that BC cannot embrace the realities of its own campus. If it were to exert as much of an influence on students’ fostering meaningful, safe relationships with our bodies as much as it currently encourages us to get our bodies involved in service, it could be the best in the business. Unfortunately, the Church’s identity is so strongly tied to its doctrines that for a Catholic institution, even with a renegade Pope, there is little hope for change.

PULSE is a great class, but it looks like Education of the Body will be offered as independent study only. Good luck registering. These are the pros and cons of the Jesuit, Catholic tradition.

Featured Image by Andrew Medichini / AP Photo

November 20, 2014