Boston College should validate its LGBTQ+ students by breaking from the Vatican regarding its recent statement that the Catholic Church cannot bless same-sex marriages and that such relationships are sinful. The University should release a statement in support of its LGBTQ+ students and commit to establishing an on-campus resource center.
LGBTQ+ students have said they feel unwelcome and out of place on BC’s campus. Alexandra Katz, Student Assembly representative and Lynch ’23, told The Heights, “As somebody who is openly and unapologetically gay on this campus, I can attest to the fact that the mere act of existing as an LGBTQIA+ individual on this campus is an act of courage and nonconformity in itself.”
BC has broken from official church doctrine before—within the past year, in fact. The University stated its refusal to divest from fossil fuels in June of 2020 in response to the Vatican’s call for Catholics to divest from anything that is “harmful to human or social ecology.” The University should choose to break from church doctrine again—this time, in support of the LGBTQ+ community. BC’s decision not to contradict the church on this issue will serve as confirmation that it selectively follows the direction of the Vatican.
Affirming students’ identities in light of the Vatican’s statement is a good first step for the University to take, but it is the bare minimum—an LGBTQ+ resource center is still needed. The University does offer students some resources, but they are not enough.
BC offers Pride Peers mentoring, the Spectrum retreat, discussion groups for LGBTQ+ students, and a special celebration at graduation to celebrate the accomplishments of LGBTQ+ students. But LGBTQ+ students still do not feel comfortable on campus.
Other Jesuit schools have made more impactful efforts to facilitate inclusive environments on campus by creating physical spaces dedicated to LGBTQ+ students. For example, Georgetown University has an LGBTQ+ resource center and the University of San Francisco has a gender and sexuality center. BC should follow the example of its peer institutions and establish an LGBTQ+ resource center on campus.
Campus culture should be actively welcoming, but this cannot happen if the University does not voice support for its LGBTQ+ students. Students should also actively participate in creating a more welcoming environment on campus. A good first step for students is to sign the petition that the GLBTQ+ Leadership Council has created, calling on the University “to clarify their position on LGBTQ+ rights and to make a statement in support of Queer students and alumni.”
BC’s 2020 resource guide for LGBTQ+ students states that “Boston College, as a Catholic and Jesuit university, has a responsibility to promote the pastoral care of all members of the university community and is committed to the intellectual, social, and spiritual development of all our students. The university seeks to foster a campus culture that welcomes diversity, embraces inclusivity, promotes dialogue, and creates a safe and supportive environment for all.”
BC should live up to this statement and the Jesuit concept of cura personalis: care for the whole person. A person’s sexual orientation is not a choice and is part of who they are. The University has a responsibility to care for its LGBTQ+ students, regardless of what the Vatican says.