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PrismND leaders respond to SCOP panel

| Monday, April 7, 2014

When the University of Notre Dame released its official statement “Beloved Friends and Allies” more than a year ago, it acknowledged that its review of services showed “that numerous gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning (GLBTQ) students seek additional support” beyond what was given by the University at that time. It called for “a safe and supportive environment for all members of the Notre Dame community” and said that “the University deplores any offenses against that fundamental human dignity and calls for an abiding spirit of inclusion within the Notre Dame community.” We believe that the adoption of this plan is a commitment that everyone here at Notre Dame is called to participate in.

With this promise to the University’s GLBTQ students in mind, we wish to address the conference sponsored by Students for Child Oriented Policy (SCOP) on April 3. It is clear from the advertisements that those who planned it wished to explore the Catholic definition of marriage. This discourse on marriage is supported by the Pastoral Plan, and such discourse is expected to occur at one of the country’s premiere Catholic universities. However, some of the people invited by SCOP to conduct the discussion failed to show the respect for all of God’s children called for by the Church.

Bishop Harry Jackson Jr., one of the speakers at the panel, commented that “being gay was the flavor of the week” and noted that he believed people chose their sexual orientation. His comment demeans those who are GLBTQ rather than giving them the pastoral support endorsed by the Church and this University. As Pope Francis said, “Tell me, when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person? We must always consider the person … Who am I to judge?”

Additionally, among those attending the conference were representatives from the Family Research Council (FRC), whose available materials demeaned and invalidated lesbian, gay and bisexual identities, calling them a harmful choice and even insinuating that homosexuality or bisexuality leads to higher rates of child molestation. Rather than supporting the Church’s position that those who “identify as gay or lesbian ‘must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2358),” the FRC actively promotes a rejection of one’s sexual orientation – ­going so far as to say that interventions to make a gay person heterosexual are harmless, despite extensive social science research proving otherwise (see the American Psychological Association ’s 2009 review of Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation). The FRC material also says that “homosexuals experience considerably higher levels of mental illness and substance abuse,” and blames individuals for the personally detrimental effects of societal prejudice.

SCOP’s sponsorship of these views during the conference stands in sharp contrast to the mission of the University and the Catholic Church to provide pastoral care to GLBTQ individuals. We maintain that the inclusion of these positions at the conference by SCOP is harmful to GLBTQ students and Notre Dame’s commitment to them.

We are not opposed to the existence of SCOP, nor to the discussion it intends to have. Rather, we condemn the part of the discussion that degrades the lives of those who identify as GLBTQ in order to further its purpose. 

Moving forward, we hope that those who conduct any discourse on marriage keep in mind that behind the issue are GLBTQ-identifying people who hold God-given dignity. Any rhetoric that diminishes or disrespects the dignity of GLBTQ individuals harms all involved.



Bryan Ricketts
President of PrismND
Duncan Hall

Lily Crawford
Vice President of PrismND
Pasquerilla East Hall
April 6

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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  • Matt

    Someone start a comment war, please.

    • Patrick Guibert

      Your wish is my command.

      • Matt

        You have done well

  • Mike

    Catholic bishop invited to speak at Catholic school about Catholic views on marriage? What an outrage

    • CPH

      Bishop Jackson wasn’t Catholic, he was Evangelical/Pentecostal. Just fyi.

    • Patrick Hogan

      1) Jackson is not Catholic
      2) Prism’s objection was not to the fact that a bishop was invited to speak, but to things Jackson has said that go beyond church teaching and directly denigrate LGBT people, as well as suggesting that sexual orientation is ephemeral rather than a core pay off who we are.

      Next time, try reading and understanding the letter before attempting to criticize it.

      • Her Loyal Sons

        Isn’t the point of a university to allow civil discourse? Isn’t that the argument that was made when Obama and Christopher Hitchens came? They certainly weren’t in keeping with Catholic teachings but they were allowed to come under the auspices of civil discourse? How can you have discourse when one party isn’t invited? Or did you/would you object to Obama and Hitchens as well because they aren’t in line with Catholic teachings? What about guests your group brings that aren’t in line with Catholic teachings. Should they not be allowed for the same reasons? Can’t have it both ways…

        • Patrick Hogan

          See what I wrote. My objection was not to including different viewpoints — including non Catholic viewpounts — but to including a person who regularly denigrates LGBT people.

          I also responded to a comment (from Mike) that attempted to justify Jackson’s presence under the false premises that Jackson is Catholic and his rhetoric is in line with Catholic teaching, so I pointed out that each of those premises were false. My argument against inviting Jackson as a speaker (and Prism’s argument), though, was on the basis of Jackson’s baseless attacks on LGBT people, not on the fact that he is not Catholic or that I disagree with some of his views.

          • NDaniels

            Gay is not a people, it refers to sexual desire or inclination; regardless of ancestry, desire or consent, a man is a man and a woman a woman. There are many different types and degrees of disordered inclinations, including disordered sexual inclinations, some more difficult to overcome than others, this does not change the fact that it is not unjust discrimination to discriminate between acts that respect the inherent personal and relational Dignity of the human person and acts that do not.

          • Patrick Hogan

            “Gay is not a people” in much the same way that a race is not a people — each is a category that is at least largely innate and immutable and describes a subset of the human race in a fundamental (but incomplete) way. That is to say: saying that a person is gay or white describes something innate, immutable and fundamental about that person, but it is not an all-encompassing description of that person.

            Nothing about being gay — including having a same-sex romantic relationship — is inherently opposed to “respect[ing] the inherent personal and relational Dignity (sic) of the human person”. Being gay is completely natural, as is acting on the attraction (with a fully consenting partner in a responsible manner, of course). For someone who is gay and wants to be in a fulfilling relationship, pursuing a same-sex relationship is a way to recognize, accept and respect oneself as a whole person, rather than rejecting a fundamental pay off one’s humanity by attempting to force oneself to live a lie (either in unwilling celibacy or in an opposite-sex relationship of which one can never fully be a part). Note that I am not implying that it is wrong for someone (regardless of sexual orientation) to choose to be celibate, only that it is wrong to be forced into celibacy because of one’s sexual orientation. Further note the requirement that any relationship must be with someone who is fully consenting (i.e.: a adult who wants to pursue the relationship) — we’re not talking an unbridled “do whatever makes you feel good” but a “pursue one’s happiness without harming others” type of philosophy.

            What’s more, as I’ve already pointed out: Jackson didn’t merely call LGBT attractions “disordered” — he also lied, claiming that our attractions and relationships occur at a whim. The fact that he persists in lying about LGBT people should disqualify him from being invited to speak about us.

        • Patrick Guibert

          Her Loyal Sons, I think the bigger concern is that the pursuit of truth is very much a Catholic teaching. Misrepresenting data intentionally is not in line with Catholic teaching. Now, I doubt that anyone intentionally misrepresented the evidence they presented. But it certainly looks like that. Instead of rehashing it all, I’ll direct your attention to my reply to Reality Check’s comment. It’s pretty long; you can’t miss it.

        • Her Loyal Sons

          So would you object to Obama and Hitchens coming? They have both used false data or misrepresented data. I guarantee it. Everyone does. Data or statistics by its very nature is flawed. The sampling size is too small, the questions are presented in such a way as to be biased. Take statistics and you’ll quickly realize you can really manipulate most data pretty easily. Since we are going into each others brains it seems (see “I doubt that anyone intentionally misrepresented the evidence they presented”) let me take my shot. The data doesn’t really matter here. Even if they had rock solid data, not misrepresented, and indisputable, you would still have a problem with them because of their message. It’s ok. I feel the same way about some people for the same reason (see Hitchens), but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t invite them to speak at the university. Justice Thomas was recently here, and while some don’t agree with his rulings, to not invite him would be foolish. As was the case with Obama. All I am saying is that with all the whining you are doing about inviting a high ranking church official (notice it was not in caps because I realize he’s not Catholic so keep your panties in check for now), or with people being fired because they donated $250 in 2008 for a Prop 8 ad, people like me who would otherwise support the cause completely are having some serious reservations. I would suspect there are others like me and eventually this may lead to a serious backlash and will likely cause people to complain even louder when it is your turn to invite a “controversial” speaker to campus. That is not civil discourse. It is petty banter–ON BOTH SIDES. (You are now free to let your panties get bunched up)

  • Reality Check

    How is citing research on the importance of a core family unit and data supporting the consequences of a society with lax sexual identity disrespect and diminish the dignity of gay persons? You cited research, they cited research. We as a community can still accept people and respect them but intelligently discuss the consequences lax sexual identity standards can have. This is an overreaction to a well-planned event by a group that seems upset that someone found research results that they disagree with.

    • Other Reality Check

      The overall consensus of PrismND people I have spoken with is that the SCOP conference supports views which diminish the dignity of gay people, *against* the research. This article mentions nothing about research results in favor of SCOP viewpoints. Can you be more specific about what research was referenced in the conference, and why you think people are upset about it?

      • Patrick Guibert

        I doubt you’ll get an answer, Other Reality Check. At least nobody’s tried to bring up the oft-cited Regnerus study.

    • John

      I apologize if I’m misinterpreting your wording, but the phrase “lax sexual *identity* standards” seems highly problematic. Debate and discuss “standards of sexual activity” all you want, but using the word “lax” in regards to aspects of personal identity is an offensive misnomer.

      Research which is poorly designed or biased serves as a weak foundation for intelligent and respectful discussion. Serious researchers also recognize the importance of two-way dialogue (true “discussion”), and genuine consideration of opposing viewpoints (based not on gut reactions, personal opinions, or what an external body purports, but again, discussion and examination of evidence.) I understand that SCOP is not a research group, and that they intend to defend one particular viewpoint from a moral standpoint. They certainly have the right to do so. But if they wish for their position to be heard and seriously considered, it must be delivered with respect, unbiased research, and without condescension (e.g., via adjective or screenname choice by their online supporters.)

    • Patrick Guibert

      Reality Check, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with citing research on the importance of a core family unit. Nothing at all. Of course biological parents are ideal. But the SCOP does not argue against heterosexual marriages in which, for medical reasons, there is no chance to produce biological children. So to argue that same-sex marriage would be any worse for adopted children than heterosexual marriage, without having any research at all to back that up, completely “disrespect[s] and diminish[es] the dignity of gay persons.” Please, I beg you, present ANY study that suggests that adoptive same-sex parents make a worse “core family unit” than heterosexual adoptive parents.

      Furthermore, it seems like the SCOP would rather rely upon misdirection in the absence of solid evidence. Case in point: using the Mark Regnerus study to argue that same-sex parent households produce children with more long-term problems.

      Take a look for yourself and take note of how Regnerus chose to split the 8 groups: http://www.markregnerus.com/uploads/4/0/6/5/4065759/regnerus_july_2012_ssr.pdf
      If you were to replace the phrase “R’s mother had a same-sex romantic (lesbian) relationship with a woman” with “R’s mother’s skin was [insert color here]” in the group 2 description, the results would indicate that group 2 was associated with more negative life outcomes for children. Replace “R’s mother had a same-sex romantic (lesbian) relationship with a woman” with almost anything (R’s mom ate oatmeal an average of three or more times per week, or R’s mom spoke English, or R’s mom has green eyes), and mothers with those qualities would be associated with more negative long-term outcomes than when compared to group 1. Because group 1 consists exclusively of 2-parent households, comparing it to group 2 (consisting of mothers who eat oatmeal > 3 times per week, regardless of whether or not those mothers are single-parents), group 1 will produce better results every single time.

      Perhaps they didn’t have enough time to read the study. Perhaps they read it but weren’t familiar enough with the critical analysis of studies like this. But the SCOP members and affiliates who cited the study missed the fundamental flaw in the methodology that makes the study a pair of loaded dice. And to those who did take the time to understand the study, it looks like the SCOP was more focused on using whatever means it took to convince others they were right than they were on the pursuit of truth. And that appearance, regardless of the underlying intent of the SCOP members, upsets people for good reason.

      • Karl

        I have not read this study, nor do I think that these empirical studies are of primary importance in this discussion (it seems to be more an issue of rights). It seems obvious that not every policy that could be shown to have positive or at least neutral economic or educational outcomes (or whatever empirical measure of well-being one chooses to estimate) should be instituted. If slavery was shown (hypothetically) to produce better economic outcomes on average for either the region or the people involved (the slave-owners) that does not mean we would want to institute slavery as a policy. Granted, this example is extreme and the level of gravity between the two scenarios is not the same…anyways, I wanted to post this article for people to look at by Christian Smith, a sociologist at Notre Dame and certainly one of the most respected in his field in the country, defending the methodology and procedure used by Regnerus. I don’t understand all these things but I am willing to take Smith’s word for it that the study is sound, granted its limitations. We cannot say, however, that it is invalid or bad science. http://chronicle.com/article/An-Academic-Auto-da-F-/133107/

  • TC

    Of course all people must be treated with love. However, you edited out a very important part of Pope Francis’ interview (from the same response in which he said “who am I to judge”): “one must distinguish the fact of being a gay person from the fact of doing a lobby, because not all lobbies are good. That’s bad.”

    His Holiness continues to explain: “The problem isn’t having this tendency, no… The problem is the lobbying of this tendency”. We must not judge those who are struggling with their sexuality and attempting to remain faithful to Church teaching. The Pope does, however, seem to take issue with those who lobby against Church teaching on these issues. In fact, he calls it a “serious problem”.

    That being said, while Bishop Jackson’s beliefs regarding marriage and the family seem to be in line with what the Church teaches, the comments referenced in this letter are insensitive (“flavor of the week”) and misleading (sexual orientation is a choice). I hope that in the future SCOP invites speakers who will ardently promote and defend Church teaching on the family and marriage without being insensitive (although I doubt the authors of this letter believe such an expression of Church teaching is even possible).

    • NDaniels

      One cannot proclaim the truth about the human person and be insensitive. The fact is, Catholics have always proclaimed The Word of God from The Beginning, that every human person, from the moment of conception, has been created in The Image of God, equal in Dignity, while being complementary as male or female, Willed by God, worthy of Redemption. It is a lie from the start to suggest that God created us to live our lives in Loving relationship as objects of sexual desire/inclination, as “heterosexuals, homosexuals, gay, lesbian, bisexual…” In direct violation of God’s Own Commandment regarding lust and the sin of adultery; we are and have always been, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers. If one respects the Dignity of the human person, one does not desire to identify any person as an object of sexual desire, to begin with. A Catholic University is called to proclaim The Word of God, not debate Him.

  • Clara

    There is a lot to take into account here; arguments on both sides,
    studies cited, etc. But to me, SCOP’s argument seems very petty. There
    are numerous situations where the interest of children are not put first
    in “traditional” heterosexual marriages… alcoholism, abuse, neglect,
    etc. Furthermore, there are people who have been raised by a single
    parent and turned out as healthy, kind, happy, contributing members of
    society. Or children raised by a grandparent, etc. There are so many
    situations where children are not raised by a mother and father and are
    given loving childhoods. Why target homosexual couples? One of SCOP’s
    arguments (though I haven’t read many of their materials…) may be that
    children of homosexual couples are ostracized by their peers or made
    fun of or grow up with a “flawed” understanding of human sexuality. But
    again, there are many other situations where types of parents may
    contribute to this, not because their parents happen to be gay.
    Basically, and this isn’t a “rational” or “logical” argument, but what a
    waste of time on behalf of SCOP. There are so many other causes to get
    behind if you care about children, on all different levels: teaching,
    poverty alleviation, mentoring, or even working against human
    trafficking, of which many victims are children. But preventing the
    thousands of children in orphanages, group homes, etc. who would be
    taken in by a couple in love and able to support them is just pointless.
    Furthermore, do SCOP members even know any gay people? Do they truly think they wouldn’t be good parents? Most of the LGBT people I know are awesome: involved, caring, loving, fun, good people. SCOP just sounds like a bunch of kids trying to test out their reasoning skills in a safe place where the rest of society can’t criticize them for being, actually, stupid. And to briefly address a “religious” argument, the Catholic Church has not always been right, exactly. *coughcoughCrusadescough* Where’s the love, y’all?