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Conference’s courageous dialogue

Philip Lashutka | Tuesday, February 16, 2010

 I would like to second Ms. Healy’s applause (“Truth, Identity, and Edith Stein,” Feb. 15) for the organizers of the Edith Stein Conference that occurred this past weekend. This conference for the past five years has attempted to bring Catholic teaching to bear on some of the most pressing cultural issues that college men and women are experiencing here on campus. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to attend the session that was headlined by Melinda Selmys. Walking away from that session, I could not help but conclude that Ms. Healy’s main concern was met by this session: dialogue between the Catholic position and those who came in protest truly did take place.

Ms. Healy mischaracterizes the Conference’s treatment of those who protested the session. While Notre Dame Security Police was called to the scene, Ms. Healy failed to mention some important facts. Those who protested decided to stand inside the lobby of McKenna Hall. Unannounced and unexpected, the protestors handed out leaflets to all who entered the building. The leaflets spelled out the protestors’ concern with Ms. Selmys speaking at the conference. All those in attendance at the conference either peacefully accepted the leaflets or respectfully declined without incident. Neither of the above actions taken by the protestors was objectionable in the least. The protestors then decided to recite selections of “queer poetry.” These selections were acerbic, vulgar, crude and vitriolic. The protestors were not initially interested in engaging in rational “dialogue” with those in attendance. Instead, the protestors resorted to profanity-laced lyrics that, to my best estimation, were aimed merely at attacking the sensibilities of those in attendance — including young children — and attempting to disrupt the conference.
While Ms. Healy’s letter leaves the reader with the impression that the protestors were disbanded by NDSP or otherwise “taken away,” the Conference organizers and attendees opened their doors and invited all the protestors into the session. Most, if not all, of the protestors entered the Main Auditorium of McKenna Hall and respectfully listened to Ms. Selmys and the rest of the panel that was speaking at the session. Of particular note, Ms. Selmys began her talk by respectfully addressing each sentence contained in the protestors’ leaflet. One of the main features — if not the main feature — of Ms. Selmys’ presentation was a challenge to Catholics. During the question and answer period, the protestors who had been invited into the session by the Conference organizers posed each question. After the session concluded, Ms. Selmys continued in conversation with some of the protestors.
While Ms. Healy might not have selected Ms. Selmys to speak at the conference, Ms. Healy’s glaring omission of key facts misguides the readers of The Observer. The organizers of the Edith Stein Conference, Ms. Selmys, and the rest of the panel should be applauded for their courage in putting on this panel discussion that was open for all to attend, honest and challenging for all in attendance. Those who protested should be applauded for accepting the Conference organizers’ invitation to attend the session. The protestors should also be applauded for engaging in this conversation in the spirit of good faith and respect once the protestors entered into the auditorium.
If what is described above is not an instance of “courageous dialogue,” I do not know what would be.
Philip Lashutka
law student
off campus
Feb. 15