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Fulfilling the moral mandate

Mary R. D'Angelo | Sunday, April 1, 2012

Last Monday night, the Common Council passed a measure protecting South Bend residents from discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. The 6-3 vote is more evidence of the change of attitudes celebrated by the Notre Dame 4 to 5 Movement. Things have improved significantly for gay and lesbian students at Notre Dame, thanks in part to the efforts of the Core Council. But as the 4 to 5 Movement video pointed out, “It needs to get better at Notre Dame.”

At present, the 4 to 5 Movement is promoting two initiatives that could make significant difference. First, the students are seeking club status for a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) that would address discrimination and harassment on campus and provide support to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transexual and questioning (GLBTQ) students. Second, they are once again pushing for the inclusion of sexual orientation in the University’s non-discrimination clause.

Similar proposals were rejected in the past, partly on the basis of a concern for Catholic teaching and Catholic character. As concepts, Catholic teaching and Catholic character are far from simple. But it is reasonable to take the Catechism of the Catholic Church as guide to current teaching approved by the hierarchy.

Speaking of “persons with deep-seated homosexual tendencies,” the Catechism affirms that they “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.” It continues, “Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided,” (2358).

On these principles, Catholic teaching does not preclude measures like the GSA and the non-discrimination clause; indeed, it would seem to require them.

The mission statement of GSA proposes as its aim to “serve as a peer-to-peer interaction-based student club/gay-straight alliance, where GLBTQ students and allies can work together to ‘create a sense of human solidarity and concern for the common good’ as outlined in Notre Dame’s mission statement.” A GSA would provide social support for GLBTQ students without isolating them, as well as a significant complement to classroom learning, and would be a venue for student-led effort to assure that GLBTQ students are, in the words of the Catechism, “accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.”

Equally important is the Catechism’s stipulation that “Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” Endorsing the capacity of gay and straight students (and associated faculty) to organize around sexual identity and adding sexual orientation to the non- discrimination are two essential steps toward fulfilling the moral mandate the Catechism articulates.

Mary R. D’Angelo

associate professor

Department of Theology

March 30