The power of community at Notre Dame
Clark Bowden | Thursday, March 18, 2021
After the University made the controversial decision to remove the Zahm community from campus, I have heard a lot regarding community, family and support. People in Zahm House, their alumni and many people within the greater Notre Dame community are outraged by the University’s actions. There have been petitions, on campus protests and Zahm residents are calling for solidarity from their Notre Dame peers. The Zahm issue is important, and it deserves a lot of discussion, particularly given how the University went about making the decision, but that isn’t what this column is about. I will cede that debate to my peers.
Instead, I want to discuss the same tenets of community, family, solidarity and support as they apply to a different community of Notre Dame students: LGBTQ+. On Monday, the Vatican released a statement that reinforced their stance against the blessings of unions of same-sex couples. This is a particularly frustrating attack because, for the past few years, it seemed as though the Catholic Church was trending to become more accepting on this issue. As a Catholic community here at Notre Dame, this statement impacts all of us. We need to stand up now more than ever in defense of our LGBTQ+ students, faculty and staff, showing them the true meaning of family, solidarity and support.
The Vatican wrote that God “cannot bless sin.” Quick note to any current students who might still be taking their first theology course: If you ever find yourself writing about Christianity and write, “God cannot,” take a deep breath, hit the backspace button ten times, and restart the thought. I promise that whatever you’re writing about, God can do it. More importantly though, and at the risk of this becoming a theology debate, there are some serious flaws with the sentiment in the message from the Catholic Church. One of the basic and fundamental principles of the Christian faith is that God is omnipotent, all-powerful. He is the creator of all things, the alpha and the omega. So how can he not do something? If I could respond to the Vatican with a single question, it would be this, “What else can God not do?” No seriously, this is an important question. The Vatican stated that God cannot bless sin. This means that by definition, according to the Catholic Church, there are limits to the power of God. My question is, what are the other limits?
As I am sure you can tell, my question is facetious. I believe that God can do anything, and in all honesty, the Vatican probably just misspoke. Admittedly, spending time on poor word choice from the Vatican is a waste considering all the other issues that arrived from their statement, but it was low-hanging fruit, and I took it. More directly, the Catholic Church is refusing to allow a blessing on the unions of gay people and all members of the LGTBQ+ community. By doing this, the Vatican is not only excluding a massive number of LGTBQ+ Catholics, particularly young people, but detracting from the overall community of the Church as a whole.
It is true, the Bible does condemn homosexuality, but if you insist on following that very specific law from the Bible, then you should probably follow all of them. Here are some more laws that I suggest you follow as they are certainly included in Scripture: Exodus 35:2 says that anyone who works on Sunday is to be put to death (I highly encourage you to get started on your weekend assignments early if this is the case), Leviticus 19:19 states that you can’t plant two crops in the same field or wear clothes with multiple fabrics (I would certainly take more time when picking out my outfit each morning) and, finally, Leviticus 11:8 warns that you better not eat pork or even touch the skin of a pig (this is going to seriously complicate intramural football). All of these things are sins according to the Bible.
Now, the Vatican was clear that their statement does not exclude homosexual people from their community, it simply will not bless their union. In their eyes, homosexuality is a sin, and those people need to repent and ask for forgiveness; their union will not be accepted in the eyes of the Church. So, let’s keep the logic train chugging along here. When can we assume the Catholic Church will issue a statement refusing to bless the marriage of two people who work on Sundays? Here are two people who choose sin, why is their union blessed but a gay person’s is not? What about the marriage of two farmers who plant different crops or the union of people who wear clothes with different fabrics? Why are their unions more worthy in the eyes of God than those of gay people?
The answer to all of these questions is obvious, but it does not make it less uncomfortable for many people in the Notre Dame community. The Catholic Church got this one wrong. All members of the LGBTQ+ community are blessed by God. Their unions are blessed by God. Their bodies, feelings and relationships are all blessed by God. The problem here is not that God isn’t powerful enough to bless a union of two members of the LGBTQ+ community or that a union between two people is sinful at all — the problem is the Church. I encourage all members of the Notre Dame community, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, to speak out against this decision. It is not inclusive and it is detrimental to our family. When the Vatican puts out exclusion, we should respond with love, compassion and solidarity. This is on all of us.
Clark Bowden is a senior Political Science Major. When he’s not sleeping through his alarm or reminding people that he studied abroad, he can be found in heated political debates or watching the Washington Nationals play baseball. He can be reached at [email protected] or @BowdenClark on Twitter.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.