The Irish Rover, exposed
Letter to the Editor | Thursday, October 14, 2021
A few weeks ago, I wrote an article for the Irish Rover. This week, it was rejected for publication. This is what happened.
First and foremost, this letter is not designed to personally attack or threaten any member affiliated with the Irish Rover. Instead, my intention is to expose the flaws and prejudice of the Irish Rover as an institution from my personal experience.
My article, which is shared in full below, was intended to be a peaceful response to a homophobic article written in this year’s first edition of the Irish Rover that discussed the creation of ARC ND, a new LGBTQ+ Alumni Group. My friend, the Rover’s Culture Editor, encouraged me to write this article to mitigate the brewing discord amongst the Notre Dame and Program of Liberal Studies communities. My article’s motives were not revenge or provocation. Rather, the piece was meant to illustrate one, single point: All human beings, including LGBTQ+ individuals, are created in the image and likeness of God. Here’s my work in full:
The Intended Title: Acceptance & Hope: Olivia Rodrigo, the LGBTQ+ Community & Catholicism
So I want to talk about Olivia Rodrigo. And before some of you roll your eyes, Olivia Rodrigo has become an unquestionable force in the music industry and Gen-Z culture, this fact alone making her worthy of both attention and analysis. Her critically-acclaimed and massively popular debut album, “Sour,” galvanized millions of listeners with thirty-four minutes and forty-six seconds of raw heartbreak, ruminations on unrequited love and transcendent bridges, which combine to encapsulate the spirit of the bildungsroman.
Perhaps some readers are familiar with her two most celebrated songs — “driver’s license” and “good 4 u” — which are filled with the conventional teenage emotions of angst, jealousy and heartache. However, I’d like to discuss a lesser-known gem: The final song of “Sour,” “hope ur ok.”
Unlike the first ten songs on the album, “hope ur ok” focuses not on Olivia, herself, but instead on two other individuals with whom Olivia crossed paths. This turn toward an outward perspective, rather than an inward one, indicates that Olivia is writing the song for the benefit of others and not merely expressing her own heartbreak. Through Olivia, we receive a glimpse of the song’s two subjects and their lived experiences, particularly surrounding their tension between religion and sexuality.
Olivia primarily uses the song to illustrate the poignant struggles of LGBTQ+ youth: “her parents hated who she loved,” she writes of a previous acquaintance, adding that the girl “was tired ‘cause she was brought / into a world where family was merely blood.” The LGBTQ+ individual about whom Olivia writes seems to be an outcast in society and even in her own family — sadly, a common experience for many LGBTQ+ youth.
The opening lines of the song describe a similar situation faced by another friend: “his parents cared more about the Bible / Than being good to their own child,” she articulates the perception of a gay child coming out to his Christian parents. Thus, Rodrigo identifies a false binary: one can only choose ‘following’ the Bible or supporting their LGBTQ+ child. However, this cannot be further than the truth; faith and sexual orientation are and always will be reconcilable.
Despite this individual’s struggles with religion and sexual identity, Olivia reminds her of our own creation, specifically the inherent dignity that accompanies it: “Does she know how proud I am she was created / with the courage to unlearn all of their hatred.” By alluding to the act of creation, Olivia implicitly reminds the listener of their creation in the image and likeness of God, which includes all LGBTQ+ individuals. And embracing one’s creation through God, of course, also necessitates embracing one’s sexuality. The lyrics in “hope ur ok” call for a form of wholehearted acceptance and radical love of “the other” — a kind of love analogous to Jesus’ own unending love and mercy. Although many still propagate the false binary between the LGBTQ+ community and participation in the Catholic Church, many LGBTQ+ individuals — whether open or closeted — are our fellow siblings in Christ, who pray, worship and celebrate Mass in the same manner as cisgender, heterosexual Catholics.
In line with Catholic Social Teaching, we are called to be each other’s brothers and sisters’ keepers. Olivia expresses this Catholic teaching of solidarity in her last few lines, saying “God, I hope that you’re happier today / ‘Cause I love you, and I hope that you’re okay.” Here, it seems, she identifies love as the mechanism by which we spread the enduring love that Jesus bestows upon us.
“hope ur ok” is meant to be the concluding message of “Sour,” and Olivia, having embraced a more universal perspective on the album’s final track, fashions herself as just a mere messenger. This powerful message is one of hope and acceptance.
Perhaps — a sweet final note in a rather “Sour” album.
Because of our creation, God willingly loves and accepts us as we are — created in his image and likeness. Time will tell whether Catholics will uphold God’s command of love and acceptance toward the LGBTQ+ community or whether Catholics will fall into divisiveness and prejudice.
As usual, after its submission, my article was then subjected to a round of edits by the Irish Rover staff. My friend, present at the meeting, told me that my article would be pushed back until the next edition to go over their proposed edits. She explicitly informed me that the staff was uncomfortable with the piece, citing that there were concerns about how the article would be perceived and whether it would be troubling to the Rover’s readers. In fact, one edit included deleting the entire final paragraph, where I urge fellow Catholics to “uphold God’s command of love and acceptance.”
My article above does not stray away from Catholic Social Teaching (CST); it strongly adheres to all of its foundations and principles. Earlier this week, my friend disclosed to me that the Irish Rover would be unable to publish my article. At their student meeting, she divulged that “a member of the Board disapproved” of the article, and it was dropped. However, in an email sent to me, the other Culture Editor communicated to me that my piece was declined because the song “was being used as a tool for social commentary rather than a genuine review.” These discrepancies, if there are any, indicate to me that something larger is at play.
Interestingly enough, this week’s edition, which was originally supposed to contain my piece, still features “social commentary” on LGBTQ+ issues. The writer explicitly uses homophobic language to describe what she deems the “LGBT agenda.” For example, she describes the University using students’ preferred ‘they/them’ pronouns as an “erosive occurrence.” In her conclusion, she writes that the University should adhere to its ‘true Catholic identity:’ “she may not attract allies, but she will flourish in her witness to Christ’s invitation of authentic love.”
Let’s be frank. The Irish Rover does not attempt to uphold the “true Catholic identity” of the University. If the Rover was committed to its Catholic faith, my article, which commits to the tenets of CST, would not have complications or problems with its publication.
In reality, the Catechism of the Catholic Church 2358 forbids the discrimination of LGBTQ+ individuals: “they must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives.”
Perhaps, the Rover should have consulted the Catechism before publishing yesterday’s homophobic piece. Or maybe, they don’t read the Catechism at all; they would rather weaponize their faith to sow the seeds of hate and division amongst the student body.
But, maybe they read the Bible.
Mark 7:9 — “you have a clever way of rejecting God’s law in order to uphold your own teaching.”
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.