To the Editor:
I would like to present a rebuttal to a letter that appeared in last week’s Torch concerning a Hindu student’s leading of prayer at an interfaith gathering sponsored by Campus Ministry. The student’s letter brought up one very important point, and yet the letter floundered with its negativity and judgment about the validity of certain religions and how they can be allowed on a Catholic campus.
The student described something that occurred at this gathering in which other students were asked to “pray however they feel comfortable praying” to Lakshmi, a Hindu goddess.I do agree with the student’s express discomfort in being asked to pray this way; no one should feel obligated to participate in any religious ritual with which they aren’t familiar or comfortable.
From here onwards, however, our points of view diverge. Calling this occurrence an “act of idolatry,” the student asks “How does the university allow a Hindu students association?” Further complicating matters, he insists that the university has “compromised its teaching to appeal to the culture of the times, an all-accepting Universal doctrine.”
Although I was not present at this event, I highly suspect that the Hindu student was not trying to convert those gathered to Hinduism, but only asking others to be open to another religious and spiritual experience, one that is as rich in history, tradition, and value as any other. Catechism #843 states that “The Church considers all goodness and truth found in these religions as a preparation for the Gospel given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life.”
In this way, the Catholic Church acknowledges the inherent value of other religions, recognizing the “goodness and truth” in them as being a way to Christ’s teaching.
As for allowing a Hindu students association, as an American university, we have been steeped in the tradition of religious freedom and tolerance. In his Summa Theologiae, St. Thomas Aquinas states that “law should be possible both according to nature, and according to the customs of the country,” making it only logical that an institution of higher education, albeit a specifically religious one, would practice these American traditions.
There is more justification than this, however, for allowing non-Catholic groups on campus. In his same theological text, Aquinas also states that other religious rites “may be tolerated, either on account of some good that ensues therefrom, or because of some evil avoided.” To deny such groups on campus would be a direct negation of this. Evidently the university is not “compromising its teaching” but rather upholding it.
Religious dialogue has been at the forefront of Church thought and practice in recent events. For example, even Pope Benedict XVI calls for “sincere and respectful dialogue” to occur between members of different faiths.
“Since the beginning of my pontificate I have had occasion to express my wish to continue to establish bridges of friendship with believers of all religions,” he said in the wake of a controversial 2006 speech, further adding that “inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue” is a “vital necessity” for the future.
On a final note, unlike the implication that we are “going to hell” at this university, Catechism #847 adds that “Those, who… do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve salvation.”
While the author of last week’s letter seems to condemn anyone who either practices or tolerates the practice of various religions, perhaps he should be less focused on the judgment reserved for God, not man, and more concerned about portraying the positive Christian values of religious acceptance, tolerance, and dialogue that St. John’s University is fostering instead of stifling.
Bridgid DriscollGraduate StudentEnglish Department
To the Editor:
With regards to a letter in the previous issue of The Torch on the Hindu prayer to the Goddess Lakshmi, this response is intended not to outline or argue a perspective as to what truly happened in the event in order to be fair. What I can say is that as a native New Yorker, it is shocking to read such contradictory and narrow-minded commentary regarding religion in the 21st century.
Although St. John’s University is a school founded on the principles of Catholicism, this does not mean that it is no longer a University, an institution that perpetuates self-discovery and learning. In many ways, education comes hand in hand with tolerance, as the opinions, decisions, and beliefs of each and every student is unique in their very own, and must be respected as such, as it does no harm to others.
It is also shocking to hear the author state that the learning experience cannot be compared to that of a classroom experience. Although we may be in a Catholic University, our experiences that contribute to our learning does not end in the classroom, and it is sad that one has to differentiate one “learning” from another. In addition, in every part of our lives, each and every person holds the freedom and the right to make his or her own decision, and it is through their decisions that they define their educational experience.
The most appalling comment I found was, “How does the University allow a Hindu Student Association?”The sheer fact that the University encourages organizations such as the Muslim Students Association, the Jewish Students Association, and the Hindu Student’s Association recognizes the University’s mission and our acceptance of diversity.
Not recognizing other religious organizations bears an intrinsic hierarchy of Catholicism being the “superior” religion, and marginalizes everyone else who believes in anything different. Second, rejecting a Hindu Students Association will cause a slippery slope in a thought process that rides the fine line between being proud of one’s religion and acting upon it in discrimination.
All in all, I felt the commentary that followed his description of the uncomfortable event was uncalled for and sheds a negative light on not only him but the skewed idea of the faith he proclaims to believe.
Carina FungPharmacyClass of 2012
To the Editor: It has come time for me to speak up about my concerns of the direction of this University. I recently received a letter to contribute $20.08 for a senior gift. This single was a catalyst to fully digest my experiences here and to come to a decision that will hopefully make a significant impact.
I will not contribute towards this gift unless it is to directly impact the aspect of this University that is most often forgotten: education. It is with great disappointment that I have witnessed the ultimate strength of any university take the trunk to all other areas.
Above all else, we are here to garner an education through our interaction with the great minds of today. I can say without a doubt that I have had the opportunity to interact with some great minds through the professors at this University. But the teachers need the support of the University which the library problem is only a reflection of their attitude towards education.
When was the last time a building went up for classrooms? Why is it that athletics get furnished with a state of the art practice facility and now a brand new playing arena? And yet, I have classrooms that are completely lacking in a projector and the professor uses an overhead that I have not seen since the 1990s! What is to be gained by completely supporting a minority of students and forgetting the majority?
A new direction must be taken by the administration of this institute. In looking at other top sporting Universities, the athletics did not draw the academics, instea
d top tier academics drew in the athletics. There have been calls before but the school was not listening; now they must.
It is wonderful that the school gives all students a laptop but they stop there. There needs to be an emphasis on utilizing this technology; educate the professors and they should be using UIS or Blackboard.
It is difficult to do, but this University should put the strongest emphasis on the academics. I can here to learn not to attend a basketball game. Maybe I am truly idealistic and this will never happen but there is always the hope of change
Glen PerezClass of 2008
To the Editor:
In the April 16th issue of The Torch, a student wrote in to the Devil’s Advocate to ask for advice about his suitemates, who were physically and emotionally abusing another roommate. I wanted to add to the advice that was given to the student–that such behavior is immature and the student should tell his friends to stop. Physical intimidation and harrassment is not only “immature,” but illegal and completely unacceptable.
Any student who sees such activity going on has an ethical obligation to contact Residence Life, as well as Campus Security. Every student on campus has the right to be safe and comfortable.
Tara RoederInstitute for Writing Studies