The issue of promoting equality through the acceptance of a gay student organization at St. John’s has arisen. Supporters feel that our Catholic institution of St. John’s University should recognize, protect and work with the gay community by allowing the creation of a LGBTQ organization, which works
towards creating tolerance for homosexuality.
They think this will prevent incidents such as Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi’s tragic death and also think that such an idea is compatible with a Catholic institution. The logic behind their arguments is fundamentally flawed. The promotion of tolerance of homosexuality will only succeed in creating a sham safety and peace of mind; in addition, such an endorsement can never be the work of a Catholic institution.
Promoting tolerance of homosexuality seems on the surface a sure way to create peace among communities in this controversial issue. But look a little deeper and one sees that this is not the case. The method of promoting tolerance of homosexuality successfully creates acceptance of a homosexual lifestyle; however, this method does nothing towards correcting the fundamental problem at the heart of the Clementi tragedy: that people too often transfer their dislike of an error to the person who errs. This mentality is unfortunately prevalent among many, and they seem to forget St. Augustine’s timeless dictum – “kill the error; love the one who errs.”
The people accused in the Clementi case may have had a legitimate disagreement about the moral status of homosexuality. But this disagreement was perverted into something evil when they made the mistake of hating the one who errs instead of only hating the error itself. It is puzzling that it has been concluded by some that if we are to stop the hate displayed towards homosexual individuals, we must first generate tolerance for the act, thinking that this should
transfer into a tolerance of the individual.
This is a mistaken way of going about generating justice and peace. This is no solution at all – once another action deemed as wrong comes along, the hate of the action will again transfer to hate of an individual, and we will again encounter the same mentality and inevitably the same situations
analogous to Tyler Clementi’s death.
The bigger problem with the idea of establishing a LGBT organization is that it is inherently antithetical to the values of the Catholic Church and of St. John’s University. For St John’s to aid and abet such an idea would be to promote tolerance of a lifestyle the Church deems disordered and wrong. We often forget that all Catholic schools and universities are inspired by the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. St John’s cannot maintain its Catholic identity while putting itself in error for the sake of a “liberal” education and a “liberal” political and social college experience
which blatantly contradicts these values.
What then is the true work of a Catholic University? By its very nature, the work of a Catholic university must be the work of Christ. That work first involves love. True love is transforming and active in what it does – in confirming God’s grace towards the individuals, in being a correcting force and a nurturing force in the life of the person. Love requires that we understand and love others always – in the words of Christ himself, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Love also necessarily requires that we help those in error and help them out of it. Eliminating error is inseparable from the love we have for one another; saying “no, this is wrong” to somebody who does wrong is an integral part of charity and it should always be a “no” born of out of the love. By following this, we will do well in protecting the dignity and value of every human being in our university and in our community.
A fragile unity with one another that might be had through compromise should never come at the expense of a true unity born of Truth, a unity born out of the sacred humanity of Christ. We are a Catholic university. The life of St. Vincent De Paul and the mission of this University are forever geared to the love of Christ.
The nature of this love for Christ is perhaps best expressed by St. Paul; that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:38-39)