Chicago Catholic University Starts “Queer Studies” Programme

DePaul Catholic University has a large lesbian/gay faculty and staff caucus
Wed Feb 8, 2006 - 12:15 pm EST

By Hilary White

CHICAGO, February 8, 2006 ( – De Paul University, one of the most important Catholic colleges in the US, has instituted a minor undergraduate programme in “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer (LGBTQ) studies.” The new minor programme offers students an overview of the “history of the queer movement” in legislation as well as the place of homosexuality in the US as a social movement.

The university’s dean of the Liberal Arts and Sciences did not return’s request for comment, but the programme was featured in a news spot earlier this week on National Public Radio. The website that lists college resources for homosexual studies, notes also that “DePaul also has a large lesbian/gay faculty and staff caucus.”

NPR interviewed a professor of the programme, Gary Cestaro, who said the existence of a minor is new, but the courses themselves have been available and developing for ten years. Course offerings for the gay studies minor are not yet listed on the university’s website, but the Women’s and Gender Studies programme lists course titles for the Fall 2005 semester, that include, “Sexual Justice: Lesbians, Gays and the Law”; “Gay & Lesbian Literature” and “Identity and Anthropology of Gender”. NPR reports that the gay studies courses are popular with the class sizes being expanded due to high demand.

Cestaro is also named on as the contact person for Pride DePaul, the homosexual student “support/social group” at DePaul, which is recognized and supported by the university.

Patrick Reilly, president of the Catholic organization, the Cardinal Newman Society, told that the institution of a minor in homosexuality is evidence of cynical political motives. “Why would a university fund a programme based on a field of study that in mainstream academia is relatively unimportant?” he asked. “Even aside from the Catholic perspective it is very clear that this is motivated from a politically correct perspective.”

“If we want to have programmes in deviant sexual behavior,” Reilly continued, “why no minor in prostitution? Other than a need to bow to political correctness, why homosexuality particularly? Why no minor in heterosexual activities?”

A foundational claim of the homosexual political movement has been that homosexuality, far from being a severe psycho-sexual disorder, is a kind of ethnicity and that the attempt to help homosexuals to leave the lifestyle and live chastely is akin to racism.

Professor Cestaro teaches the course, “Introduction to lesbian gay bisexual transgendered and queer studies.” He told NPR that the programme is important not just from an academic standpoint. “As someone who identifies as gay, I know what loneliness and isolation is.” The programme, he said, is “hugely important, really in line with the Vincentian mission of the university in the spirit of St. Vincent (de Paul) which is to allow students to appreciate themselves fully and understand their personal histories.”

One student, told NPR that the gay and lesbian courses were the reason he wanted to attend De Paul. “When I first came here I really wanted to learn about my history. Being a gay male I wanted to learn about what has happened in my past and what is the history of the queer movement,” he said.

Patrick Reilly said, “All of that suggests that aside from the question of whether the course content will directly oppose Catholic teaching, the entire enterprise is intended to affirm the legitimacy of what is called the ‘gay’ subculture or lifestyle.”

De Paul university administration said the official Catholic teaching on homosexuality would be incorporated into the programme. The chairman of the department of religious studies, Fr. James Halstead, told NPR the Catholic teaching, “as it stands today,” is that “the homosexual orientation is objectively disordered, homosexual activity is intrinsically evil, however, homosexual human beings are created by god, loved by God, and redeemed by God, have a place in the Christian community should be welcomed, valued and treasured and in civil society (have) normal human rights respected.”

Reilly responded, that many of the Catholic schools do incorporate Catholic teaching as one part of the instruction. “The question,” he said, “is whether there will be instruction in the courses that indirectly opposes Catholic teaching.”

Reilly said, “It seems clear that the programme itself would lead to affirmation of gay lifestyle and homosexual activity. This programme is entirely inappropriate for a Catholic institution.”

The Cardinal Newman Society works within Catholic academia to encourage universities to incorporate Catholic culture and orthodoxy in their programmes of study. Reilly said that the Society would be contacting Chicago’s Cardinal George and asking him to intervene.

Contact De Paul University to express your concerns,

Rev. Dennis Holtschneider, C.M., President,
  55 E. Jackson Blvd.,
  22nd Floor,
  Chicago, IL., USA
  60604; (312) 362-8890;

[email protected]

To contact Chicago Cardinal Francis George:

Cardinal Francis George
  Archdiocese of Chicago
  155 E. Superior Street
  Chicago, IL 60611
  312-751-8230 Press 4
  312-751-5307 – Fax

For Media Inquiries:
  James Dwyer
  Director, Office of Media Relations
  Archdiocese of Chicago
  155 E. Superior Street
  Chicago, IL 60611
  312-751-5307 – Fax
  E-mail: [email protected]

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