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Georgetown may defund student group for defending Church teaching on marriage

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Jasmin Ouseph, left, holding a pro-LGBT sign Facebook
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A bulletin board at Georgetown University advertising its LGBT "resource center" in April 2016 Claire Chretien / LifeSiteNews

WASHINGTON, D.C., October 24, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – A student group at Georgetown University faces defunding and other possible sanctions for defending the Catholic Church’s teaching on marriage.

Love Saxa exists to promote healthy relationships and sexual integrity.

It describes itself as a “new initiative at Georgetown to promote and celebrate authentically loving relationships.”

Love Saxa was restarted as a student group after taking a break for a year, according to the Hoya. On October 3, it hosted a talk by Dawn Hawkins, executive director of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation.  

“In a society where dating and courtship are largely forgotten, structures of marriage and family are eroding, traditional understandings of gender complementarity are distant concepts, the use of pornography is prevalent, and sexual assault is rampant, Love Saxa exists to promote healthy relationships on campus through cultivating a proper understanding of sex, gender, marriage, and family among Georgetown students,” Love Saxa says on its website and Facebook page.

“Many Georgetown students lack a space to discuss their experiences of the harmful effects of a distorted view of human sexuality and the human person,” Love Saxa’s mission statement explains. “Through programs consisting of discussions, lectures, and campaigns, we hope to increase awareness of the benefits of sexual integrity, healthy dating relationships, and the primacy of marriage & family as central pillars of society.”

Georgetown student Jasmin Ouseph submitted a formal complaint to the Jesuit-run Catholic school about the club, claiming it violates the Division of Student Affairs’ Student Organization Standards.

The presidents of GU Pride and Georgetown University Queer People of Color are complaining along with Ouseph.

A hearing about the group's fate was scheduled to take place on October 23 but was pushed to October 30, Love Saxa member and Georgetown Knights of Columbus president Hunter Estes told LifeSiteNews.

Love Saxa president Amelia Irvine told Catholic News Agency that it was only informed of the complaint against it on October 19 and wasn’t “given a copy of the petition or an exact rendering of the charges against them.”

The Hoya, Georgetown’s student newspaper, ran an editorial calling for Love Saxa to be defunded of the $250 it receives from the university because it “fosters intolerance” and therefore “is antithetical to what a university club should be.”

“We reject the characterization of Love Saxa in yesterday’s Hoya article and editorial,” Love Saxa wrote on its Facebook page. “We look forward to engaging in a dialogue about the truth of the matter.”

“Our definition of ‘healthy relationships’ and ‘sexual integrity’ is synonymous with those of the Catholic Church, and therefore those of Georgetown University,” Love Saxa continued. “If the Hoya wishes to call Love Saxa a hate group, we anticipate that it will not be long until other traditional religious groups are labeled ‘hate groups’ as well.”

Day where Catholic students can't practice their faith on Catholic campus 'actively coming into fruition'

"It is incredibly disappointing that accusations of hate are being lodged against those who hold a view that is in line with the beliefs of our Catholic university,” Estes told LifeSiteNews. “I fear that the willingness to suppress opinions contrary to one's own is on the rise on our campus.”

“Accusations of hate have become tools to silence any form of expression from those who disagree with the modern political orthodoxy,” he noted.

Estes penned an editorial defending Love Saxa in the Georgetown Review, a conservative student newspaper.

“While the matter at hand is over a relatively meager sum of $250, the symbolism of this story is much larger,” he wrote. “If the suppression of Love Saxa is carried out and the application of claims of hate are validated, then it seems sensical that we shall see an ongoing dismantlement of Georgetown’s Catholic identity.”

“I fear the day, which is actively coming into fruition, where I am unable to practice my Catholic faith on a Catholic campus, without being called hateful, because my opinion defies the orthodoxy of the student body,” wrote Estes. “Perhaps it was indeed altogether fitting and proper that the Hoya released these attacks on Love Saxa on Parents’ Weekend, because if more parents and alumni knew the state of our campus, then I believe we would see greater pressure on the administration, and thus a greater willingness to uphold that truth which is professed by our school.”

By opposing same-sex “marriage,” Love Saxa denies “certain individuals who are queer access to this ideal standard of a relationship,” Chad Gasman, president of the pro-LGBT group GU Pride, told the Hoya.

In denying this “access,” “they immediately say that all queer relationships are not as valid as heterosexual relationships,” Gasman said. “They also specifically call homosexuality and any non-heterosexual view a distorted view of human sexuality which is directly homophobic.”

What makes Love Saxa different from other groups on the Catholic campus that support Church teaching on marriage and sexuality is that it focuses specifically on those issues, the Hoya editorial board wrote.

“Though these other groups may agree with Love Saxa’s definition of marriage, actively and vigorously promoting this definition — one that is directly intolerant of the LGBTQ community — is not a primary focus of their missions, as it appears to be for Love Saxa,” they concluded.

“Though Georgetown is a Catholic institution that respects the church’s view of marriage, its student groups nevertheless have a responsibility to care for and protect the entire student body,” the editorial continued. Its authors didn’t mention their suggestion for how the school should care for and protect students who support traditional marriage, who agree with Catholic teaching that sodomy is immoral, and who have been hurt by the hook-up culture.

“The university has historically shown extensive tolerance — nothing proves this more than the university’s creation of the LGBTQ Resource Center, the first of its kind at a Jesuit university in the United States,” the Hoya editorial continued.

“These student activists have been emboldened by decades of dissent at Georgetown to take a drastic stand, in open hatred for the Church’s teaching,” Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, told LifeSiteNews. “It is a test of what remains of Georgetown’s Catholic identity. An authentic Catholic university must be able to support a club promoting marriage and healthy sexuality.”

“There’s no wiggle room in this,” he said. “Christ said, ‘Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.' An education that does not fully accept the teaching of Christ and His Church is not a Catholic education.”

“Students who do not learn truth at a Catholic university have not received a Catholic education,” Reilly added.

Georgetown has been criticized for allowing its Lecture Fund to invite Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, to speak on campus in April 2016. Planned Parenthood is the country’s largest abortion business and commits over 300,000 abortions annually. Georgetown defended its decision to host the abortion company president.

Georgetown Right to Life held a series of events countering the Richards appearance, which Georgetown wouldn't cancel. Richards received a standing ovation.

On October 2, the university hosted a meagerly-publicized event called “Lives Worthy of Respect” along with the Pellegrino Center for Clinical Bioethics at Georgetown University Medical Center.

Washington archbishop Cardinal Donald Wuerl gave the keynote address. Georgetown University president John J. DeGioia also spoke.

Love Saxa president's defense of abstinence blasted for 'homophobic ideology'

The LGBT activists at Georgetown say Irvine’s editorial “Confessions of a College Virgin” is what sparked their desire to defund the group she leads.

“It’s fine if you want to remain abstinent in college, but at the same time she decided to use that article as a platform to espouse her homophobic ideology, which wasn’t relevant at all to the idea,” Gasman told the Hoya.

In her article, Irvine had invited students who were questioning their sexual choices to learn more about chastity from Love Saxa and dispelled myths about students who advocate for chastity. 

“While people commonly believe that abstinent people fear their own sexuality or intimacy with members of the opposite sex, the reality is that many of us are in physically fulfilling relationships,” wrote Irvine. “My boyfriend and I will not have sex before we are married, and we have a completely normal, respectful and healthy relationship.”

“We are not waiting until marriage because we fear the opposite sex, or because we can’t find someone to love,” she wrote. “People who abstain from premarital sex have good reasons for doing so. Some of us have religious convictions, but many of us find it to be the most logical choice for other reasons.”

These reasons include the wealth of data indicating that delaying sex until marriage leads to happier relationships and more stable marriages, she wrote.  

Irvine also explained in her opinion piece that Love Saxa believes marriage is between a man and a woman because that relationship is ordered toward the procreation of children.

“We believe that marriage is a conjugal union on every level – emotional, spiritual, physical and mental – directed toward caring for biological children,” Irvine wrote. “To us, marriage is much more than commitment of love between two consenting adults.”

She noted some “members of the LGBT community” agree with Love Saxa on other issues like pornography and the prevalence of the hook-up culture.

“Just because we believe that gender differences exist does not mean that we believe one gender is better than another,” she clarified. “I identify as a feminist: I believe that men and women are equal in human dignity and should always be equal before the law. Men and women each have unique qualities to contribute to society. It devalues women to try to make us act more like men, rather than embracing our own qualities and characteristics.”

The Georgetown Knights of Columbus released a statement in support of Love Saxa, noting that Catholic teaching on sexuality comes from a place of love, not hate.

Love Saxa’s stance “comes from a tradition grounded in love that finds dignity in all people,” the student Knights wrote. “The words of Pope John Paul II remind us that ‘God has imprinted his own image and likeness on man, conferring upon him an incomparable dignity.’ This foundational truth guides our relationships with all of God’s children, and inherently rejects hate as inimical to the Catholic life.”

The Knights continued:

Furthermore, the Church acknowledges the difficult position of gay individuals in society, and clearly states that “[t]hey must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity,” and that “[e]very sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

Out of love for His children, God instituted an ideal of marriage that fosters joy and happiness. Pope Francis recently summarized the beauty of this relationship: “The family, founded on indissoluble matrimony that unites and allows procreation, is part of God’s dream and that of his Church for the salvation of humanity.”

Let us be clear: Stripping Love Saxa of funding would be an affront to Georgetown’s Catholic tradition and an improper judgment regarding the true nature of marriage.

Georgetown was founded as – and remains – a Catholic university in the Jesuit tradition. The Catholic Church has clearly articulated its position on marriage:

“The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring.”

It would be nonsensical for a Catholic university to defund a student organization that upholds the Catholic understanding of marriage.

We believe that care for the person, or Cura Personalis, means supporting an individual as a child of God in a way that is ordered to truth and moral virtue. Given that Georgetown is a Catholic institution, and the Knights of Columbus is a Catholic fraternal, service organization, we believe that care for the person should be understood in light of the truth of the Catholic faith.

It would be uncaring to suppress a group for upholding an element of Catholic Social Thought that is foundational to human flourishing.

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