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May 3, 2016 (CardinalNewmanSociety) — At least eight Catholic colleges across the country are hosting “lavender graduations” this spring — many of them as part of an annual campus tradition — to celebrate and honor students with same-sex attraction (SSA) or who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (LGBTQ).

Lavender graduations and similar ceremonies for seniors have been announced at the College of St. Rose, DePaul University, Georgetown University, Loyola Marymount University, St. Mary’s College of California, Santa Clara University, Seattle University and the University of San Francisco.

Although intended as a compassionate gesture to students, the ceremonies reinforce harmful ideologies about sexuality and gender that contradict Catholic teaching and have been deplored by Pope Francis. They potentially lead students into sinful activity and undermine a Catholic college’s claim to teach the truths of the Catholic faith.

The Church is clear in teaching that sexual attraction to persons of the same sex is not itself a sin, but such attractions are “objectively disordered.” As explained by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.”

The Congregation continued: “Therefore special concern and pastoral attention should be directed toward those who have this condition, lest they be led to believe that the living out of this orientation in homosexual activity is a morally acceptable option. It is not.”

The U.S. bishops provided further guidance in their 2006 document, “Ministry to Persons with Homosexual Inclinations”:

All ministry to persons with a homosexual inclination must be guided by Church teaching on sexuality. The basis of this ministry, if it is to be effective, has to be a true understanding of the human person and of the place of sexuality in human life. “Departure from the Church’s teaching, or silence about it, in an effort to provide pastoral care is neither caring nor pastoral.” Love and truth go together.

The bishops went on to issue an explicit warning that “those carrying out the ministry of the Church not use their position of leadership to advocate positions or behaviors not in keeping with the teachings of the Church.”

None of the event descriptions of the eight lavender graduation ceremonies reference Catholic teaching on human sexuality in any way. And while none of the descriptions explicitly endorse sinful behavior, the language used clearly celebrates the embrace of disordered attractions and lifestyles, sending a dangerous message to students.

In Ex corde Ecclesiae, Saint John Paul II said a Catholic college, as a “living institutional witness to Christ and his message,” is meant to play an important role and contribute to the Church’s work of evangelization. In today’s culture, that should include making it abundantly clear what the Church teaches regarding human sexuality and sexual activity — especially if the college wants to provide genuine assistance to students who may be struggling with SSA.

Many of these types of events are advertised in terms of fostering “acceptance” and “inclusion.” The Catechism teaches that those experiencing SSA “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.” But as Courage, an apostolate for Catholics with SSA, explains, “To accept a person means that we love and welcome that person with all their strengths and weaknesses. … Acceptance of another human being does not necessarily mean that we will agree with all his or her decisions and choices. Sometimes love requires us to make our disagreement known.” 

The Cardinal Newman Society found that the eight Catholic colleges listed below decided to hold lavender graduations this year. The colleges’ stated purposes for the ceremonies are also reported:

The College of St. Rose in Albany, N.Y., hosted a lavender graduation event on April 24. “This special event celebrates students completing their undergraduate and graduate degrees and gives special recognition to them and their allies,” according to the College’s Facebook page.

DePaul University in Chicago hosted its annual lavender graduation on April 27. “Celebrate DePaul’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, queer, asexual and ally students!” stated a flyer made by Lesbian,Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Queer, Asexual and Ally (LGBTQA) Student Services at DePaul University. “Lavender Graduation recognizes graduating LGBTQA+ students.” The University will also bestow its “Stonewall Award” on students to “honor the scholarship, activism and hard work of Depaul’s LGBTQA+ community members.”

Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., also hosted its annual lavender graduation on April 27. According to the University, the event is a celebration of progress and “a special ceremony for LGBTQ and Ally undergraduate and graduate students to acknowledge their achievements, contributions, and unique experiences at Georgetown University.” Georgetown College Dean Chester Gillis was scheduled to give the welcoming address, President John DeGioia to deliver opening remarks, English Professor Ricardo Ortiz to introduce the keynote speaker and Theology Professor Julia Watts Belser to receive the inaugural Tagliabue Faculty Research Award — an award established by Georgetown’s LGBTQ Center “to ensure sustained support and growth for the initiatives of the LGBTQ Center.”

Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles will host its sixth annual lavender graduation celebration on Saturday, April 30. The event is held so that “LGBT students may leave the university with a positive last experience of the institution thereby, encouraging them to become involved mentors for current students as well as contributing alumni,” according to the University.

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Saint Mary’s College of California in Moraga, Calif., will host its 10th annual lavender graduation on May 12. According to the College’s Intercultural Center, the celebration is to “honor the importance of breaking barriers within higher education.” Each student will also be given one minute to speak publicly at the event.

Santa Clara University in California will have its annual Lavender Senior Ceremony on June 2. “All queer people who are graduating this year are invited to sign up for the ceremony,” according to a Facebook event posted by the University’s Rainbow Resource Center, a branch of the Office for Multicultural Learning.

Seattle University’s annual lavender celebration will take place on June 3 and is organized by the Office of Multicultural Affairs. The celebration is accompanied by an awards ceremony, which includes the Sylvia Rivera Award for Queer Activism, awarded to “an undergraduate student who positively and consistently impacts the LGBTQI community at Seattle University. This student serves as a role model and inspires others to action, promotes a safe environment, and educates the Seattle University community on important LGBTQI related issues.”

The University of San Francisco will host its lavender graduation on May 18. According to its website, the purpose of the event is to “[c]elebrate the achievements of students who promote and exemplify leadership within the queer community” and “to promote excellence among the LGBTQ and Ally community and recognize the achievements of its diverse members.” 

Justin Petrisek and Kimberly Scharfenberger contributed to this report.

Reprinted with permission from The Cardinal Newman Society.


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