Michael Bradley

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Marriage and witness: What’s going on at Notre Dame?

Michael Bradley
By Michael Bradley
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May 28, 2014 (Public Discourse) - In October of last year, I wrote here at Public Discourse about the University of Notre Dame’s unfortunate decision to participate in National Coming Out Day. I noted that, by encouraging celebration of identities rooted in proclivities toward acts that violate the truth of marriage, Notre Dame was failing in its pastoral duties to guide its students in love and in truth. These duties are rooted in its institutional vocation as a Catholic university, as articulated by the school’s Mission Statement.

Several events on campus this spring have confirmed and deepened my belief that Notre Dame is failing to fulfill its pastoral duty to bear witness to the truth.

Students for Child-Oriented Policy

In January, a small group of students gathered to form an organization that aims to assess how public policy affects children’s well-being. I am one of the founding members of this group, which calls itself “Students for Child-Oriented Policy,” or SCOP.

SCOP came together as Notre Dame’s home state of Indiana was engrossed in a debate on the definition of marriage. In anticipation of its first annual conference, and in conjunction with a St. Patrick’s Day panel on marriage and Catholicism, SCOP published an open petition addressed to university president Fr. John Jenkins, calling on him and other administrators to take up a vocal defense of marriage at this pivotal moment.

Swiftly, a cohort of irritated students penned and began circulating their own counterpetition, which, in addition to demanding that the university refuse to recognize SCOP as a student club, makes claims such as these:

SCOP [incorrectly implies] that same-sex parenting is damaging to children – this blatantly ignores all empirical data in this field of the social sciences (summarized below) that actually indicates the opposite is true . . .

The counterpetition mischaracterizes SCOP’s petition, which centrally affirmed that every child has a right to the care of his or her mother and father. Further, the counterpetition’s empirical claims will confuse anyone familiar with social science findings on family structures and children’s well-being. The studies on which the American Psychological Association based its 2005 brief declaring “no difference” in well-being outcomes for children raised by same-sex couples are inconclusive, and the burden of available data suggests that children fare best when raised by their married biological parents. The anti-SCOP petition betrays either bad faith or an astonishing failure to look into even the most readily available research on this topic.

And those signatories have been gratified. On April 30, the university rejected SCOP’s request to become an officially recognized student club, citing a “recommendation” by a group of student government officials who judged that “there was not a need” for SCOP’s presence on campus. The official reason given for rejecting SCOP’s application is “redundancy,” a transparent reason for rejection that even a momentary glance through the names of some of the more than 500 recognized student clubs punctures. Additionally, when pressed to identify the groups the missions of which allegedly make SCOP’s acceptance redundant, the president of the aforementioned student government group listed several groups that don’t at all claim to advocate for child-oriented public policies.

Notre Dame’s decision to deny SCOP’s application is rooted in either culpable ignorance of SCOP’s mission and purpose or barely veiled hostility toward SCOP’s true mission and purpose.

Furthermore, the rejection letter came from the same Student Activities official who told SCOP leaders in early April that the SCOP petition was “inaccurate” and suggested that its language would make some members of the Notre Dame community feel “unwelcome.” She further intimated concerns that the petition’s authors were misquoting their sources, and took twice as long as official Student Activities Office policy standards dictate to return a request (which was filed on behalf of a recognized student group) to publicize the petition in Notre Dame’s student center.

But most indicative of Notre Dame’s pedagogical missteps is the endorsement of the counterpetition by several members of PrismND and the Fire Starters. These two campus entities were created with the explicit purpose of advancing campus conversation on sexuality in harmony with the teachings of the Church and the natural law.

Prism’s Outing

Notre Dame’s gay-straight alliance has not taken long to go astray. In December of 2012, Fr. Jenkins announced the creation of a new pastoral plan to provide support services to the LGBTQ community. The plan, entitled “Beloved Friends and Allies,” offers a holistic summary and explanation of the Catholic Church’s sexual and marital ethics.

“Beloved Friends and Allies” outlined the creation of an official student organization “designed to provide peer‐to‐peer support, direct service opportunities, and friendship for GLBTQ students and their heterosexual allies.” The pastoral plan also states that “the organization’s purpose arises directly from the University’s Catholic mission,” and one of the organization’s missions is to engender a campus environment in “which we aspire to an even deeper understanding and appreciation of Catholic teaching.”

This organization, called PrismND, was inaugurated this fall. As a student organization (not a club), it enjoys more permanence and structural continuity than most student groups. It is also overseen by an appointed advisor. Maureen Doyle, Notre Dame’s Assistant Director for LGBTQ Student Concerns, who serves as the official liaison between Prism and the administration, emphasized in an August interview that the students are functionally autonomous; her job is simply to help them achieve whatever goals they choose. Christine Caron-Gebhardt, director of the Gender Relations Center (GRC), said in that same interview, “It’s not like, ‘let’s discard [our Catholic identity],’ but let’s really put it in the place where it belongs. It doesn’t need to become our driving factor. The people need to become the driving factor.”

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While some of Prism’s programs and actions may arise from a sincere effort to facilitate a deeper student engagement with the moral principles that Notre Dame institutionally affirms, others constitute a serious departure from Catholic teaching. Forty percent of Prism’s elected student officers have signed the anti-SCOP petition, including the officer that Prism’s organizational bylaws task with handling media and press relations. The organization’s very constitution employs the pronouns “ze” and “zer”—meant to indicate persons who reject identification as either male or female. Contrast this with Catholicism’s emphasis on the beauty and harmony of man and woman’s identities as essentially different, deeply complementary, and inextricably intertwined with each person’s unique identity.

The Gender Relations Center

In addition to the elected Prism officials who have signed the anti-SCOP petition, more than one third of the GRC’s student representatives, called “Fire Starters,” affixed their names. The mission of the Fire Starters, according to the GRC website, is to “promote open and inclusive discussion” and serve as “peer educators who assist in developing and implementing programs for the campus community that foster dialogue on issues of identity, gender and healthy relationships.” The 2013 student chair of Notre Dame’s gender issues committee also signed the petition.

How is it that so many of the university’s official (and officially trained) gender relations peer educators can endorse a petition as riddled with empirical and moral error, and misrepresentations, as the anti-SCOP petition?

Unfortunately, the GRC’s own programming and language obscure, rather than clarify, the proper understanding of the human person. Without this understanding, the orthodox Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality is unintelligible.

For example, earlier this semester, the GRC hung up a batch of rainbow-colored posters reading: “Gender What? A glimpse into the wonderful world of Gender Identity, and what it all means.” The posters seek to normalize and familiarize various terms that assume and perpetuate a sexual anthropology antithetical to the Church’s teachings. One line on the posters counsels, “It is best simply to ask someone how they prefer to be identified in regards to gender.”

In October, Assistant Director Doyle spoke of her desire to “celebrate the multitude of identities that make each of us unique and beautiful individuals,” referring precisely to acts of auto-identification as gay, lesbian, or transgender. The students who signed the anti-SCOP petition may well have adopted a rhetoric and ideology that they learned from adult pastoral figures.

Accountability, Transparency, and Pastoral Duties

In March 2014, when Fr. Jenkins announced a new strategic plan for the university, he boldly claimed that the plan’s top priority was to “ensure that our Catholic character informs all our endeavors,” in part by increasing administrative “accountability” and “transparency” over the next ten years.

When I contacted Ms. Doyle in late March and requested a twenty-minute meeting with her to discuss my concerns with Prism’s programming and language, she informed me that her schedule for the next six weeks did not admit of such an opening. When I contacted the university Vice President for Mission Engagement and Church Affairs with similar questions and concerns, he declined a meeting as well. My inquiries to Prism’s president regarding the aforementioned events were also deflected, and my request for a personal meeting was unreturned.

When essential truths are at stake, administrators and GRC officials stand silently by as the student “peer educators” tasked with facilitating informed, civil discussion of tough issues routinely oppose student efforts to affirm orthodox Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality. Attempts to tackle these issues head-on are met with calls for disbandment, and such calls are heeded by university officials. Notre Dame administrators then wield politically correct rhetoric as a weapon against students who are concerned that all the emphasis on campus “inclusion” has caused important, loving truths about the human person to be lost. These truths compose the good of those students perhaps least inclined to feel “welcomed” by them.

Notre Dame’s pastoral ministry must be rooted in the truths of human nature and human goods, and man’s supernatural end. Pope Saint John Paul II once said that “pastoral concern means the search for the true good of man, a promotion of the values engraved in his person by God.” Unfortunately, it seems that Notre Dame has firmly, if quietly, commenced its slow surrender to a sexual ideology that, once internalized, will ensure that students at Notre Dame wander as sheep without their shepherds.

Reprinted with permission from Public Discourse

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Lisa Bourne

‘You can’t have’ marriage equality ‘without polygamy’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

July 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Motivated by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing homosexual “marriage,” a Montana polygamist has filed for a second marriage license, so he can be legally wed to two women at once.

"It's about marriage equality," said Nathan Collier, using homosexual advocates’ term to support marriage redefinition. "You can't have this without polygamy."

Collier, who has has appeared on the TLC reality show Sister Wives with his legal wife Victoria, and his second wife Christine, said he was inspired by the dissent in the Supreme Court decision.

The minority Supreme Court justices said in Friday’s ruling it would open the door to both polygamy and religious persecution.

“It is striking how much of the majority’s reasoning would apply with equal force to the claim of a fundamental right to plural marriage,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts.

Collier and his wives applied for a second marriage license earlier this week at the Yellowstone County Courthouse in Billings, a report from the Salt Lake Tribune said.

Collier, who was excommunicated from the Mormon Church for polygamy, married Victoria in 2000 and had a religious wedding ceremony with Christine in 2007. The three have seven children between them and from previous relationships.

"My second wife Christine, who I'm not legally married to, she's put up with my crap for a lot of years. She deserves legitimacy," Collier said.

Yellowstone County officials initially denied the application before saying they would consult with the County Attorney and get him a final answer.

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Bigamy, the holding of multiple marriage licenses, is illegal all 50 states, but Collier plans to sue if his application is denied. Officials expect to have an answer for him next week.

While homosexual “marriage” supporters have long insisted legalization of same-sex unions would not lead to polygamy, pro-life and family advocates have warned all along it would be inevitable with the redefinition of marriage.

“The next court cases coming will push for polygamy, as Chief Justice John Roberts acknowledged in his dissent,” said Penny Nance, president of Concerned Women for America, after the Supreme Court ruling. “The chief justice said “the argument for polygamy is actually stronger than that for ‘gay marriage.’ It’s only a matter of time.”

In a piece from the Washington Times, LifeSiteNews Editor-in-Chief and the co-founder of Voice of the Family John-Henry Westen stated the move toward legal polygamy is “just the next step in unraveling how Americans view marriage.”

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Chris Christie: Clerks must perform same-sex ‘marriages’ regardless of their religious beliefs

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By Ben Johnson

TRENTON, NJ, July 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Chris Christie is not known for nuance. This time, he has turned his fiery personality loose on county clerks and other officials who have religious objections to performing same-sex “marriages.”

In a tone usually reserved for busting teachers' unions, Christie told clerks who hold traditional values, “You took the job, and you took the oath.” He would offer no exemption for an individual whose conscience would not allow him to participate in a union the vast majority of the world's religions deem sinful.

“When you go back and re-read the oath it doesn’t give you an out. You have to do it,” he said.

He told a reporter that there “might” be “individual circumstances” that “merit some examination, but none that come immediately to mind for me.”

“I think for folks who are in the government world, they kind of have to do their job, whether you agree with the law or you don’t,” the pugnacious governor said.

Since the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to legalize homosexual “marriage” last Friday, elected officials have grappled with how to safeguard the rights of those who have deeply held religious beliefs that would not allow them to participate in such a ceremony.

Christie's response differs markedly from other GOP hopefuls' responses to the Supreme Court ruling. Mike Huckabee, for instance, has specifically said that clerks should have conscience rights. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed an executive order granting such rights and ordered clerks to wait until a pending court case was fully adjudicated before any clerk issues a marriage license to a homosexual couple.

Christie gave up a legal appeal after a superior court judge struck down his state's voter-approved constitutional marriage protection amendment. New Jersey is the only state where such a low court overturned the will of the voters.

The decision to ignore conscience rights adds to the growing number of Christie's positions that give conservatives pause.

The natural locus of support for a Christie 2016 presidential run is the Republican's socially liberal donor class, for personal as well as political reasons. His wife works on Wall Street, and some of the GOP's high-dollar donors – including Paul Singer – have courted Christie for years.

However, this year Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and to a lesser degree Scott Walker have eclipsed Christie as the preferred candidates of the boardroom donors – who sometimes prefer Democrats to Republicans.

Christie also used language during a speech before the Republican Jewish Coalition last year, which concerned some major GOP donors.

Christie is reportedly spending this weekend with Mitt Romney and his family at Romney's New Hampshire home. Romney declined to enter the 2016 race himself and may be able to open his donor list to Christie's struggling campaign.

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After having a girl with Down syndrome, this couple adopted two more

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By Ben Johnson

LINO LAKE, MN, July 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – For most people, having five biological children would have been enough. In fact, for many Americans, large families are treated as a scandal or a burden.

But one family made the decision, not just to have a large family, but to give a home to some of the most vulnerable children in the world: Girls born overseas with Down syndrome.

Lee and Karen Shervheim love all seven of their children, biological or otherwise. Undeterred by having twin boys – Daniel and Andrew, 18 – they had Sam four years later.

They now have three daughters who are all 11 years old. All three have Down syndrome.

And two of them are adopted.

About the time their eight-year-old son, David, was born, Lee and Karen decided to adopt a child with Down syndrome to be a companion to their daughter, Annie.

They made the further unexpected choice to adopt a child from Eastern Europe with the help of Reece's Rainbow, which helps parents adopt children with Down syndrome.

“Between my wife and I, we couldn’t get it out of our heads,” Lee told the Quad City Press. “So many children need families and we knew we could potentially do something about it.”

After originally deciding to adopt Katie, they spent six weeks in Kiev, visiting an orphanage in nearby Kharkov. While there, they decided they may have room in their heart, and their home, for another child.

When they saw a picture of Emie striking the same pose as their biological daughter in one of their photographs, they knew they would come home with two children.

Both girls were the same age as their Annie. She would not lack for companionship, as they worried.

Lee said after the Ukrainian government – finally – completed the paperwork, they returned to the United States, when the real challenges began.

“The unvarnished truth,” Lee told the Press, is that adopting the Russian-speaking special needs children “was really disruptive to our family. They came with so many issues that we had not anticipated.”

After teaching them sign language and appropriate behavior, they moved to Lino Lake, Minnesota and found a new support group in Eagle Brook Church. There they found personal assistance and spiritual solace.

Every year in the past seven years has been better and better, they say.

“I think my girls can do almost anything they want to do,” he said, “and that’s what I want to help them become.”

The family's devotion is fueled by their faith, and it informs the sense of humor Lee showed in a tweet during the 2014 midterm elections:

It takes a special person to believe in the potential of the “mentally retarded,” as they were once labeled. Today, 90 percent of all babies diagnosed with Down syndrome in the womb will be aborted. The percentage is higher in some countries. Some have even spoken of "a world without people with Down syndrome."

Their God, and their experience, tell them that every child has infinite worth and potential, Lee told local media, and he would encourage anyone to follow his footsteps and adopt a Down syndrome child – or two.

“The message is that it really doesn’t matter where you started or where you came from,” Lee said. “There are endless opportunities for everyone, whether they have disabilities or not. They deserve a shot.”

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