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An Open Letter to Principal McGowan and the Sexual Orientation Committee:

Saint Michael’s College Students for Life (SMCSFL) is not simply an anti-abortion club.  Part of our responsibility and the responsibility of all Catholic students at Saint Michael’s College is to present the Catholic Church’s teaching on the intimate relationship between human sexuality, human dignity and the sanctity of human life as an alternative to the mainstream position.  However, in doing so, by hosting such respected Christian intellectuals as Christopher Wolfe, Michael Coren and Peter Kreeft, our members have been systematically harassed and insulted by individual students and student organizations, accused of being “bigots”, “fundamentalists”, “homophobes”, inciting “hatred and violence”, causing “anti-gay bullying”, promoting “cultural genocide”, trying to “annihilate” LGBTQ people, and the criminal offense of “hate speech”.  Our posters have been vandalized and the GSU is supporting an investigation into our activities.  Before transcripts of his talk were even available, SAC passed a resolution “condemning the hate speech of Dr. Kreeft”.  Having brought a Catholic professor to speak at a Catholic campus, we have been portrayed as so dangerous that we should not be allowed to speak. People are not challenging our position; people are challenging whether or not we should even be allowed to state our position

The tone and possible historical inaccuracies or ill-advised analogies of Peter Kreeft’s lecture are not the issue; it is the content of Catholic teaching that people found offensive.  Any speaker who holds the Catholic Church’s teaching on sexuality, regardless of the topic of their talk, will offend.  (The Cross, after all, has not ceased to be a stumbling block).  We have run into these accusations three times now.  LGBTOUT has accused us of “repeatedly and consistently inviting homophobic speakers to campus”.

The latest letter from Principle McGowan claims that the “USMC Inclusiveness Statement” is not intended to impede academic freedom.  However, as has been attested to by over a dozen members of the university faculty, the letter from his “Advisory Committee on Sexual Orientation” has clearly shown that the use of this statement against Peter Kreeft bears within it a “chilling implication” for academic freedom. The Inclusiveness Statement itself does not appear problematic.  We support the Catechism’s teaching that homosexual persons “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided”.  However, like any policy statement, it is a tool.  So far, the only use of this tool has been to quash expression of Catholic moral teaching, a minority view at the University of Toronto.

However, as Catholic students, our concerns about this current conflict run deeper than the issue of academic freedom.  As Catholics bound both by fidelity to the Catholic Magisterium and by reason to assert the connection between dignity, sexuality and life, we are obliged, both in behaviour and in word, to express this teaching to those who might not otherwise hear it and to do so in the academic environment of a Catholic college.  As the Holy Father reminded us at World Youth Day, we are called to be the salt of the earth and light of the world.  At an age at which our adult sexuality is still new and powerful, the opportunity to hear and express the Church’s positive positions is of the most vital importance.

As students at a Catholic college, we had hoped for some support from an institution which “is committed to the study of the Christian tradition within a context of faith and to fostering the creative engagement of that tradition”.  However, not only has the administration not supported us in the face of a continuing barrage of accusations, insults and misrepresentations; but after Professor Peter Kreeft’s talk it published a bizarre letter, mixing and confusing violations of the Inclusiveness Policy with organizational flaws as a lecture.  It seems as though the committee is confused as to whether its role is to act as a watchdog for inclusiveness at SMC or to act as a quality control board for speeches on campus.

Given that the speech had already been condemned by SAC, the GSU and LGBTOUT, the advisory committee’s letter did not enter into a vacuum, but rather into a public debate with accusations and insults on the floor, throwing in its hat with others who had attacked us so ferociously.  With no attempt to be charitable in any way to the intentions or fundamental teachings that SMCSFL was promoting in hosting the lecture, the committee appears to be siding with the accusations from these organizations.  Does the Advisory Committee even support the teaching of the Catechism that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered”? The document as written is so one-sided that it doesn’t even bother to address this central question.  If they do agree, they should say so publicly, rather than hiding their stance.  If they do not agree, it is inappropriate that such a committee should be speaking in the name of the administration of a Catholic college.  This question requires a clear and unequivocal “yes” or “no”, as the authority and even the role of the committee rises or falls with the answer.

By simply witnessing to the teachings of the Catholic Church, the members of SMCSFL have been subject to insults and accusations far out of proportion to anything we may have done.  Our mission, to present the teaching of the Church with respect to all aspects of life and therefore sexuality, is an important one at a university where one view is aggressively trying to silence those of others.  At a Catholic college, we rely on and expect the support of our college when we are accused of being hate-mongers for having the courage to put forward the Catholic position.  Instead, the administration has turned away, without even the courage to say that they agree with the fundamental principles to which we are witnessing.  This is a grave concern for academic freedom, religious freedom and the Catholicity of Saint Michael’s College.

Yours in Christ, Saint Michael’s College Students for Life

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