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Providence College chaplains respond to attacks on pro-marriage Catholic student

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The offending bulletin board

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PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island, March 20, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – As Providence College Resident Advisor Michael Smalanskas continues to be attacked for posting a bulletin board promoting Catholic teaching on marriage, the school’s chaplains sent out an all-campus email recommending students watch a documentary about same-sex attraction and Catholic teaching.

That documentary is The Third Way, which profiles Catholics with same-sex attraction who live out the Church’s teaching on sexuality and chastity.

In their email, the chaplains acknowledged that Smalanskas “has been vilified in various public forums, threatened, and harassed.” They also noted a bulletin board promoting lesbianism and same-sex “marriage” in another residence hall wasn’t repeatedly vandalized like the pro-marriage one was. The board pushing lesbianism “could be construed as implying that all opposition to same-sex marriage is homophobic,” they wrote, and “some have felt marginalized by this [pro-gay] board.”

“I think it was a great effort on their part,” Smalanskas told LifeSiteNews. He called this email “a significant moment” and “possibly a turning point here at PC.”

“Four young Dominicans came out with something that went much [further] than what the president or Vice President of mission and ministry did,” he explained. “However, I had hoped it would advise Catholics not to march. It came up just short of that but I applaud their effort.”

The march to which Smalanskas referred is a planned March 21 protest “against transphobia and homophobia,” organized in response to his pro-marriage bulletin board. The event is being put on by Shepard, the “support group for all members of the LGBTQQIAA* community” at the college run by the Dominican Order’s Province of St. Joseph.

READ: Catholic college won’t defend student threatened with gay rape for defending marriage

The college’s president, Father Brian Shanley, hasn’t condemned a cartoon posted in the bathroom of Smalankas’ dorm depicting him being anally raped.

According to Shanley, “it belongs to a Catholic college to consider the views of those who disagree with the Church’s teaching.”

“Those of us who profess what the Church teaches need to do so in a charitable way that recognizes the human dignity of every person as created in the image and likeness of God and in a way that does not foster the exclusion or marginalization of members of our community, like LGBTQ people or divorced and remarried Catholics, who find the Church’s teaching difficult to accept,” Shanley wrote to students.

The chaplains’ email indicated these priests wanted to “correct” the “misunderstanding” that the Catholic Church is “homophobic” and provide “additional context” about the current controversy on campus.

The full text of that email, which was sent at 6:00 p.m. on Monday, March 19, is:

A Message from the Chaplains Regarding the Recent Campus Controversy

In light of the distress and confusion experienced by many of our students, we the Chaplains would like to offer a pastoral response to the student body regarding the recent controversy on campus. First and foremost, we affirm our love and support for every student on this campus, and we are praying for each of you amidst the current tensions. As Fr. Shanley stated in his communication this morning, in times like these we must all strive to imitate the love of Jesus Christ with imaginative sympathy for all in our community. In order to help us move forward in charity, we wish to provide additional context, clarify misunderstanding, and offer our pastoral support.

From our meetings with students, it has become apparent to us that most in our community are unaware that this RA bulletin board was posted during the entire month of February:

With its depiction of a lesbian married couple and the “love is love” slogan, the board appears to promote same-sex marriage. While people of good will oppose same-sex marriage for various reasons, the writing that borders the image appears to speak only in the voice of those who oppose same-sex marriage on the illegitimate basis of homophobia. This could be construed as implying that all opposition to same-sex marriage is homophobic. Some have felt marginalized by this board.

Most of you are aware that at the beginning of March, the following RA bulletin board was posted:

This bulletin board affirms, in accord with Catholic teaching, that marriage is intended by God to be between one man and one woman. Some have felt marginalized by this board. Unlike the first bulletin board, this board was torn down multiple times. The RA who posted this board has been vilified in various public forums, threatened, and harassed.

Due to the continuing complexity of this controversy, we cannot hope to address all the issues involved, but there is one serious misunderstanding which we do wish to address. The February bulletin board seems to imply that those who oppose same-sex marriage do so for homophobic and prejudicial reasons, while the violent reaction to the March bulletin board also seems to express the misunderstanding that the Catholic teaching regarding marriage is homophobic. As Chaplains we are concerned to correct this misunderstanding.

The Catholic Church’s teaching that marriage is intended by God to be between one man and one woman is based upon the procreative dynamism of sexual complementarity and is a truth that many Catholics and members of other faith traditions joyfully uphold. Moreover, the Church rejects homophobia because it is contrary to the dignity of the human person, teaching rather that those with homosexual inclinations “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2358). The Church simultaneously rejects homophobia and affirms that sexual complementarity is essential to marriage. Nevertheless, many do not fully understand this teaching. Understanding the Church’s teaching is essential for moving forward in charity, and so we invite everyone to study this teaching. This short documentary is an excellent place to start!

After listening to many students concerning this issue, we wanted to provide additional context, clarify misunderstanding, and offer our pastoral care. As Chaplains, we are very sensitive to the fact that many students are still hurt, angry, and confused. Please do reach out to us if there is any way we can accompany you during this difficult time. We are here to offer our love and support as we all go forward living truth in charity.


Yours in Christ,
Fr. Peter Martyr Yungwirth, O.P., Chaplain
Fr. Michael Weibley, O.P., Assistant Chaplain
Fr. Dominic Verner, O.P., Assistant Chaplain
Fr. Bonaventure Chapman, O.P., Assistant Chaplain



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