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April 6, 2016 (CardinalNewmanSociety) — This past weekend, Seattle University hosted the third annual “IgnatianQ” conference, an event for students at Jesuit colleges that featured speakers who oppose Church teaching on human sexuality and marriage in prior years, and promotes involvement in LGBTQ activism as part of living out Jesuit values.

“The weekend will be exploring the boundaries of sexuality, gender and spirituality and how they may affect and limit us all,” the University’s student newspaper, The Spectator, reported. “The hope is that this year’s conference will have more conversation on trans identities, as previous conferences did not place a large focus on gender,” the article later stated.

IgnatianQ aims to promote “LGBTQ solidarity, leadership and advocacy among Jesuit institutions and the larger church,” according to the conference’s Twitter page.

The 2014 conference was hosted at Fordham University and featured Sister Elizabeth Johnson, whose 2007 book Quest for the Living God was condemned by the U.S. bishops’ committee on doctrine for “undermin[ing] the Gospel” and misrepresenting “authentic Catholic teaching on essential points.” 

Last year, the conference was hosted at Georgetown University and concluded with the University’s 10th “Genderfunk Ball,” an annual Georgetown event that features “a conglomeration of Drag Queens, trans* performers, music and dancing that come together for a single night of nonstop pride,” according to an article from The Hoya.

This year, the IgnatianQ conference was titled “Celebrating Identities: Queer Solidarity at Jesuit Schools.” A flier posted by the group’s Facebook page explained:

We live in the time of #blacklivesmatter and Laverne Cox: injustice, in whatever form it takes, hurts all of us. Thus, it does not make sense to draw lines around which issues should matter to LGBTQ+ people or which issues count as LGBTQ+ issues. We welcome all to join us, as we attempt to embrace how complicated, problematic, and beautiful our world is.

Organizers encouraged students to attend Seattle University’s 10th annual Drag Show ahead of the conference, featuring professional and student drag performers.

The conference’s keynote speaker was Kathy Talvacchia, associate dean of academic and student affairs at New York University Graduate School of Arts and Science and co-author of the book Queer Christianities. The Spectator noted that Talvacchia “has narrated her experience coming out as a lesbian woman and how the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola were a really important part in balancing her identity of being Catholic and queer.”

“Being at a Jesuit university, that [experience] toes the line of official church teaching and healthy inquiry and respect for the human person and individual,” said Seattle University’s campus minister for faith formation, Rachel Doll O’Mahoney, according to the Spectator.

The Spectator reported that the IgnatianQ conference was brought to Seattle University and funded “[w]ith the help of numerous departments on campus, like the Office of Multicultural Affairs, Campus Ministry and the Student Government,” in addition to “[s]ome of the tithe collections from the 11:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. masses at the Chapel of St. Ignatius.”

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Numerous events and workshops were held throughout the weekend, including “a workshop about activism in [the] university” led by Sabina Neem, a previous assistant director for Seattle University’s Office of Multicultural Affairs, according to the Spectator. The conference concluded with “a zen meditation led by Eddie Salazar on Sunday morning, as well as with an art show in the chapel.”

Throughout the weekend, IgnatianQ’s Twitter account posted details of the conference events, one of which featured a presentation of recommended organizations titled “Queer Groups Doing Intersectional, Multi-Issue Work.” Many of the recommended groups advocate for purposes explicitly contrary to Church teaching, including Familia: Trans Queer LiberationSPARK Reproductive Justice Now — which advocates for “pro-sex, sexuality, gender, queer bodies, access to abortion and contraception, birth rights and chosen families” — and the Transgender Law Center.

IgnatianQ frequently utilizes Jesuit values to justify such advocacy. One tweet states, “To be formed in Jesuit values sets you on a path to live your best self….to be authentic and genuine.” Another tweet claims that “Jesuit identity means different things at different institutions. ‘At Georgetown it means cura personalis and defining for yourself.’”

But The Cardinal Newman Society spoke to a Catholic theologian and Jesuit priest who noted that “the values of the Jesuit order are the same as those of the Catholic Church.” 

“All human persons, whatever their race, color, creed, gender or sexual orientation, are made in the image and likeness of God, and so possess unique value and are unconditionally loved by their Creator,” said Father Stephen Fields, SJ, associate professor of philosophy of religion and systematic theology at Georgetown University. “We believe that persons are responsible for their behavior, and we believe that all persons should exercise sexual activity only within marriage between male and female.”

Similarly, Father Paul Check, director of the Courage apostolate, told the Newman Society that it seems “very dangerous for anyone to measure the authoritative and saving teaching of the Church (cf. CCC 851) about human identity by one’s feelings, rather than trying to understand those feelings in the light of the grace, mercy and peace offered to us by Jesus Christ.”

Fr. Check cited the U.S. bishops’ 2006 document, “Ministry to Persons with Homosexual Inclinations,” which issues 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.”

“They must not belong to groups that oppose Church teaching,” the document continues. “It is not sufficient for those involved in this ministry to adopt a position of distant neutrality with regard to Church teaching.”

Moreover, although support groups “noted for their adherence to Church teaching” can be helpful to persons with homosexual inclinations, the document cautions that such persons “should not be encouraged to define themselves primarily in terms of their sexual inclination … or to participate in ‘gay subcultures,’ which often tend to promote immoral lifestyles.”

The Cardinal Newman Society contacted Seattle University to inquire why the IgnatianQ conference was being held on campus, despite its significant opposition to Church teaching on human sexuality, but no response was received by time of publication.

Reprinted with permission from The Cardinal Newman Society.

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