Catholic students at a Catholic college are protesting their school’s decision to schedule a Catholic bishop as commencement speaker next weekend.
Students at La Moyne College, a Jesuit university in Syracuse, New York, are steaming mad over their college’s choice of Cardinal Timothy Dolan as commencement speaker.
Dolan, archbishop of New York, is scheduled to be speak at graduation next Sunday. A petition drive is seeking to have the school disinvite him, on the grounds that Dolan is “homophobic” and has not been tough enough on “sexual violence” within the church, the Daily Caller reported.
“Over the years, Cardinal Dolan has been involved with sexual abuse scandals dealing with clergy of the church, homophobic comments and does not represent the ideals we have come to know Le Moyne to represent,” the petition states.
“With the growing attention toward sexual assault on the Le Moyne campus, students have felt that keeping Cardinal Dolan as commencement speaker completely opposes what we have advocated against.”
The petition ties opposition to Dolan to other recent protests on campus such as “Black Lives Matter” and the killing of two Muslims in Chapel Hill, which police have indicated was a random act of violence sparked by an argument over a parking space and had nothing to do with the Muslim couple’s faith.
“We have walked the halls of Le Moyne for the Black Lives that Matter, we have held vigils for the Muslim students gunned down in Chapel Hill and much more,” the petition says. “We have always come together in hard times. Do not stop now. Stand strong, sign and keep it going.”
The petition doesn’t include any examples of wrongdoing by Dolan, though it does include a link to a 2013 article about sex abuse victims in the Milwaukee archdiocese calling for more open records, the Daily Caller reported. Dolan was Milwaukee’s archbishop from 2002 to 2009, but his involvement in the sex abuse scandal was limited to handling the uproar and aftermath rather than any alleged involvement in actual abuse.
While Dolan was responsible for dealing with many priests and was vocal in recognizing the scope and severity of the abuse crisis, he was also criticized for sometimes paying suspected abusers to leave the priesthood and for using various financial maneuvers to protect Church assets from being used to pay legal damages.
As for the allegations of homophobia, Dolan’s position that homosexual acts are sinful and gay marriage unacceptable are in line with official Catholic doctrine.
The petition has garnered 625 signatures and needs 375 signatures to reach its goal of 1,000. Le Moyne itself is a small school, with total enrollment of about 3,500 students, so the 625 signatures represents about 20 percent of the student body.
The college’s president, Linda Lamura, has already categorically rejected the petition’s demand.
“Totally no chance we could change our speaker moving forward. We are proud to host Cardinal Dolan on our campus and we’re looking forward to hearing his message,” Lamura told News Channel 9, an ABC affiliate in Syracuse.
“My message to our students and faculty who have expressed concerns on our campus are to give the cardinal a chance. Listen to his message of hope and of love and I think the cardinal will pleasantly surprise our audience,” Lamura said.
Krystal Wilson, one of the students who started the petition, said it “was a bit hypocritical” to invite Dolan because the campus has had issues with sexual assaults on campus.
“It’s not one, two, three people who have spoken up about it. It’s 600 signatures and 600 people who are going to be at graduation showing they do not approve of sexual assault on this campus or anywhere else,” Wilson told Channel 9.
‘Doesn’t embody values’ of Jesuit school
Le Moyne senior Kate Bakhuizen told Time-Warner Cable News that students would show their silent protest by ignoring Dolan during his speech.
“I think that, as a group, a group of people who have their own identity, we have decided that Cardinal Dolan doesn’t really embody the values that we’ve been taught at a Jesuit school,” said Bakhuizen.
Another senior, Amy Denny, said: “We have tried to make steps to state our intolerance with sexual violence on this campus and, also, within the church it shouldn’t be tolerated.”
The students are also upset with statements Dolan has made concerning gay Catholics.
“You’re entitled to friendship, but we also know that God has told us that the way to happiness, especially when it comes to sexual love, that is intended only for a man and woman in marriage where children can come about naturally,” Dolan once said during an interview on ABC News.
“Although I am not gay myself, being gay is not an action. It’s the person. So, you cannot condemn the action of being gay without condemning the person. It’s one thing,” Wilson said.
Administrator: ‘We promote social justice’
David McCallum, director of mission and identity for the college, said he was not disturbed by the student protest.
“I think it’s something you hope for in a college setting. You know, that young people are thinking critically about issues and that they’re willing to take stands on things that they believe in and even more so in a Catholic Jesuit setting, where we promote the importance of social justice,” McCallum said.
Wilson said students will be holding a peaceful protest on graduation day.
They will not cause a scene, but they will wear purple to raise awareness for sexual assault, while showing solidarity.