Notre Dame’s Gay Students Asked to Be Chaste, Because Catholicism

Notre Dame, a Catholic university, a private university, is being shitty to its gay students. They’ve historically been shitty to the gay students by not allowing an LGBT student union to form at all– they’ve turned it down at least 15 times. And now Notre Dame is patting itself on the back because they’ve come up with a New Plan. Beloved Friends and Allies is a new pastoral plan for the development of LGBT and heterosexual students, and part of that plan is to have a full-time student affairs professional to act as the advisor to the LGBT student organization that would be a permanent part of the university.

This organization will be totally based in the Catholic teachings and will not be as autonomous as a club. All official decisions will have to be made with the advisor present. And the club must preach chastity for LGBTQ students. ThinkProgress pulled out the following quote and the emphasis is theirs:

Thus the call to chastity represents a divine invitation to develop relationships characterized by equality, mutuality, and respect, qualities of a deeply spiritual nature, beckoning us “to follow and imitate the one who has chosen us as his friends, who has given himself totally to us and allows us to participate in his divine estate” (CCC, 2347). In beautiful terms, the Catechism proclaims that the virtue of chastity, “blossoms in friendship” and “leads to spiritual communion.”Indeed, “chastity is expressed notably in friendship with one’s neighbor. Whether it develops between persons of the same or opposite sex, friendship represents a great good for all” (CCC, 2347). […]

At the same time, the University also adheres to the Church’s teaching concerning homosexual actions. As a result, “Homosexual persons are called to chastity” and to “friendship,” and should cultivate “the virtues of self‐mastery that teach them inner freedom” (CCC, 2359). Indeed, each and every student at Notre Dame is called to nothing less. All Notre Dame students are urged to understand and live the teachings of the Church relative to their lives and expressions of sexual intimacy.

My first emotion upon reading this was rage. This University is essentially condemning a part of their student population as being unequal to another part of their student population. And they are encouraging an unhealthy repression of a healthy desire, a healthy act. Deciding to be chaste is an extremely personal decision– it could have to do with your religious calling, your personal circumstances, your identity. It cannot be prescribed. It cannot be mandated.  And while it is a totally valid decision one can make about expressing sexuality, it is in fact a choice that one person has to make for themselves. That is not what is happening here. And from what I can see, this is not chastity until marriage (which I also do not agree with, but is also a valid choice). This brand of chastity is permanent. Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps (I hope) I am misreading this. Does the university call for this level of life-long chastity from their other students? No, I don’t think so. Basically, I would be ashamed if I were a part of the diversity office at Notre Dame, because this isn’t promoting diversity. It makes their commitment to diversity laughable.

Have we forgotten this beauty? Notre Dame brought is this cartoon as well, circa 2010! via

But also, why am I surprised? The Catholic Church is often shitty to gays to the point of promoting ex-gay therapy and this is a Catholic university. To be honest, the Catholic church is pretty shitty to everyone. They excommunicate women who feel they are called by God to priesthood because they think women are less-than. They hide child molesters to hide their own hypocrisy. Why should I be shocked that a university that’s founded in their beliefs is now trying to control their gay university students? If the Catholic church, one of the most corrupt religious institutions on the planet, is being shitty to us, then why are we bothering? Why are we bothering to give our money to universities allied with the Catholic church? This is not a secular institution that we are required to participate in, like government. We need to take on governments because we must follow their laws. We do not have to follow the whims and fancies of the Catholic church. And we don’t have to accept the choice that Notre Dame is offering their students: a controlled, ex-gay-therapy-esque student union, or none at all.

The tuition paid directly to Notre Dame for one year of study is $42,971. Room and board is $11,934, making your total contribution to Notre Dame $54,905. Per year. I can’t even buy $5 shampoo at Target because they once donated money to anti-gay campaigns, apologized, and then did it again. I can’t fathom giving someone almost 55 thousand dollars of my money to treat me like crap and then doing it again the following year for three more years. What if we voted with our money? What if allies and LGBT students alike stopped enrolling in Notre Dame, stopped giving them money? In this day in age, education, like religion, is an industry. However fortunately or unfortunately, money makes decisions. If everyone who disagrees with Notre Dame’s policies stop giving them money, will that be enough to call a revision of this ridiculous Beloved Friends and Allies plan, a plan for which they are patting themselves on the back for being all inclusive and shit?


I am not equating contributing to Notre Dame in any way to shopping at Walmart. I do not shop at Walmart because, by and large, that company does evil things. But I have options. I can afford not to shop at Walmart. I live in a place where there are options other than Walmart. Not everyone is lucky enough to have the same kind of options I do. The people who do have my options probably shouldn’t shop at Walmart. The people who do have options probably shouldn’t enroll at Notre Dame. They should probably find another college (and a cheaper one, Jesus Christ!) to enroll in. One that will treat them more like they treat the rest of their student body.

But what about the people who are there now? What about the students of the future who don’t have another option? For whatever reason, this is where they are going to school– parental requirement, perhaps, or a full scholarship.  Or the students who rightfully don’t want to choose between their religion and their queerness, for whom a Catholic university is the right choice? How can we, as a community, extend into a campus like Notre Dame and provide these LGBT learners with a community that fits their needs, that’s positive about their sexuality and their identity, that doesn’t condemn them to a life without love or sex? Notre Dame isn’t the only school that isn’t very nice to their gay students– we’ve discussed Messiah College, Wheaton College and Harding College, where students are working from inside the institution to make their community safer and more inclusive.


So how much of our resources, our time, energy and money, do we put into changing unwelcoming campuses? Do we waste our time on the Catholic church, so immovable and out of touch with its fairly accepting congregations?

The trouble with writing on this topic is that I don’t know. I do not have the answer to this question. I will personally never give money to a Catholic school, college or university for myself or my future children, and I’d encourage like-minded people with this option to do the same. Should we all do that? Should that be the strategy here? To peel away money, to bleed the institutions that haven’t gotten their act together of their resources until they are forced to re-evaluate? Or should we be engaging with Catholic institutions to change their bigoted, outdated ways for the sake of the community members that are there? I can’t muster up enough energy to move that mountain. I have no desire to. I welcome those students into my communities, but I cannot become invested in the direction of Catholicism. I grew tired of being treated like crap in my own religious community long ago and have surrounded myself with a chosen community of wonderful people instead. So it seems like it’s instead up to the people who do actively define themselves as part of this community, for whom Notre Dame and places like it are home, to decide how to respond to this university making them faith-based second-class citizens in yet another area of their lives.

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A.E. Osworth

A.E. Osworth is part-time Faculty at The New School, where they teach undergraduates the art of digital storytelling. Their novel, We Are Watching Eliza Bright, about a game developer dealing with harassment (and narrated collectively by a fictional subreddit), is forthcoming from Grand Central Publishing (April 2021) and is available for pre-order now. They have an eight-year freelancing career and you can find their work on Autostraddle (where they used to be the Geekery Editor), Guernica, Quartz, Electric Lit, Paper Darts, Mashable, and drDoctor, among others.

A.E. has written 542 articles for us.


  1. This makes me so sad. Georgetown University which is also Catholic has an LGBTQ center and numerous queer groups and events on campus. A student there even started a group for queer Catholic students specifically and there is a prayer group for queer students led by a priest-I don’t think either of these are asking the same things of these students that Notre Dame is asking of theirs. My heart goes out to queer students at ND.

    • while i dont pretend to be any sort of expert on catholicism, i definitely do know judaism. orthodox judaism is a pretty diverse stream. while there are definitely orthodox people that are extremely anti-gay, there are many who are not. i gather that catholicism is similiarly populated with many different people with differing opinions. not trying to be confrontational, i just dont want too much of a generalization to be made about my fellow jews.

  2. I come from a Catholic background, and this teaching about homosexuality was taught in my Catholic schools. (It is also taught in Orthodox Judaism). They acknowledge that gay people exist, but they also want them to never have love or sex for the rest of their lives. It’s pretty shitty stuff.

    Although this makes me sad, I’m also patting my 18-year-old self on the back for not going to Notre Dame. (Go Northwestern!)

    • Go Northwestern indeed!

      And Notre Dame wonders why everyone in the country is rooting for Alabama to completely kick their sorry asses in the championship football game…

      • Maybe you would change your mind if you knew that the vast majority of the student body supports the creation of a real GSA, or that progressive social activism is a huge part of student life there, or that the Notre Dame College Democrats were not only the largest political student group at the University in 2008 but perhaps singlehandedly responsible for flipping Indiana blue in 2008, supporting the election of a president who ended DADT and made history by publicly stating support for gay marriage.

        Oh, who am I kidding. No one really needs a reason to hate on ND.

  3. This article makes a lot of sweeping generalizations about Catholic institutions that are wrong. I’m not denying the fact that the Catholic Church is notoriously anti-gay. Nor am I defending the actions of Notre Dame. But reading this article made me feel like I had to defend my own beliefs and actions because I actively participate in a Catholic Organization. I am a senior at St. Michael’s College just outside of Burlington, VT. We do have a very active LGBT organization on campus that has the full support of the college and the church. Just last week we had a vigil for Transgender Remembrance Day, which included some readings and reflections led by Catholic priests. I recognize that my college is the exception to the Catholic standard. When I go back to my hometown and attend mass with my family I cringe through the priest’s homily because he comments on marriage and abortion regularly. But I’ve also been to mass at churches in NYC where they have a LGBT organization sponsored by the church and all people are welcomed. Parishes like that give me hope that eventually the Catholic Church will become more accepting towards the LGBT population.

    I’m tired of having to defend my two identities as a Catholic and as a lesbian. But reading this article made me feel just as bad for being Catholic as Father Paul’s homilies make me feel guilty for being gay. That’s not going to help us make any progress. LGBT people often bash others for not being accepting of their sexual identity. We have to recognize the hypocrisy in bashing other religious identities in order for us to make any progress in the acceptance of LGBT people in religious communities.

    • Thanks for this comment, Kristen! You basically wrote out my feelings on the subject. Although I’m in the process of questioning my faith, I am tired of hearing about how anti-gay the Catholic church is. It really depends on what parish/organization you go to. There are tons of LGBT-friendly Catholic churches or organizations out there. Dignity is a huge one that has chapters all over the country. The Sheil Catholic Center at Northwestern is super gay-friendly – everyone there is extremely welcoming and supportive. Fun fact: a transman and his wife actually got married at Sheil this past summer. It was historical and just super awesome!

      I guess I’ve just had the privilege of going to pretty gay-friendly places. My all-girls Catholic high school (in Texas!) was super-queer and actually started a Healing Homophobia Week my junior year that I think is still going strong. We were still taught the “gay people should stay chaste” and blah blah blah, but everyone kind of ignored that. One of my high school teachers is one of my biggest allies and we still keep in touch.

      Now, I don’t condone anything that the Catholic church has said or done regarding us LGBT folks (I just recently found out that the Catholic church has donated 2 million dollars to anti-gay groups, sigh), and Notre Dame is super messed up. The Catholic church is corrupt in a lot of ways. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up Catholicism if you’re queer. You just have to search for LGBT-friendly Catholic places. The same goes for any religion. Also LGBT religious communities are full of the BEST people.

      • Truth! A little known fact is that Notre Dame has a sister school, Saint Mary’s College, whose LGBT policies, like those of many Catholic institutions, are light years ahead of ND’s. As far as I know these progressive schools are not going under as a result of pissed off homophobic alumni who refuse to donate to their alma maters as a result of policies that embrace and serve LGBT individuals as equal to straight students. Catholic Social Thought and pro-LGBT policies are not mutually exclusive.

    • Thank you so much for this! You expressed my feelings exactly. Balancing being Catholic and queer is hard enough without the bashing coming from both sides. My parish has been amazing since my coming out. My family is so Catholic that our local priest comes to Thanksgiving dinner every year. When I went through a breakup recently with my ex girlfriend, he offered support and told me he hoped that I’d find the woman who would make me happy and that things would work out. He told me he’d pray for me, not to be made straight but to find happiness.

      Good Catholics exist and although the things happening at Notre Dame make me sad, I can’t help but get defensive reading this article.

    • THANK YOU. Even as an ex-Catholic this article made me extremely uncomfortable.

      The criticism isn’t unjustified. But not every church or priest is the same, and it was unfair of you to depict them as such.

      At least you mentioned that Catholicism is the most liberal Christian denomination and the most accepting of gay rights. Too often do rank-and-file Catholics get grouped with their bigoted clergy.

      • I’m really confused as to why you say Catholicism is liberal in any form. Can you elaborate on that?

        • Catholics by and large–and I am referring to the members of the church and NOT the administration–are supportive of LGBT rights; more than half support gay marriage, I’ve seen poll numbers as high as 70%, and when marriage is taken out of the gay rights package even more Catholics agree that they’re in support of LGBT rights. So, yes, relative to other religions, Catholicism, in its masses, and not in its doctrine or white, male, administrative figureheads, can be considered liberal.

          • Indeed. A religion’s congregation is more important than its leadership, and most Catholics are supportive of our cause. Keep in mind that the Catholic Church is not a democracy; the average Catholic has no control over who becomes a bishop or pope, and if they did it is very unlikely that such conservative people would climb so high in the church hierarchy.

            Furthermore a majority of Catholics would rather the church focus its efforts on poverty reduction rather than fighting abortion, another liberal cause.


            Many of the basic teachings of Catholicism – aid the poor, tolerance of others, compassion for all, opposition to almost all war – are liberal. Many of the “Christians” in the US ignore what their faith requires of them, instead using it as a shield from criticism and an excuse to impose their beliefs on others. And many more are ignorant extremists, no more representative of their religion than al-Qaida is of Islam. And most of the aforementioned people are Baptists and evangelicals, not Catholics.

            So when you compare them to other denominations, and look at what their Bible truly asks of them, it is hard to describe Catholics as anything other than liberal.

            There is also this Al Jazeera article I found interesting:


          • That being said, there are some awful bigoted followers of the Catholic Church who do use their faith as a justification of their behavior (hello, my extended family). Not that I’m saying they’re representative of the Church’s following at large – but let’s not push them under the rug, either.

          • Totally agree, and not just followers but obviously Church leaders. And some of my family, too. And it makes me sick to see the way that they twist Scripture and the foundations of the Church–not the Doctrine per se but the ideas and principles upon which the Church was built.

            They’re the ones who are putting the Church in crisis and make it easy for me to make sarcastic comments about how there’s no way in hell that all 12 disciples–who up and left their families to follow Jesus around and hang out with a bunch of dudes 24/7–were all straight :)

          • “Indeed. A religion’s congregation is more important than its leadership, and most Catholics are supportive of our cause.”

            Actually, this is not the case when it comes to Catholicism. One of the main theological differences that led to the Protestant Reformation, after all, is the importance of the hierarchy vs. the laity. In Catholicism, while the laity might disagree on some issues, they are supposed to agree with the pope when it comes to theological issues and see the Pope as the voice of God. And the views of the hierarchy are the views of the church in all things.

            It’s in Protestantism where the ideas of the laity are seen as just as important as those of the pastor.

            You can’t just dismiss ideas that are basic and foundational ideas of these religious groups because it makes you feel better as someone who was raised Catholic. Regardless of the views of lay Catholics, the fact that the hierarchy is anti-gay means the Catholic Church is anti-gay.

          • Expecting the laity vs. hierarchy rule to stay in place at all times is unrealistic at best. You need to take it with a grain of salt and in the context of the Church 500 years ago, when its political situation was very different than it is today.

            Protestants have a hierarchy too that can be so deeply ingrained in the community that you “can’t” disagree with it either. The Catholic Church has been changing slowly (see: the more widely accepted beliefs in evolution) exactly because there’s differences of opinion among clergy and laity alike and eventually those ideas become stronger and stronger. Most Catholics are realistic and realise that the notion of papal infallibility is ridiculous because the Church is what people make of it.

            The Catholic Church is anti-gay but Catholics themselves are no more anti-gay than people from any other religion.

            Plus, I think it’s insulting that you’re failing to consider Catholicism in a worldwide context… there are more countries than the US, you know. In countries where the vast majority of the population is a Catholic, there’s plenty of queer people and allies who are Catholic (just like there’s anti-gay people and people who don’t care) and it’s not a big deal. While the Church’s influence on Italy has made it notoriously crap when it comes to same-sex marriage, it’s worth noting that countries like Argentina, Spain, and Portugal have same-sex marriage and over half of the population is Catholic.

          • yes, Ali links to those numbers and that survey in this piece, that shows that most catholics support LGBT rights.

          • Exactly. It’s probably worth noting that Massachusetts has a huge Catholic population.

            And it’s, you know, Massachusetts so it’s really progressive on gay rights.

          • Massachusetts also has a ton of other religious minorities, and relative to other states with large Catholic populations, is somewhat better at limiting the church’s involvement in politics.

            We have marriage equality IN SPITE of the church’s opposition. By contrast, in Rhode Island, where Catholicism plays a much bigger role in state politics, they are the only New England state that DOESN’T have it. And that’s pretty much entirely because of the church’s influence.

          • it’s quite confusing for me to hear people call catholicism the most liberal and progressive religion. in my experience/in germany catholicism goes hand in hand w/ being a little more on the conservative side.Protestantism and evangelical (Lutheran) churches are the progressive ones over here. also laicism ftw!

          • Because here it coexists with things like Westboro Baptist and Exodus International (inter-denominational but predonimantly Protestant and Evangelical denominations–which is not to say that ALL Protestant and ALL Evangelical members are involved or persuaded by their ideas.)

          • Not really. Westboro Bapist is a splinter church that has nothing to do with either the liberal OR conservative Baptist denominations. It just uses “Baptist” in its name but otherwise has no connection. And Exodus International is not a church.

            The problem here is that people who are saying Catholicism “is the most liberal denomination” are misusing the word denomination. All of Protestantism is NOT a denomination. Presbyterians, Methodists, Episcopalians, etc…. THOSE are denominations. And I highly doubt that if there were direct comparisons between those specific denominations and Catholics, that Catholics would come out as the more gay-affirming. The problem is that the stats people are using here are Catholics vs. all Protestants which, yeah, is going to take in some conservative and (arguably) evangelical groups as well.

          • Yeah. I recognize that Protestant and Evangelical are each blanket terms for multiple denominations, and obviously Exodus International isn’t a church. But it’s a large organization made up of members of the religious right, from various denominations of faith.

            Whether or not WBC is Baptist or not is irrelevant, it’s still a church with a religion and in that sense serves as a valid comparison to Catholicism, or any other religion. Look, I get the argument that’s made about the view of the congregation being irrelevant if the view of the authorities (and consequently, the doctrine) don’t reflect it. I just disagree. I could not care less what the pope thinks about my relationships; the acceptance of my Catholic friends and family is a million times more important and relevant to my life. And I continue to see that acceptance come forward irrelevant to the Vatican’s stance.

      • “At least you mentioned that Catholicism is the most liberal Christian denomination and the most accepting of gay rights. Too often do rank-and-file Catholics get grouped with their bigoted clergy.”

        This makes no sense. What makes something a “liberal denomination” or not is not about how the laity feel about it, it’s about how the hierarchy feels about it. The Catholic remains solidly opposed to gay equality. Meanwhile, a lot of Protestant denominations are already affirming of gay equality (such as the UCC) or are moving toward it.

        Also, do you have any statistics to support the idea that even lay Catholics support gay political equality at higher rates than, say, Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, Episcopalians or other mainline Protestant denominations? Because I would be majorly shocked if that was the case.

        • And to clarify, I’m talking about comparisons between lay Catholics and lay members of mainline Protestant churches. Even when looking at comparisons of lay members, I seriously doubt Catholics are more progressive on this issue than, say, Presbyterians or Episcopalians.

          I get the sense you’re probably comparing Protestants as a whole – which would include a lot of more conservative denominations and, arguably, some evangelicals – with Catholics as a whole, which doesn’t really make sense when we’re talking about denominations. “Protestantism” is not a denomination, it is a conglomerate of a bunch of different denominations.

          • Yes! I have those numbers.


            As you can see if you click on the above link, it’s kind of a complicated picture because there’s no direct comparison for “All mainline Protestant” versus “All Catholic.” But among all denominational breakdowns provided by the Pew Forum, Catholics were by far the most supportive of gay marriage among people who considered themselves Christian (58% compared to the next highest, White Mainline Protestants, at 50%).

            I think you may have wanted a comparison between Catholics and specific Protestant denominations like Methodists, Lutherans, etc, but unfortunately I couldn’t find that. I also recognize that support for same-sex marriage is a way imperfect proxy for support for gay rights overall, but couldn’t find those numbers either.

          • Yeah, if there’s a comparison between Catholics and specific denominations, that would be more accurate, because the comment was that Catholics are “the most liberal denomination.” Protestant is not a denomination.

            I’m not surprised that Catholics on average would be more pro-gay than Protestants on average, since the different Protestant denominations, mainline or otherwise, vary in their approach to gay rights, and in Protestanism there tends to be more of a link between how the laity feel and how the hierarchy feels in my experience. But I think if you looked at some specific mainline denominations that are more gay-affirming, then lay Catholics would not be as pro-gay as their laypeople.

    • “I recognize that my college is the exception to the Catholic standard. When I go back to my hometown and attend mass with my family I cringe through the priest’s homily because he comments on marriage and abortion regularly… I’m tired of having to defend my two identities as a Catholic and as a lesbian.”

      I understand where you’re coming from in being tired of defending your identities as a Catholic and a lesbian. I am also a religious lesbian and I am often upset by the things people say about Christianity as a whole. However, it’s one thing to make generalizations and another to point out how the Catholic church has deliberately harmed the LGBTQ community by actively funding laws and organizations bent on taking equal rights away from us.

      What your priest says about abortion and marriage is what the Catholic church has tried to teach Catholics to believe for years, as you say, “The Catholic standard.” If you don’t personally agree, then that’s great, but by pointing this out, it’s not a personal attack on your beliefs — just the way the Catholic church operates. Don’t miss the entire point of the article, which is that Notre Dame, a Catholic institution, is being ridiculous.

      • I totally get what you’re saying. I think what disturbed some of the other commenters here (and me) is this line: “To be honest, the Catholic church is pretty shitty to everyone.” Which is true only if your definition of “everyone” doesn’t include immigrants, poor people, homeless people, or sick people.

        So the parts of this article that are aimed specifically at Notre Dame, or at the Catholic Church’s treatment of LGBT people, I agree with, absolutely. But like most institutions with a long history and huge, diverse membership, the Catholic Church is a pretty complicated organization that doesn’t necessarily fit into boxes like “shitty” or “not shitty.”

      • I couldn’t agree more that Notre Dame is “being ridiculous” and I did not miss that point in the article. But reading this article brought up a lot of feelings for me about my identity as a Catholic and as a lesbian. For me, it’s better to fight the system from the inside. I would by no means condone the actions of Notre Dame, but I don’t think that as a community we’re going to gain support by attacking another group. If we want the Catholic Church to become more inclusive of LGBT people then we cannot bash it in the same way that we are based.

    • Thank you so much for your Indepth comment. I too, like many responders to your comment, are fed up with anti-catholic hate and harsh words. If it wasn’t hard enough balancing being a lesbian and a devout catholic, I don’t appreciate when catholic institutions are so unduely criticized. My home parish employs a very openly gay music director and everyone at the church LOVES him. Our sister parish’s pastor is also Extremely gay friendly. Like anything in life, it depends on who you talk to about what. Glad to see my fellow queer Catholics and allies are standing up for the faith too :)

    • Kristen,

      I’m not sure what it means for LGBT people to “bash others for not being accepting of their sexual identity.” This is sort of like saying it’s possible to “bash others for not being accepting of their race.”

      This isn’t “bashing.” It’s calling people out for being assholes.

  4. Confession time: I’m a Roman Catholic, and I’ve spent most of my life at Notre Dame. Most of my family works there as faculty or administration; I went to preschool and kindergarten there and attended their summer camps for most of my childhood. When I go home for the summer, I work as a secretary for my relatives there.

    With that said, I actually cannot stand the place. Yes, it’s my “home,” but they’ve also supremely fucked up in so many ways. They denied my father tenure (which lead to a lawsuit that discovered it was, surprise surprise, a race-based decision), forcing my parents to temporarily separate for nearly six years so he could move to McGill and therefore generally just screwing with my family life for almost a decade. My best friend’s parents can’t talk about their view because they fear that, as atheists, they might lose their jobs. As a queer black person and daughter of the now-infamous professor, I feel pretty much as unwelcome as anyone who has lived on that campus can.

    What really gets me about Notre Dame, though, is that it just tries SO HARD to be a stereotypical conservative Catholic school. Long before Obamacare, the school covered birth control for faculty, students, and faculty family members. They couldn’t care less about abortion until Obama comes to town, at which point they raise all of holy hell. Whenever I work for my (Catholic priest and professor of theology professor) uncle and come across an article about how chastity/lavender marriages are the only good options for “the homosexuals” – because that’s not a new track for Notre Dame at all – I go out of my way to file it in the wrong place/ accidentally shred it/ generally raise a stink about it, because the inherent hypocrisy is just ridiculous.

    South Bend is the most liberal city in Indiana (and probably that part of the Midwest, Chicago excluded), and Notre Dame basically owns the town, but still they go out of their way to be awful to locals and women and queers and just people in general. If so many people I know didn’t rely on the university to make a living, I would be more than happy to make it stop existing.

    • I think I take issue with the statement that SB is the most liberal city in IN and the Midwest. Bloomington? Columbus? Ann Arbor? South bend is an acultural vortex that only JUST took measures to protect LGBT populations from hate crimes and work/employment discrimination.

      • Yeah, as a Michigander I’m taking issue with the notion that it’s more liberal than Ann Arbor. And the brief stay I had in Bloomington when I was auditioning at IU would cause me to agree with you on that. I guess it depends on what uno means by “that part of the Midwest.”

      • I may be biased, but we certainly think of ourselves as the most liberal place in Indiana, at least. This is an estimation based less off of census data and more off of Montessori schooling/hometown pride.

        • If South Bend is the most liberal place in Indiana, I’m running away even faster after I finish my degree.

          (but actually, voting wise, St. Joe County tends to go blue. But the blue are blue dog dems that are basically republicans. But still, it’s something.)

          • Yeah, there should be some distinction in these arenas between “labor/economic Dems” and “cultural Dems.” Detroit recently topped some list for the most liberal city in the country but that’s definitely not because it’s the best place to be gay or a woman who needs an abortion. Outside of Ann Arbor, MI majorly sucks when it comes to social issues, and they’re only getting worse now that all the young people are abandoning its shitty economy for greener pastures (not that I’m blameless in that).

    • SB is DEFINITELY not the most liberal city in IN. It is chock-full of Teabaggers and other types terrified of the spectre of the loss of white privilege. It was always reliably Democratic because of heavy union support, and pretty much ZERO other progressive values.

      That said, there exists a huge progressive social movement at ND, starting around the CSC and spiraling outwards from there. I’m surprised you didn’t know that.

  5. Ali, I’m gonna use my super boring voice hear since I’m expressing feelings that are really important to me. Here goes.
    Chastity is not the same as celibacy. Throughout this article the term “chastity” is used incorrectly.
    In religions such as Catholicism and Mormonism, chastity is a moral code that does not mean No Sex Ever, but rather Sex under the right circumstances; a married man and woman.
    Celibacy is abstaining from sexual activity under any or all circumstances. Chastity is abstaining from sexual activity when the circumstances are inappropriate.
    Clearly, this leaves some room for individual interpretation if you don’t wish to live one religion’s Law of Chastity. But within the bounds of that religion that Law is clear, simple, beautiful, and has led to many long and happy marriages.
    Several accredited universities have a plan or code of conduct like this. Most of my family attended BYU in Provo. That school is famous (or infamous) for its Honor Code which includes dress and grooming standards as well as standards of chastity and moral cleanliness. A friend of mine is at BYU and recently came out as gay. He is still attending that school and is doing well.
    When I came out to my parents, their attitude was the same as that of these universities and churches. They don’t care who I want to have sex with, so long as I’m not having sex. At the time of my coming out it would probably have been emotionally damaging for me to be sexually active; the circumstances were inappropriate.
    As you can see, the Law of Chastity is not a law of bigotry. It helps improve relationships of all kinds and, frankly, improves the quality of the sexual experience when the circumstances are right. So while I don’t live it exactly the way this church teaches it, and I don’t plan on attending any university that demands a standard I don’t plan to keep, I do live chaste.
    I hope that made sense.

    • Maybe I’m just not understanding the nuance of it, but for queer individuals doesn’t it ultimately come to the same thing? Because queer sex is seen as sinful, aren’t you effectively condemned to a life of celibacy if you are gay and want to live openly as such?

      • In theory Notre Dame requires all of its students to abstain from sexual relations, at least its undergraduates anyway. The annoying part is that hetero sex happens all the time in the dorms but they go out of their way to emphasize the need for LGBT students to adhere to this requirement.

        • ha. I’m gonna reply to myself and point out, though, that if you’re straight there’s no way you can live with your S.O. on campus…and there are curfews after which members of the opposite sex have to leave the dorm.

          buuuuuut if you’re gay you can freaking live in the same room and push your beds together into one giant gay bed and nobody gets kicked out (as long as you stay under the R.A. radar and keep your door locked during, uh, activities) and and and ! …in conclusion, one point for the gays! It’s the little stuff guys!

    • I would like to clarify something that was said here. As a current BYU student who was raised Mormon, the law of chastity is ABSOLUTELY a double standard for hetero vs. homosexual couples. Celibacy is demanded of homosexual couples whereas only “chastity” (i.e. no sex until marriage) is demanded of heterosexual couples.

      This is the statement from the BYU Honor Code Office:

      “One’s stated same-gender attraction is not an Honor Code issue. However, the Honor Code requires all members of the university community to manifest a strict commitment to the law of chastity. Homosexual behavior is inappropriate and violates the Honor Code. Homosexual behavior includes not only sexual relations between members of the same sex, but all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings.”

      From my own personal experiences, my bishop knows that I am a lesbian and we have talked about some of the implications. He has told me outright that if I act upon any of my “same-gender attraction” (as it is referred to within the church) then I could be risking my standing at the university. If I kiss, or hold hands, or even cuddle with another woman – regardless of romantic feelings – and someone reports that as a “homosexual behavior”, there is a very real possibility of me getting kicked out of BYU. Yet I have a friend who gave her fiancee a blowjob while at BYU and they basically got a slap on the wrist and told “not to give into the temptation next time.”

      I’m sorry but that’s a load of crap. If you want to have a Law of Chastity it needs to be equal for both parties. I respect people’s beliefs and religions, and I think there is merit and beauty in someone wanting to wait to engage in sexual activity until after marriage. That is a personal decision. My problem is that BYU has no level of toleration, but instead oppresses homosexual students. USGA, which is the closet thing BYU has to a gay-straight alliance, isn’t even allowed to be formally affiliated with the university, but must still put forth LDS positive ideas if it wants to continue to meet on BYU campus.

      Heck, even straight allies have to be careful. If you are “too supportive” of gay and lesbian rights (specifically gay marriage) then that too can be cause for “concern” among your church leaders. At minimum there is some mandated counseling. At worst it could cost you your membership in the church or your enrollment status at BYU.

      In sum, I don’t think that the Law of Chastity is a law of bigotry in and of itself – but that doesn’t mean it cannot be implemented as a tool for discrimination by a religiously run institution such as BYU.

      • Wouldn’t a lot of the doctrines be a bit different when it comes to Mormonism vs. Catholicism, though?

        • Not when it comes to the difference between chastity and celibacy, and what it means for straight and queer couples. In Catholicism, chastity is still having sex under the right circumstances and celibacy is not having sex at all. Married couples who have sex but don’t cheat are chaste. A priest who never has sex is celibate.

          The hardcore Catholics (and the “official” stance of the Church, as far as I’m aware) recommend that straight people are chaste and queer people are celibate or have straight relationships.

          The bottom line is that a Catholic (or generally Christian) group asking people to be chaste is nothing new or weird. What is terrifying about these news is that this group seems to recommend that gay people should be celibate.

    • ” chastity is a moral code that does not mean No Sex Ever, but rather Sex under the right circumstances; a married man and woman.”

      I fail to see how asking gay students to be chaste is not the same as asking them to be celibate with relations with a member of the opposite sex being their only alternative. Saying that they can have sex, but only if their partners are of the opposite sex and they are married doesn’t do squat for people who have little or no interest in people of the opposite sex. methinks you missed the point.

  6. Last time I checked, Catholicism wanted us all to be chaste. My Parish priest once told my mom that “fornication is for the purpose of procreation. You’re not supposed to enjoy it.” As I’m #8 of 9 kids, she didn’t take him seriously.

  7. I attended catholic school for every grade up until I graduated high school. I personally was not a fan of including religion in my education, so I chose not to attend a Catholic college. That being said, I don’t think where you choose to go to college is ever going to be a choice based only on that one religious factor. Saying that people should not go to a Catholic university simply because the faculty or administration has policies that are hurtful is simplifying a much more complicated process. I love my college for what it offers me in terms of learning opportunities within my program. I would still have attended it if it had not been gay friendly. I was just lucky that I found a place with a great program and a ton of queers. I feel that choosing a place based only on if the administration is accepting about my sexuality could be shortsighted if their programs are good enough to help me get ahead in my academic life.

    I understand where the outrage comes from in this article. I agree that the policy is questionable at best and probably not something that any other organization would have been required to do to simply exists. It’s insulting to imply that gay people should be happy enough being friends and trying to ignore their sexuality. However, these things can be expressed and talked about in ways that don’t question the values and opinions of people who have chosen to go to a university that has an unfriendly response to the LBGTQ community.

    Administrators change, so much of my college life is more controlled by peer interactions than anything else. If you love your school and want to change it from the inside, that is something to be admired and not questioned. Should colleges be offering the appropriate resources to their students regardless of orientation? Hell yeah. Should we tell students that spending money on their education is wrong because of choices people within their school choose to make? No. It’s not that simple.

    • Yeah, but the fact that people choose colleges for different reasons is exactly why saying “oh it’s a religious institution, so it’s okay” is unacceptable. Catholic colleges in particular – compared to places like, say, Liberty University – tend to have strong academic reputations that draw people from other faiths there, which is one of the reasons that backwards policies w/r/t LGBT people or not covering birth control is so unacceptable. I don’t think it’s fair to court people of other religions and act like you’re an inclusive school, and then expect them to adhere to Catholic doctrine with regard to sex once they get there. Granted, this is less of an issue with a place like Notre Dame – where it’s well-known around the country as THE Catholic university, even if it has other draws – than places like Georgetown which are generally progressive but their connection to the Catholic church means they won’t cover birth control (before the mandate, anyway).

      • I agree that saying religious institutions can get away with being close minded is unacceptable. I hadn’t really considered the fact that colleges openly attempt to draw people from a number of backgrounds. You’re right, regardless of the religious doctrine a college follows they will actively court people from a number of backgrounds, religions etc. Students respect their college’s religion by taking required classes. In turn, those colleges should respect their diverse student body by providing resources and creating policies that cater to all needs, not just those in line with their doctrine. I seriously doubt Notre Dame students would suddenly think that the Catholic church loved homosexuality just because they had the resources they deserved on their campus. But they would probably be happier and more comfortable with their school.

        I just think efforts should just be focused on getting colleges to realize the huge problem with their courting students vs them respecting all students, and not on telling students to stop going to religious schools. Its one thing to tell a person not to shop at a store. I understand that, and there are other options for where to get my shampoo. But telling a person they are somehow wrong in attending their college when it is the college that is mistreating them, that’s just not going to get us anywhere. I just get uncomfortable when that happens, because it’s like telling a person they have to make this huge life choice based on an assumption of how their sexuality will be accepted. In high school I had a number of teachers who told me being gay was wrong. I knew that might happen when I went to a religious high school. But I also had teachers tell me they disagreed with the church and encourage my classmates and I to think about the issue in more depth before hating on other people. Sometimes the people who run your school might be backwards, but the people who end up mattering to you aren’t. We can’t judge someone for going to a Catholic school without knowing more, you know?

        • I didn’t read this article as a call for folks not to go to religious schools, but rather not religious schools that are shitty to their student bodies. Unless I missed something?

          • Oh, no. I don’t see it as a call not to attend a religious school. I’m just responding to what I saw as questioning of people who are already going to those school.

        • Everything you said. I think in particular there needs to be made a distinction between religious schools that have other draws/court students of other faiths (e.g. most Catholic schools, most moderate-to-liberal Protestant schools) and schools you’d probably only attend if you’re a member of the religion (e.g. Liberty University). (BYU I would say exists in between the two since they have a lot of good academic and athletic programs and a degree from there is a respected degree, but also, their main reputation is as the Mormon University.)

          But even with schools in the latter category, there are a lot of people who go to those places because a) they have conservative parents who wouldn’t finance their college if they chose to go anywhere else, b) they were true believers when they started attending but later realized they were gay, c) they got a lot of money from their church – whatever. I don’t think that dismissing it as “why are you going there?” (like a lot of what I say when that Harding University zine thing happened) is productive. It’s not that easy to “just transfer.”

          And I probably should have a disclaimer that I don’t think any of that was what the article was saying. It’s still a good discussion to have nevertheless.

    • There are SO many good colleges in the United States (and even outside of the United States that are accessible to high-performing students) that is is INCREDIBLY questionable to me that a person could not find a college that offered them what they wanted and DIDN’T treat them badly for their sexuality.

      Every college is honestly not this super special flower that you think it is. Going to a college IS like going to a store. University education is a business in this country. I’m glad you had a great experience at your school, and I purport that you would have been able to have a great experience elsewhere, too.

      Yes, in VERY, very limited circumstances someone might be “constrained” to Notre Dame. I.e., they live in South Bend, need to take care of their ailing mother, Notre Dame is the best option close to home, or something that must necessarily combine all of these factors. But I don’t know how many queer people in South Bend have ailing mothers and can get into and afford Notre Dame – my assumption is that it’s low. Very low.

      I wouldn’t disrespect someone for going to Notre Dame and trying to change the culture there. ESPECIALLY if that was their only choice. After all, was it Nixon who got his religious college to allow dancing, and didn’t that go down in the history books for him? Obviously it’s a commendable thing and looks good on a resume. But for most people, going to college isn’t a strategic choice re: their gay rights resume, and for most people, the country is liberal enough that a gay hating institution isn’t their only option. In that case, there is no commendable reason to throw your money at it.

  8. This makes me sad, I went to a Catholic Jesuit College very similar to Notre Dame (but in Seattle). It was a pretty sorry place to be if you were queer. I felt they tolerated the gays but us trans people were not well received. It may have been worse that I was doing engineering but who knows its all water under the bridge now. The only money I still pay towards my education goes to Sally Mae and my 16+ years of different Catholic schools will never see a dime from me. Unless there is a huge paradigm shift I can only see the Catholic church becoming more outdated and laughable in the bigger world stage.

    • As a graduate of a Jesuit school in New York (Fordham University), this kind of shit embarrasses me, and I’m sorry you were treated that way. I don’t believe Fordham engages in this kind of behavior anymore.

      • Don’t get indignant now. Autostraddle and the people who comment on it make sweeping generalizations all the time. These generalizations are mainly about straight people, men and cis gendered persons. Then it’s swept under an even bigger generalization: patriarchy. Actually patriarchy is the go to word on this site. Sure the patriarchy is responsible for a lot of shit in society but a lot of the time people here throw that word around without being sure of its truth.

  9. Strange to me to see people so quick to defend Catholicism because their particular church or college is more liberal. That’s great and I’m glad it’s happening, but they are acting in opposition to the Catholic church and its official, mandated views on gays and women — you know, the ones that are currently a major part of the opposition to LGBT equality in many countries, including my own.

    I was raised Catholic. My family are Catholic. I know many Catholics who are good people and who love me and want rights for me. But Catholicism *as an institution* is anti-gay, anti-woman clusterfuck, and a gay women’s website is a weird place to be trying to argue that away.

    I would never give money to a Catholic school or college either, because some of that money will go back into the massive, global institution of repression the institution belongs to. If your particular local branch of it is better, good, but that doesn’t change what it’s a part of and represents. And that’s an important conversation to be able to have, even when it makes good people uncomfortable.

    • You know, I’m having mixed feelings, since I have a Catholic upbringing like you do, and you make a lot of good points. I could go on and on and on about what makes a church etc… but what struck me is that you said: ” If your particular local branch of it is better, good, but that doesn’t change what it’s a part of and represents.” And I guess that’s where I feel I can disagree and explain myself without getting too long-winded.

      It [participating in your religious/spiritual practices] DOES change what it’s a part of and what it represents. The more we have people at their local places of worship who are pro gay rights, the more we change our institutions. The Catholic Church will always have problems, just like any other religious institution. I honestly don’t expect the hierarchy to one day wake up and turn things around (sadly). I DO expect people of strong faith, whether they’re queer or not, to start making their parishes more and more gay-friendly. That will be change that will come from within, I think.

      Another commenter said that being a Christian and being gay shouldn’t have to be mutually exclusive (or something along those lines), and I couldn’t agree more. I think this is a case of “be the change you want to see in the world.” :)

      • My mother and I both used to think that way. We have since left the Church (me due to a change of faith as much as the politics of the situation, but my mother is still Christian and has switched to the ELCA).]

        My mom was active in our parish for my entire life. She was on the parish council, sang in the chorus, was a lector and ran many of the children’s programs at our church. She did all this with the express intent of shaping our faith community to be more progressive. But ultimately, she found that without the support of the rest of the parish community, that didn’t amount to much.

        Wanting to change the system from within is a noble goal, don’t get me wrong, and there is a place for it. If you’re in a place where you feel comfortable doing so, I give you all my support. But please, don’t stick around if your emotional and spiritual well-being suffer. There’s no shame in leaving to join an organisation that supports your basic humanity.

  10. Wow, I’m pretty glad I turned down an internship offer from Notre Dame last summer.

    Also, as an ex-Catholic (although not because of the anti-gay stuff, I just don’t believe in God) I feel like I should know more about whether or not anti-gay church doctrine can be changed. I know they changed their minds about whether unborn babies go to purgatory or not a few years ago but I don’t know the reasoning behind it. Does anyone else know?

    • I haven’t heard of the stance on unborn babies, I believe you’re referring to unbaptised children. The reasoning behind it is that God can save whomever he wants and Jesus was nice to children (in simple terms). The change was coming for a long time, in the 90s it became more official and in the 2000s it became even more so.

      The change on such doctrines comes from the Vatican as Dina said. How many people are involved in the decision-making process depends on what the doctrine is. If you’re curious about it there’s some blogs I can recommend about canon law and the internal workings of the Church.

  11. I don’t know if I can agree with the shaming that’s going on towards progressive students that go to a religious university. As someone above said, the factors going into choosing your post-secondary educational institution are really complicated and ultimately have nothing to do with administrative policies. Also, what really troubles me is the encouragement to just abandon institutions with backwards policies completely. Sure, fine, if you’re a privileged self-aware queer individual we can boycott shitty institutions, but what about those of us who don’t have our queerpiphany UNTIL university? Calling on us to abandon ship will hurt those of us who need those resources in university the most. Not all of us can be “lucky” and figure out shit in high school, thanks.

  12. “But what about the people who are there now?”

    I am one of these people! I am an openly queer individual, an undergrad at ND, and a student who has been extensively involved in the creation of this new student organization. I want to clarify a couple of points about this all.

    First of all, “the people who are there now” have worked really, really hard for this change. Last year, an on-campus campaign, the 4 to 5 movement ( for more information) and extensive student/administration communication led to the five-month broad review. Students have been involved in the creation of this plan at all phases. I personally feel that negative articles about Wednesday’s announcement belittles our work (but, of course, my viewpoint is biased).

    Second of all, the chastity issue. All ND students, queer and straight alike, are called by our honor code, Du Lac, to practice chastity. Queer students are not singled out by this call because it is a result of our status as students of the University (not a forced or lifelong moral call).

    Third of all, the structure and purpose of the student organization. This is to clarify for any AS readers who are thinking about ND. Yes, we will have a permanent advisor who will be involved with the workings of the club. No, we will not be able to openly advocate for anything that is outside of Church teaching. But neither of these things prevent the purpose of the club: the creation of a vibrant and thriving queer and ally community.

    For more information, check out:

    Official ND press release:

    ND student newspaper:

    CNN article:

  13. This makes me wonder what would have happened if I had gone to Marquette (which I got into, and where my father is a member of the faculty), and how I would have reacted if I had been a student there when the newly hired queer faculty member was told she couldn’t work there because she was a lesbian. (This after she had moved halfway across the country to take said job.)

    My heart also goes out to the GLBT/queer student body at Notre Dame.

    Reading this also made me sad to have been born in Indiana.

  14. I went to St. Edward’s University, which is supposedly a sister school to Notre Dame (at least that’s what a tour guide once told me). I am agnostic, not Catholic, but I was amazed at how much I got out of my education there. The university does a lot to give back to the community and to instill values of social justice in its students. In all of my general requirements courses, I learned how to critically evaluate and develop possible solutions for social problems. I never felt pressured to adapt any religious doctrine, and I felt safe being openly gay on campus. I had supportive professors and classmates. We had a required course dedicated to the history of the struggles faced by minority groups, and this included the GLBT population.

    There have been problems due to the university operating under the Catholic church. The GLBT organization has encountered its share of obstacles. Despite this, one person managed to revamp the entire organization, and they now have an office in Student Life, and for the first time last summer, marched in the Austin Pride parade. I still wish they could do more. I wish the health center would prescribe birth control for birth control purposes. So do a lot of students on campus, but that doesn’t motivate people to transfer. We’ll keep doing what the university itself has taught us– speaking out.

    We should be wary of how we spend our money and Notre Dame should certainly be called out for the oppressive school it is. As others have pointed out though, Notre Dame is far from representative of all Catholic colleges or organizations. When I am no longer a broke grad student, my alumni donations are going to St. Edward’s. It produces graduates that care about social inequality and take steps to address it. For me, the good my university does far outweigh the restrictions it operates under due to its affiliation with the Catholic church.

  15. Hi guys,
    As a student of Notre Dame and a queer girl, I agree that Notre Dame does not have the right to demand any kind of chastity on any student. While we do sign the contract stating we will abide by the University handbook that states we will not engage in any sex at all, it is not something for which we are punished. It takes a lot of evidence to be punished for premarital sex on campus. An RA basically has to find you in the act, and if your door is shut, then you’re fine.
    Also, I just want to make it clear that the student organization will be advised by a newly hired person, yes, and they will have to be present at all meetings, yes. However, the students who are part of the leadership of the organization will have say in the dealings within the organization, and the person that will hire this advisor happens to be on our side of the issue. While we are cautious in proceeding with this new organization, we are hopeful that this organization will be so much more helpful than the small council on LGBT issues we had previously.
    Also, most queer kids on campus are really tired of having to justify our decision to come to the university. Yes, it can be rough dealing with the very conservative Catholic administration, but for the most part, the students on campus are very accepting. Also, for me personally, Notre Dame was the best school I got into, and it has amazing alumni network connections that have already helped me get internships and will help me get jobs in the future. Religion plays a big part on campus (bigger than I had anticipated), but that is all the more reason for queer students–who are willing to fight–to raise hell. Nothing at Notre Dame will change if all the queer students and allies leave. This student organization, while slightly flawed but having a lot of potential, would never have happened without the work of every student who fought for this for the past 15 years.
    I never thought I’d defend Notre Dame, but I had to speak up on this. My friends and I have been fighting too hard for someone to question our decision to even be at Notre Dame. We are not going to flee from injustice. We are going to fight for equality.

    • The call to chastity is a broad concept, and it applies to both sexes and people of all orientations. The author of this article gets it wrong.
      The call isn’t a call to celibacy. Those are different but related concepts. Chastity simply means having an “ordered” sexuality that treats others with respect. It’s about moderation.
      Married couples are called to chastity just as much as single people are. In other words, don’t treat people as mere sex objects.

      Catholic views on sexuality have evolved over time, sometimes forwards sometimes backwards. Catholic moral theology is about applying fundamental principles in new situations as the world changes and as we learn more. In vitro fertilization, stem cell research, new insights on sexuality gleaned from psychology and study of the natural world–all of that informs Catholic views on morality.

      Anyways, calling people to behave and treat each other like human beings isn’t such a bad thing in this day and age. I wouldn’t worry too much about the “call to chastity.” Properly understood, especially in light of what a lot of contemporary Catholic theologians say on homosexuality, this just means don’t use or hurt people through sex.

  16. I am also a current Notre Dame student, although I am a heterosexual ally.

    It’s really hard for me, even as “just” an ally, to put up with the ignorance and intolerance surrounding the LGBTQ community on campus. “If you knew it was so bad, why’d you go there?” is probably my least favorite question ever. I came to ND because it’s a top 20 university, with a huge emphasis on service and servant leadership and an amazing alumni network, among other reasons. My LGBTQ friends choose it for the same reasons. Sure, we could have gone to other universities that would be more accepting. But if we weren’t at ND to fight for change and make the administration realize that the LGBTQ community needs to be treated better, who would? Do we really want to encourage students to run from intolerant places instead of staying and putting up a fight? If we do, we’ll be running for the rest of our lives.

    Like Zoe said, we are fighting hard for equality at Notre Dame. Yes, it is unfair that our LGBTQ and ally club will be subjected to more scrutiny regarding chastity than other groups. No, non-heterosexuals are not the only people Notre Dame requires to be chaste. Yes, the Catholic Church has been and continues to be unfair to non-heterosexuals. No, not all Catholic universities or churches are the same. I have struggled with my being Catholic and I have struggled at Notre Dame. However, I feel that this article unfairly criticizes both too harshly. It has been a long, tough struggle to get the University to address the issue and an even longer and more difficult one to get Her to approve a student organization of this sort. Feel free to proffer ways that we can continue to fight for equality at Notre Dame, and within the Catholic Church, but please do not completely disregard the work we have done to get to this point.

    • Yeah, PSA (and other campus orgs) have been fighting literally for over a decade to get Alliance officially recognized. This still stops short of that but is better than the status quo. It’s not like there’s been zero progress.

  17. As a queer student at Georgetown, this blanket statement about Catholic universities really upsets me. Not all Catholic schools are alike, and Georgetown has made an incredible effort over the last five years to welcome LGBTQ students on its campus. Yes, it used to be bad for queer students here–the university largely ignored hate crimes in the early 2000s. But it was only by working *with* the university that we were able to make it better–not by removing ourselves from the campus community entirely. Today, Georgetown has an awesome LGBTQ center (it’s the only Catholic university in the U.S. that does), plus student-run clubs like GU Pride. President DeGioia even often uses Catholic social justice rhetoric to push LGBT equality: “Georgetown doesn’t have an LGBTQ center in spite of our Jesuit identity, but because of it.” I’m on full scholarship here, but even if I wasn’t, I’d be proud to pay tuition to Georgetown.

  18. I still remember when I transferred to a Catholic high school in Tennessee and the first thing I did in religion class was check the textbook to see what they said about LGBT folk. I was just so relieved that they actually acknowledged my existence and didn’t condemn me to hell that I didn’t give two shits about the chastity bit. That made it so much easier to deal with people than if it had just condemned all LGBT folk no matter what.

    That said, I totally understand the objection to the chastity clause, I just ignored it because I wasn’t Catholic and most everyone there acknowledged that it was stupid as hell (except for the teachers who had to take it seriously because Catholicism).

  19. What a disappointing, judgemental & bitter person this author must be ~ to speak (rather inarticulatley, i might add…haven’t seen the word “shitty” used so much since I intercepted a class note from a 7th grader several weeks ago! Bravo! So much for Ali’s ability to judge quality education. But oh she does!…and apparently from a vantage point far outside the stratosphere of higher education. The school she struggles so inarticulately to lambaste happens to undeniably be, for a multitude of reasons, one of the very best private institutions in this nation. But that by no means suggests that it is a perfect fit for every student. That said, we should be commending the students (LGBTQ & allies alike) who chose to attend the University of Notre Dame for thier tremendous achievement, years & years in the making. So don’t feel sorry for them. They are thrilled that this first step has been made in good faith & are excited to continue to work with the administration in rolling out this alliance, for lack of a better word. To my knowledge the organization is, as yet, unnamed, as Ali erroneously suggested. The chastity issue, which Ali seems to have become apoplectic over, actually applies to ALL Notre Dame students – gay & straight. But again, she wouldn’t know this personally unless she is a member of the community she strove so hard to tear down with her pathetic diatribe. Actually, if memory serves, the Catholic Church considers pre-marital sex a sin, so yeah, a whole lot of us are going to hell in a handbasket apparently. Word from the wise, Ali, lighten up miss. Why be a bitch to a group that is trying really hard, within the framework established by the church that serves as the foundation for a school they adore? I suspect you can’t help it. The one I feel sorry for is you.

    • Whoa whoa whoa, it’s one thing to critique a single article from an author who is widely respected here, and it’s another thing to completely lambast her qualifications as a writer. Most of your harsh accusations are completely invalid and contradict what Ali wrote in the article – she acknowledges that the chastity rule applies to ALL students; she mentions that she was raised in the Catholic community and has chosen to reject it which means she WAS a member of the community.

      How dare you come to this website, this community, and call one of our own a bitch? It’s evident that you’re not familiar with our community, but for someone who judges Ali harshly for using the word “shitty”, you have quite some nerve to use a derogatory term towards her.

      So, please back off and re-examine your defensive rage.

    • Let’s see: ad hominem argument; inability to read for comprehension; no logical coherence; can’t spell, capitalise or punctuate. If you think you’re defending Notre Dame, I’m sorry to tell you you’re no credit to it.

      This is probably a textbook example of aiming for ‘intelligent and patronising’, but arriving at ‘using big words to try to sound smarter than you are’. So take your attempts at classist condescension and fuck off.

  20. Despite how very unaccepting many/most catholics are, as clearly demonstrated by Notre Dame, i would like to say that there are some of us awesome lady and dude homos out there who are both and out and proud and religious. We can be hard to find but trust me we are out there. I wont deny that it is still difficult to go to church but when i get in my group and we do it together it makes us stronger and give us the chance to try and open catholics minds one service at a time.

  21. I am Catholic, I was educated in Catholic schools for 12 years, and now I go to a Baptist University in Nashville- famous on Autostraddle for firing their gay soccer coach in 2010: (
    It’s tough to be gay in these environments and, Lord knows, most of us would prefer to be at Smith or Wellesley on any given day of the week, but the fact is that places like Notre Dame are exactly where we need to be. I could move out of the south and never set foot in a church again, or I can get the best education possible and live as an example that gay people can be respectable members of a community. It’s easy to oppress and demonize someone you can’t see, and it would appear that the author has applied this view to the Catholic Church.
    I love Autostraddle, but after reading this article my visits will become less frequent. I come to this site for opinion essays on baking and Uh Huh Her, important issues like this shouldn’t be treated with the same tone. This critique of Catholicism is so entirely unoriginal and discouraging. Is it really surprising that a 2,000 year-old institution is corrupt? Is it surprising that they aren’t progressive? Do you know how Catholicism got to be so powerful- by not having “whims and fancies,” as the author put it. The Church has doctrine- often incomprehensible and sometimes humorous- but most importantly, for some of us, Catholicism is home and as much a part of our cultural identity as being queer. If all of the conservative Christians and secular liberals run to their opposing corners, there is no space for anyone who falls in the median. So you can keep your mighty dollar and Catholicism will keep its Da Vinci Code-like grip on the institutions it supports. As for me, I’ll be sending my kids to Catholic school, and you better believe their gay moms will be at the First Communion.

  22. I believe the first step in opening the dialogue has already been completed. I’m not sure how you can look at a move from no LGBT-related club and absolutely minimal resources to LGBT organization and a dedicated hire specifically to act as liaison as a negative thing and tear it down so completely. If there is any way NOT to help Notre Dame, ripping apart an attempt to rectify issues that plague LGBT students on campus is it.

    If you are too tired to try to tackle an issue from a constructive perspective, that’s perfectly understandable and your own concern. But it should follow that you would then proceed not to write an article about it, right? Maybe get someone else to write it that has a vested interest in the students of Notre Dame and a willingness to try to address issues more deeply than “don’t go there”. It is certainly understandable to not have the energy or drive to try to work with the wonderful people that have been pushing for more LGBT acceptance at Notre Dame, but it’s a bit puzzling to then write an article about it if you care so little about improving the situation there.

  23. Okay. So. This article is weird for me because my worlds are colliding (and oh, the people who worked SO HARD for years to actually get something on Notre Dame’s campus are mad too).

    I would think harder before qualifying this as “ex-gay-therapy-esque.” I don’t think there’s actually any justification for that. I’ve gone through similar things when I went to undergrad (another Catholic school) and basically what ends up happening is you get a TOTALLY queer supportive staffer assigned to you, who says “okay, these are the things we have to avoid, these are the things that are fine, we probably just can’t talk about sex a lot. Because Catholics.” Because no matter what happens, the school is under all kinds of pressure not to say things OFFICIALLY that are contradictory to Catholic hierarchy. That actually doesn’t quash any sort of intellectual debate. For example, a couple months ago, Maggie Gallagher and John Corvino were brought to campus to debate gay marriage. I was afraid that the audience would be overwhelmingly anti-gay marriage, but it was overwhelmingly pro gay marriage, and Corvino did an amazing job. WE CAN STILL TALK ABOUT THINGS. The Church just can’t officially condone them.

    I just…Ali, I like almost everything else you’ve written, but I think this required more research as to how it’ll actually affect the students. It’s going to be so much better for them to have an official place on campus than not. Yes, it’s not perfect, yes this is a compromise, but the queers and allies who have been working on this for two years (people like Alex Coccia, Mia Lillis, Dani and Zoe who commented above) are grateful that after 15 years, we even got the university to consider the gays, dissolve the previous system which wasn’t very good, and put in an organization that all students can be part of. I even went to one advisorial meeting where they met with queer grad students to see what they could put in place for support.

    Does it mean we get to stop working, no. Is it a victory, yes. Will it be better for gays, heck yes. And I don’t think that’s sufficiently addressed here.

    • THIS to Marika and Mouse’s comments. I am a Notre Dame grad who struggled with her sexuality while there and would have been thrilled to have these resources available to me at the time. I understand that from the outside these new measures can look incomplete, but I think it’s important to contextualize them in the history and culture of Notre Dame. As Marika said, this is a big deal to the Notre Dame community and a testament to the years of hard work by queers and allies on and off campus. I would hope that future articles on this topic recognize the nuances in these types of situations rather than painting with what, to me, feels like a very broad brush.

    • As someone who graduated a few years ago from ND a couple years ago (and definitely had a class with you Marika) I think that this article is a little harsh on the school. Yes, this organization is not perfect and ND still has a lot of problems, but like Marika said it’s a huge step for us. I really wish something like this had been there when I attended the school, and I think this will make life a lot better for gay students, especially those struggling to come out.

      And while I understand where Ali is coming from when she says that perhaps we shouldn’t give our money to Catholic organizations and attend schools like this, I think that’s the wrong approach. This organization would not have come about without the very vocal push by LGBT students and allies at ND. It’s only by having conversation with others who disagree with you that you can change minds and create a more accepting environment over time.

    • Thank you Marika! So wonderfully well said!

      What we have accomplished is better than where we started, and what we will accomplish will be even better yet.

  24. Just wanted to throw in my two cents, as a grad of another Catholic university where policies re: LGBTQ students were much more liberal (along with just about every other social issue).

    Notre Dame, as the most prominent Catholic university in the country, has come under major pressure from the Vatican, the extremely conservative Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the right-wing Newman society to take a hard-line approach to Catholic education. They’ve all threatened to pull funding/launch bad publicity campaigns if ND doesn’t follow their requests. That’s how the Obama fiasco happened.

    Most other Catholic universities, especially the legacy ones that have been operating for a hundred years or more (i.e. not that awful Franciscan Steubenville place in Ohio), are much more liberal in their teachings, policies and attitudes. So are their students and most of the Catholic church members in the U.S. My school emphasized one thing only: think critically for yourself. Even though that resulted in my leaving the Church.

    Under Benedict, things have just gone to shit.

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  26. I got an email from them asking to visit their school and consider applying. I’m not catholic, but it’s a good school. I considered it. After reading about this… No way. They’re sending me a package later this week. It’s going straight in the trash.

  27. This article ticks me off because i am a very devoted queer catholic whos dad and two uncles graduated from ND and my cousin will be attending there next fall. I was raised to love NOtre Dame. In my opinion this is one big step that i am Happy that ND is doing this cause i no that the Catholic church is not perfect. I would love it if the catholic liberals arts school had something like this so that coming out would be much easier!

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  30. I’m sure you’re just SO open-minded and progressive, seeing as you repeatedly stereotype and out-right insult Catholics repeatedly in your article. Personally, I am a Catholic and know that Catholicism has a lot more to it than the Church’s official stance on social issues. It is extremely hypocritical to grow angry over the subjugation of one group of people while promoting the subjugation of another. Yet again, personally, I am also in favor of gay rights. Unfortunately, it’s hypocrites like you who think they’re so edgy for bashing organized religion and all else they consider ‘backwards’. Frankly, I love my Church and I tolerate its social stances, but I find that if anything you and your ‘hate speech’ are simply pushing others further from your own cause. Please be more mindful and respectful of others before you promote the mindfulness and respect of yourself. May Mary pray for you(:

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