A student-led initiative brought a prominent Catholic blogger, speaker, author and freelance writer to BookMarx Bookstore on April 21 to discuss how to be nondiscriminatory toward homosexual persons within and outside of the church.
Eve Tushnet spoke and offered to sign her book “Gay and Catholic,” which talks about her conversion experience as well as what it means to be a Catholic woman struggling with same-sex attraction.
In her talk, she covered four different points in the format of “Discrimination vs.” arguments. They were Discrimination vs. Support in Vocation, Welcome, Solidarity and Discipleship.
The overall theme was about supporting those struggling with same-sex attraction by welcoming them, allowing them to serve in the church, allowing one’s individual vocation to make one strive for better and overall pushing each other to be disciples of Jesus Christ.
“Start looking around, and start asking what are the practical, often economic, emotional and spiritual ways we can support one another’s relationships of love and caregiving even when they don’t look like the major models that we have been given for love and caregiving, which are again parenting, marriage and maybe religious life,” Tushnet said.
She stressed the point of welcoming and of allowing these people to serve in the church in any way they can so that they would not feel left out but rather accepted. It echoed what Pope Francis said last year about welcoming the gifts of homosexual persons.
“It may not be the way they want to serve; it is okay to not have Nancy Pelosi teach CCD,” Tushnet said, as the crowd chuckled. “But is there something she can do? Is there something we can offer people to bring them deeper into the church instead of trying to protect the church from them? We need to welcome the gifts of sinners. Welcome the gifts of the unrepentant. And welcome the gifts of the unconvinced, which are a separate category.”
A GoFundMe page created by senior Franciscan University student Luke Daigle funded this talk, after his club, Students for a Fair Society (SFS), requested Tushnet come speak on campus but was denied permission.
Daigle said that in a meeting with Franciscan University administration and SFS leadership three reasons were given for not being able to host Tushnet at this time: her identification as a lesbian, her stance that in certain situations it is healthier for a person to be open and “out of the closet,” and also because of her current proposition of a “celibate partnership.”
“(O)n a pastoral level, Eve in her book entertains what it would look like for a gay, possible married, couple with children, because this is becoming relevant in modern society, what it would look like if they were to convert to the Catholic church and live chastely, but find it impossible to separate,” Daigle said. “To this she says, perhaps we can propose a model of celibate partnership.”
Franciscan University hosts speakers that stimulate intellectual and critical thinking that is practical and related to living a spiritual life that is in line with the teachings of Christ and of the Catholic Church.
A statement released by the university said, “In this case, the speaker in question takes an approach that is inconsistent with the University’s pastoral approach. As a result, rather than being perceived as supportive of her positions, we have chosen not to host her as a campus speaker at this time.”
After meeting with the administration and discussing this topic twice, Daigle decided to create a GoFundMe page to bring Tushnet to Steubenville. He initially planned to raise $410 but ended up with a total of $1,075.
Shortly after this meeting, Daigle “was called into another meeting with the administration where it was made known that Students for a Fair Society (could not) advertise this event. It has to be presented as a Bookmarx event put on by an independent student-led initiative. We were okay with that, but we did ask if we could advertise on campus, and we were told yes — as Bookmarx,” said Daigle.
Though the fundraiser proved successful, there was some argument about whether Tushnet should even give this talk. Some students argued this on the “Frannies Talk to Each Other” Facebook page.
“Honestly, I feel very uncomfortable with this,” student Rita Franzonello said. “Students for a Fair Society have supported and put on events that I strongly disagreed with. I just have to … say looking at their past and the fact that the university didn’t allow this speaker, I have strong doubts that this will be fruitful. We are called to love one another despite our sins, but Franciscan students tend to take that too far with their acceptance of lifestyles/identities. I don’t think this is an issue of FUS denying a good speaker and a hate crime, I think there’s something seriously questionable that people are missing.”
Students who attended the talk seemed to enjoy the talk and found it fruitful.
“I thought the talk was necessary,” said student Joe Bender. “It was incredibly useful. If we want to evangelize and be pastoral, we need to meet people where they are at. I also loved how she explained the impact that the Eucharist has had in her life and why (she) saw the need for more ‘bad Catholics.’ Her story was one of acknowledging and revering Christ in the Eucharist, something that far too many of our generation do not wholly understand. I didn’t agree with her interpretation of vocation, but I can see how she came to it and she also acknowledged that she is still learning theology.”