George Washington University Catholics: Standing by Their Man

George Washington University logo 2012

Two students at George Washington University have begun a campaign to use the university’s regulations to silence a Roman Catholic priest.

Their reason? Because the priest follows Roman Catholic teaching.

According to one news story I read, the two seniors, Blake Bergen and Damian Legacy, “feel alienated because the chaplain at George Washington University’s Newman Center rejects homosexuality, and they aren’t going to take it anymore.” 

An article in the school’s newspaper, the GW Hatchet, says that the two students “have launched a coordinated campaign to rid the campus of the priest.” They claim that they have left the Newman Center because Fr Greg Shaffer’s “strong anti-gay and anti-abortion views are too polarizing.” Evidently, Fr Shaffer also committed the sin of using his freedom of speech to write a blog post in which he advises students with same-sex attractions to live celibate lives. 

Bergan and Legacy wrote a piece for Huff Po with the totally disingenuous title, “The Fight for Love at George Washington University,” in which they toss around words and phrases like  homophobic and “persecution of the LGBT community.” 

I’ve left this story alone, since Patheos’ blogger Dawn Eden clearly had the inside track. When Deacon Greg Kandra came alongside her with additional coverage, I thought it was done and done. 

I still don’t believe I have a lot to add, but I do want to bring out a couple of points for Public Catholic readers. 

First, the two men behind this attack on Fr Shaffer are not Roman Catholic. One of them was raised as a Jew and is now agnostic. The other wanted to become a Catholic priest and was turned down by Fr Shaffer because of his refusal to leave the gay lifestyle. He has since become a priest in something called the North American Catholic Church. I am not familiar with this denomination, but I’m sure it’s not Roman Catholic.

I’m not sure why no one has asked if this whole campaign is just a matter of personal sour grapes and vengeance masquerading as concern for a “cause,” but I think it is a legitimate question. I don’t usually consider personal motives when I look at political actions. But this time, they seem fairly consequential. 

Images

According to the George Washington University Newman Center web site, 3,000 of the 10,000 students on this campus are Roman Catholic. Everything I read on their web site sounds like the Newman Center is there to minister to these students, although they do welcome people who are not Catholic to join in. Nothing I saw there makes me feel that the students are in any way required to participate in Newman Center activities. 

Tempest in a teapot

Frankly, unless the university decides to play the fool and do what these men are demanding, this whole thing may turn out to be a teapot tempest. It sounds like a very nasty bit of vengeful character assassination aimed at a faithful priest who simply had the good sense to tell someone who was actively participating in the homosexual lifestyle that he was not good priest material. 

Duh. 

My comments on this are two-fold. First, this kind of wacko behavior could only occur in a social environment where people felt free to engage in Christian and Catholic bashing. These two young men probably wouldn’t be any less vicious if they weren’t feeling empowered by the endemic Catholic bashing on our campuses, but they most certainly would have taken another route for their personal vendetta.

Second, these priest bashers aren’t having it all their own way. Students on the campus have opened a blog supporting Fr Shaffer. 

It’s about time. 

Cowardly

Christians need to stop running away when someone attacks a fellow Christian and stand by them instead. This is the main point this post. We’ve gone on too long letting the bullies cull out one or the other Christian and attack them while the rest of us either run away or stand by and watch it happen. In truth, we are so glad that the object of the attack is them, and not us, that we keep quiet so that it won’t become us. 

There’s a word for this. It’s called cowardice. 

I am writing this post to commend the Catholic students of George Washington University for standing by their pastor. I am also writing it to encourage you to do the same when you see other Christians being attacked for following Christ. 

Silence means assent. We’ve been silent in the face of Catholic and Christian bashing for far too long. 

  • Dale

    A few days ago, Fr. Shaffer posted an image on his blog. It shows Christ sitting down and wearily looking out on the sea. The caption is “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.”

    The timing of the campaign against Fr. Shaffer seems ironic, being so soon after Holy Week.

    • https://alessandrareflections.wordpress.com/ Alessandra

      I think Rev. Gregory Shaffer needs to speak much more about sexuality on campus!
      Americans hate to face how dysfunctional they are concerning sexuality. They must normalize all their profound psychological problems related to sexuality to run away from dealing with them.
      It’s people with a homosexual agenda that push for porn, promiscuity, hookups, and adultery in every society.
      Hopefully Americans will some day realize that the claim that “what you do in your bedroom is no one’s business” is one fat lie, because attitudes and behaviors about sexuality and relationships are the bedrock of society.
      Some conservatives have been too passive and even cowardly to confront the destruction brought about by liberals regarding sexuality.
      How many conservatives now say “gay” and believe that people “are born homosexuals”?
      They’re believing the nonsense spread by the most dysfunctional people in society.
      ……………………
      I am writing this post to commend the Catholic students of George Washington University for standing by their pastor. I am also writing it to encourage you to do the same when you see other Christians being attacked for following Christ.

      Yes, indeed.

      • Bill S

        “It’s people with a homosexual agenda that push for porn, promiscuity, hookups, and adultery in every society.”

        Alessandra: You are constantly spewing this kind of hate speech. What is it with you?

        “Hopefully Americans will some day realize that the claim that “what you do in your bedroom is no one’s business” is one fat lie, because attitudes and behaviors about sexuality and relationships are the bedrock of society.”

        Of course it is no one’s business. How could it possibly be otherwise?

        • Rebecca Hamilton

          This is getting too personal. Talk about the issues. Do not attack the other commenter.

  • FW Ken

    College is an intense time of spiritual formation, for good our ill. My best friends 40 later are from our prayer group and singing ministry. These faithful Catholic Newman Centers are a great encouragement, because they are laying foundations that might last these kids a lifetime. We have a great one down here at Texas A&M – Mary’s Aggies.

  • Indy

    Thank you for bringing this to our attention – I have sent Father Greg an email. I am not Catholic – I am a Lutheran but regardless we need to stand together against persecution of our faith.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      I agree Indy. Thank you for doing this.

  • Daniel

    In related news…
    http://www.gwhatchet.com/2012/12/03/tony-kushner-to-visit-english-class-this-spring/
    George Washington University will pay a “hefty speaking fee” to host writer Tony Kushner, scheduled to speak at the school this week. Kushner has made many controversial statements, including blaming Pope John Paul II for the murder of Matthew Shepard, and protesting in support of the anti-Christian play Corpus Christi.

    All while Blake Bergen, angry that the Newman Center receives a small amount of funding, is demanding the right to review and vet campus ministers at GWU.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/blake-bergen/the-fight-for-love-at-george-washington-university_b_3024342.html

    • savvy

      Someone remind the Huffington Post, that revenge is not love. You cannot go into the Newman Centre and then complain about their beliefs. The next time somebody asks, you how will my marriage affect you?. Let them know.

  • Dake

    hmmm…. according to the GW Hatchet article, Kushner’s speaking fee is funded by an alumnus, not by the university.

  • Sal F. LaMantia

    This is not really just about Father Greg, The root of the issue is the hatred for Christ that so many in the diverse community have yet they haven’t the courage to simply stand up and say so. The wage their war on Christ by attacking the periphery, the clergy and the body of the church. It is tantamount to, and no less than putting a stick in the eye of God. What people of faith, regardless of denomination have to remember and stay focused on it that it is the likes of these two young men that Christ sacrificed Himself. Whether a man commits sexual sin with another man or a woman it still is sin. Christ dealt with sin on the cross for repentant sinners and one day God Himself will deal with the unrepentant sinners, and that is exactly what the unrepentant sinners do not want to hear, and that’s why these two young men (and the like minded of their kind) are so bent out of shape. I’ll close with a simple truth, there will be an abundance of repentant sinners in heaven someday.


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