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. 


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