Catholic Gonzaga University Bans Knights of Columbus Because They’re Catholic

I’ve written posts recently that I said were “man bites dog” stories. I suppose that makes this one a “dog bites self” story. 

According to the Cardinal Newman Society, Gonzaga University which bills itself as a Catholic university and whose mascot is the bulldog, banned the Knights of Columbus from their campus. This evidently came after a year of stone-walling by the University administration.

The reason this dog decided to bite itself? 

Because the Knights of Columbus is a Catholic organization. Dr Sue Weitz, Gonzaga Vice President for Student Life, wrote (emphasis mine):

“The Knights of Columbus, by their very nature, is a men’s organization in which only Catholics may participate via membership,” says a letter obtained by The Cardinal Newman Society written by Sue Weitz, Vice President for Student Life. “These criteria are inconsistent with the policy and practice of student organization recognition at Gonzaga University, as well as the University’s commitment to non-discrimination based on certain characteristics, one of which is religion.”

So. Does this mean that if I went to Gonzaga, my all-mom (which, by definition, makes us all female) rosary group could not be recognized by the university? What about an all-girl lamaze class? Of course, the all-male part of this letter, coming from a school with a winning basketball team, which, if I’m not mistaken, is all-male, is ridiculous on its face. It’s just puffery.

The thing that really strikes home is the “dog bites self” action of a Catholic university banning a Catholic organization because it’s Catholic. Dr Weitz commented in the letter that she “believes strongly in the university’s policy of non-discrimination and inclusiveness.”

I would guess that she probably believes what she wrote, but it’s nonsense. In truth, schools like Gonzaga that are so self-consciously “inclusive” and committed to “nondiscrimination” are the elite training grounds for a new upper class. Wealthy parents prepare their children from infancy to go to schools like Gonzaga because they are a funnel for targeting certain people into the privileged zip codes and plumb positions that rule the rest of us.

Harvard, Princeton, Yale are the premiere examples of this. A diploma from one of these schools is a ticket to entry into that other world of easy connections the rest of the country knows nothing about.  Gonzaga students have to push a bit more to get there, but for a vice president of this school to call it “inclusive” and “nondiscriminatory” is an oxymoron.

In truth, these upper tier schools, including those on the second and third tiers like Gonzaga, are no more inclusive and nondiscriminatory than the old “400” of East Coast high society.

Money is the new discrimination. Wealth is the new prejudice. And the attitudes of the moneyed class control and corrupt higher education from top to bottom. Based on this action banning the Knights of Columbus from their Catholic school, I would say that these attitudes of exclusiveness and discrimination rule absolutely at Gonzaga. 

I don’t find it surprising at all that a school which has veered so far from Catholic teaching as it regards wealth and power would be embarrassed by an unashamedly Catholic organization like the Knights of Columbus. Catholicism, if it is practiced as a faith and not a social delimiter, is the antithesis of what all these upper tier schools have become. 

There was a time when education was considered a leaven to our whole society. The principle behind public education is that we will provide a free, equal education for all our citizens so that every single one of them has a chance to live their life to its fullest. 

What has happened instead is that our schools have become, as I said earlier, funnels for discrimination. From the horrible slum schools we foist on large segments of the population, to the country club public schools we provide to other segments of the population, and on into the university level, education in this country has become a method and a means of creating and perpetuating a moneyed elite and a limited citizenry.

Gonzaga is part of that.

The last thing a school of this nature would want is a genuine Christian influence on its campus. Christianity has a way of turning this elitist nonsense on its head and demanding in the name of a God of justice and mercy that we do better.

I am not saying that this bizarre little letter with its facile self-righteousness that banned the Knights of Columbus from Gonzaga’s campus said any of this. I am not even saying that the Vice President who wrote it or the administrative board that backed it are thinking in these precise terms. I am saying that this is what they are doing.

These upper tier schools appear to be so self-congratulatory that it would never occur to them to challenge their own moral assumptions. They are bubbles of group-think and like-thinking and they have become increasingly aggressive about keeping anyone who is not “our kind” off their premises.

The Knights of Columbus and the Catholic Church which preaches the beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount are definitely not “our kind” in these schools.

Upper tier schools talk a good game about their inclusive, nondiscriminatory values. But in practice they are the instruments by which we have created and are perpetuating an isolated and privileged new upper class.

Gonzaga still claims it’s Catholic identity. In fact, it’s rather self-conscious about it. But I think Gonzaga lost its true Catholic identity long before it sent this letter banning the Knights of Columbus from its campus. True Catholic identity means identifying with the least, the lost, the poor and the weak. Gonzaga has evidently become the kind of school where that Gospel challenge to true inclusiveness and non-discrimination is a bridge too far. 

 

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I am Hooked on Pope Francis

Maybe it’s my working-class, slum-school background.

Maybe it’s long years of representing a district where, more times than not, I’m the only white person and the only college-educated person at the table.

I dunno exactly what it is.

But I am hooked on Pope Francis. Red shoes, black shoes, no shoes, it doesn’t matter a bit to me. He’s my pope. I love that he’s from this hemisphere. I love that he’s Argentinian. I love that he was so sick as a young person that he lost a lung and probably learned about suffering at an early age. I love, love, love that he talks about the poor, the disenfranchised, the least of these.

I take inspiration from his strong pro life stance. I find courage in the way, as cardinal, he defended traditional marriage. I even like the fact that the President of Argentina had the temerity to publicly chastise Cardinal Bergoglio for standing for Church teaching. It makes me hope that he “gets” it, that perhaps he has some idea of what life is like down here in the pits with the rest of us.

I don’t think that God has given us a hot house plant pope who doesn’t have the first clue what the rest of us are about. This immigrant son of a railway worker probably “gets” it and “gets” us, including the us that is so afraid of him and what he’s saying.

It’s taken me days to come up with a theory for why some people are so disturbed about what I see as the niggely little things this man has changed. I think — and I want to emphasize that this is just me, saying what I kinda think today — I think that they don’t “get” it.

The world is a butcher shop.

Let me say that again.

The world is a butcher shop.

The world is cruel, unjust and indifferent.

More and more, people live in their little silos of existence and actively do their best to shelter themselves from experiencing what life is like for anyone else. Here in this country, we have “super zip codes” of wealth and privilege where like-thinking, self-congratulating scions of the new upper class congregate and become more ingrown and arrogant with each passing day. These are the people who have been to the “right” schools and trained to think in the “right” way.

Meanwhile, the world is a hope-killig butcher shop.

Without hope, people die inside. And when the world is a butcher shop, hope is a fragile plant starved for the sunlight.

This man, this good man, who is our new pope seems to understand this. He seems to know that hopelessness breeds every kind of evil and destruction and that hopelessness is the gift we’ve bestowed on untold millions of people all around the globe.

No wonder he makes some people uncomfortable. The Gospel message is like that. It discomfits the haves, the self-congratulatory, the smug every single time.

Commenters on this blog have reminded me that the red of the red shoes signifies the blood of the martyrs, the willingness on the part of the pope who wears them to be a martyr. Fine. I have no quarrel with that. If Pope Francis takes to wearing red shoes in the next few weeks, it’s ok by me.

But we don’t need shoes to signify the blood of the martyrs. The blood of the martyrs is soaking into the ground of Nigeria right now as we speak. The blood of the martyrs flowed through the tubes attached to the vacuums in the abortion clinics while I was typing this sentence. The blood of the martyrs stains the pavement in India and the prison floors in Pakistan.

We don’t — or we shouldn’t — need shoes to remind us of that.

Without hope, people don’t die, their souls do. We live in a hope-stealing, soul-sucking world that devastates millions of its inhabitants from the inside out.

But the message of Christ is hope. It is impossible for anyone who truly understands the great dignity they hold as a child of God, who knows the free gift of eternal life, to be bereft of hope. Our hope is universal and eternal.

That is the beginning of real change. That is the message that leavens societies from the bottom up rather than the top down.

Perhaps what disturbs some people about Pope Francis is that, when you’re safe, fed and fat, living in your plush silo of privilege, the Gospel message isn’t a comfort. It’s a challenge. Maybe people who have been taught to think in narrow, self-congratulatory ways are both frightened and angered by challenges of this sort.

The Gospel of Christ offers everything there is to anyone who will say yes. But it asks everything you have in return. The world is a butcher shop because so many of us have failed to follow through on that Gospel challenge with Gospel living that transcends our self-made silos and projects us into the uncomfortable world of being our brothers’ and our sisters’ keepers.

Pope Francis is scary because there’s the fear, not of black shoes, but the Gospel message and the call to conversion that lie behind the black shoes.

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