An historically Catholic university has come under fire after a recent decision to host a campus “drag show,” despite a formal complaint by the local archbishop.
The issue began back in October, when Janet Houser, provost of Regis University in Denver, Colorado, urged faculty members in a letter to attend an on-campus “Drag Show featuring student performers.” The letter, co-signed by the school’s Queer Resource Alliance, described the Nov. 15 event that was to be held in conjunction with other campus events marking the “Transgender Day of Remembrance” for those who have lost their lives as a result of attacks or personal struggles related to their gender identity.
According to the Catholic News Agency, Houser’s letter also urged faculty to “assign readings by queer, and especially transgender, authors,” and “add your preferred gender pronouns to your email signature (for example, ‘she/her/hers’).” She also encouraged professors to call students by their preferred names and gender pronouns, and to express their intention to follow these guidelines on their course syllabi.
After Denver’s Archbishop Samuel Aquila complained that the planned events and new classroom policies relating to the treatment of LGBT students were in direct violation with Catholic teaching on sex and gender identity, Houser doubled down on her stance.
“I do not intend to change my position of support for our faculty and students,” she wrote in a Nov. 16 email to faculty.
The email came after Archbishop Aquila published a Nov. 13 public letter on the archdiocesan website, explicitly noting that “this guidance is not in conformity with the Catholic faith, despite the attempts made to justify it as rooted in Jesuit values.”
“On the contrary, Pope Francis has repeatedly decried the promotion of gender fluidity as a type of ideological colonization,” he continued, going on to ask Houser and other administrators why they would promote “an ideology that is contrary to what we know from the Scriptures.”
In a letter sent two days after Archbishop Aquila published his, Regis University president Fr. John Fitzgibbons, SJ, issued a response, in which he argued that “no student or staff member who, in conscience before God, identifies as lesbian, gay, or transgender, should ever be made to feel unsafe or unwelcome in our company.”
He went on to defend the university’s contested decision:
“While a ‘Drag Show’ might appear out of place on a Jesuit, Catholic campus, once again, such events, like the Queer Resource Alliance, open a safe space, a merciful space, if you will, for LGBTQ students to show their care and support for one another.”
“For us, to accompany LGBTQ persons with the mercy of Christ means allowing them the dignity of telling their stories and naming their experiences in terms that ring true for them, even while critically examining those terms in light of Catholic teaching,” he continued.
Fr. Fitzgibbons insisted that the school’s approach to LGBT issues is in accordance with Catholic teaching, and that its many programs involving “sustained discussions of human sexuality” examine non-Catholic views compassionately, but “critically.”
“I do not say that we embody our Jesuit, Catholic values perfectly, without error or room for improvement,“ Fr. Fitzgibbons noted, adding, “Our fidelity is not to ideologies, it is to persons and to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
While the issue clearly remains unresolved, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Denver told CNA that the university and the archdiocese are working to schedule a meeting between Archbishop Aquila and Fr. Fitzgibbons that will address each party’s concerns.
He expressed his hope that the archdiocese and the university president “can have productive dialogue.”
(H/T: Catholic News Agency)