Students, Alumni of Mass. Catholic College Decry Anti-LGBTQ Message

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday October 22, 2020

A Catholic university in Massachusetts sent students a pre-Election Day message that compares marriage equality to abortion, genocide, war crimes, and other "intrinsically evil acts." Alumni responded with a letter to the administration calling them out for it.

Students at Assumption University in Worcester, Massachusetts, received "an email from the Campus Ministry... in reference to the upcoming election" that "linked to a document by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops," reports. The email was sent on Oct. 19.

The document "is titled 'How Does the Church Help the Catholic Faithful to Speak About Political and Social Questions?"' " reports the Worcester Telegram. It is an excerpt from a longer document titled "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship."

Text regarding marriage equality appears in a section of the document labeled "Doing Good and Avoiding Evil," the Telegram reported, "which also condemns abortion, racism and war crimes, among other offenses.

"The paragraph in question specifically includes 'redefining marriage to deny its essential meaning' among 'violations of human dignity' that it says can never be justified," the Telegram article goes on to note.

The document sent to students can be viewed here.

Alumni promptly responded with a letter to the university's administration decrying the message. "It is disappointing that during an election cycle that is extremely polarizing, Assumption University would provide these considerations for civic engagement," the letter, dated Oct. 19, reads in part.

The letter goes on to say that message was "disheartening" and "contradictory to Assumption's mission," MassLive reported.

The letter adds: "In the shadow of this incident, and so many others that are not named, we are calling on you to uphold the human dignity of every Assumption student, and particularly LGBTQIA+ students."

Current students at the university also spoke out, the Telegram reported.

"I can't believe my own school could make me feel so invalid," one LGBTQ student told the Telegram. "They clearly put no thought into how their students would feel when they decided to send that email."

In addition to the letter, a petition has been started at that calls for an apology from the school's administration, The Telegram article said.

"The anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments are shocking," the petition reads in part. "At a time when LGBTQ+ Americans are living in fear, this is the worst possible timing for Assumption to send out an information sheet that displays such horrendous language."

Calling the message "a stab in the back to the LGBTQ+ community that is very present on Assumption's campus," the petition goes on to "demand a formal apology from the school acknowledging the emotional harm or trauma this may have caused for students in the LGBTQA+ community."

University President Francesco Cesareo responded with a memo to students, MassLive reported. In the memo, Cesareo wrote, "We acknowledge the perspectives of some members of the community who found certain aspects of this week's text from the USCCB offensive."

The memo went on to add, "The University maintains its commitment to providing the campus community a welcoming and open environment, in which individuals are free to engage in reasonable and serious dialogue."

The controversy erupted just before comments made by Pope Francis I hit the headlines. Pops Francis, speaking in a new documentary titled "Francesco," that same-sex couples should be accorded civil partnership status.

"Homosexual people have the right to be in a family," Pope Francis said in an interview that appears in the film. "They are children of God."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.