The news recently carried the story of an unusual lawsuit. George Washington University Law Professor John Banzhaf has announced his intention to sue Catholic University of America. The university is returning to a former policy of gender-segregated dorms. Professor Banzhaf claims this is discriminatory.
Certainly, the parents who are sending their children to Catholic universities and colleges remember the strict dormitory rules that once were enforced on all campuses. Women and men lived in separate dorms. When young men visited the women’s dorms, they were greeted by a receptionist and allowed to have their visits in a public area.
However, ever since the 1970s, these rules have gradually changed. Today, educational institutions have co-ed residence halls. About fifty schools in the U.S. are even allowing men and women to share the same room. This new arrangement has sprung from the desire to accommodate gay, bisexual and transgender students who may feel more comfortable living with a member of the opposite sex. (cf. Larry Gordon, “Mixed-gender dorm rooms are gaining acceptance,”
Los Angeles Times
, March 15, 2010).
Supporting these recent changes in dorm arrangements, Professor Banzhaf argues that the recent changes in dorm arrangements—the reintroduction of separate dorms—is a form of illegal sexual discrimination. He is clearly wrong! There are no unequal burdens or disadvantages being imposed on either men or women when they live in single-sex dorms. In a June 13
The Wall Street Journal
, President Garvey of Catholic University said that the change was being made to reduce the incidents of promiscuous sex and binge drinking on campus. Commendable indeed! What parent or guardian would not want their son or daughter in the best possible circumstances to mature as well-formed individuals!
Catholic University’s new policy clearly aims at fostering chastity and temperance. These are truly Catholic values. Others may not agree with us about our values. But they should not be able to take away our freedom to live them. Ultimately, the lawsuit aims at this.
In recent years, other lawsuits have been generated precisely to limit our religious liberty. On March 21, 2006, The San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution, condemning the Catholic moral teaching on homosexuality. The resolution referred to the Church’s moral teaching on homosexuality as “insulting to all San Franciscans,” “hateful,” “insensitive” and “ignorant.” The Thomas More Law Center filed a federal lawsuit in response. The lawsuit claims that the First Amendment “forbids an official purpose to disapprove of a particular religion, religious beliefs, or of religion in general.”
Professor Ken Howell, who taught a course on Catholicism at the University of Illinois, was fired for presenting what the Catholic Church teaches on human sexuality.
He told his students that the Church teaches that sexual acts are only appropriate for a man and a woman who are married. Some took offense that he would even dare say anything that could be viewed as offensive to those who accept homosexuality. Fortunately, enough people responded to the injustice and the professor was rehired.
On March 5, 2009, the Connecticut General Assembly introduced bill S.B. No. 1098. The bill sought to change the governing structures of Catholic parishes. In effect, the bill sought to take away the authority and the independence of the bishop and the pastor over a parish. Such a change in the internal government of the Church would force the Church to act against her own beliefs in the essential pastoral constitution of the Church.
The protests were strong and loud from Catholics around the country. The bill was shelved.
In a strongly secularized society, again and again the Church is forced to go to court to defend the religious liberty of Catholics. It is not enough that some people do not agree with Catholic values. No! They are pro-active in removing their influence on public life. Historian Arthur Schlesinger, Sr
is often quoted as saying that “anti- Catholicism is the deepest-held bias in the history of the American people.” So strong in the 1928 campaign of Governor Al Smith for president, anti-Catholicism still smoldered in the more recent Supreme Court confirmations of practicing Catholics John Roberts and Samuel Alito.
Why are Catholics victims of bias? What is it about our values and our faith that threatens others and moves them to bring lawsuit after lawsuit against us for practicing our faith and living our values? Why is a society that exalts tolerance so intolerant of us at times?
The Church, as founded by Christ, has a hierarchal structure with clear lines of authority and teaching. In our democratic age, some view the Church as antiquarian. Why should anyone tell us how to live? Let alone an institution 2,000 years old.
The Church claims to teach objective truth. She bases her magisterium both on the natural law discoverable by reason and on divine revelation accepted in faith. In our post-modern culture, the very concept of objective truth and a magisterium to teach objective truth goes against those who reject natural law and divine revelation. In a time when relativism and pluralism reign, political correctness forbids anyone from speaking of objective truth.
The Church teaches a consistent sexual morality that celebrates the complementarity of man and woman in marriage. In an age where the difference between man and women has been blurred, this teaching is judged as a detriment to equality. And, in a culture that moves with untold rapidity from one new technological advance to another, the Church holding on to centuries-old rituals is judged as anti-progress.
Yes, anti-Catholicism confronts us today. But, there is no need to lament the fact that others do not like us because we are practicing Catholics. Rather, their bias against us can move us to help them understand what we believe and why we behave the way we do. Meeting head-on the opposition to our faith and values in the public forum
the witness to truth that we are called to offer in our day. And it is the truth that will set others free.