Adam Varoqua, a senior psychology and social and behavioral sciences major, had a meeting with Monsignor Anthony Ziccardi before Christmas break to discuss the removal of a link to Courage International, previously included on Seton Hall University’s Campus Ministry website.
According to the Archdiocese of Newark’s website, “Courage International is a prayer and support ministry of the Catholic Church for men and women struggling with same sex attraction who desire to live a chaste life according to the teachings of the church.”
Monsignor Ziccardi said an interview was not possible at this time but shared a statment with The Setonian.
Courage International, according to Ziccardi’s statement, has been endorsed by the Holy See as a support group for Catholics with a same-sex attraction who want to live according to the Church’s teaching. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops similarly recommends it and provides a link to it.
The link has been removed since this meeting, however its inclusion on the website in the first place has encouraged Varoqua to enact the long-term goal of, “having the governing bodies of this institution actually care about the student community.”
According to Varoqua, the link took around two months to be removed after he initially brought his concerns up and a week following his meeting with Ziccardi.
“Although allegations of unsafe practices are found on the Internet by a variety of persons and organizations, no evidence could be found that Courage was ever found liable for damages in an American court of law,” Ziccardi said in his statement.
Ziccardi went on to say that because the Office of Mission and Ministry had no way to prove or disprove said allegations, “not only the link to Courage but also two entire webpages of referrals to any and all other outside organizations (including non-Catholic worshipping communities) were removed for the sake of caution.”
“We realized we could only assure the quality of our own services, no one else’s,” Ziccardi said.
Varoqua said he initially learned about the link through fellow ad-hocs and Senators from the Student Government Association that he himself is a part of as the Senator for the College of Arts and Sciences.
Varoqua initially brought up his concerns with the Diversity and Inclusion Committee on campus, which he is also a member of, and was directed to contact Campus Ministry. Soon after, the meeting was set up with Ziccardi, Varoqua and Professor Richard Blissett.
“Meeting with Monsignor Ziccardi was one of the most frustrating, homophobic, and uncomfortable experiences I ever had in my life and at Seton Hall,” Varoqua said. “He had a copy of the Catholic catechism on human sexuality and proceeded to read out how homosexuality is ‘objectively disordered.’”
Varoqua went on to say that, during the meeting, Ziccardi claimed that he didn’t have the power to remove the resource himself, “even though he brought up multiple instances of himself exercising the power of his office on campus. He is also the VP of Mission & Ministry, a member of the Executive Cabinet on campus, and the Secretary Designee for the Board of Regents.”
“[Ziccardi] said that gay students are not discriminated on campus because Seton Hall doesn’t remove us out of classes,” Varoqua said. “He also described how the university cannot affirm the ‘homosexual lifestyle’ and brought up how he has gay friends and family members.”
“Overall, from my perspective and experience, he was disrespectful and remained adamant that the link would not be taken down,” Varoqua recalled. “In all honesty, I never want to see or meet this man again, except in the form of a personal apology to me.”
He continued to say that the University should do more to be an inclusive university by having more classes that deal with struggles regarding race, class and sexual orientation as well as offer more financial aid to students who financially struggling.
He also shared that he hopes this motivates those in the administration, the Board of Trustees and Regents and the Archdiocese to “not only acknowledge us but to do a better job in actually serving the student population.”
Varoqua said he would appreciate it if the Provost or the President could send out an email “recognizing our basic rights and liberty and condemning hatred and bigotry It would also be nice to have the Archbishop extol the priesthood to actually accept people who are LGBTQ+ and to show love, something Jesus would do.”
“More importantly though, I want people who are LGBTQ+ to know that we are not alone, that we are loved, and that we deserve to be heard. Our lives and our struggles matter and we will not be silenced,” Varoqua said.
Rhania Kamel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adam Varoqua, who was quoted in this article, is a Campus Life staff writer..