The Vatican drew mixed reactions from the Seton Hall community after a March 15 statement reaffirmed the stance of the Catholic Church on gay civil unions.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), a Vatican office responsible for promoting and defending Catholic church doctrine, used the document to explain why “the Church does not have, and cannot have, the power to bless unions of persons of the same sex.”
According to the document, Pope Francis “was informed and gave his assent to the publication.”
Fatima Palomino Ramos, a freshman criminal justice and English major, said she felt “extremely disappointed” by the Vatican’s recent statement.
“I feel like the Vatican is pushing people away from the church by making these types of statements,” Ramos said. “I feel like the church is showing its constituents that LGBTQA+ love is less valid than heterosexual love by making this statement, and that is so disheartening.”
Brendan Minogue, senior marketing major said that while he understands and respects people’s right to be disappointed, he feels the Catholic Church should be able to make this decision.
“The church is over 2000 years old,” Minogue said. “It is not just going to change and have it be the way people want it to because they asked.
“It is not like the church is not trying,” he said. “They are trying to be empathetic.”
Patrick Condon, a junior diplomacy and international major and the treasurer of the Seton Hall PRIDE club, called the statement “a step back.”
“It seemed like the Pope's earlier remarks about civil unions were in a way reaching out to the LGBTQ community, but it is clear that this is no longer the case,” Condon said.
Father Doug Milewski, an associate professor of theology at Seton Hall, said that a consequence of the sentiment that the statement is a “step back” may show how the discussion might be framed better.
“The CDF’s document affirms standard, consistent Catholic practice and values,” Milewski said. “An ‘as you were’ or stare decisis statement, if you will, cannot be termed a ‘step back’ without implying the ‘step forward’ is to endorse the opposite view. This hardly sets a framework for a real conversation between parties.”
Several students said they hoped Seton Hallwould open a dialogue about the most recent statement.
Shweta Parthasarathy, a freshman diplomacy and international relations major who does not identify as Catholic, said she thinks the University should find ways to start a conversation.
“I think the university needs to try and encourage talking about what it’s like to really be part of the LGBTQ+ community and the challenges they face, because we can never really decrease discrimination and stereotyping if we don’t understand their perspective,” Parthasarathy said.
Aubrey Casterline, a senior creative writing and philosophy major, said that she does not think the University has to respond, but said “it would be awesome if they acknowledged and maybe had a conversation about it or open discussion night.”
Cash Kinsey, a freshman environmental studies major, said the University does not have a responsibility to respond to the statement but should be inclusive to students who identify as being part of the LGBTQ community.
“I believe that the university should do everything within its power to make them feel included and comfortable on campus,” Kinsey said. “I do not believe that this would require the University to violate any of its religious beliefs. As was stated by the Vatican, they can bless ‘sinful’ people while still upholding their beliefs about what they consider a sin.”
Edmona Gomes, a sophomore history and political science major and the President of PRIDE, said the University needs to improve its reception of LGBTQ+ students.
“Seton Hall has always had a difficult track record in regards to its treatment of LGBTQ+ students,” Gomes said. “PRIDE struggled for years to become an officially recognized organization and still faces disproportionate scrutiny from administration. [In 2010], Professor Mott’s Politics of Gay Marriage class was so controversial that it was nearly cancelled.”
Mia DiPaola, a junior diplomacy and international relations major, said she has never felt excluded on campus as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
“The students on campus are very inclusive, and for the most part professors are, too,” DiPaola said. “However, while efforts have been made by the administration to be more inclusive, for example recognizing PRIDE as an official club on campus, there is still work that needs to be done.”
Father Colin Kay, the director of Campus Ministry, said that one principle of the “Harvest Our Treasures” strategic plan is to listen to all voices in the community.
Kay said the University’s commitment to the fourth goal of the strategic plan, can be specifically demonstrated by the work of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee.
“We invite every member of the Seton Hall family to contact the DEI Committee to share events, initiatives and ideas, or to become more involved,” Kay said.
Jasmine DeLeon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org