Opinion: It's time for a Jesuit dialogue on the BCSSH scandal

Boston College made worldwide news this past week with a sexual health scandal concerning the distribution of free condoms on campus. The administration threatened disciplinary action against members of Boston College Students for Sexual Health, or BCSSH, if the group’s “Safe Sites” were not shut down. These Safe Sites, dorm rooms with the BCSSH’s logo on the door, provide students with condoms, personal lubricant and information on sexual health on a campus where there is otherwise little to no dialogue on the subject.

Screen Shot 2013-03-29 at 1.33.48 PMI realize that the mainstream media has capitalized on the “free condoms” aspect of this story. However, in reality the greatest casualty of BCSSH’s Safe Sites’ shut down is the loss of dialogue on safe sex here at Boston College. Most of us can afford to buy condoms. While it is unfortunate that the Safe Sites are being shut down, it is even more unfortunate that the Boston College administration does not respect its students ability to have a mature, adult conversation about the distribution of contraception on campus.

Contraception or no contraception, the loss of the Safe Sites is a loss for the student body as a whole. It is a lost opportunity to have a campus-wide discussion about the Catholic social teachings that are driving the shutdown of BCSSH's Safe Sites. BC should not be categorically denying that these sites should exist at a Catholic institution, but instead engaging students in a dialogue about WHY they should not exist.

I understand that by attending Boston College I am attending a Catholic University with a prescribed morality set forth by the Catholic Church. By choosing to attend this Catholic University, I have basically signed up for living by the rules of Boston College and, by extension, the Catholic Church during my four years as a student here. I am a confirmed member of the Catholic Church. I even took a goofy confirmation name my junior year of high school (Placid) when I chose to join this worldwide spiritual community.

Screen Shot 2013-03-29 at 1.40.34 PMHowever, that being said, I am personally pro-Choice. I am personally pro-Gay Rights. I do not agree with the Catholic Church on these issues. In fact I vehemently disagree with the Catholic Church’s stance on many such issues and I have never seen any reason to bend my own personal morals to fit those of the Church when I feel such an egregious disconnect.

This does not mean that I do not value the community provided by the Catholic Church in my life. Nor does it mean that I do not believe in the fundamental values laid out by the Church’s doctrine.

I feel confident in my decision to question these teachings partially because of my Jesuit education. If my education at Boston College has taught me anything thus far, it is that I must engage in a dialogue with intellectual materials in order to achieve personal growth and enlightenment. If I truly wish to be educated by the Jesuits’ standards, I must ask “Why?” and not simply accept what is placed in front of me as an irrevocable truth.

I hold Boston College to these same standards. I understand that the university is under the jurisdiction of the Catholic Church and embraces Catholic values. But, as a Jesuit institution, I do not think it unreasonable to expect the administration to engage in a dialogue with the controversial teachings of the Catholic Church. In fact, for Boston College to accept these doctrines without question verges on the hypocritical.

Screen Shot 2013-03-29 at 1.38.00 PMHow can students at Boston College continue in their Jesuit education when the institution itself is unwilling to question the arcane positions put forward by the Catholic Church? Just as I cannot hope to move forward in my education without engaging in a dialogue with my scholastic materials, how can Boston College and, by extension, the Catholic Church hope to move forward in their development without engaging in an internal examination of their own doctrines?

In a statement made to CNN on March 27, Boston College spokesman Jack Dunn said, "The university has commitments to uphold in regards to Catholic social teaching. Students are aware of that when they enroll here.”

In response, I say that by not questioning these social teachings, Boston College is doing future generations of Catholics a great disservice. The opportunity for progressive education and development has presented itself and, instead of engaging in a worldwide discussion to better the Catholic community as a whole, our university is perpetuating archaic moral teachings to satisfy its “commitments” to the Catholic Church.

Recently other Catholic colleges and universities have spoken out in solidarity with Boston College’s decision to shutdown the BCSSH safe sites. According to the Boston Globe, two other Boston area Catholic schools, Holy Cross College and Stonehill College, stated that “It is no different from asking groups to refrain from other activities that run counter to Catholic beliefs.”  This is a slippery slope for the University to travel down.

Screen Shot 2013-03-29 at 1.42.09 PMBoston College, and presumably the aforementioned colleges, are accepting of students from different faith backgrounds. I am personally a member of the Buddhism Club here on campus, which meets in the multi-faith chapel every Thursday. If Catholic colleges are going to take this extreme stance on condom distribution and sexual health education, how can they justify the religious clubs on campus that must also inherently run counter to Catholic beliefs?

It is a fundamentally flawed argument. Where is the line drawn when the University condones certain activities that violate Catholic teachings, but not others?

It is our duty as a Jesuit university to question the morality of these doctrines, not blindly accept them and force student groups on campus to do the same. Boston College should be able to retain its status as a Catholic University while seeking to support the modern progression of the Church. We should not remain stagnant in modern times.

Refusing to have these discussions is refusing to ignite change within the Catholic Church and within Boston College itself. If the university cares about the well being of its students, sexual health needs to be addressed and not just patronizingly shoved onto the back burner by the administration.

It may be idealistic to think that one relatively small university has the potential to inspire greater change in a community that traverses the globe, but we have to start somewhere. Change starts with discussion. The BCSSH issue, at its core, is about this lack of discussion on campus and within the Catholic spiritual community as a whole. Boston College, get talking because this is a conversation worth having. It’s time to resume your education.

Screenshots by Emily Akin/Gavel Media

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