Amidst the buzzing conversation surrounding a recent article published in The Heights, there has been a quiet, and perhaps unwelcome, awakening amongst some of the students here at BC. The piece, which advocates for an LGBTQ+ resource center on campus, was followed by a response in the form of an LTE that sparked debate about the stances of both the Catholic Church and the university support (or lack thereof) of the LGBTQ+ community. Many students were perplexed to see that such shockingly close-minded opinions are alive and well within a number of their peers on campus.
It’s true that the BC administration has a bit of a mixed history in regards to enforcing progressive policies. While Fr. Leahy has recently spoken out against Trump’s Muslim travel ban, the rescindment of DACA, and white supremacy in Charlottesville, the administration has been well-known to discourage and punish political demonstrations on campus. This is not mirrored in the student body; as a whole, it is very socially progressive. With many clubs and organizations dedicated to progressive causes—most recently, BC's own chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists—it can be easy to assume that those around us hold, more or less, the same opinions as us. So when a dissenting voice comes out, it can be rattling.
Coming to understand the origins of more discriminatory mindsets that persist among fellow young adults during such a politically charged time often requires taking a closer look into the dynamics of family life. While the social teaching of the Catholic Church itself is warm and inclusive, specifically calling believers to treat with compassion and love all those who are marginalized (yes, that includes LGBTQ+ individuals), sometimes these ideals are bastardized by overzealous Christians who use religion to justify their closed-mindedness and overt biases.
My personal experience, as raised by unerringly conservative parents in a large Irish Catholic family, has greatly shaped my development in many ways. My home environment was aggressively homophobic and xenophobic, and I was taught to uphold racial profiling and stereotypes while outright rejecting feminism and reviling the use of “buzzwords” such as “political correctness,” “social justice,” “equality,” “solidarity,” “inclusivity,” etc. Any pleas, or even suggestions, to treat others with empathy (as Jesus would do) fell upon my parents’ deaf ears, and they went to great lengths to ensure my siblings and I were aware that even the vaguest of liberal leanings would not be welcome within our home.
It pains me deeply to think about how long I held onto many of these toxic ideals. This fact is due in part to my extremely sheltered upbringing, but also to a failure to objectively question whether these beliefs felt morally just. As I gained life experiences and expanded my perspective beyond the narrow lens I viewed the world through as a child, I began to critically examine the attitudes and ideals held by my parents. I came to realize that there were other valuable viewpoints I could grow and learn from. During my mid to late teens, my own values shifted drastically as I made the conscious effort to obtain information from a variety of news sources and to engage in meaningful dialogue with others about what solidarity truly meant.
While I recognize that my situation is by no means representative of every Catholic or Christian upbringing, it’s important to be aware of the variety of home environments that our peers come from - open-minded and closed-minded alike. While passing religious traditions down within families is the most significant way in which belief systems persist, we must make an effort to always be critical of the way religious ideals can be warped and misinterpreted. As a community at BC we should strive to live out the truly inclusive and benevolent ideals of whichever belief system we personally subscribe to (if any).