Hanna Hecht / Gavel Media

The Catholic Complication

The stained-glass windows inside Bapst Library depict an interesting division here on campus. On one side, it shows heroes of the Catholic Church—various saints and biblical scholars. On the other side, it shows universal heroes—some of the greatest thinkers and intellectuals who have ever lived. To me, this one building shows that foundational conflict, and inevitable hypocrisy, at the heart of a Catholic university. The teachings of Catholicism, while heartily beneficial in some respects, add more strain and stress for college students amid their teetering, stressful developmental period.

Boston College is a proud Jesuit school. There is no denying that the liberality and reflection of a Jesuit education comes with certain advantages, namely the free exchange of ideas that most BC classrooms encourage. Despite instilling curiosity, introspection, and philanthropy, these values come at a cost.

The college experience is about self-discovery and exploration. This personal journey can include anything from drinking for the first time, to having sex, to coming out as queer, or questioning one’s faith. To most strict Catholics, many of these elements of self-discovery lay outside of an expected Catholic come-to experience. This is where the central problem lies. Catholic teachings are about self-control and tradition, whereas college is supposed to be about freedom and experimentation. While not everyone at Boston College is Catholic, those who identify as such are forced to either opt out of a traditional college experience—of alcohol, sexual encounters, and reestablishing boundaries—or buy into a highly hypocritical cycle where “sinning” is for Fridays and Saturdays and mass for Sundays. Those who are not Catholic are forced to witness and feel the pressures of a moral code and lifestyle to which they do not even subscribe.

For some people, this ideological conflict does not amount to much. It’s not as if every student who chooses both parties and mass is overcome with feelings of intense guilt or hypocrisy. But even if one is secure in their beliefs and lifestyle, the Catholic environment severely impacts college life by limiting campus resources. Sex education clubs have to work around administration to exist and distribute information or condoms on campus. Resources for LGBTQ students are way less accessible than they should be because the Church does not endorse such demographics. It also affects what issues and events the school is allowed to endorse or condemn.

Catholic colleges can be great. We have all chosen to come to one, but it has its limits. In my opinion, the Catholic doctrine should not dictate what clubs, social behaviors, and resources are allowed here at Boston College. Obviously, certain Catholic elements, like religion classes and regular masses, can and should be prominent aspects of campus life. Still, the fact that the Catholic population and spirit is in the majority does not mean it should box out or eliminate minority desires.

Unfortunately, we cannot count on administrative changes to tackle the complicated environment that Catholic colleges offer. Instead, we must simply come to terms with the hypocritical nature that we are being offered. College may be a pretty “sinful” place, and that’s okay. It’s the most freedom we’ll ever get. We should be encouraged to use that freedom to make numerous mistakes and try things we may never do again. My advice is if you are not Catholic, do not let the dogma that surrounds the school get you down. If you are Catholic, embrace the hypocrisy a little bit, and toy with it as you’d like. Enjoy your time here with or without your faith.

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