The following opinion piece, written by Loyola senior Lauren Rockwell from Washington state, appeared in the September 6 issue of the Loyolan.

Loyola Marymount Unversity’s hosting of the play 8 should arouse debate, not merely to discuss battling opinions on gay marriage, but to ask whether or not our school opposes the Catholic teaching on gay marriage. Ostensibly, it does by the support and promotion of 8 I believe that the actions of the administration and faculty have gone beyond merely allowing a forum for academic debate on the issue, and instead are advocating for a cause that directly opposes the teachings of the Catholic Church.

According to an article titled “Loyola Marymount to Promote Gay ‘Marriage,’ Cancels Fundraiser,” posted on the blog of The Cardinal Newman Society on Aug. 24, 8 was originally advertised as a fundraiser with proceeds going to two organizations dedicated to legalize same-sex marriage, one being the American Foundation for Equal Rights. This foundation is the single sponsor of the federal court challenge to the California voter-approved ban on gay marriage, Proposition 8, according to the foundation’s website. The event was said to be sponsored by both faculty and student organizations, including LGBT Student Services.

However, the article highlighted that after being contacted by the Cardinal Newman Society, an organization that, according to its blog, is dedicated to helping renew and strengthen Catholic identity in Catholic higher education, the Loyola website was quickly changed. The blog continues, stating that the invitation to 8 now makes no reference to the event as a fundraiser, nor that LGBT Student Services is a co-sponsor. All references to director of student group’s Anthony Garrison-Engbrecht’s involvement have been deleted. This may have been done in an effort to distance the University from appearing to endorse activities sponsored by LGBT Student Services and to classify the event as a faculty-organized display of academic freedom.

Academic freedom ensures that teachers and students have the right to express ideas freely; however, that does not include imposing beliefs of 8 as a display of academic freedom, where is the discourse? Although the website for 8 promises to present arguments both for and against the legalization of same-sex marriage, ultimately the play promotes the overturning of Proposition 8. Loyola is providing a “talk back” following the play, but I wonder how much debate will occur among those who have chosen to sit through two hours of advocacy for gay marriage. Further, some of the play is being read by faculty. How many students are going to boldly challenge faculty that are apparently, by their participation, in favor of gay marriage? Isn’t there a power imbalance here? A subtle intimidation?

Loyola’s mission statement proclaims the university to be “institutionally committed to Roman Catholicism” and further states, “This Catholic identity and religious heritage distinguish LMU from other universities.” However, linked to Loyola’s web invitation to 8, you find a quote by the play’s writer, Dustin Lance Black, calling the Catholic Church’s standing on same-sex marriage “a vitriol and baseless hyperbole.”

Instead of raising the ire of students and faculty, or even inducing some mild form of indignity at the insult to our Catholic tradition, Loyola commits university resources and facilities in support of the playwright and the work.

Furthermore, the Cardinal Newman blog post stated that when they contacted President David Burcham and the university’s public affairs office about 8 and requested “clarification whether the university opposes Catholic teaching on marriage,” all parties failed to respond. If the president of our university is not willing to voice support for our founding principles, who will?

I believe the reading of 8 exposes a larger problem about the environment of Loyola’s campus and the lack of a religious presence. Our university jumps at every opportunity to display “tolerance;” however, the movement largely favors the progressive agenda. In accordance with its mission statement and based on its founding principles, Loyola owes it to the students who came to the university in the promise of a Catholic education to provide a visible presence on campus in support of Catholic teachings.

It is clear that Loyola is a liberal-minded campus. However, I wonder why seemingly no one on this campus is voicing conservative beliefs. When asked about the identity of our school, senior communication studies major Emily Loren stated, “I mean, we have a church and all, but other than that you wouldn’t even know we were a Catholic school.” Has it become so unpopular to have views that align with the Catholic Church that they are silenced in this so-called inclusive, tolerant, progressive society we live in? This should not be the case at a Catholic Jesuit university.

Loyola’s choice to hold a reading of 8 brings to light the fact that our campus has wandered far from our Catholic identity, and in doing so, has made it unpopular to support Catholic teachings. I am proud that our school allows freedom of expression, but I am disappointed by the lack of attention to appropriate ways of doing so, and even more so at the lack of activism in support of the Church. With every loud yell of the liberal voice, there must be a resounding reply from the heart of our school’s Catholic tradition.

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