Threats to Catholicism on College Campuses

sky, storm, fear, hope, faith

sky, storm, fear, hope, faith

I was angry, but not as angry as I should have been. I was kind of curious, too: What would she say? How could the speaker justify her actions? How could my Catholic university justify its actions?”

I sat in the classroom listening to the woman from Planned Parenthood and wondered again why my Catholic university had allowed this on campus.

The woman’s smile never broke as she told us of racist tendencies held by rich, white people. These tendencies held minorities down and increased child abuse by forcing poor, minority women to deliver their unwanted pregnancies. She told us how, by forcing minorities to give birth, we were continuing the cycle of poverty by denying access to education and employment. She told us how pro-life groups don’t care about a child once it’s born and turn their backs on single postpartum mothers and others in tough circumstances.

She told us how rich, white people have expensive doctors to take care of problems, how most of us wouldn’t have to go to Planned Parenthood because our families could afford expensive medical care.  However, if we were afraid to go to our families, we would always be welcomed at Planned Parenthood, and, what was better, no one would ever know! Besides, Planned Parenthood offered so many good services, not just abortion.

I sat on that hard, wooden chair in a classroom with the Crucifix on the wall behind the woman, where she couldn’t see it, and I wondered why this lecture had been mandatory. Yes, I was curious, but I’d rather not have been there. Even back then, although not nearly as strong in my beliefs as I am now, I was pro-life. But I also left the lecture thinking Planned Parenthood was a friendly place I could go for birth control if a friend or I needed it. I didn’t want to go, but I wasn’t sure where else someone would go in a pinch.

It seemed likely that that “pinch” would come on my Catholic campus. It wasn’t just the invitation to this particular speaker that screamed anti-Catholic values. The whole culture of the college, where excessive drinking, rampant drug use, and decision-impaired hooking up were expected most nights of the week, was corrupt with strong anti-Catholicism.

My college wasn’t one of the big name, headline making Catholic colleges. It wasn’t Notre Dame with its repeated showings of The Vagina Monologues or its invitations to pro-choice politicians climaxing with the invitation extended to Barak Obama to give the commencement speech and receive an honorary degree.

It wasn’t Georgetown with its many professors who work for Planned Parenthood, write papers promoting physician assisted suicide, and legally defend the right to die – and to kill. It wasn’t Georgetown with its benefits for same-sex partners of faculty, gay pride parades, distribution of condoms and pro-abortion clubs on campus. It wasn’t Georgetown denying symbols of Christianity to welcome in Obama.

My Catholic college was a small, under-the-radar institution. I didn’t have to do much to get in. I didn’t have to do much to stay. I wasn’t challenged academically, and I certainly wasn’t challenged spiritually.

I shouldn’t have been surprised that my Catholic university had invited Planned Parenthood to speak or that it demanded that we attend the lecture. I should have stood up more and demanded the college change its policies.

It is now too late for me to stand up to that particular occurrence, and, as the time to drop my oldest son off for his freshman year loomed nearer, memories and stories of the anti-Catholic college culture became more vivid. I realized I could not change my experience, but I could help my son stand up if the opportunity appeared before him. I could hope he was a better person than I had been.

Granted, he hadn’t chosen a Catholic college. I couldn’t blame him. Most truly Catholic colleges are liberal arts based, and he is planning to major in chemical engineering. He’d need a strong science and technology institution to do that. The only truly Catholic college currently capable of meeting that need is the University of Dallas. I loved the school, but it was too far from home, and so I sent him off with solid academic scholarships to a private college with an outstanding reputation for academic excellence, job placement, and liberal policies.

Knowing the challenges my Catholic faith faced 20 years ago, witnessing the increasing but unrecognized loss of values in America over the past two decades, and mourning the loss of faith many friends’ children have experienced after only a year away from home mandates that we consider and act on the best ways to ensure our children do not lose faith in college.

We are called to be in the world, not of the world. Sending our children off to college puts them very much in the world. Be vigilant. Be prayerful. Be faithful.

I’d love to hear your comments. What was college like for you? For your children? How was your faith affected? As always, thank you for sharing, following, and commenting!

God Bless…

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40 thoughts on “Threats to Catholicism on College Campuses”

  1. This reminds me of a quote. Maybe that’s why Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said: “If you want your children to defend their Faith, send them to a public school; if you want them to lose their Faith, send them to a Catholic school.”

  2. “I should have stood up more and demanded the college change its policies.”

    Or, you and other like-minded students could’ve given the speaker a hard time– charitably, of course, but still a hard time for asking hard questions. That’s what Q&A are for, right?

    Perhaps this is how core groups of people in Catholic colleges should approach these kinds of situations when they are unavoidable: dear Speaker, whoever you are– you are free to speak. But when you stop talking, it’s our turn.

    it’s important to know what our opponents think, and it’s important that we address what they are saying, not only to evangelize them, but our students. They may not be convinced, but that’s okay.

  3. This is exactly why the presence of FOCUS missionaries on campus was one of our highest priorities when looking at colleges for/with our children. If you are not familiar with FOCUS it stands for Fellowship of Catholic University Students. I believe these missionaries are making all the difference in the world and will be a big key in the New Evangelization. The University of Virginia, where my oldest two daughters attend, already had a strong Catholic student community but the presence of FOCUS has made it even stronger. I can’t say enough about what this organization is doing to help Catholic students appreciate, live out, and hold on to their faith during their college years.

    1. I am SO happy to hear this! I know he went to Mass by himself his first Sunday. I will definitely remind him to look into this group! THANKS SO MUCH!!! 🙂

  4. Seems your criteria for your son in chem engineering is a bit tight, not wanting to go as far as Dallas. But how far is worth a good/great education? Don’t know where you consider too far (from ?), but there are good Catholic schools around with joint programs whit public institutions (e.g. St. Louis Univ). Did you give up to easily in your search?

    Going to the top rated schools doesn’t necessarily work for all students. Life skills are as important (or more) than subject knowledge. Did his high school teach him how to learn first?

    1. Thanks for judging how quickly we gave up the search Bill. Dallas is pretty far from our home. As his mother, I kind of thought he should go to Dallas. Even beyond the Catholic university…Texas has better job placement, more Conservative values, a whole heap of things our liberal state fails to offer; however, going so far means flying or driving for multiple days.

      As a single mom of five boys on a tight budget, that means he would come home for summers and not again. We would never visit him there either.

      This is a young man who took on a LOT of responsibility when his father suddenly walked out on his three younger brothers (4 if you include the little guy I was pregnant with at the time) and I. I am SO PROUD of his decision to stay nearer to home so he can be with us if we need him and so we can be with him if he needs us.

      A strong, supportive family, strong in faith, strong in Love for one another gives the Best life skills, and I will hope that Love and support will help him grow more than a country halfway across the country. Who knows??? He may even be able to lead people to the Catholic church where he is rather than just playing it “safe.”

      I’ve never voted someone’s comment down before, but I think you seriously missed the call on this!

    1. In any situation, being and remaining Catholic doesn’t happen by osmosis.

      One must choose to be Catholic.

      Catholic schools also don’t exist primarily and exclusively to “keep our kids Catholic.” They exist for the Church’s mission: to evangelize.

    2. Yes, but they must choose to be Catholic, but when confronted with freedom and then BOMBARDED with anti-Catholic thought and practice, choosing with clear options can be obscured.

  5. To me, this seems like a call that we find a way to have a solid Catholic school with serious STEM degrees. I remember 18 years ago when choosing a college, I looked at Steubenville for computer science and I saw it was nothing compared to the local State collage just barely out of range of a daily commute. I studied computer engineering there – then after 2 years I left to be come a priest (but that is another story).
    To give you perspective, Steubenville was using Pascal in 3rd year courses – Pascal is a really simple programming language that serious computer science/engineering degrees might use for the 1st semester (and often not then as it’s considered soemthing to play around with in middle or high school not a serious language).

    1. Agreed, Father.

      I see no reason why we can’t have solid Catholics schools with solid STEM degree programs. Especially if we claim to profess that Faith and Reason come from the same source. To see how this sort of thing can fit together marvelously, one need look no further than Laudato Si’. It’s why reducing that entire encyclical to “climate change” and “the environment” (the way we reduce Humanae Vitae to “birth control” ) rather short changes it, and is a waste of time.

    2. My thoughts EXACTLY! We really did try to find someplace that would support our values, and I have another son thinking of engineering or biology ready to begin college in 2017. I keep praying more Catholic colleges (REALLY Catholic colleges!) will offer these types of programs.

      Thank you Father!

  6. So, do you object that the speaker was from PP or that the speaker spoke truths that people did not want to hear. Racism, white privilege, classism, ableism, income inequality, unbridled capitalism are realities which effects the poor, the minorities and the marginalized and society takes very poor care of these people. The greatest delusion from which we suffer is that a high percentage do not have the advantages of a “great society” and that those number do not increase. The suffering of the marginalized is not a gift from god, it is a problem to be solved … perhaps you were offended that such people exist, that we do little to help them but encourage them to continue to breed.

    Let be straight-forward, I do not support abortion, I do support contraception which prevents fertilization. I support PP and I support efforts to educate people about the effects of racism and poverty….they are realities and as Catholics we fail these people.

    Allow me to quote Christopher Hitchens. Yes, I know he is an anti-theist and that he drank heavily. I do know he was a brilliant journalist and observer of humans. Respecting Mother Theresa he stated: “She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction.”

    1. It is ironic that a speaker from Planned Parenthood spoke about racism. Was she ignorant of Margaret Sanger’s disturbing history and rhetoric in that regard? My experience of demonstrating outside of PP fundraisers is watching rich white folks go tongive money to an organization that aborts a disproportionate of Black babies as a method of population control. Planned Parenthood is full of a false compassion.

    2. Quite the contrary, I find the PP protesters racist and here is why. Most PP clinics are in poor neighborhoods where access to women’s health services is non-existent and 3% of PP activities involves abortion. Why do I not see these protesters in front of IVF clinics which are located in wealthy neighborhoods. IVF, you know is costly, in rich neighborhoods and produces embryos in petrie dishes for implantation. The rest of the embryos are discarded, daily, by the thousands. We are talking about today, not Sanger. If you do not protest IVF clinics which daily discard embryos, then yes, you are racist and it it should be brought to the attention of “white privilege.” My check goes to PP.

    3. There location in poor minority neighborhoods is evidence of their targeting people of color for population control. Margaret Sanger’s ideology is still relevant in the Planned Parenthood of today. They give out awards in her name. They are on audio tape accepting donations specifically for the aborting Black babies. If that isn’t racist, I don’t know what is. Check out what Black pro-lifers like Ryan Bomberger of the Radiance Foundation say about PP. http://www.theradiancefoundation.org

      The 3% figure received three Pinocchios from the Washington Post for being misleading. PP counts every service as equal in weight, so handing out one condom is the same as performing one abortion. Furthermore, they decouple all services including abortion procedures which involve multiple services by necessity.

      Data from PP’s annual reports show that 94% of their pregnancy services are abortion. Plus, abortion makes up a third of a clinic’s income. If abortion is as insignificant as you purport, then PP facilities that could no longer do abortions would stay open. Think Texas after the passage of House Bill 2.

      A hitman spending only 3% of his time assassinating people does not make murder for hire acceptable.

      And yes, I object to IVF clinics not only for discarding human embryos but for the whole process of artificial reproduction.

    4. I know the facts. I’ve read PP’s annual reports and done the math. I am not saying that contraceptive services are the same as abortion services, but PP considers them equivalent in their reports. It is like this: if PP does 3 abortions and gives out 97 condoms they will claim that abortion is 3% of the services it provided. However, one abortion is not equivalent to one condom as far as its impact goes.

      http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2015/08/04/planned_parenthoods_pathetic_3_percent_lie_127653.html

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KKIOBOFaVYs

      The article on Margaret Sanger neglects to mention her speech to the Klan.

  7. Have you heard about Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). It is an outstanding organization which ministers to college/university students on over 100+ campuses.

    1. Thanks Norma! I hadn’t heard about this group, but when I took my son to the church he now attends as a college freshman, there was a woman there who mentioned FOCUS. I will definitely look into it! Thanks SO much for the reminder! 🙂

  8. Anything that stands for Catholicism should have the equivalent of an imprimatur or Nihil Obstat, so that the faithful can know and trust the service or institution. This would require professors at least to teach to that standard, whatever their beliefs.
    The bottom line is that we, the laity, are the Church and we should be more forthcoming, supportive and active in those areas that influence our lives and our faith. While the quality, ability and Faith of the Clergy is important, invariably it is an active Laity that creates a good parish. The same goes for the Diocese – The Laity have to be more demanding of their Bishops

    1. Well said. Thank you, Randall. Sadly, I had to look up Nihil Obstat. I didn’t even realize such a thing existed. So much to learn and so uneducated are most of us, despite the many writings of our popes.

    2. Even that doesn’t mean anything. I was in a class run by a nun who used Collegeville publishing books and some has Nihil Obstats by ‘liberal’ bishops. Some of the material in those books went directly against Church teaching and the writers made the prophecies appear as fairytales and superstition. After studying out of three of these books in her courses, I stopped taking her classes. Very sad.

    3. Wow! I also think some of the problem is that we (myself included) don’t always know what is REAL Catholic teaching. There are so many confusing messages out there!

    4. I’d be a cautious about using the “we, the laity, the Church” rhetoric, Randal.

      The Church isn’t just the laity; it’s the clergy/hierarchy, too, in fact all who are in full Communion with Christ, for the Church is the Body of Christ.

      “We, the laity, are the Church” and “the Church is OURS, not THEIRS!” rhetoric is not helpful, and it isn’t even accurate.

      While the quality, ability and Faith of the Clergy is important, invariably it is an active Laity that creates a good parish.

      Now, that I will agree with. Not enough attention gets paid to the lay vocation at times– and what it means to “be in the world, but not of it.”

  9. It’s the Popes. They are picked to make Catholicism look smart to the elites of the non Christian Euro world. They therefore don’t administrate full time which is job number one.
    My Catholic Jesuit college had Catullus poetry instead of Aquinas for a classics in Latin course. Rolling Stone albums were in the book store. It’s the Popes. Recent Popes for decades were picked to impress the non Christian intellectual world. Ergo Popes are not rulers even though canon law depicts them that way with power that is ” immediate” and ” supreme”. over all ” the churches”.
    A Pope with daily phone calls could reform all colleges with threats of firing. But colleges know that writer Popes want to write…not make phone calls…ever.
    St.JPII was a writer/ traveler. Benedict was an intellectual and book writer. Francis is a talker. None of them loved administration. That’s why you have a married gay heading Fordham’s theology department and this circus will continue until you have a Pope who does not want to write or talk but actually wants to administrate. But Cardinals since the media world began with television in the ’50’s….want a Pope that makes Catholicism look intellectual…so they never pick great administrators.
    When you’re 98 years old, it will be the same….because Cardinals are picking Popes not to make the Church better but to impress elites who left the Church. Maybe the Africans can eventually reform this tendency. Is it pleasing to God? No…it can’t be. But God did not stop many bad things in the Church for centuries including the many things JPII apologized for. God didn’t stop two Rennaissance Popes from having children…one as Cardinal…Julius II…one as Pope…Alexander VI.

    1. Some of our past Popes have been very much less than Catholic in actions. The concept of Papal infallibility is often one of the toughest to accept because of those actions. They will have to answer for that one day, just as we will all have to answer for our wrongdoings. I have to admit to not knowing as much as I should perhaps about the motives or skills of recent popes. It does seem as though more could and SHOULD be done, but people are funny and we are trying so hard to not isolate anyone. Maybe that is what they are up against too when they think of picking up that phone. Also, Cardinals are just people too. They SHOULD be standing up more, but when they return after electing the popes they still need to face their constituents who will criticize and complain and continue shrugging our shoulders immersed in lukewarm faith while sending children to liberal schools. The Pope should do more. The Cardinals should do more. We should do more!

      It does seem as though the hope for the future of the church is coming more from third world countries where people do not expect life to go their way, where they struggle for and appreciate gifts and faith in ways modern world does not. We have been given so much and still turn away to look for a bigger golden calf at every opportunity.

      I didn’t know about Fordham but am not overly surprised. My father and cousin, both Fordham graduates, have questioned the “Catholicness” of the institution. Pray…

    2. Except…only Popes can end bad situations in a college with a phone call…laity, priests and nuns cannot.
      If everyone is guilty, no one is guilty. You need a Pope who rises each day from bed hoping to change bad institutional situations as in colleges….a Pope who wants to make phone calls instead of writing a document or book that 1% of Catholics might read. We have become a library.

    3. I agree about the popes writing for a very small population, even I can’t read most of what is written because I just don’t have time nevermind any more daunting reasons others may have as far as strength of conviction or even ability to read such pieces and so on.

      I will however disagree with you about the “if everyone is guilty, no one is guilty” part. We are all guilty. Yes, the Pope has far more power than the peons, but little people standing up throughout history have made some of the world’s greatest changes. If we demanded change, change would take place. It is seldom the leader who leads the movement. He often just directs how the people want to go. I hope our popes do not fall into that category, but hoping is not enough. We must demand better of them by starting with ourselves.

    4. Well, yeah, we’re all guilty: we’re all sinners. All of us, including the Pope. That we’re sinners is why it’s just not true that “if everyone is guilty, no-one is guilty.” Original Sin is pesky that way.

      And yet, God works with the likes of us.

      But we have to let Him.

      The hierarchy up to the Pope have to do their bit, as do we laypeople. And guess what, folks? None of us are going to be perfect at it. The Church doesn’t exist because Catholics don’t sin; because she is a hospital for sinners, not a country club for saints, she exists precisely because we do sin.

    5. Well, the intellectual side is important, too– especially in a culture where most people, including way too many Catholics, assume that religion is “religion”– i.e. it doesn’t involve thinking (regardless of what the Church actually teaches). Catholicism doesn’t need to “look” smart. It IS smart.

      Despite what enough people think about how religion doesn’t involve thinking, or shouldn’t, Deuteronomy– and the Shema– would attest otherwise: “you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.” How, pray, do we presume to love God with all of ourselves by chucking our brains out the window? Moreover Mary, the perfect disciple, “treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Faith does in fact require a thinking assent, and it’s where the words of the Psalmist– as one finds while praying the Liturgy of the Hours– “Lord, I love Your law; I ponder it all the day long!” become a concrete reality in our lives. God means to purify and sanctify all of ourselves.

      What the Church– and John Paul II and Benedict XVI– talks about time and time again is a rightly oriented and ordered intellect. That is to say one opened up toward the Highest Things. Because love is a choice, not a feeling: how well or badly one loves will depend very much on how well one’s will and intellect are rightly ordered, something that is not achievable without God’s grace, to which we would not be receptive to without constant discipline and prayer. As Solomon knew, when he asked God not for knowledge or riches, but wisdom, that’s where what Hans Von Balthasar once referred to as a “kneeling theology” comes in. Because right and holy stewardship of the things of this world in accordance with the things of Heaven is not possible without prayer. JP2 and B16 weren’t trying to “impress” anyone; rather, they were sharing the fact that Church does have something to say worth listening to when it comes to intellectual matters. Because that’s the simple Truth.

      Moreover, every Pope has his strengths and weaknesses. God uses the particular man– with those different strengths and weaknesses– at a particular time. Some Popes in the past did indeed cause scandal with their lifestyles. Yet, not one of them taught erroneous doctrine, which does tell us something about what papal infallibility is and isn’t. It’s important that we realize that God can and does work with broken, highly sinful people. That’s been true in the Old Testament, too. So none of this should surprise us: God’s ways are not our ways.

      A Pope with daily phone calls could reform all colleges with threats of firing. But colleges know that writer Popes want to write…not make phone calls…ever.

      Because that’s what Bishops are for, and are supposed to do– resolve it at the local level before presuming to dump everything on the Pope, who is not just the Vicar of Christ, but Bishop of his own archdiocese: Rome. He doesn’t have time to oversee the curriculum of every Catholic college– as to whether they are teaching both Catallus and Aquinas– because he assumes that there already are competent people there to do that, so that he doesn’t have to do everything. And the last time I checked, both B16 and JP2 don’t have the inferiority complex about the Catholic intellectual tradition that so many American Catholics have, itself compounded by a sort of native anti-intellectualism, for a better way to put it. Which is why both of them were only ever themselves, and were also fearless. Just look at so much of American mainstream culture compared to an authentic Catholic orthodoxy as embodied in these two Popes: restless, even if complacent, impatient, and as a result, immature.

      Besides, I can just see it now: if the Pope did in fact patch a call through to Georgetown, Fordham, or what have you, enough American Catholics would just indulge in the usual predictable blather that has been a staple since the American Revolution– moan and groan about how “tyrannical” the Pope is, messing about in their affairs and cracking down on “good, devout American Catholics”; America is “different” and Rome has “too much power,” and out will come the usual Know-Nothing anti-Catholic rhetoric, none of which is anything new. It’s hardwired into this country’s culture, anyway, and is always convenient. And because no good deed goes unpunished, the Pope just can’t win.

    6. That was a lot of work to avoid Popes being responsible once Bishops fail by doing nothing for decades. Truman said the ” buck stops here”. Catholics say, ” The buck stops beneath here.”…because we want to idol-ize the Pope. You have the results all over.

    7. I don’t know that WSquared is saying Popes shouldn’t be held responsible. Unfortunately, while I agree with WSquared that this should be handled on a local level, it is not. I also with WSquared agree that if the Pope did make those phone calls, few would listen to him. He has a rock star or tyrannical appearance to many even those considering themselves true Catholics. I don’t know that it is so much an idolization of the Pope (although some may do so), but a different point of view. If the church were a company or a nation, the president wouldn’t micromanage. He would send representatives to handle situations, especially when enough consumers complained. We are the consumers. We are not even noticing the failure of our faith in “Catholic” institutions.

      In the end, we can point fingers all we want without much getting accomplished. How do we fix it?

    8. Only a Pope can e.g. remove the married gay who heads Fordham’s Theology Dept. as long as Fordham backs him which they do. It’s the Pope in all such highly protected situations who is critical…not you or anyone else. Catholicism is image hungry so Cardinals elect Popes who are writers, talkers, or both for the world to see and admire…but who hate admin work. But admin work is the real work of a Pope….not writing bestsellers. Ergo you’ve had chaos in colleges all during JPII and Benedict because they were writing which they loved. If Cardinals next time pick as Pope a talented sculptor…he’ll sculpt when he should be working the phone. You’ll see no improvement in your lifetime. Simple example. There are 1.2 billion Catholics. If Pope Francis instead of writing virtually a book about global warming, went on TV every evening for a week and asked every Catholic who was employed worldwide to send in five to ten dollars for transplanting persecuted Christians from Iraq and Syria to South America away from ISIS etc….Francis would collect at least two billion dollars…not the one million he gave Iraqi Christians. That’s admin…instead of authoring. They’re addicted to what they like…opining.

    9. Well said. I hadn’t thought of using the Bible quotes as proof of Catholicism as an intellectual religion, but I love the idea. I also love (and SO agree) you point that Love is a choice! Too many people have forgotten that and our society is far worse off because of the lies we fall for about Love and what it means to Love in earnest.

      I’m adding more to Elijah fan’s response to you too.

    1. What reason could there be? If that’s the case, we, as a church, need to stand up and not make deals that later cause us to compromise our values. Greedily accepting government benefits only causes trouble later. I’m thinking of things like tax benefits for married couples. If we keep government out of our Sacraments, we owe nothing to anyone but God.

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