Monday, April 23, 2012

U.S. Catholic Assistant Editor States Vanderbilt University Catholics Have Lack Of Openness Toward Non Catholics

I think the assistant editor at U.S. Catholic today did unfair slam on the Catholics of Vanderbilt University today at their blog post Non-discrimination policies aren’t a threat to Catholic groups .

Before I get to the rather unfair slam IMHO in the second half of their article let me deal with other matters.

I disagree with ther first half of their column that basically is saying this no big deal. For Catholic and Non Catholic Vandy views see my prior posts :

To Protect Church Autonomy Vanderbilt Catholic Will Not Register With University ( Which has many links at the bottom giving a background to this situation )

Southern Baptist Seminary Head Albert Mohler, Jr., On Vanderbilit Catholic And Dire Situation of Other Religious Groups On Campus ( which also points out this policy seem to fall on Religious groups)

Vanderbilt Catholic Told To Drop University Name & Campus Religious Groups Up the Ante (Thought of the Campus Priest is linked there too )

There are several issues here.

 First these people Catholic ,and non Catholics are not just "playing Church". They are the Church on Campus. So that means that they are linked with their larger Church or Faith communities in many cases.  In the Catholic Case their Bishops , and in Protestant situation Bishops, Baptist associations, etc. Therefore Statement of Faith and practice are in many cases just as important here as to leadership as to real "adult" Churches off campus.

Second American Catholics have a larger responsibilty to the Christian Community as a whole in this country. That is our fight that has often been shared from the beginning for Church autonomy

The ability of religious groups to choose their leadership is among our most highly protected freedoms. As Justice Brennan wrote, "religious organizations have an interest in autonomy in ordering their internal affairs, so that they may be free to ‘select their own leaders, define their own doctrines, resolve their own disputes, and run their own institutions.’" Corporation of Presiding Bishop v. Amos, 483 U.S. 327, 341-42 (1987) (Brennan, J., concurring), quoting Douglas Laycock, Towards a General Theory of the Religion Clauses: The Case of Church Labor Relations and the Right to Church Autonomy, 81 Colum. L. Rev. 1373, 1389 (1981)
( Taken From Legal Scholars letter Sent to Vanderbilt University Dec 2, 2011. Can be provided upon request)
Now on to what I feel is the unfair slam. From today's piece ( BOLD is all mine ) :

...The real negative of opposing the non-discrimination policy is that it shows a lack of openness on the part of Catholic students toward their non-Catholic brothers and sisters. Those non-Catholics who do want to join a Catholic group could present positive opportunities to teach the faith and to learn about others' beliefs.

What if a non-Catholic wanted to join the group to learn more about Catholicism because they were considering the possibility of converting? Being turned away because of their lack of faith might forever turn them off to the Catholic Church. And what if a Jewish student did want to join the Catholic organization, and perhaps invited Catholics to join their Jewish student organization, as a way of building interfaith relationships?

College is perhaps the best time in our lives to explore what others believe, to learn about different faith traditions, and to discover where God is calling us in our own lives. Non-discrimination policies shouldn’t be seen as a hurdle to practicing one’s faith in college, but as an obvious component of our efforts to welcome, evangelize, and spread the Gospel.

Of course there is no indication that Vandy Catholic is not active in ecumenical affairs or is slamming the door on all non Catholics. A point that could confirmed I bet if the powers that be at U.S. Catholic ever bother to pick up the phone and talk to people on the ground in Nashville. Top people they might want to interview is the Campus Minster and other Catholics at like I don't know Vanderbilt.

If not an interview then maybe even taking notice of what is on the Vanderbilt Catholic website is a good place to start. Like this letter from the Campus Minister sent to alumni, parents and friends of Vanderbilt Catholic .

....After much reflection, discussion, and prayer, we have decided that Vanderbilt+Catholic cannot in good conscience affirm that we comply with this policy.  While organizational skills and leadership abilities are important qualifications for leaders of Vanderbilt+Catholic, the primary  qualification for  leadership is  Catholic  faith  and  practice.  We are a faith-based organization.  A Catholic student organization  led by  someone who neither professes the Catholic faith nor strives to live it out would not be able to serve its members as an authentically Catholic organization.  We cannot sign the affirmation form because to do so would be to lie to the university and to ourselves about who we are as an organization

While this policy may change our status as a registered student organization, it will not change our mission.  We will continue to serve the Vanderbilt community as a welcoming and faithful Catholic campus ministry, proposing Jesus Christ in all that we do.....

....With Bishop Choby’s complete support, we will continue to serve the students of Vanderbilt as a non-registered ministry.  We will open our doors wider in order to make a greater effort to reach out to the Vanderbilt campus and to all college students in Nashville.  We have already received a very warm welcome from Belmont University:   “Know that you always have a home here,” said Dr. Todd Lake, Belmont Vice President of Spiritual Development, in a recent email.... 

Note it has not escaped my attention that Belmont University is the second Baptist voice I have linked in this post that seems to get what the Catholic students and others are up against. Hint it is not about be non open or not welcoming.

Further for reaching out and spreading Christ's message the fact that Vanderbilt Catholic has linked themselves with FOCUS Missionaries seems a good indication of a welcoming heart.


1 comment:

PJ Jedlovec said...

My name is PJ Jedlovec, and I am the president of Vanderbilt Catholic. I just wanted to clarify that all undergraduate students can be members of Vanderbilt Catholic, and we see this as an important part of our mission and evangelization. I know many non-Catholics who are involved in Vanderbilt Catholic, some of which even attend our Sunday Mass on campus. We require our leaders to be practicing Catholics so that we can continue to be the authentically Catholic organization that, by the grace of God, has drawn these people to the beauty of the Catholic faith and liturgy. Thanks for the great post!