Thursday, June 24, 2010

Gay and Lesbian Leaders in U.S. Catholic Colleges and Universities: Continuing the Discussion

Anne Hendershott has emailed me after my two postings (and here) questioning her recent claim that "[t]here are openly gay men and women in leadership positions at a number of Catholic universities and colleges."  She notes that there are published accounts stating that the dean of arts and sciences at St. Michael's College and the provost at Seattle University are both openly gay men.

I appreciate this information and Professor Hendershott's respose to my postings calling for further information about openly gay or lesbian faculty in leadership positions at U.S. Catholic colleges and universities. Ms. Hendershott indicates that she has other names about which nothing has been published, and she has concerns about outing these gay leaders in Catholic schools.

And that drives to the heart of the point I continue to want to press here: if we cannot have an open discussion about the presence of openly gay or lesbian leaders on Catholic campuses in the U.S., if those who are in such leadership positions--other than the two cases cited above--are not public about their identity (and cannot be public?), then W. King Mott is correct in his judgment about the glass ceiling for gay and lesbian faculty in Catholic colleges and universities.

It is strongly in place.  The instances Ms. Hendershott cites are far from the norm.  

Closer to the norm?  The situations at Notre Dame and John Carroll University, where there have been student demonstrations this past year just to add gay and lesbian faculty, staff, and students to those school's non-discrimination statements.  (Note that students at Seattle University have organized a Facebook page protesting the decision of Marquette University to rescind a job offer to Professor Jodi O'Brien, and noting that there are indications that her sexual orientation played a role in what Marquette chose to do to her.)

I appreciate Ms. Hendershott's reply and the information she has sent.  But I continue to maintain that, on the whole, Catholic colleges and universities in the U.S. are not exceptionally welcoming places for openly gay faculty and staff members.

And I continue to maintain that there needs to be a national American Catholic conversation about the ongoing discrimination against gay employees in Catholic institutions, including Catholic universities and colleges.  It's there.  It's ugly.  It has hateful effects in the lives of those who have experienced employment discrimination in Catholic institutions, and in the lives of their families.

And it completely vitiates the claims the church wishes to make about social justice, human rights, and the obligation of followers of Christ to refrain from and push against discrimination.   When the U.S. Catholic bishops are fighting right now against the employment non-discrimination act (ENDA) because it might prohibit discrimination against LGBT people in Catholic workplaces, then this is a live issue, and one that deserves serious public discussion--with all the cards on the table.