In December Loyola revealed that it will continue to ban same-sex marriages from being celebrated on campus. Loyola’s administration has said that only Catholic weddings will be celebrated in Madonna della Strada and that there will be no marriage ceremonies in any other Loyola facility. The announcement was made in response to the fact that same-sex marriage was legalized in Illinois past November. There is significant ambiguity regarding how this policy updates or changes Loyola’s previous policy**. While that lack of clarity is a serious concern on its own, I strongly suggest we remain measured in our criticism of the university until those facts are made more clear.
Many find a ban of this nature unsurprising for a Catholic campus. Others, like myself, are likely a bit baffled and hurt, as this is completely discordant with the general tone of Loyola. In recent years, our diverse campus has worked toward embracing the LGBTQA community.
Students, faculty and staff are overwhelmingly supportive of gender and sexual diversity. You can hardly go a day on campus without seeing at least one of Advocate’s “Loyola Supports Love” LGBTQA Heritage month T-shirts, and our drag show is perhaps the most well-attended student event on campus. Loyola has a well-earned reputation for having one of the most lively LGBTQA student bodies in the Midwest. That’s not to say it is perfect in its support, but the fact is, Loyola’s heart is in the right place.
What is most disappointing about Loyola’s announcement, then, is that the university’s stance against same-sex marriage feels wholly disingenuous. Instead of confronting the question of the use of secular spaces for all couples, Loyola restricted weddings to Madonna della Strada where the use of the Archdiocese parameters are less controversial (though no less wrong). It seems that Loyola has opted to drag down all faith communities so as not to come out explicitly against the LGBTQA community. Aware that it is obligated to follow blatantly unjust Church doctrine, Loyola cautiously tried to soften the blow.
On one hand, this is better than the alternative, which would be to merely restrict same-sex marriages and allow Catholic and non-Catholic ceremonies elsewhere on campus. Still, the policy demonstrates to me is that Loyola’s administration knows that it is in the wrong. Father Garanzini and most, if not all, of those with the authority to make this decision are supportive of the rights of their LGBTQA students and alumni. However, when confronted with the just decision of offering their full support and with the cost-benefit analysis, the administration chose the latter and catered to Church hierarchy.
The requests of Christine Irvine, who wanted to host her civil union ceremony on campus, and LGBTQA students are not unreasonable. We are not asking to perform ceremonies in religiously-affiliated spaces such as Madonna della Strada, nor do we expect sacramental recognition of these ceremonies.
Now, out of fairness to the administration, they do allow Catholic and non-Catholic wedding receptions anywhere on campus, including LGBTQA wedding receptions. However, it seems fair to ask that in our secular spaces, the guidelines of the Archdiocese regarding sacramental marriage do not apply.
Students, alumni and community members celebrating their vows in secular spaces on campus would not amount to or imply a Catholic endorsement of same-sex marriage, just as the education of a non-Catholic enrolled at Loyola is not an endorsement of non-Catholic or secular beliefs. The Church has made its stance abundantly clear, even if it is in contrast with the general opinion of Catholics, as a Quinnipiac survey in Oct. 2013 showed that 68 percent of the faithful believe that the Church has become too focused on homosexuality. It would merely be granting equal access to these spaces for everyone, Catholic and non-Catholic. Instead of taking the brave and just approach of opening its doors to all, thus celebrating the diversity of the Loyola community, the university administration has prohibited access for nearly everyone.
As president of Advocate, I receive emails almost every day from young prospective students telling me how difficult it is to be in their intolerant homes, schools or communities. Their sense of hope is palpable when they ask me if Loyola is an escape, as they’ve heard. Loyola’s administration was given an opportunity to advocate for these young people and make a morally significant and symbolic decision regarding the status of LGBTQA populations on campus.
However, instead of acting out of love and kindness toward the most vulnerable among us, the administration has chosen caution and calculation. It is obvious and understandable that Loyola, while normally supportive, sought to cover its tracks facing pressure from the Archdiocese, but if we take seriously our commitment to justice, we ought to expect so much more.
Paul Kubicki is a contributing columnist and president of Advocate. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
**In the interest of dispelling some of this confusion, here is a note I received from Fr. Garanzini:
“We do not allow and never have allowed marriages of other faiths on campus. We have only had weddings on campus for the last five or so years, and we do so with permission of the Archdiocese and have to abide by the rules of the Church for doing them. No marriages were allowed until these past five years and only Catholic marriages are allowed. Receptions have been allowed for a long time and we do not discriminate who can hold a reception.”
If this is this case, it seems Maeve Kiley, the director of communications for Loyola, was mistaken when she told The PHOENIX in the Nov. 20, 2013, issue that the previous guidelines were that Loyola only allowed “marriages recognized in the state of Illinois.” When I asked her about this inconsistency, Ms. Kiley responded that, “The previous policy allowed non-catholic ceremonies to take place in spaces that were available to rent.”
She also said, “We also never had an official policy in place. Prior to this we had guidelines and we felt that it was time for the University to have a clear policy.”
It seems there has been, and continues to be, substantial miscommunication on Loyola’s on-campus marriage policy that has only recently caught scrutiny. Either way, it is still true that same-sex marriages, along with other non-Catholic marriages, are banned from Loyola’s campus.