Benedictine Faculty Response to Catholicism on Campus

Benedictine and Abbey logo

Kaitlyn Estopare

News Editor

Benedictine and Abbey logoIn regards to the recent events that have occurred with Benet Academy and the release of Abbot Austin’s Statement, faculty members from Benedictine University have reacted to the situation.

The faculty have express their thoughts in light of their students and students around campus pertaining to diversity, religion, and values.   

  • “Benedictine University is not Benet. Consider this: BenU faculty leaders recently issued a statement entitled “A Call to Hospitality: Welcoming LGBT+ Persons.”  Among other things, the statement says, “We affirm our support for every member of our community, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and other gender nonconforming (LGBT+) individuals,” stated Dr.  Martin J. Tracey, Chair, Director, and Professor of Philosophy. “Drawing from the riches of the Catholic intellectual tradition and the Benedictine spiritual heritage, we welcome LGBT+ students, faculty, staff, and alumni as full partners in our project of teaching, learning, scholarship, and service,” Tracey stated. “BenU students need to know that Benedictine University’s commitment to diversity and acceptance is deep and real.”

Other professors had similar thoughts.

  • “The students at BenU come from a wide diversity of religious backgrounds, which I see as a great asset to the Catholic nature of our university. The word “catholic” means universal, and I think the university’s approach to our religious affiliation invites students to dig into the universal questions that animate the human spirit,” stated Dr. Mary Kate Holman, Assistant Professor of Theology.”For example, because we are a Catholic school in the Benedictine tradition, every student takes courses that introduce them to the Rule of St. Benedict and the Catholic notions of “human dignity” and the “common good.” These interdisciplinary seminars invite students to think deeply about what they believe, and what impact their beliefs have on their lives,” said Holman. “Another great example is how our Campus Ministry team provides space (literally! in the chapel and interfaith prayer room) for all members of the campus community to pray in their own tradition.”
  • “At Benedictine University, we strive to live up to our mission,” stated Dr. Rita George-Tvrtković, Professor of Theology. “Benedictine University is an inclusive academic community dedicated to teaching and learning, scholarship and service, truth and justice, as inspired by the Catholic intellectual tradition, the social teaching of the Church, and the principles of wisdom in the Rule of St. Benedict.” And our vision: particularly this part, that we “welcome people of diverse faiths and cultures.” It’s important to note that we welcome people of ALL faiths and none, an attitude that is inspired by the Vatican II Council document Nostra Aetate and the Rule of Benedict Ch. 53, which begins with these words: “All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say: ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Matt 25:35). All members of our campus community are called to welcome others, and be welcomed, in this way, whether they are Catholic or not,” said George-Tvrtković.
  • “I think when faced with a difficult moral or ethical dilemma, a Catholic university is a wonderful place to be! Throughout history, Catholic universities have been the places where great moral questions have been debated in a safe atmosphere that accepts diversity, and respects human dignity and the common good. Benedictine University continues in this tradition by offering our students strong curricular and co-curricular experiences enriched by our Benedictine Hallmarks.  IDS courses, BenTalks, and Teach-Ins provide opportunities for students to explore more deeply the challenges of contemporary life, offering (but not imposing) insights into Catholic moral and social teaching,” said Joan Hopkins, Instruction Librarian. As a librarian, I encourage students to break out of their information bubbles and seek information from diverse sources, seeking truth while respecting different points of view.  As the Abbot noted in his statement, “disagreement does not equal hate”. Being well informed and engaging in civil discourse is essential when seeking truth and understanding. Gaining a knowledge base enriched by Catholic and Benedictine values will hopefully instill in our students a spirit of tolerance, respect for the dignity of each person, and a hunger for truth that will prepare them to face the moral dilemmas they will encounter throughout their lives and provide them with the skills to speak the truth with love,” said Hopkins.

BenU professor, Kathryn Kruger, took an anonymous survey of her class about the how Catholicism on campus affects them and how it affects their beliefs and values. Below are some of their thoughts:

  • “I don’t think that being in a Catholic University changes much since they’re not forcing Christianity on you, but the way I look at it is if you were gay and applied for a job at Benet Academy, it should not be an issue at all. Your sexuality has nothing to do with your job.”
  • “Being in a Catholic university does not give me any negative ideas about homosexuality. I feel Benedictine rather welcomes all types of people with open arms. There are words in the Bible that talk about negative feelings towards homosexuality, but I feel this institution does not push those feelings on its students whatsoever. I feel this college is more of a place of education and making better people rather than a place to push values and ideas.”
  • “Being in a Catholic university, this event affects other students because this situation could lead to insecurity and kids that want to be themselves but they can’t because they feel judged.”
  • “I think it is all about personal choice. It doesn’t matter what other people say or think because it is your life and, at the end of the day, you are the only one that has to answer to your personal beliefs.”

Despite the controversy, the university wanted to reassure the public of its commitment.

“We believe it is a plus since our students chose Benedictine University knowing we are Catholic and Benedictine,” the University stated.