Longform

Love the Sinner

Page 4 of 5

Scrawled on a door, though, the word "dyke" -- even if it's misspelled -- speaks volumes.

"It wouldn't be difficult for us to prove that she certainly felt intimidated," says Kimbrough. "I don't think it would be hard for a deputy to show that the word 'dyke' is never used in a complimentary manner."

In his confession, Robinson said he was upset about the J-board process: "I felt like a victim for being subjected to the material, and after the verdict, the quick moment by her door felt like it was a good idea to write what I did."

That idea got him a date in Denver County Court on April 4; if convicted, Robinson could be sentenced to as much as a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.



The whole issue of homosexuality has risen to being probably the biggest controversy at Catholic colleges and universities," says Patrick Reily, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, a conservative Catholic group. "Whereas there may have been a legitimate frustration among gay and lesbian students about their inability to be open about what their orientation might be, especially in a Catholic environment, there is now an increasing and very legitimate frustration among many of the students who find that Catholic colleges and universities are afraid to enforce truly Catholic culture."

Reily has noticed that trend growing over the past five years. It used to be that gays and lesbians were often unlikely to attend Catholic universities -- or at least to keep their sexual identities hidden if they did. "But given the increasing openness of many Catholic universities to gays and lesbians, it's going to become even bigger, frankly, because there's going to be more of these students coming to these campuses," he says.

Often the greatest openness -- and the most controversy -- is on the larger campuses or at Jesuit universities. Notre Dame leaders caught criticism over a gay film festival. In Chicago, some Catholics protested the decision by De Paul University to allow students to minor in queer studies. And the debate was heated at Pennsylvania's Duquesne University after school officials refused to allow the formation of a gay student group in 2005.

As an attempt to bridge these tensions, in 1998 the Regis campus ministry encouraged the formation of a group where students could discuss some instances of intimidation against gays that had occurred on campus. Regis philosophy professor Karen Adkins was one of the first faculty advisors; she says it took some time before the group's leaders felt comfortable enough to register their names as officers with Student Activities. "And I don't think they would've been oppressed because of it," she says. "But it spoke to why we needed the group that there was a real climate of not talking about it."

The group was later formally recognized as the Gay/Straight Alliance.

Father Sheeran has always been supportive of the Alliance's mission to increase dialogue and understanding among students, which he identifies as the core mission of a Jesuit education. "The people can talk to each other and understand how things look from another's point of view," he says. "We just found that it was very important for the gays to be heard and the straight students to understand. Because there's an awful lot of just plain lack of understanding for people, especially boys, who are eighteen years old coming here."

But he's careful to point out that the group's mission is philosophical only. "It's not an advocacy group where it's only gays and lesbians who are together not only to support each other but also to have dances, to be advocating the gay lifestyle," Father Sheeran explains. "It is not a social group in that sense; it's a discussion group. It's designed so that people can walk in each other's moccasins. That's different from the kind of thing that you would find has been controversial on campus.

"It is saying no, we don't approve of the gay lifestyle. We think that's bad even for the people who are practicing it. But don't anybody go out there and start harassing them or being disrespectful toward their rights. And especially if they disagree with church teaching, then that's something we presume is with great integrity and that's to be respected."

Last December, an online user posting under the name Zachary Dong wrote a response to a Catholic news website's article about the Knights of Columbus losing support from the University of Wisconsin. "What's worse, I believe, is when Catholic schools fail to uphold the values of their mission statements and seem to be more and more secular," he wrote. "For example, at Regis University I got in trouble for speaking out against a board in my dormitory hallway that was promoting and saying it's acceptable to get a sex change. The catechism clearly prohibits this practice."

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Jared Jacang Maher