Why I chose to skip campus Visibility Day

Erik Bishop, Crier Staff

Saint Anselm College has its roots in Benedictine monastic life. We inherit a responsibility to welcome and maintain a hospitable community, and that is the way that it should remain. For this reason, I want to alert everyone that I am addressing a difficult topic, the place of Visibility Day within a Catholic college. The Rule of Saint Benedict states in Chapter 53 that guests are to be “welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me,’” but to be hospitable, dialogue that makes Catholic Church teaching clear is necessary. I believe all students are welcomed to our campus for two purposes: to get a wholesome Catholic liberal arts education and to become a part of our community.

As a member of this community and a believer in the Catholic liberal arts, I am concerned that certain events that the college hosts, and fully endorses, may be building doors rather than bridges. Visibility Day chiefest among them because it hosts and advocates for one side without allowing a dialogue with the other. In other words, it fails to carry out the mission of Saint Anselm College, which includes “encouraging the lifelong pursuit of the truth and [fostering] intellectual, moral and spiritual growth”.

Although many will vehemently disagree, an event that, by writ of its symbols and language, unabashedly opposes crucial social teachings and beliefs on gender and sexuality is not following the pursuit of the truth. Instead, more dialogue must be fostered about this disagreement. The festive environment of Visibility Day does not foster such dialogue but rather actively promotes opposition to such objective teachings as are laid out in the recently published doctrinal letter by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on March 20th, reaffirming that sexual differentiation is biological as well as spiritual, and that the two elements are inseparable. It should also be understood that according to Church teaching, everyone is born in the right body. It would be not only untruthful but uncharitable to tell anyone otherwise.

If a college is to identify as Catholic, it must make it clear that it stands by that identity. Our choices should mean more than simply not serving flesh meat on Fridays of Lent. Hosting an event that includes persons who disagree with Church teaching is not only acceptable but necessary to abide by our standards for hospitality. However, hosting an event that itself promotes, celebrates, or endorses beliefs that are opposed to Church teaching should not be acceptable on campus.

There are also fellow Catholics who believe that part of walking with a person who is living in a way contrary to morality is to meet him or her where they are. This means listening so that one’s story is thoroughly heard and understood to find how one can be brought home. It is not to meet someone where he or she is and stay there. If the Church did this, it is likely that we would stand for nothing and hence cease to stand for the love of Christ.

Some students feel isolated by the fact that the school has any interest in preserving its Catholic beliefs, which is tragic. Instead of shying away from the more religious element of the school, I want to invite you to listen, and if you so wish, I am here to talk. There is also a reasonable amount of my fellow Catholics to talk to. To those Catholics, I encourage you to listen, but that does not mean shying away from your beliefs. Be very careful to simultaneously avoid selling those out and avoid interjections of logic that are true but may not land on hearts properly.