The Silence is Deafening - Intercollegiate Studies Institute

The Silence is Deafening

In the past three weeks alone, two more states (New Jersey and Illinois) have chosen to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples, bringing the number of states in the Union that do so to 15 (not to mention Washington, DC; or Hawaii, which may within the week have joined them).

As more and more jurisdictions reject a conjugal understanding of marriage—marriage as the union of sexually complementary persons—many voices have dropped their opposition to what they see as “the inevitable side of history.” (Nevermind that there really aren’t any permanent political victories or defeats, as Sherif Girgis reminded me recently.)

But one set of voices, whose witness could enormously shift the character of the marriage debate, has been curiously absent from that debate since the start: Catholic universities.

It may be naive to expect such a witness from the academy, even the Catholic academy; reality indicates that this hope is vain indeed.

It’s no secret that many American Catholic universities are less of champions for the church than they are sources of scandal for her. But one (or at least, I) would hope for more from Notre Dame, where the battle for institutional Catholic identity is very much alive, and is far from a lost cause.

Instead, Our Lady’s university has been all quiet on the marriage front; this silence despite Notre Dame’s being nested in a state that is in the midst of legislatively discussing a possible amendment to the state constitution that would enshrine conjugal marriage in the books.

Why has Notre Dame elected to be mute on this issue?

Too many Catholic universities have wedded themselves to vague pastoral ideologies that, if they are not fully incompatible with a vision of the Church’s understanding of marriage, at least neither support nor encourage that vision.

I recently wrote an editorial for the Irish Rover in which I urged Notre Dame’s leadership to be as vocal and adamant in defense of marriage as it is in “standing against hate” and encouraging blanket “acceptance,” “toleration” and all the rest. (Apparently, the university has missed the memo about how “tolerant” recent government legislation is with respect to classical sexual ethics.)

As I concluded my piece,

Soon enough will be too late. This is not an issue on which the “university where the Church does its thinking” can afford to be silent much longer.

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