Providence College Bullies Its Faithful Students

Last week at Providence College, a brave and devout Catholic student I got to know well last year during my own battles with the politically correct has had occasion to live out the words of Jesus:

Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you (Mt. 5:11-12).

Here is what happened.

The student, whom I will call Dominic, is a Resident Advisor for one of the dormitories. As such he is also an employee of the college, a fact which must be borne in mind, because it brings into play federal laws against the toleration or encouragement of, or participation in, a hostile work environment. Each RA at Providence College has access to a bulletin board in the dormitory, where they are encouraged to post materials of public interest, including the political. Some time ago, an RA used hers to promote the lesbian life, and received praise for it. So my friend Dominic decided to post something to promote the truth.

 

On the left side of the board he put the following:

A photo of a young bride and groom standing before the altar, with the cross in the background. They are facing one another.

A photo of a bride and groom, kissing. The caption on the card reads: “Traditional Marriage: God ordains it. Nature reveals it. Science affirms it.”

A card with stick-figures of a man and a woman holding hands with one another and with a small boy and girl. The caption reads: “Marriage should be reinforced. Not redefined.”

A card with the heading: The Best Explanation of Marriage.” The center of the card reads, “This is why a man leaves his mother and his father and becomes attached to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Seven captions surround the center, pointing to various words in the Biblical passage. “His mother and father” is shown as “a model of a complete family,” “a man” suggests “maturity,” “leaves” suggests “transition,” “becomes attached” suggests “a new family,” “to his wife” suggests “complement,” “and they become” suggests “a process of learning, friendship, and trust,” and “one flesh” suggests “deep intimacy between two people.”

On the right side of the board is a picture of Pope Francis blessing a little boy. The card reads, “We must affirm the right of children to grow up in a family with a mother and a father. Pope Francis 04.11.14.” Dominic has surrounded the picture with his own caption: “The Way God Intended It. One Woman. One Man.” At the bottom are the words of Jesus, quoting Genesis: “And the two shall become one flesh. Mark 10:8.”

It was sweet, actually. It singled no one out. It did not condemn any sin. It affirmed what is true and good and beautiful.

Dominic immediately became an object of vilification. I have the following from him and from another reliable source:

The poster was torn down. Fellow RA’s—these would be fellow employees of the college—with access to the building abused their power and arranged to mill about in the hall outside his room in a threatening way. There were so many, that college security moved him for his safety. On subsequent days, larger and more raucous groups did the same.

This was right before Spring Break and, after receiving permission, Dominic put the board back up. It was torn down a second time. He put it up a third time, and it was torn down a third time.

The pushback was quick and severe and now includes a cartoon posted in his dorm (and, of course, on social media) of Dominic being anally raped. That’s a Title IX issue. The police were called.

Several Catholic professors urged the administration to do two things. First: make it clear that all harassment of Dominic must stop immediately (with serious consequences for its continuance). Second: issue a statement that to affirm the Catholic (that is, natural) understanding of marriage is not hate speech and would not be treated by the college as such.

The administration came out with a letter that is a model of evasion, duplicity, and smearing by association.

The Vice President for Student Affairs, Kristine Goodwin, opens by saying that people should “resist the urge to vilify one another in words or actions,” because it further “divides our community.” That and a dollar and you can buy a cookie at Starbucks. No punishment for the offenders, who went out of their way to be cruel and to intimidate. No apologies necessary. Try to make nice, that’s all.

As to what Dominic posted, Goodwin concedes, barely, that “it is in and of itself consistent with the Church’s teaching.”

Consistent? That is like saying that it is “in and of itself consistent with the Church’s teaching” to say that you should not kill your children or cheat the poor, or that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Is it not true? If it is true, is it not also beautiful?

What Goodwin concedes, she effectively retracts in a heartbeat. She and the Vice President in charge of the college’s Catholic mission, Fr. Gabriel Pivarnik, say that it is only part of the Church’s teaching, and that we must speak the truth in such a way that it does not alienate those whom it is supposed to serve.

Well, fine. How, precisely, are you to do that, when any affirmation of the truth about marriage is already considered to be hateful? Does Father Pivarnik bother to give any example of how to affirm a teaching that is roundly attacked—and that has indeed since been attacked in The Cowl, the student newspaper, in an article including the twice-stated oracular sentence, sweeping aside even the possibility of debate, “This is 2018”?

It gets worse.

Instead of supplementing Dominic’s poster with other teachings about sexual morality, such as that unmarried men and women should not be doing the child-making thing, instead of giving lessons in Saint John Paul II’s theology of the body—since they say that the poster gave only part of the vast treasury of the Church’s instruction—they associate Dominic with actions and attitudes that are evil. The first is by way of a red herring. “We Christians must say we are sorry,” Goodwin quotes Pope Francis as saying. “I think the church not only must say it is sorry to the gay person it has offended, but also to the poor, to exploited women [and anyone whom the church did not defend when it could].”

Let me get this straight. Dominic is accused of taking the teaching of the Church “out of context,” when there is actually no context in which that same teaching could possibly be rendered ambiguous, since it is founded upon the created nature of man and woman; it is immediately observable by human sight and reason; and it has the express affirmation of Jesus Christ, whose words on marriage reach behind the fall to indicate the Father’s intention from the beginning. Meanwhile, she and Father Pivarnik take Pope Francis’s words out of context, they refuse to address the Pope’s own clear affirmation quoted by Dominic himself, and then they have the gall to suggest that Dominic is the sort of offensive person who is like those who slight the poor and exploit women.

Conspicuously absent from the letter is the slightest concern for the children whom Pope Francis was defending when he said that they all have a right to belong to a family with a mother and a father. Also absent is any concern for young people in the midst of the current sexual confusion, vulnerable to suggestion from all sides, and lacking any clear and socially affirmed way to learn how to fall in love, get married, and stay married.

So Dominic is run over by a bus, and while he is still lying on the ground, the authorities at Providence College back up over him.

It gets still worse.

The letter proceeds to cite Timothy Radcliffe, O.P., squishy at best on matters regarding sex, who says, in “A New Way of Being Church: Pope Francis Encourages Us to be Comfortable with Uncertainty,” that when the pope “addresses the question of welcoming gay people in the church, he says, ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ If we dare to really see people, in their dignity and humanity, then we shall discover the right words to say. Who knows where this will take us?”

Note the vicious insinuation. Dominic, it is clear, is just the sort of person whom the high-thinking Father Radcliffe would condemn for condemning sinners—which Dominic did not do.

Where Radcliffe’s “this” will take us depends on what the heck it means. We could replace “gay person” with any other person who wants us to affirm a favorite sin, or who is suffering from what he does not yet see as sin. We could substitute “coward,” “double-talker,” “detractor,” or “traitor,” and the point would remain the same; or “fornicator,” “porn user,” or “adulterer,” or anything else you please. Of course we are to see individual persons as persons, bearing the image of God in them. Persons warrant our love. Sin warrants our rejection. It is precisely because we love persons that we reject sin, and we must understand that a clear rejection of sin assists the sinner, the person tempted to sin, and persons harmed by the sin’s collateral damage, who in the case of grave sin are going to be numerous, and the harm considerable. For unless I am much mistaken, the world given us by the prophets Alfred Kinsey and Herbert Marcuse is singularly dark, lonely, coarse, miserable, and vicious, and utterly irresponsible and vile as regards the innocence and health of children.

But if “this” means what Fr. Radcliffe seems to suggest, that we will end up tossing into the garbage the clear words of Scripture, the high and challenging teachings of Jesus, the bracing words of Saint Paul, and the unambiguous testimony of the whole Church from its beginning until two minutes ago—including Arcanum divinae, Casti connubii, Humanae vitae, and Familiaris consortio—then “this” will take us into the land of complete irrelevance, as Aldous Huxley foresaw long ago. We might then have the Vicar of Kinsey on earth, to go along with Huxley’s Arch-High-Songster of Canterbury.

And still it gets worse.

Students are demanding that the president, Father Brian Shanley, condemn Dominic, and thus ensure that such a poster will never be seen on campus again. This is called establishing a “safe space.” The gay activist group SHEPARD is going to march against “homophobia” and “transphobia” on Wednesday, with the full approval of the administration. That is like dragging Dominic up from the ground and beating him about the head with clubs.

Some of the resident Dominicans have urged Dominic to join the march, to show that he is not what the whole campus now believes him to be. He has been publicly singled out, targeted for vilification, physically threatened, forced to leave his dormitory room, attacked in the campus newspaper, and slimed by the administration—all for what I have described above. And now he is supposed to participate in his own humiliation. For what? [Editor’s note: We have learned that the resident Dominicans who made this recommendation have since reversed course realizing how futile it would be to participate in such a march.]

I have a suggestion. Let the Campus Ministry march peaceably in support of the natural law. Let the president issue a clear affirmation of every single statement made in Dominic’s poster. While we are at it, why not lay down the law, that all students engaging in threatening behavior against any other student’s person or room, for whatever reason, will be suspended immediately?

That will not happen. The pattern is clear. I experienced it in my person a year ago. Some people attack the Church or the college’s identity. Someone responds. My response was intellectual and acute, but not directed at the campus community. Dominic’s response was clear but gentle, and was directed at whatever students would walk past the bulletin board in his hall.

Each person is then made the object of organized action. Each person is singled out. Each person is accused of vicious motives. Each person is subsequently attacked by the administration of the very institution he had wanted to defend. Each person is slandered. Each person is made to suffer hostility at work. Each person’s reputation is ruined. And not one single authority troubles to address the content of what he affirmed.

When you have no argument, you do other things. You bully. You shout slogans. You attribute evil motives. You deflect attention from what is said. You do everything except address the actual point, which in Dominic’s case is whether marriage is what nature and God show it to be.

Saint Thomas Aquinas, pray for us. Father Dominic, pray for us.

Anthony Esolen

By

Professor Esolen is a teaching fellow and writer in residence at Thomas More College of the Liberal Arts, in Merrimack, New Hampshire. Dr. Esolen is a regular contributor to Crisis Magazine and the author of many books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization (Regnery Press, 2008); Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child (ISI Books, 2010) and Reflections on the Christian Life (Sophia Institute Press, 2013). His most recent books are Reclaiming Catholic Social Teaching (Sophia Institute Press, 2014); Defending Marriage (Tan Books, 2014); Life Under Compulsion (ISI Books, 2015); Real Music: A Guide to the Timeless Hymns of the Church (Tan Books, 2016); Out of the Ashes (Regnery, 2017); and Nostalgia (Regnery, 2018).

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