Students try to banish Catholic chaplain from campus for anti-gay stance
Two gay seniors at George Washington University say they feel alienated because the chaplain at George Washington’s Newman Center rejects homosexuality, and they aren’t going to take it anymore.
The seniors, Damian Legacy and Blake Bergen, have announced a coordinated campaign to rid the campus of the Roman Catholic priest, reports The GW Hatchet, the school’s independent student newspaper.
They also assert that 12 or more students have quit the Newman Center in recent years because they can’t tolerate Father Greg Shaffer’s ardent anti-gay – and, for the record, anti-abortion — beliefs.
Shaffer has worked for five years at George Washington’s Newman Center. He told the Hatchet that religion and unrestricted speech “play a vital role at a diverse university like GW.”
Legacy and Bergen say they are primarily upset about the counseling Shaffer offers. They say he urges students who have homosexual feelings to lead a life of celibacy.
Catholic Church doctrine maintains that homosexual desire isn’t a sin, but acting on that desire is, according to the website Catholic.com.
Legacy told the Hatchet that he spent considerable time at the Newman Center during his first two years at George Washington. He was an altar server at mass. He believed that he would become a Catholic priest after graduating.
All that changed, though, when Legacy told Shaffer that he and Bergen had entered a homosexual relationship. Shaffer allegedly charged Legacy with being immoral and lacking in faith.
“To have my faith leader view me that way, just because of one piece of the way that God made me, and to think that one part is responsible for the destruction of my human dignity, it just didn’t…I can’t even begin to describe the mental conflict that it creates,” Legacy told the Hatchet.
The two gay seniors are also unhappy about a blog post Shaffer authored back in May 2012, just after President Barack Obama publicly endorsed gay marriage.
“As Vatican II states, God is the author of marriage. He has defined marriage as between a man and a woman,” Shaffer then wrote. “Every single rational person knows that sexual relationships between persons of the same sex are unnatural and immoral. They know it in their hearts.”
The plan to oust Shaffer includes the creation of a video containing the statements of several students who have left GW’s Newman Center. That video, Legacy and Bergen hope, will surely arouse the generally left-leaning campus to anger, thus forcing school officials to act.
Other aspects of the proposed GW Newman Center insurgency include filing a formal complaint with the administration and conducting a series of prayer vigils outside the center.
Legacy and Bergen will also distribute a letter to high-ranking administrators. According to The Hatchet, the letter will cite academic studies connecting homophobic behavior to loss of appetite, insomnia and other detrimental psychological consequences.
Finally, Legacy will request that GW’s Student Association defund the Newman Center (which is affiliated with the school but officially part of the Roman Catholic Church). This year, the Center reportedly collected $10,000 in funding.
Last semester, Legacy presented a report to the school’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion explaining that other schools, such as New York University, vet and evaluate religious leaders before allowing them to work with campus-affiliated groups.