The Vatican released a statement on March 15 saying that the Catholic Church will not bless same-sex marriages because God “does not and cannot bless sin.”
Lydia Cooper, an associate professor of English and the faculty moderator for Creighton’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance, said the statement “broke my heart, but didn’t surprise me.”
“There’s a sort of exhausted pain a lot of queer people of faith walk around with every day, where we are so used to being told how little we matter and how little our lives matter to God — but somehow, every time the Church takes a moment out of their day to reassert how little we matter, it still manages to hurt,” Cooper said.
Alyssa Bursott, the president of Creighton’s GSA and a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, said her comments are her own and do not represent the views of the organization.
“At a certain point, a lot of people, myself included, have given up our hopes of ever being welcome or loved by the Catholic Church as an institution,” Bursott said.
“There are communities that do fully support LGBT+ lives, and many Catholics do support the LGBT+ community. However, the institution of the Catholic Church does not, and I doubt that will ever change,” Bursott said.
Eileen Burke-Sullivan, the vice provost for mission and ministry, said that the statement does not identify being a member of the LGBTQ community as a sin, but it does identify the sexual relationships between LGBTQ couples as a sin.
“[The Church is] no longer saying that there’s anything inherently wrong with gay persons, [it is] suggesting that the enactment of sexual expression between same sex partners is against the way we understand the law of God,” Burke-Sullivan said.
She added that the statement merely reflects the Church’s position as it stands today, and does not reflect how the Church might change in the future.
Cooper said that she feels that the Creighton administration has a responsibility to respond to the Vatican’s statement.
“Our identity and mission hinge on this. Are we for and with others? Silence is not an option. If Creighton’s administration remains silent, they are endorsing the Vatican’s statement,” Cooper said.
“I hope that Creighton’s leadership recognizes the damage and the damaging implications of the Vatican’s statement and affirms their commitment to recognizing — even if that is all they do — the legal validity of same-sex unions.”
Burke-Sullivan said that the university will likely not make a statement because Creighton is a Catholic university and must abide by the universal church’s perspective.
“Creighton, as a Catholic Jesuit institution, has got to respect and uphold the Catholic perspective as it is moving forward and struggling — more slowly than we would like — to understand deeply what it is God is saying to the world at this time in history,” Burke-Sullivan said.
She added that rather than a statement, it would be better for the university to “simply reiterate our conviction that every human being is valuable and that LGBT, human beings are deeply valuable — they’re infinitely valuable.”
Burke-Sullivan said that the statement from the Vatican will not affect Creighton’s position towards the LGBTQ community and that it will continue to care for and support everyone on campus.
“We’re not going to go backwards,” Burke-Sullivan said. “If anything, Creighton is going to be more caring … but we’re also going to continue to be respectful of the Church. We’re going to continue to walk that narrow line.”
Cooper said that she thinks Creighton University is “tolerant” of the LGBTQ community. “I’m not sure I can say it’s supportive,” Cooper said.
“Allowing the GSA to exist, recognizing legally sanctioned unions as legally sanctioned unions — none of that equals support; it’s just an observation of the existence of queer people, and an acknowledgment that they should have access to basic services straight and cis people have access to.
Bursott added that there are many people on campus who do support the LGBTQ community on campus, but there are still more who do not.
“I know a majority of students, faculty, and administrators welcome us; however, there are many who don’t value our lives or the way we love,” Bursott said.
“They don’t want us to be present on this campus, at least not visibly present, and they will be able to use this as leverage to continue stifling our presence on campus.”
Burke-Sullivan said that “Creighton cares deeply” for the LGBTQ community on campus.
“We make space, and we reach out to you very specifically within the boundaries that we can as a Catholic University, but we also have to pay attention to what the Church is actually teaching,” she said.
“Our goal is to really be very supportive and I do think that in a culture where LGBT [people] have historically been demonized, that we have made tremendous strides in being very attentive to persons,” Burke-Sullivan said.
Bursott said that there are many people on campus who are part of the LGBTQ community and who have been affected by the Vatican’s statement.
“Whether Creighton wants to stand up for their students is the real question. Will they be able to support their students and continue adhering to the Catholic tradition? I do not believe so; there are blatant contradictions,” Bursott said.
“The question is, how welcome will they feel if Creighton won’t officially acknowledge the harm done to them by the Church?” Bursottt said.
Cooper said that the statement from the Vatican has not changed the mission of the GSA, but “it makes the existence of the GSA even more crucial.”
“And, frankly, it makes it even more necessary that Creighton’s Division of Student Life and higher administration cherish and nurture and protect the GSA, recognizing that they are being wounded by the Catholic Church, and their members are in need of affirmation and love,” she said.
Burke-Sullivan said that she would be happy to speak to anyone at Creighton who is concerned about the statement from the Vatican or would like to understand more about it.
She added that Campus Ministry, professors in the theology department and the Jesuits on campus would also likely be willing to help.