3438147741The Catholic Church and some of its leaders have been wrong. From the prosecution of Galileo and his findings to the treatment of victims of sexual abuse in recent years, the church has proven itself to be a fallible institution, sometimes disastrously so.

This is not meant to belittle or outweigh the immense good that the church has done throughout history. Instead, realizing that the church can be — and will continue to be — wrong about some political and theological questions makes it essential that we as a university encourage and support robust dissent toward the church.

One doesn’t need to go as far as Rome to see how a lack of dissent, out of blind respect for Catholic tradition, can harm those closest to us. As recently as five years ago, one generation of Hoyas away, anti-LGBTQ hate crimes were commonplace at Georgetown. There were reports of students being physically and verbally assaulted and of slurs being written on the then-newly established LGBTQ Resource Center.

Last fall, I attended a panel discussion called “Honoring Our Histories,” which was put on by the LGBTQ Resource Center to commemorate its fifth year. During the panel, an older alumnus got up to shout at a university representative, telling him that he and his gay friends immediately throw out the university magazine each year because of the immense pain that the university’s exclusion caused them. While his anger was obvious, all I could hear in his voice was pain.

Clearly, our universal church failed to be his home. He attended Georgetown well before GU Pride existed — or rather when its recognition was still being rejected. Each time the university rejected access to benefits to GU Pride — or as it was known in 1979, Gay People of GU — it also rejected the identity of its members. These decisions hurt and denigrated the hundreds of LGBTQ Hoyas who graduated prior to 1987.

The decision not to recognize GPGU, much like the longstanding controversy over H*yas For Choice and the right to bring certain speakers to campus, was based on a fear that financing speech and actions that the Catholic Church disagrees with was tantamount to endorsing all those views and actions.

The District of Columbia Court of Appeals rejected this argument nearly two decades ago when GPGU and the Law Center’s Gay Rights Coalition (GRC, now OUTLaw) sued the university. Today, after seeing how Georgetown has come to be a safer place for all students, it would appear that the court was right when it said that recognizing GPGU would not harm the university, which failed to predict the benefits that would come from embracing a community and values that don’t neatly fit in the catechism.

Today, members of H*yas For Choice are harassed by DPS and by fellow Hoyas. when they table. Their condom envelopes get callously torn down, or messages are written on their whiteboards. When they request rooms via the university registrar, requests take inordinate amounts of time to be processed. While speakers are welcome to talk about celibacy or offer disinformation about family planning, an HFC event with a single respected sex educator led to a series of serious complaints that embroiled even me as a marketing co-sponsor of the event.

The precedent we set when we don’t protect and support the ability of HFC to dissent is that no dissent is welcome. This precedent affects all of us and encourages us to censor ourselves. I’ve sat in many a meeting during which advisors and students have whispered that “some people upstairs” would likely sanction a group for a certain event or action.

This is unacceptable for any university, an institution that should encourage students to seek out truth, but especially for a Catholic one, since our own fallibility should encourage us to seek universality and dialogue.

To restrict spending or access to spaces on campus or to suggest that there is only one type of space or time that is appropriate is to ghettoize dissent and those brave enough to do it. We protect the right of Internet trolls to whine anonymously about the Stewards or make vulgar posts on Georgetown Confessions, but we’ve rushed to cover up or forget the most egregious errors our beloved institutions have made. Should we not then rush to support all those who seek to stop us from making more mistakes?

Thomas Lloyd is a junior in the School of Foreign Service. QUEERA PERSONALIS appears every other Tuesday.

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