28 April 2012

11th Commandment....

Thou shalt not condemn other religious groups.

I have been getting some "fishing expedition" questions that seem to be inviting me to comment on the decisions of other religious groups at Vanderbilt.  I won't do it, and I encourage others not to either.

The problem with the policy is the Vanderbilt administration's illiberal application of it, not the conscientious decisions of religious groups.  I know that there is not a religious group on campus that does not have some problem with the policy -- if not for themselves, then in solidarity with those who do.  I have experienced the low morale at the chaplains' meetings.

I regret that there has been fragmentation of the religious response to the policy.  I believe that the administration has used fear and intimidation to bring about the fragmentation.  All the power in this situation, of course, is in the administration's hands.  Power is also the reason that the Greeks have been exempted from the policy.

26 April 2012

Preparing Lay Faithful (and some clerics and religious, too)

As we adjust to the new reality in our relationship with the university, I am learning to like it.  It is more realistic.  I think that it is actually better for us to have a relationship that respects the fact that the Catholic Church and Vanderbilt University are different entities with different interests.  Clear boundaries make for better relationships.

I think that the new relationship with the university will allow the students to exercise their apostolate of friendship on campus more effectively.  They do not need an organization or title to be witnesses of Jesus Christ.  As the chaplain, I will be able to offer spiritual formation for the students to accept in a spirit of freedom.  In the world, the activities of the Church are not sponsored by secular institutions.   I do not see how the approbation of a secular university matters much in the mission of the Christian faithful.

I am excited about the adventure that the Holy Spirit has launched us on!

23 April 2012

Guess Who's the Patron of Religious Freedom?

O God Our Creator,
from your provident hand we have received
our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
You have called us as your people and given us
the right and the duty to worship you, the only true God,
and your Son, Jesus Christ.
Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit,
you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world,
bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel
to every corner of society.
We ask you to bless us
in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty.
Give us the strength of mind and heart
to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened;
give us courage in making our voices heard
on behalf of the rights of your Church
and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.
Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father,
a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters
gathered in your Church
in this decisive hour in the history of our nation,
so that, with every trial withstood
and every danger overcome—
for the sake of our children, our grandchildren,
and all who come after us—
this great land will always be “one nation, under God,
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

20 April 2012

All comers

We have been questioned lately about the number of "members" Vanderbilt Catholic has. Is is a hard question to answer because, you see, we actually operate on an "all comers" basis!

15 April 2012

15 minutes of fame ;-)

I hope that our 15 minutes of fame at Vanderbilt Catholic are just about up. This has been a challenging time to remain faithful to religious principles in the midst of a secular controversy. The student leadership of Vanderbilt Catholic and I are not seeking publicity and are not making decisions for political impact or leverage in this policy issue. We are trying to be who we are: a Catholic chaplaincy to a secular university. We have been willing to play by whatever rules that the university set up until they conflicted with our ability to "propose Jesus Christ and to form his disciples" at Vanderbilt according to our Catholic faith. That's our mission, and we cannot compromise it. During the course of the year, we have tried to influence the application of the university's non-discrimination policy. When the policy was ultimately promulgated about a month ago we realized that we could not subscribe to it. We informed the university, and we have been willing to accept the consequences of our decision, however unjust we think them to be. We have continued to talk with the university about "unregistered" status, and those talks have been productive. I believe that we have come through this controversy with our integrity intact. As I feared, the administration's position has damaged the university's commitment to the principles of liberal education. The administration has narrowed religious expression at Vanderbilt. The easiest solution to the problem would be for the university to have a separate category for religious organizations because they are different. They are not groups held together by interest but by identity.

12 April 2012


I am not very worried about losing the name "Vanderbilt." Keeping us "Catholic" is what this has all been about!

The name above all names? The Holy Name of JESUS! Let's keep proposing Him!

10 April 2012

On We Go!

After my last chaplain's meeting last week, I was more convinced than ever that Vanderbilt Catholic has chosen the better way. The morale in the room was absolutely, well, demoralizing! I was in complete sympathy with the Hillel director, who pointed out that most of the fraternities had taken their members and dates off for the weekend on their "formals." He was concerned because Passover began last weekend. It was an important weekend for Christians too ;-) But the buses for formals pulled out on Friday.

What a terrible idea these "formals" are! The decorated coolers are such a sad emblem of these events. Yet the university supports the fraternities. In contrast, FCA was called on the carpet by the university for planning a mission trip to Haiti over spring break. Go figure.

I am so glad not to be involved in the politics and the political correctness of being a registered organization!

Also, in today's newspaper 11 other religious groups announced that they are not complying with the policy. They have submitted constitutions with religious requirements for leadership, I guess, in the expectation of being rejected. I wish them well whatever happens. They have named their group: Solidarity! Bl. John Paul the Great, pray for us!