I haven’t blogged on this topic up until now, as usually it’s better if “internal” matters can be resolved internally if at all possible, without bringing in the whole world. However, during this past week CBC News Ottawa carried the story, Catholic University in Ottawa opposes free condoms. This is not a new story. Last year it came to our attention that condoms were being handed out to students of our university by the student association (SPUSA – Saint Paul University Student Association; SPUSA on Facebook).
Many of us felt that this was totally inappropriate to be happening in a Catholic university, and so made representation to the university administration to take appropriate action. We particularly asked the university administration to be faithful to the fact that Saint Paul University is a Catholic institution.
The story came to light in the media this week probably due to an online petition that was created by a “Concerned Student” – St Paul University’s condom ban is unacceptable! As the petition front-page says, SPUSA was to enter into talks with the university administration this past week in order to reach a resolution on this issue. At this stage, we wait to hear the outcome of these discussions.
But, to continue the thought I began in the title of this post, I offer the following as the beginning of some reasons why I oppose the handing out of condoms at a Catholic university.
I believe that, as a Catholic, I rightly expect that I won’t find things that are opposed to the Catholic faith happening on Catholic property. Not only in classrooms, in terms of what is taught, but the whole atmosphere of an institution that belongs to the Church should faithfully express what the Church believes. I don’t believe that people have a right to do things that are offensive to the Catholic faith on Catholic property.
As some have pointed out, in one sense trying to block the handing out of condoms is a futile exercise. People can get contraception everywhere. But that is part of my argument too! If they can get it anywhere and everywhere, they certainly don’t need to get it at a Catholic institution.
One thing I find offensive about allowing condoms to be handed out is that it ignores the fact that the Church has a positive and life-affirming vision of sexuality. It is a challenging vision, and it certainly does not include contraception. Many people may disagree with the Church’s vision, and many want to pretend that the Church doesn’t teach such things any more. But we do, and to act otherwise is a lie. Handing out condoms – and allowing this to happen – ignores the Church’s vision of sexuality and effectively condones immoral behaviour. It suggests that the students are incapable of controlling themselves. Instead of challenging students and offering the richer teaching of Christ which involves self-control and chastity, we are giving in to the ways of the world. Handing out condoms, and allowing this practice, is an epic failure in Christian leadership, in my opinion. This is why I have spoken up about this issue. We can, and should, be doing much more for the formation of the young people who are in our Catholic institutions. Not to offer them the fullness of what we believe – whether they accept it or not – is a failure on our part. They can receive the teachings of the secular world anywhere else, but we have something different, something better, to offer: the way of life given us by Christ and handed on in his Church.
By coincidence, this blog post alerted me to this excellent lecture by Fr James Dominic Brent, OP: Catholic University of America Professor on Contraception: “To Be Someone Radiant.”
It is well worth the read, and it expresses excellently why I oppose the handing out of condoms at a Catholic university.
Please pray for our university and all of us here!
UPDATE 18 MARCH 2012: A story in the Ottawa Citizen, Saint Paul University, students clash over condoms: School wants student association to stop distributing the contraceptives presents some new information and refers to a joint press release issued by SPUSA and Saint Paul University.
That statement can be found here: http://ustpaul.ca/en/jointpressreleasefromsaintpauluniversityandsaintpauluniversitysstudentassociation_1058_17.htm or here (if the link doesn’t work): Joint Press Release from Saint Paul University and Saint Paul University’s Student Association