H. John McDargh
Boston College recently suffered a major setback. Despite its name, BC is a Jesuit school that is considered among the elite schools of higher learning in a city teeming with them. Over Martin Luther King weekend, the LG/BT Center at BC’s Law School was the target of vandalism that included homophobic graffiti covering the walls. The administration has been strikingly supportive of the victims, with the incident being actively investigated. As of this writing, no one has been apprehended. Despite this recent event, the school is lucky to be ungoverned by the Catholic Church directly. The Jesuits traditionally do not report to the local bishop but rather to their own officers in Rome. Other schools, such as the Catholic University of America, report directly to the archdiocese.
As John McDargh explained, "There is no one in the chain of command in the Catholic Church who can have anything to say about what happens at Boston College," according to John McDargh, BC assistant professor of theology at the school. The president and Board of Trustees, however, are priests or active members of the laity. In addition, devout Catholic alumni and Boston Archbishop Cardinal O’Malley influence BC’s interpretation of doctrine. This has resulted in controversies such as the decision not to renew the teaching contract last year of Father John Shea, who has argued for the ordination of women.
On the one hand, the school supports a Gay Leadership Council, in direct defiance of the Church’s position on all matters gay. There is also an association for LGBT faculty, staff and administrators, who have been invited to contribute to discussions about diversity at the school. On the other hand, there is a reluctance to allow a social group for gays and lesbians, McDargh admitted. For many years, there was hesitation to allow a dance for LGBT students. When asked why, McDargh said it was because dances are perceived to be foreplay for sexual activity. A cursory Google search, however, reveals several dances. Neighbors of the campus would be surprised to hear dance parties are discouraged, since, as local news site reported, forced college representatives to apologize for a raucous college-sponsored party that caused dozens of calls to the police. McDargh pointed out that an LG/BT dance has been held off-campus for the past few years. Despite such contradictions, the campus has certainly come a long way since the 1980s, when students received death threats from other students for coming out. "The fact of the matter is we have a very concerned campus, now," McDargh argued. He praised the support offered by counselors, student affairs and campus police about the vandalism incident. As for other Catholic campuses spread across the United States, there’s generally support for LGBT communities. Chicago’s Loyola University and Santa Clara University in California’s Silicon Valley are examples of schools much more progressive than Boston College, according to McGrath. Others, however, like Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, and Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., adhere to strict anti-gay doctrine that directly affects student life. This is why McGrath believes that BC compares favorably to "some of the more conservative Catholic universities"; he puts its policies generally "somewhere in the middle."