Gay alum calls for true human rights
Letter to the Editor
The Catholic Church has often demonstrated the breadth of its compassion and forgivenessas represented by its individuals and its administration. The examples are many, but to describe a few: forgiveness and support of priests who sexually assault children, do not adhere to vows of celibacy, or steal money from the Church coffers (the Nov. 23, 1999, edition of the television show "Dateline" is a prime example of the last).
However, if you are outside of the employ of the Catholic Church or do not agree with or conform to its rules and beliefs you are not afforded such compassion, understanding and acceptance. Worse yet, the Church ignores your views and attempts to suppress your voice.
I finally reached a point in my career when I was to make a substantial contribution to Notre Dame's annual fund drive. I had just written the check and only needed a stamp before mailing. That is, until I learned about a recent University controversy.
It appears that Notre Dame's administration has decided to censor an ad submitted to The Observer from the Notre Dame gay and lesbian alumni group. Interestingly, the University contributes only 15 percent of the paper's budget but seems to want 100 percent editorial control in certain areas. [Editor's Note: The University collects student subscription fees, which amount to 15 percent of The Observer's budget. The University does not provide any money in the form of contributions, grants or funding to The Observer.] Does the University think that censorship promotes compassion? Does it believe that controlling one media outlet will make it go away? Does it feel it is setting an appropriate example as we enter the new millennium for the children of the world by encouraging prejudice rather than openness to diversity?
As a 37-year-old gay man, I am amazed at the Church's, and now Notre Dame's, continued ignorance and prejudices. I am no longer a practicing Catholic or make any claims to it due to the Church's continued policy of "Catholic rights" and not human rights. To me, that is not a religion but a political body.
I was in a loving relationship until my domestic partner, a successful doctor specializing in HIV/AIDS care, recently passed away from HIV/AIDS-related complications. No Church, government or any other artificial body instituted to fulfill its own needs can or will diminish or obviate the love we had for each other. I hope that others, gay or straight, will have the opportunity to experience a similar emotional and spiritual bond. It is truly wonderful.
For those of you who are gay or lesbian out there reading this, don't let Notre Dame's censorship make you feel isolated or alone. The gay and lesbian alumni group does exist. Gays and lesbians on campus do exist. Gays and lesbians can lead successful, fulfilling lives with loving relationships like mine.
But we don't have rights. We do experience discrimination. We are forbidden to be legally married. We do not generally have rights with respect to partner health care. As I recently experienced, we are not considered spouses or next-of-kin when our partners die unless a number of legal steps are taken. Otherwise, the victim's family is next-of-kin and they control funeral and estate issues. At a time when you are experiencing the loss of a partner, it is offensive and emotionally bruising to not have that relationship or your rights as a partner recognized by the Church, the government, and in some cases, society.
To all of you, regardless of sexual orientation or religion or ethnicity or any other variable, do not support or accept Notre Dame's censorship, its ignorance and its lack of compassion and understanding. If you do not think for yourself and speak up, the societal tensions and prejudicial views will merely extend into the next generation and the new millenium. Are we willing to lose another child like Mathew Shepherd?
To the University of Notre Dame administration, I am sure there will be many organizations that will thank you once they receive my contributions that were originally intended for you. I don't expect you to change your position because of this letter or because of the money. I do expect you to do what is right for humankind. Isn't that what you are supposed to be all about anyway?
David A. Pasquel
Notre Dame Class of 1984
November 24, 1999
All Viewpoint Stories for Tuesday, November 30, 1999