This year’s inevitable commencement controversy is at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, N.Y., where students are circulating the following petition, via Change.org:
Le Moyne College has appointed Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan as Commencement Speaker for the graduating class of 2015 and the graduates, along with staff and other students, do not approve of this choice.
Over the years, Cardinal Dolan has been involved with sexual abuse scandals dealing with clergy of the church, homophobic comments and does not represent the ideals we have come to know Le Moyne to represent. With the growing attention toward sexual assault on the Le Moyne campus, students have felt that keeping Cardinal Dolan as commencement speaker completely opposes what we have advocated against.
By signing this petition, you are playing a part in being the voice of Le Moyne. We have walked the halls of Le Moyne for the Black Lives that Matter, we have held vigils for the Muslim students gunned down in Chapel Hill and much more. We have always come together in hard times. Do not stop now. Stand strong, sign and keep it going.
The petition has garnered 662 signees, from a college of about 2,800 undergraduate and 800 graduate students.
It seems worth noting, by the by, that Le Moyne is a Jesuit college. It touts its “Jesuit Tradition” on its website homepage. It shows pictures of students chatting with priests.
But it is clear that many students believe their Catholic identity — to the extent that they claim one at all — is better represented by supporting “Black Lives Matter” protesters than by hearing a word from one of America’s leading Catholic clerics.
The National Catholic Reporter’s Jamie Manson offered a similarly amorphous understanding of piety in NCR last week:
In addition to evolving intellectually, church leaders must also transform their sacramental vision. They must have the courage and humility to see that God can be as fully present in the relationships of same-sex couples as God can be in opposite-sex couples and that God can be as sacramentally present through the body of a woman priest as God can be sacramentally present in the body of a male priest.
Our church leaders must, in essence, stop telling God where God can and cannot be. They must admit that they cannot control how God can and cannot work through God’s own people and where God’s sacramental life can and cannot emerge. Only then will we have a church that moves beyond the limits of complementarity and into a new life as a true reflection of the justice of God.
Although she offers more rhetorical flourish, Manson offers no more sophisticated a view of Catholic identity than those Le Moyne undergrads. By claiming that the Catholic Church is wrong on same-sex marriage, both are de facto suggesting that it is not necessary to consult Scripture or to look to the Church and its interpretative work down through the ages to understand God’s will; He makes Himself known independently of such instruments.
But at that point, God is whatever you would like Him to be. That is not bending the Church to God, but bending God to oneself.
And, predictably, the God of Le Moyne undergraduates and NCR editors drives a Prius to minimum-wage rallies.