By: Sabrina Brown
Anthony Muñoz will remain the speaker at the commencement ceremony in the face of objections from Xavier students, faculty and alumni, according to Xavier President Michael Graham, S.J. Xavier University announced earlier this month that Muñoz, Hall of Fame Bengals player and well-known Cincinnati philanthropist, would be the Commencement speaker at graduation this year.
The selection of Muñoz has created controversy within the Xavier community. Many alumni, students and faculty were concerned with Muñoz’s stance on LGBTQ issues, derived from his involvement with Citizens for Community Values (CCV).
According to its website, CCV prides itself on promoting “Judeo-Christian moral values, and to reduce destructive behaviors contrary to those values, through education, active community partnership and individual empowerment at the local, state and national levels.”
CCV holds strong beliefs on many social and political issues, but the primary issue of concern to Xavier students is its stance on homosexuality.
The organization’s website states, “Quite apart from our moral objection to homosexual behavior, compassion-genuine compassion-compels us to reach out to those individuals involved in homosexual behavior and to resist those activists who seek to draw men, women and children into this destructive lifestyle… thousands of people have overcome this desire [homosexual desire], have withdrawn from homosexual behavior and have gone on to enjoy fulfilling heterosexual relationships.”
Shortly following the announcement of the Commencement speaker, members of the Xavier community discovered that Muñoz was involved with CCV in some aspect and therefore embodied its beliefs to some extent. His involvement was speculated to include sitting on advisory boards and participating in and sponsoring its annual golf fundraiser.
According to an article on Cincinnati.com, “Phil Burress, president of Citizens for Community Values, said Muñoz has been a friend of the organization for 30 years. Burress said Muñoz serves on one of its boards and believes in what the organization stands for.”
As a result of the concern over his potential involvement, the Xavier community, including Xavier’s LGBTQ Alliance and the former Student Government Association Executives, began a petition to have Muñoz clarify his beliefs. If those views were not in line with Xavier’s statement on sexual orientation or ideals as a Jesuit university, members of the Xavier community felt that Muñoz should not be honored as Xavier’s Commencement speaker, an honor which includes receiving an honorary degree from the university.
“Because the commencement speaker is speaking to the graduating class and for the graduating class, we don’t think someone that holds the values that CCV holds is in line with what Alliance believes, which is why we’re concerned about him, or what Xavier believes, which is why the student body should be worried about him,” Xavier LGBTQ Alliance senior officer Chris Dobbs said.
Xavier’s administration felt similarly, recognizing its students, faculty and alumni’s concerns.
“Their concern — and it is an important one — is that a speaker who has used or endorsed hateful speech is an inappropriate choice for Xavier University as a Jesuit and Catholic University. I fully endorse this perspective.,” Fr. Graham said via email.
Fr. Graham met with Muñoz yesterday afternoon to clarify his stance on LGBTQ issues, particularly in regard to the American bishops’ pastoral message “Always Our Children.”
According to Fr. Graham, Muñoz “liked the pastoral statement and said that it expressed well his own view that gay people ought not to be discriminated against, but treated with respect and compassion. His position throughout was perfectly consistent with Catholic teaching on this subject.”
Fr. Graham also inquired as to his involvement with CCV, to which Muñoz stated that he does not currently serve on the advisory board and has not played in their golf outing since 2011, an event for which he claims he was incorrectly listed as a sponsor.
“Anthony is a deeply Christian man who believes that he has been commanded to love and respect people without hesitation, including people with whom he may disagree on political or social issues, and that bias or discrimination against anyone is simply wrong,” Fr. Graham said via email.
In light of the recent developments, the university intends to go forward with Muñoz as its commencement speaker, though it is unclear as to how the Xavier community will respond to this decision.