Campus responses to controversy

Last Tuesday, speaker Kristan Hawkins sparked debate about free speech on Xavier’s campus. We asked Students for Life and the demonstrators at this event to speak about what this event means to them and how it affects free speech on Xavier’s campus as a Catholic institution.*

*Xavier has yet to clearly define its position following preliminary reporting by the Newswire.

Students for Life

This piece was written and endorsed by:

Kennedy Borchardt, Matt Benedek, Mikaela Grosz, Maggie Hohlefelder, Carson Rayhill

At Xavier, the ability to host a prominent pro-life speaker such as Kristan Hawkins provides the opportunity to publicly express the unchanging Catholic stance on the injustice and dangers of abortion. Being able to continue an ongoing discussion is something Xavier Students for Life strives for, which is why the component of a Q&A with the speakers we host is important to incorporate.

When discussing free speech at a private Catholic university, it must first be noted that a private institution can regulate what types of groups can and cannot be on campus. Further, it is an undeniable, unwavering stance of the Catholic Church that abortion is wrong. Therefore, Catholic institutions are expected to uphold that same belief among their student bodies.

As a Catholic educator, Xavier has the responsibility of cultivating the morals and souls of its students, not just their minds. Many try to twist the words and foundations of the Jesuits to fit their own beliefs, to pick and pull what they want to hear rather than what is said, but actions speak louder than words, and so we support Xavier’s stnace in defense of the Catholic teaching of life.

In 2018, the Jesuits published “Protecting the Least Among Us: A Statement of the Society of Jesus in the United States on Abortion,” in which they said:

“As our Jesuit brother and our Holy Father, Pope Francis highlights our concern: ‘Among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care with particular love and concern are unborn children, the most defenseless and innocent among us. Nowadays, efforts are made to deny them their human dignity and to do with them whatever one pleases, taking their lives and passing laws preventing anyone from standing in the way of this.’ May we always listen to the lives of the most vulnerable in our society and use our voice on their behalf.”

Catholic universities are among those who must speak for the voiceless, the marginalized, the scared, the defenseless and the unborn. It is the school’s duty to remain a pro-life institution. Pope John Paul II put it simply, “When another category of persons is being oppressed in the fundamental right to life, the Church feels in duty bound to speak out with the same courage on behalf of those who have no voice.”

At a university, diversity of thought is important. However, there is a very clear and distinct difference between freedom of speech in the classroom and organized demonstrations that directly, knowingly and unapologetically contradict the teachings of the Catholic faith at a Catholic institution. Pope John Paul II said,

“The acceptance of abortion in the popular mind, in behavior and even in law itself, is a telling sign of an extremely dangerous crisis of the moral sense, which is becoming more and more incapable of distinguishing between good and evil, even when the fundamental right to life is at stake. Given such a grave situation, we need now more than ever to have the courage to look the truth in the eye and to call things by their proper name, without yielding to convenient compromises or to the temptation of self-deception.”

There is an increasing muddling of what abortion really is. It’s the responsibility of Xavier to nourish the souls of its students and therefore prevent any further convolution of the matter through the sponsorship of an anti-life organization. Xavier has made it clear that it will not allow a student group for abortion because Catholic institutions do not participate or cooperate with evil ends.

At Xavier, we learn to stand up for what is right and to have civilized conversations with those who disagree with us to further our understanding and education. Solidarity and kinship is one of the six Jesuit values we focus on. The university states, “Solidarity and kinship invites us to walk alongside and learn from our companions, both local and afar, as we journey through life.” This is why events surrounding controversial topics encourage all with differing views to participate and engage in the conversation. Dialogue will always be encouraged and available at an institution such as this, and Xavier Students for Life will always provide a space where this conversation can happen with those who attend and participate in such events. But, as stated before, there is a very distinct difference between open conversation and being a means of pursuing an anti-life end. This is why we support and thank Xavier for the firm position taken with regard to the dangers and implications of anti-life rhetoric on our Catholic campus