At least a dozen students, including seniors Damian Legacy and Blake Bergen, say they have left the Newman Center in the last several years because Father Greg Shaffer’s strong anti-gay and anti-abortion views are too polarizing. Shaffer, a Roman Catholic priest, has spent five years preaching to GW students.
The former Newman Center members are creating a video with testimony from 10 other Catholic students, who cite Shaffer as the reason they left the chapel, hoping to inflame a largely liberal campus and force University administrators to act. Legacy and Bergen also plan to file a formal complaint with the University and hold prayer vigils outside the Newman Center until Shaffer is removed…
Legacy and Bergen will deliver a letter this week to top administrators including University President Steven Knapp, citing academic studies that link harmful psychological effects, like the inability to sleep and loss of appetite, with being around homophobic behavior.
GW’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion is already reviewing the case, after Legacy submitted a report last semester that outlined how other schools vet religious leaders before bringing them to campus.
Mind you, this is the same university where Anwar al-Awlaki was a chaplain, but sure, Fr. Greg is what causes them to reevaluate their vetting of religious figures.
Father Greg Shaffer’s great mistake, you see, is counseling students who are openly gay and come to him by referencing Catholic beliefs and church doctrine on homosexuality. This has offended some gay students, who now want to kick the priest off campus despite the fact that he is well-liked by plenty of students, who describe him as a welcoming leader who has never and would never single out gay students. Student testimonies on his behalf are at TheChaplainWeKnow.
The Arch Diocese of Washington offered this statement clarifying that Fr. Shaffer is, indeed, Catholic:
Fr. Greg Shaffer, chaplain at the Newman Center on the campus of the George Washington University, shares the teachings of the Catholic Church in a welcoming and joyful manner. His ministry is a vital component of the vibrant faith community on campus.
Priests have a special responsibility to lead by preaching and teaching the Gospel, administering the sacraments, providing spiritual guidance and promoting the spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being of the people. All of this is done in the context of the circumstances of our day and modern culture. Priests also recognize that many of the teachings of the Catholic Church, especially those in modern culture that involve human sexuality, including homosexuality, are countercultural.
Despite the current cultural beliefs about homosexuality and same sex marriage, the teaching of the Catholic Church remains unchanged. Priests will continue to teach and counsel that following the ways of the Catholic Church and living our life in the way that Jesus Christ taught us is not always easy. We strive to do our best to live by God’s commandments. We announce that from the pulpit and we try to meet people where they are and walk with them on life’s journey. The Catholic Church welcomes everyone. The teachings, however, are not tailored to an individual’s personal beliefs. Thus, priests have a commitment to educate people in the truths of our faith, regardless of the current cultural trend.
Students do not have the right not to be offended or have their feelings hurt by other people’s beliefs or arguments during their four years in college. These are allegedly places of intellectual and spiritual inquiry and diversity, but they become anything but when any precious Millenial who gets his heart bruised feels entitled to kick those he disagrees with off campus. Protest all you want, but let the argument happen. You might even get dangerously close to learning something about those who believe differently from you, you know, like you’re supposed to in college.
Neither this priest nor that silly professor who demanded his students stomp on Jesus need lose their jobs over mere disagreements. A student who refuses to “stomp on Jesus” could simply be asked about his beliefs and feelings. Other students could be asked what symbol they would be uncomfortable stomping. Instead, these disagreements become an opportunity for ganging up on and silencing anyone who ventures within a football field of right of center. That’s as close-minded and unproductive as it gets.