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American Values Ambiguity Reflected at Catholic Colleges

Catholic Universities are engaged in the same questions about what it means to be a contemporary Catholic that are taking place in local parishes and around dinner tables. Georgetown University has engaged contemporary issues by welcoming groups like Gay Pride, and hosting a gay and lesbian center on campus even though Catholic doctrine considers same-sex love and sexuality immoral. The idea, according to Georgetown's Rev. Kevin O'Brien, the vice president for mission and ministry, is "not to undermine the church's teaching, " but to "teach our students and faculty and our alumni about issues of sexuality, of sexual identity and gender" as "an expression of our Jesuit tradition of cura personalis, caring for each person...in their unique individuality." However, Georgetown's policies have resulted in harsh criticism from alumni, and the loss of financial support, according to correspondent Bob Faw in a 8 1/2-minute news video prepared for Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, a source for cutting edge reporting at the intersection of religion and society. Meanwhile, Ave Maria University in Florida is determined to maintain fidelity to traditional Catholic teaching. President Jim Towey says we live "in an age where modernity has attacked the whole idea of objective truth." Consequently, "this university's not going to be here to be popular...it's here to try to be true to itself and its own Catholic identity." The Catholic teaching, he argues is not "your truth is your truth, my truth is my truth, [and] the Catholic teaching is just one path," so "if a group wants to be pro-choice, pro-abortion Catholics, we would not want to try to endow that group with legitimacy." That position is also not without its critics, and to increase its student enrollment Ave Maria recently had to slash its tuition. For more resources on contemporary social trends and demographics, explore the links in our feature article, "Best Resources to Research Cultural Trends." For a high-level view of life in contemporary U.S. congregations, read our article, "Congregations Struggle with Attendance, Finance."  

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