Dear students and alumni that have signed “Losing Catholic Identity on SMC Campus,”This is a synopsis of a letter written in response to Friday’s letter to the editor. We, the student members of Saint Mary’s Sexuality and Gender Equity Club (SAGE) and Smicks for Choice, felt it was important to respond to the recent letter about your concerns with Saint Mary’s College and its Catholic identity. Ourselves, along with nearly 250 students, alumni and faculty members, were very appalled with the content of your letter, as your argument is highly exclusionary and not sound regarding Catholic teaching. To be pro-choice does not mean to be pro-abortion, and you fail to acknowledge this. Rather, you falsely accuse us all to be “pro-abortion” and do not take our multi-faceted perspectives into account.This response is out of a deep concern for your misrepresentation of the College, Catholic teaching, our theology classes and our faculty members’ beliefs. The exclusion your letter demands will never take place at Saint Mary’s College.We – the students of Saint Mary’s College – stand with and support the following professors, faculty and staff that you speak falsely against: Fr. Dan Horan, President Conboy, Julianne Wallace, Redgina Hill, Lori Johnson, Barb May and Liz Baumann.We also want to raise awareness towards students on campus that have been targeted and belittled by your letter. If readers felt this way from “Losing Catholic Identity on SMC Campus,” please know that you are welcome here, and loved and supported by many.Ashley Kraker, please know this letter is not an attempt to diminish your standpoint, but rather an invitation for you to consider another viewpoint on this matter. Furthermore, this letter is to raise awareness of your false accusations and your misrepresentation of Catholicism. We will not allow your false accusations and your disturbing usage of our God — a God of love and inclusivity — to be used against us or to erase us.We, along with many other Saint Mary’s students, strongly believe we should not abandon our Catholic viewpoint. Rather, we should embrace true Catholic teachings and theological perspectives that uphold equality and diversity, not ones that exclude and cause pain for others. In embracing our Catholic identity, we should embrace the diversity of God. We should love one another for every aspect that God placed in their innate human design, as love is at the core of our being. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church (458) states, “the Word became flesh so that thus we might know God’s love.” Love is what makes us, what provides community to us and what sustains us. Jesus welcomed and loved all, and so will we. In Nostra Aetate, Pope Paul VI writes: “The Church, therefore, exhorts her sons, that through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life, they recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these men.” The Catholic Church points towards the diverse beauty of all religions, respectful dialogue and collaboration with persons who are members of other religions. Focusing solely on Catholic students and excluding students from other religions is directly against Nostra Aetate. Rather, we must have equal and non-judgemental dialogue, discovering similar religious values amongst one another and using these values to move forward. Pro-Choice Does Not Equal Pro-AbortionThere are high risks of teaching abortion as an “evil” and this ideology is not supported by Catholics. You are not setting an example of the theology of love as Christ intended, but rather a theology of hate, something that Christ condemned. The root of the issue is helping women, not forcing them to do what you believe is best. Catholicism is not a religion of force, and you cannot force love. Furthermore, your perspectives on minority communities and speaking on their behalf has caused immense pain to Saint Mary’s students. “As I was reading your letter I was appalled many times. I was even more upset when you decided that it would be a good idea to add race to your conversation. As a White, straight, cisgender woman with an abundant amount of privilege, you do not get to speak for my community. You do not get to use the struggles of my community to affirm your confirmation bias and fuel your agenda. As an actual Black woman, I am going to respond to you and anyone else who agreed with what you had to say by taking back the voice you thought you gave us,” voiced Jayla Mongomery (‘24) in her response.This is a much more nuanced and complex issue. It is not an all-or-nothing issue as you make it seem. For example, about seven-in-ten Catholics say abortion should be legal if the pregnant woman’s life or health is threatened (69%), and two-thirds say it should be legal if the pregnancy is the result of rape (66%).This is just a glimpse of the many diverse statistics that the Pew Research Center wrote on this issue, showcasing that this is not only a complex issue but also that to be pro-choice does not mean to be pro-abortion. Pro-choice in the sense that people who have the ability to be pregnant are given the free will to decide what to do with their body and make the choice that is best for them. Whether that choice is abortion, adoption or anything else, it is ultimately their choice. It is not inherently a radicalized idea that abortion will always be the answer, but rather, there is a radical idea of free will and bodily autonomy. Saint Mary’s Accepts Students of All ReligionsFor Saint Mary’s, 38.8% of Saint Mary’s current student body identifies with a religion other than Catholicism. To put this into perspective, out of the 1,381 undergraduate students enrolled in the institution, approximately 536 of our classmates, friends, neighbors, tutors, mentors and people, have been impacted by the hateful and hurtful language of this letter. There are no statistics in the Saint Mary’s Factbook that cover pro-choice Catholics, but I would assume that this statistic would cause this number to rise. We beg of you, as a reader, to remind yourself that regardless of what religion you are affiliated with or not affiliated with, as a person at your core, you are held to the standard of empathy and compassion. Even though your ideals, morals and ethics are held so close to your heart, there are 536 more sets of beliefs that make up the sacred community that is Saint Mary’s College. We encourage you all to join us in a conversation about a Catholicism that is diverse, inclusionary, and loving. One that everyone will feel welcome at, one where there is no hate speech, one where we can all feel comfortable enough to be ourselves.
Abby Beck, junior Libbey Detcher, senior Francesca Giuliano, senior Mads Hornak, junior Anaís Juliano, sophomore Kassidy Leonard, junior Kassandra Loza, senior Madison Mata, junior Jayla Montgomery, junior Jean Ochoa, junior Nicole Stutesman, junior