On Wednesday evening, a group of students across the tri-campus gathered to pray the rosary in front of Le Mans Hall, in protest of a guest speaker at Saint Mary’s College. As the praying of the rosary began, Catholic theologian Emily Reimer-Barry delivered a lecture entitled “Structural Change for Reproductive Justice: Insights from Catholic Feminism.”
Students at the vigil believed that Dr. Reimer-Barry’s writings and research contradict Catholic teachings in regards to the Church's stance on abortion.
Kathryn Schneider, a sophomore at Saint Mary’s and the president of Belles for Life, said she organized this peaceful protest as a way to pray for the speaker inside and for the students that will be listening to the talk.
“This event is not meant to interrupt anything or go against anything, the point of this event is to pray to the speaker inside who has written for ‘Catholics for Choice,’ which is concerning for the Catholic identity,” she said.
Schneider argued the prayer vigil would help Reimer-Barry and the Saint Mary’s administration hold true to Catholic doctrine. She also referenced the College’s recent controversies regarding admission of transgender applicants.
“I think it is very concerning after the event last year, when they brought in another pair of pro-choice speakers. I was very concerned based on some of their writings that they had already published. I did attend that event and some of the things they said were clearly against Catholic teaching and very concerning,” Schneider said. “So when I heard they were going to do another event this year it made me very concerned, especially with what's been going on with everything here, and questioning if Saint Mary’s is trying to stay true to Catholic values.”
Schneider said her goal is to maintain the College's Catholic identity.
“We’re named after Our Lady, it is a Catholic school. Based on what some administrators and other people have been doing, they sometimes lose track of that,” Schneider continued. “Personally for me and some of the other concerned students, that's our goal while we are here, to do our part, and make sure they maintain the Catholic identity that we were founded on.”
Helen Rothfus, a senior at Notre Dame, was among those at the protest outside the event.
“I came out here because I thought it was very sad to see [that] a [college] named after Our Lady would be promoting something so against what the Catholic Church teaches,” she said. “I think if [these are] the steps that the tri-campus is going to take, I think the Catholic identity will definitely be smeared and not mean much here anymore.”
Mataya Watson, a freshman at Holy Cross College, said she attended the protest because she believes Catholic institutions should fulfill their obligations to students, and to not only preach the Catholic faith but be proud of it.
“I think this talk in particular does no justice to the babies, much less the students that came here searching for a Catholic institution. I think it's important to speak out in grace and speak out respectfully not through aggressive protest but through prayer,” Watson said.
“I know Saint Mary’s has been in the news a lot recently, for different things that kind of contradict the faith and I know our bishop has been doing a lovely job handling that,” Watson added. “As far as Saint Mary’s, I encourage any administration just to remember the faith, and come back to the faith. You’re never too far gone, and there are always points of failure and struggle, but I think it's important to remember your core values.”