News and Analysis

Sunday, May 13, 2012 7:53 p.m.

Newman Center priest sparks outcry with anti-gay marriage blog

Father Greg Shaffer leads worshippers in prayer in the Marvin Center's Grand Ballroom. Shaffer posted a blog Friday about his anti-gay marriage stance that has come under attack by student leaders. Hatchet File Photo

The GW Catholics priest has come under fire for a blog post blasting same-sex marriage, drawing harsh criticism from student LGBT leaders.

Father Greg Shaffer, chaplain of the on-campus Newman Center, wrote a post on his blog Friday lambasting President Barack Obama’s May 9 announcement supporting gay marriage.

“Every single rational person knows that sexual relationships between persons of the same sex are unnatural and immoral. They know it in their hearts,” Shaffer wrote. “And, yet, they go against what their hearts tell them when they try to argue for same-sex relationships and ‘gay marriage.'”

“Neither [President Obama] nor anyone else has the authority to redefine marriage. God is the author of marriage; He has the sole authority to define marriage. No human being can redefine marriage, especially a politician in an election year,” Shaffer wrote.

Blake Bergen, former president of Allied in Pride, jumpstarted a conversation on Facebook by sharing the link to Shaffer’s blog post and soliciting comments from students.

Bergen said in an email that he was disgusted by the “flagrant homophobia in which Mr. Shaffer’s rhetoric has been steeped and saturated.”

“Mr. Shaffer’s blog post has direct psychological implications on students here at GW. To be told that something they know to be perfectly acceptable is ‘unnatural and immoral,’ takes a toll,” Bergen said.

Shaffer denied accusations of creating a homophobic environment at the Newman Center, adding he has given members of the LGBT community “nothing but respect and kindness.”

“I understand that my defense of the Church’s teaching on marriage causes some in our community to infer a personal attack,” Shaffer said in an email. “I don’t apologize for the Church’s teachings, but if my presentation of the teachings caused anyone to be personally hurt, I am truly sorry.”

President of Allied in Pride Nick Gumas called on Shaffer, who he described as a public figure on campus, to resign immediately.

“The University promotes an inclusive environment but the comments he made do not follow along with this. The post he made divides society,” Gumas said.

University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard declined to comment on the University’s reaction to Shaffer’s blog post.

“He is not an employee of the University. The Archdiocese of Washington assigned him to the Newman Center, which is run independently from the University,” Sherrard added.

Bergen said Shaffer’s positive work at the Newman Center that “has been overshadowed by what feels like a disregard for my humanity, and the humanity of those in my community.”

Another LGBT student leader, Damian Legacy, said he was also offended by the blog post. Earlier this year, Legacy co-founded a Catholic student organization welcoming LGBT students after he said he felt shunned by the Newman Center.

“We are here for anyone who may have been ostracized or otherwise hurt by Mr. Shaffer’s comments or the general homophobic and anti-gay atmosphere of the Newman Center,” Legacy said.

  • Law student

    It is a shame that anybody who opposes gay marriage is instantly dismissed as homophobic. LGBT folks have the same right as everyone else – to marry one other person of the opposite gender.

  • ruhroh

    I can’t wait to see the comments for this article

  • Orly Taitz

    I assume Mr. Shaffer also defends pedophilia within the Catholic Church. Makes sense.

  • Undergrad

    In response to Law student:

    While I disagree with your definition of equal rights, the real problem with his stance is his characterization of homosexuality. The way in which he states it goes completely against the scientific and psychological communities’ beliefs about homosexuality. It is insulting and degrading to dismiss such a fundamental part of the human condition as a defect and error in personal conduct. To suggest that every homosexual should have this shame for being gay creates an intolerant atmosphere in a place where students should be accepted and respected. Father Shaffer has the right to make those comments, but he does not belong on the university’s campus and should not be affiliated with us. If he wants to express discriminatory and disrespectful views he should move off-campus and promote intolerance there.

  • Different Undergrad

    In response to Undergrad:

    Father Shaffer doesn’t represent the scientific community, he represents the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is the biggest denomination of the biggest religion in the world.

    It’s not fair, it’s not moral, it’s not helpful to impose secular values on GW’s religious students. If the positions of the Catholic Church offends you, find your own church. If you don’t like Father Shaffer’s blog, write your own. It’s that simple.

    Despite what this article suggests, not everyone at this school is a member of Allied in Pride. GW Catholics may not approve of same-sex marriage or even homosexual conduct, but they do tolerate and understand it. It’s unfortunate that Allied in Pride and the LGBT leaders who were interviewed for this article can’t offer Catholics the same kind of tolerance.

  • Old Guy

    In response to Different Undergrad:

    “It’s not fair, it’s not moral, it’s not helpful to impose secular values on GW’s religious students.”

    I believe we do that all the time in this country, it’s a balancing act between tolerance of religious tenets and the impact of some of those tenets on other-believers. No employer can fire an Orthodox Jew who refuses to work on his sabbath, no one can force a Catholic hospital to perform an abortion, no one can force Chick-fil-A to open on Sunday, etc. & etc. Likewise, no religious group can force all stores to close on its holy day, or prohibit abortion, or insist on polygamy, or get the police to round up and execute non-believers.

    It is the nasty and foolish elements of Fr. Shaffer’s comments — “Every single rational person knows” [his words] — that turn them from a statement of religious belief into an ad hominem attack on a specific group, and the author needs to be called on that cheap trick. So, according to Fr. Shaffer’s comment, every LGBT person is at best irrational or crazy, right? what other option does he allow? and so, then, are those who agree with them! why even pretend that they are human? Off with their heads!

    The slippery slope to open physical persecution of non-believers is easy – check almost any religious group’s history. [I don’t think I need remind you of some of the horrors that the Catholic Church produced when and where it had significant political power (e.g., the Inquisition, the Crusades)].

    That’s why in this country every religious attempt to marginalize a group, to make them the “enemy,” to question their equality as individuals, to generate scorn and dismissal, has to be met with a forceful rap on the knuckles if we are to maintain a secular state where no religion is in charge and every religion has a high degree of safety and tolerance.

    I would be happier if my Church clergy and hierarchy were more focused on working for and helping the poor, the oppressed, the powerless, the needy, instead of spending money on political campaigns oppressing those who do not agree with its doctrine. [It clearly has remembered nothing from the days when it was a seriously oppressed group in the U.S.]

    At the least, I would wish that people like Fr. Shaffer, as they try in their own way to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ, would refrain from denigrating any of God’s children.

  • Undergrad

    You have to understand where Shaffer is coming from; and just to set the record straight Shaffer is not a homophobe, he is simply arguing based on his religious belief and has never turned away anyone who was not of his same faith. He simply wants people to understand what the Catholic Churcha and the Bible teaches.
    The President of the LGBT must understand that he has not excluded anyone he was just stating pure facts about what the Catholic Faith teaches. And in no way is meant to ‘divide society’. Have any of you actually met Shaffer and talked with him, he actually is open to many things.

  • Student

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with what Father Greg posted as he is defended the Catholic beliefs. This is a two-sided argument and these LGBT students might be offended by Father Greg but I am offended by what these students said about Father Greg. They need to take themselves less seriously if they want to get somebody fired over something like this… loosen up.

  • Grad Student

    @Different Undergrad

    “It’s not fair, it’s not moral, it’s not helpful to impose secular values on GW’s religious students.”

    And its not fair, or moral, or helpful to impose your religious values on secular society and those of us who are not Catholic. Father Schaffer was not commenting just on what the church believes, he was commenting on what the church believes the United States should do, because apparently the United States should be expected to follow Catholic doctrine? Obviously Greg has the right to say whatever he wants as a private citizen, but like any private citizen he also should expect to be criticized when he expresses political views that others agree with. The separation of church and state is a two way street. If the Catholic Church wants non-Catholics to leave it alone and stop commenting on doctrine, it should stop attempting to force that doctrine into American politics.

  • Losing Patience

    His actions go against university policy and should therefore not be tolerated. That’s all there is to it.
    If you do not believe in the full equality of the LGBT community, you are then by definition a homophobic. Father Shaffer is a homophobic.
    If you want to practice discriminating the LGBT community, that is fine but get off our campus. GW is no place for such ridiculousness. It would not tolerate an openly racist priest and this is no different.
    That’s all there is to it, folks.

  • Adjectives vs Nouns

    “You are by definition a homophobic.”
    Well, not to be rude but… Homophobic is an adjective, so no one can be “a homophobic”. You can’t be “a tall” or “an angry.” Father Shaffer can’t be “a homophobic”- grammatically correctly, he could be “a homophobe”, but factually, he is not.

  • Losing Patience

    Amusing to see you have focused on a small grammatical error instead of the content of my post. I certainly know the difference. Excuse me, minus the “a” in my above post.
    Now Id love to give you a lecture on maturity amd growing up but I guess Ill be the better person.

  • Kelly H.

    Thank you Father Gref for the point of your message! How can the state redefine a religious institution thousands of years old……….yes MARRIAGE founded in Judaism and Christianity based on the union of a Man and a Woman.
    GUESS WHAT? My undergraduate daughter is gay!
    Father Greg advised me to love and accept her. That her sexuality (just like everyone else) is a part of her identity but only a part. She is an artist, a writer, an animal lover and many other wonderful things. She is now an undergraduate. Her view is that if the state wants to recognize same sex unions that they sould clearly be defined and named DOMESTIC
    PARTNERSHIPS! Not marriage. She is a critical thinker and she sees the absurdity to call a state sanctioned union of same sex people “marriage.” Sorry angry gay right activists…….God created marriage as the union of a man and a woman and Father Greg has every right to defend it.

  • Late to the Pary

    Several months late to this shindig, but I just wanted to set the record straight.

    “yes MARRIAGE founded in Judaism and Christianity based on the union of a Man and a Woman.”

    If you’re saying that marriage was invented by the ancient Israelites, then I’d like you to talk to the Mycenaean Greeks, the Babylonians, the Egyptians, and everybody in pre-history.

  • Joe Martinez

    Be courageous, Father. If the world hate you, know ye, that it hath hated me before you. If you had been of the world, the world would love its own: but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.(John 15:18-19) The Lord hath sworn, and he will not repent: Thou art a priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech. Psalm 110:4

  • BenYachov

    Being Gay is not morally or objectively the same as being Black or of some specific race.

    Homosexuality is a behavior & as such is subject to moral evaluation. Thus it is in no way the same as the Priest using a racial slur which would be both unreasonable and a sin against charity.

    Natural Law Philosophy(which the Church excepts) and Divine Revelation as believed and taught by the Church objectively teaches that “sexual relationships between persons of the same sex are unnatural and immoral.”

    That is no different then the Priest saying “God is three Hypostasis’ in One Divine Nature”.

    Sure a Muslim whose Koran say “He is an infidel who says God is Three” doesn’t accept that but I don’t see any Muslims calling for Father’s ouster if he merely stated Catholic doctrine.

    Also as for the statement “They know it in their hearts,” Biblical Doctrine also teaches God wrote the Natural Law on the hearts of men. Which is why we have an innate sense of right and wrong.

    “Fr” Legacy and his boyfriend are nothing more than politically correct bigots and fascists trying to punish Fr Greg for his beliefs with their phony outrage. The same with all their supporters. No exceptions.

    They are also stupid for acting surprised the Church teaches gay sex is immoral.

    Anyone who supports Legacy simply hates the First Amendment. It’s that simple.

  • Pensieve

    “If you do not believe in the full equality of the LGBT community, you are then by definition a homophobic.”

    And there you have it, folks – agree with me on any subject I feel deeply about, or you’re a bigot.

    As for “Old Guy,” there is indeed another option than being “irrational” or “crazy” if you think homosexual relations are as “normal” as heterosexual relations: that is, you are lying to yourself or just astonishingly unaware of biology. Whereas some homosexual relations occasionally occur in nature, along with other aberrations,it is undeniable what the natural, biological purpose and orientation of sex organs is. In short, the lower intestine is not a sex organ. I can put corn in my ear, but that is not what an ear is for, and if I insist on doing so, people can be excused for thinking such is not natural behavior.

    “Old Guy” might also learn something about the various Crusades, as well as how government has persecuted Catholic Christians, starting with a look at Nero and Diocletian, and then he might ponder how government marginalization of religions can and have ended up in mass murder and persecution.

    Finally, if offending someone is going to be what defines permissable speech, Legacy should know he deeply offends me in his attempt to muzzle a priest, so I guess he has to be thrown off campus too.

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