Pro-Lesbian Bulletin Board in All-Girls Dorm Prompted Traditional Marriage Response

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Friday, March 16, the Ocean State Current broke news of a cartoon found in the dorm of a residential assistant (RA) at Providence College, which is a Roman Catholic institution.  Michael Smalanskas, of Holden, Massachusetts, had found himself the target of protest after he used a bulletin board to promote the Catholic understanding of marriage, as exclusively between a man and a woman.

On Sunday, a multidisciplinary group of Providence College professors released a statement calling upon the school’s administration to “state clearly and publicly that both the content of the bulletin board that Michael Smalanskas posted and his posting of it are consistent with the Catholic mission of the college.”  On Monday, the college’s president, Rev. Brian Shanley, released a statement that did so, at least technically, while appearing to put both sides of the “disputed question” of marriage on an equal footing.

Public argumentation after Smalanskas posted his bulletin board has centered around his motivation.  In answer to this question, earlier this morning, The Current received a photograph of another bulletin board allegedly posted in an all-girls dorm that promoted same-sex marriage and, in particular, lesbian relationships.  While The Current waited for a statement from the college administration, LifeSiteNews published an article in which Smalanskas reports that the “pro-lesbian bulletin board [had been] up for the entire month of February.”

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According to the school’s Web site, all freshman housing is in single-sex dormitories.  Among the questions that The Current posed to the administration was whether the college has any policies bearing on the promotion of lesbianism in the girls’ dormitories. A failure to discourage the promotion of same-sex intimacy might run contrary to the rationale for separating housing by sex.

Earlier today, The Current also received a copy of an email from Providence College Vice President for Student Affairs Kristine Cyr Goodwin sent to the Residence Life email list on Wednesday, March 14 (full text below).  In the message, Goodwin references “complaints about at least two boards—describing them as ‘inconsistent with the Mission of Providence College,’ but for different reasons,” apparently referencing the above board and the one posted by Smalanskas.  However, the remainder of the message clearly addresses the disagreement over Smalanskas.

Goodwin implies that the message of Smalanskas’s board — while “in and of itself … consistent with the Church’s teaching” — might have “detrimental consequences” when “taken out of context.”  She also quotes a statement from Pope Francis, saying that the Church should “say it is sorry to the gay person it has offended,” among other groups.

Goodwin also encouraged the RAs and others on the list to march in a pro-LGBT rally.  Although vaguely encouraging her readers to meet with “someone whom you know has different beliefs,” Goodwin did not present any concrete or public opportunity for those disagreeing with the Church’s teachings on marriage to illustrate respect for believers as people.

 

The full text of Goodwin’s message follows:

Dear Student Leaders (of Residence Life, Student Congress, and BMSA),

I am writing to you, as student leaders, because Dean Sears, Jana Valentine, Fr. Pivarnik, Dean Gaffney, Dean Bevely and I have met with a number of students who have expressed serious concerns about their own and others’ well-being—to us and to each other.  Your call for the administration to act was received, but there is wide disagreement about what such action(s) entails.  I write to affirm some fundamental truths and to provide you with information you may need, or at least find helpful, as we collaborate on how to move forward.

First and foremost, I believe we need to treat each other with respect at all times.  Every person deserves to be treated with dignity whether or not we agree with their point of view.  People should resist the urge to vilify one another in words or actions. Vilification of any person or group further divides our community, can have a chilling effect on honest communication, and prevents us from understanding each other.

Second, the purpose and functioning of RA bulletin boards is not clearly and specifically articulated.  Consider that over the last two weeks the Office of Residence Life received complaints about at least two boards—describing them as “inconsistent with the Mission of Providence College”, but for different reasons.  We recognize that this needs to be addressed. To that end I have asked Dean Sears and Jana Valentine to work in collaboration with student leaders because you are well suited to explore this issue and assist us.  If you are interested in serving on a task force, please let one of them know.

The RA who posted the bulletin board that has resulted in controversy described his intentions as informing students about the Roman Catholic teaching on the sacrament of marriage while promoting the College’s Catholic values. While there is disagreement about the effectiveness of using a bulletin board to do this, the message in and of itself is consistent with the Church’s teaching.

In the context of our larger response,  Fr. Pivarnik and I tried to explain that this is only part of the Church’s teaching.  In discussing all of this with my colleagues—students, faculty, Dominicans and other administrators—I was reminded that at Providence College we simultaneously hold together the Church’s teaching on the sacrament of marriage and the teaching on the dignity of every human person.  This is not easy to do here at Providence College or in the Church more broadly.  As we have seen in recent days, when any part of the Church’s teaching is taken out of context, it can have detrimental consequences, especially if it ends up alienating  people from the truth that it serves. Therefore we must work earnestly toward deeper mutual understanding and the inclusion of all within the wide embrace of God’s love and mercy.

Perhaps the following two quotes will help further our understanding and provide context:

On the way home from Armenia, in a conversation with a group of reporters who asked Pope Francis about whether he agreed with a statement made by a Cardinal, he is reported to have said, “We Christians must say we are sorry . . . I think the church not only must say it is sorry to the gay person it has offended, but also to the poor, to exploited women [and anyone whom the church did not defend when it could].”

Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, O.P. former master of the Dominican Order and author of A New Way of Being Church: Pope Francis encourages us to be comfortable with uncertainty (September 2013) wrote “ . . . [Pope Francis] also sees the Christian mission as offering [a] healing gaze to others. He is touched by seeing how individuals live. When he addresses the question of welcoming gay people in the church, he says, ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’  If we dare to really see people, in their dignity and humanity, then we shall discover the right words to say. Who knows where this will take us?”

I sincerely hope others will join me in committing to studying, to really listening, and to being in dialogue so that we can be informed and effective allies and educators. One way to do this is to walk in solidarity with SHEPARD next Wednesday, March 21st, promoting unity, affirmation, and inclusion even amidst controversy. Another way is to ask someone whom you know has different beliefs than you to meet so that you may listen to their perspective.  As you know, inspired by Dr. Bernice A. King’s challenge to actively promote our shared humanity, we are currently engaged in a series of initiatives that we believe will bring us closer to the ideal of the “beloved community.” A student leader recently reminded us that stories about acts of kindness can be found at #Friars50Forward as well as posted in Slavin Center.

Finally, I offer you a quote that I have been contemplating this Lenten season.  “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response.  In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” (Viktor E. Frankl M.D., Ph.D, neurologist, psychiatrist, author, and Holocaust survivor).  When we see, read, or hear something that causes us to have a strong emotional reaction, we have the power to pause and choose a “response” that is consistent with who we are and claim to be.  I hope we have the strength to resist hurting each other any more than we already have.

I pray for civil discourse and healing, and look forward to when we can share knowledge and narrative absent fear.

Thank you for your openness and consideration.

Sincerely,
Kristine



  • Melissa

    Goodwin has one thing right, this has had detrimental consequences. In my eyes, this poster should not be hanging in a PC dorm but I continue to take issue with Smalanskas’ poster which he hung over and over again. The reason I take issue with his actions remain the fact that he used the power of his RA position and access to the bulletin board to keep hanging this up even after people kept tearing it down.

    It is a very sad commentary on our Catholic community that students would rip down one poster and not the other but I don’t think you can blame PC, or Shanley, or Goodwin for the opinions of students who come to them from all different backgrounds. I believe Fr. Shanley nicely articulated this position in his letter.

    • Richard Bucci

      Who are you Melissa, his mother, sister or paramour. Are you the cause of the leave of absence????

      • Melissa

        What are you implying, Richard?

        • Richard Bucci

          You cannot be dumb enuff to know I am implying you have some close relationship to Shanley to be writing such drivel complimenting him. Got it?

          • Melissa

            Don’t even really know him. I have heard him speak and I have respect for his position, most especially now that the radical wingnuts are trying to take him down.

          • Richard Bucci

            Your wingnuts are the whole Catholic Church from Christ to now, every saint and pope until the present fool acceded to the throne of Peter, YOU THEREFORE ARE THE WING NUT IBN THE TOMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH. I suggest you and Shanley run off together..

          • Melissa

            What a cruel and horrible person you are to suggest such a thing. You are radical wingnuts. Your tactics are the same ones used by Westboro Baptist Church except you use Catholic talk to pretend you are something else. Christ would never want what you are trying to do to his church or to this college.

          • Richard Bucci

            I guess yu never read the whole Gospel or New Testament – Cleansing the temple with whips, those who teach falsely are wolves in sheep’s clothing, Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life not the nice muffin the sky – You belong with the Episcopalians who were founded on the balls of Henry VIII, not the Rock of Peter. The College is supposed to be CATHOLIC not some mealy mouth p.c. pile of nothing. Grow up.

          • Melissa

            Keep trying to kick all the Catholics out Richie, you will die trying because I am not going anywhere and am as Catholic as you are.

          • Richard Bucci

            No you are not because you just make up what YOU want to believe. You follow the teachings of the internet not the Christ and you persecute those who speak the Gospel.

          • Melissa

            I am persecuting no one, Richard, except maybe you because you can’t stand that anyone takes a position different than yours. What good do you see coming from condemning PC?

          • Richard Bucci

            II expect them to return to being a CATHOLIC College in union with the purpose for which they were founded – to educate generations of Catholics, not accepting the opinions of the “:elite” of social strata but the constant teachings of the CATHOLIC Church which Saint Domenic so eloquently defended in his own life and times. That teaching has not changed and is the same for every sub-strata of every society in every age.

          • Melissa

            Use that if your homily tomorrow. I never argued with the teaching itself rather I think the kid is a jerk.

          • Richard Bucci

            You think he is a jerk for teaching what the Church teaches therefore YOU DO NOT ACCEPT THE TEACHING OF THE CHURCH ANDERGO CANNOT BE A CATHOLIC just as I cannot be Holy Roman Emperor as I am a peasant.

          • Melissa

            Shut up Richard. I do accept all of the teachings of the Church, without exception. I think the kid is a jerk because he is nasty to the people he lives with and abuses his power to push an agenda. Please discontinue stating what I do or do not believe. You have no idea. I think jerks do that kind of thing too. Are you and Mike related?

      • Glinda Quinn

        Melissa has changed her Disqus profile to private but before she did so, I read all of her comments, of which she has many on this RA/poster. When I read her comments, she had 103 and 99 were on this topic and 2 were on Esolen, whom she obviously hates. She has a lot invested in this subject which makes me think she is either an LGBTQ troll, a relative of the homosexual porn artist who drew the threatening picture or one of PC’s practicing freshman dorm sodomites. Either way, her comments show her to be extremely hateful, judgmental, and sanctimonious. She keeps saying the RA “used his power” but doesn’t see the hypocrisy of the LGBTQ “using their power” to harass, bully, threaten, intimidate, abuse, persecute and destroy Mike, the RA.

        • Thank you. You have confirmed my suspicions. She and this Jordan Faust are treat us to the typical armchair activism overload.

        • Aaron Milavec

          Hi, Glinda,

          Instead of dealing with the complexity of the issues, you drag Melissa through the mud by your nasty conjectures: “she is either an LGBTQ troll, a relative of the homosexual porn artist who drew the threatening picture or one of PC’s practicing freshman dorm sodomites.”

          Let’s suppose M is a lesbian. Would you not want to respectfully listen to what she has to say, to hear her pain? But, from what you’ve already written, M sure as hell won’t admit to being a lesbian when you are around.

          My daughter is a lesbian. I love and cherish her just as she finds herself. And if I as a father do this, I expect our heavenly Father does it 10,000 times better for he created her just as she is.

          So, I plead with you to be very careful with your words. They can wound those who are already so badly wounded. Make room here for my daughter.

  • Jordan Faust

    Justin, man, are you trying to insinuate that the presence of same sex dorms is a push for same sex relations? What kind of a twisted man are you? Would you say the same for seminaries and convents?

    • Justin Katz

      Not at all. I’m suggesting that the promotion of lesbianism is contrary to one of the key reasons a Catholic college would maintain single-sex dorms.

      • Jordan Faust

        And yet you asked the college if they have policies promoting lesbianism (he asked with raised eyebrow)?

        • Melissa

          Justin is a tool of the radical right wing church people. This publication has little readership and the main stream press could care less about this story. Mike Smalanskas should have taken a page from Jesus whose Father kept his life hidden from the age of 7 to 30. The repercussions of him having to live with the documentation of the actions that he is pulling in these few weeks will certainly follow him for his lifetime (inter webs is forever) and he will be branded a radical troublemaker who has problems working within the norms of institutions. Pity his poor wife who is getting into this with him so young. She can probably do much better than a nut job like this. Is the wedding ceremony they are planning at the Providence chapel part of the charade? Are they hoping for sign bearing sinners to show up? Guess again Mike, you are only wrecking yourself and your future options. Girlie, get out while you can.

          • Justin Katz

            How lovely of you to encourage divorce.

          • Melissa

            Not divorce, I hope the young lady or her parents get to the bottom of the personality disorder of her espoused long before any nuptials occur. Off balance, that one.

            Most parents would not want their daughter to end up a radical like this who has just ruined his career options to right wing Catholic institutions who won’t even give lip service to American Civil Liberties.

          • Jordan Faust

            These radical Catholics are literally killing the church they claim to want to save.

          • Amirah Rafisedih

            I would say they are separating the chaff from the wheat waiting for the soon to be harvest when the chaff will be thrown into the fire. There’s no need for the lukewarm, whom God will spit out with force.

          • Jordan Faust

            Really hard to tell who is who from the dialogue on these “catholic” websites.

          • Justin Katz

            Either way, you’ve taken your rhetoric to a new level of disgusting.

          • Melissa

            I see Justin, so it’s ok for you and most other bloggers here to disparage the college and the administrators ad nauseam, including calls for their ouster, but when a fair assessment of the prospects in life of a young man who is desperately trying to make a name for himself, doing multiple interviews daily, and on camera feature spots, are made it is disgusting. I think he is asking for attention. He will get it. Is anyone surprised that given the nature of his claims and the manner in which he is conducting himself that people are not going to have something to say about him. He has laid out his positions in multiple forums. He wants attention. He brought up his fiancee in an interview published today. I personally feel bad for her. I’m sure she didn’t think she was marrying a radical nut job with a martyrdom complex. That will be my final word on this blog. You like to own the rhetoric when it suits your agenda but you really get defensive when someone plays offense on an issue. Go back to your boring blogging with all 200 of you Catholic radicals kissing each other’s butts. That should be fun for you, won’t it.

          • Justin Katz

            Criticize him as much as you want for what he’s doing. What crosses the line is bringing his loved ones into it. That’s petty and childish.

          • Aaron Milavec

            Dear Melissa,

            I just wrote this to Glinda above in your defense. I admire your way of dealing with the issues and asking tough questions, Keep it up!

            Hi, Glinda,

            Instead of dealing with the complexity of the issues, you drag Melissa through the mud by your nasty conjectures: “she is either an LGBTQ troll, a relative of the homosexual porn artist who drew the threatening picture or one of PC’s practicing freshman dorm sodomites.”

            Let’s suppose M is a lesbian. Would you not want to respectfully listen to what she has to say, to hear her pain? But, from what you’ve already written, M sure as hell won’t admit to being a lesbian when you are around.

            My daughter is a lesbian. I love and cherish her just as she finds herself. And if I as a father do this, I expect our heavenly Father does it 10,000 times better for he created her just as she is.

            So, I plead with you to be very careful with your words. They can wound those who are already so badly wounded. Make room here for my daughter.

            Would you be able to do this for me and for all the other parents who sent their daughters to PC?

            A concerned father,
            Aaron

          • Katelyn Macnamara

            What a hateful comment.

        • Justin Katz

          I see where the misunderstanding originates. I’ve edited the piece a little to clarify. I’m not implying intent. The angle I’m exploring with my question is whether the mixture of political correctness and a sort of under-considered innocence is leading the school to create a de facto environment that favors an ideology and lifestyle that contradicts Catholic teachings at the personal level.

          • Jordan Faust

            From what I hear there is a vibrant Catholic culture as much as there is some more secular culture, much like the world we all live in. Should the blame be placed on this fine school for the foibles of the entire culture and if you are all effective in shutting PC down, what chance will there be for any Catholic culture to be made known. Cry the gospel with a thousand voices not just one perfect one.

    • Rhett Hardwick

      It is sort of a tradition in British “public schools”. And, yes, I have known people who claim they left the seminary because of “same sex” pressure. I have no way of validating those reports, except to say that I knew them well enough to presume their honesty.

      • Jordan Faust

        I question how this works then in our priestly seminary formation or in convents for the religious.

        • Rhett Hardwick

          I cannot go into any greater depth than having repeated what I have been told, and believed. I do know a woman who was thrown out of a convent, but she does not report any sexual harassment. She did get a PhD in Philology out of them before they dumped her. She did seem sex crazed on her release.

  • Richard Bucci

    Shanley is a fraud and a disgrace to the Church and the Order of Preachers. And why is he taking a leave of absence. Must be for lack of a backbone.

    • Jordan Faust

      Shanley is a great leader. He may need a break from the nonsense that radicals are creating in the church. Who can blame him? You are ripping the church apart because you think it would be better off without some people.

  • Melissa

    If I were Fr. Shanley I would not justify those incendiary professors or disrespectful RA with a response. They are purposefully creating havoc to advance an agenda that is not doing any good for the church or the college.

  • FreddyP

    Glad Mike and Catholic supremicists are finallly winning this battle against Providence and Shanley.

  • Joe Toppi

    It is funny how one poster is fine but the other is repeatedly removed. The lesbian poster wasn’t removed because not supporting such a poster would render you as a “hater” in today’s society. Maybe the reason why he kept hanging his message was that the other message still remained.
    “What’s good for the goose…….” Fr Shanley has had opportunities to defend the faith in the Esolen case and in this one and has failed.

  • Melissa

    Mike has given two contradictory rationales for putting up the bulletin board. He first claimed it was to educate residents about Catholic beliefs. Because he is media hungry, and cannot stop talking, he has now given the true reason. In his own words. “Smalanskas tells National Review that the bulletin board wasn’t intended to target his residents or any students for their beliefs or their sexuality. In fact, he says it had nothing to do with Providence students at all. “It was basically to expose a double standard on campus that certain positions — mainly conservative and Catholic positions — are not welcome here and are treated with hatred,” he says to me in a phone interview.” LIAR LIAR PANTS ON FIRE

  • Melissa

    What a deep joy to witness the record number of young people coming in to the Catholic faith at Providence College this year. That certainly sends a different message about the college than the one that young Mr. Smalanski wants to send. I think the faithful converts are a much more profound story than the embattled, bitter Smalanskas.

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