The dismissal of a Catholic priest from his position as director for the Office of Campus Ministry at Seton Hall University has caused a firestorm of criticism across the region and beyond. A student-generated petition asking for the priest’s reinstatement has garnered more than 4,000 signatures by Monday afternoon.
Rev. Warren Hall announced in a tweet last Friday that he had allegedly been let go from the South Orange university “for posting a pic on (Facebook) supporting LGBT ‘NO H8.’ I’m sorry it was met with this response. I’ll miss my work here.” The tweet has since been taken down.
The NOH8 campaign promotes marriage, gender and human equality through education, advocacy, social media, and visual protest, according to its website.
The Archbishop of Newark appoints the Director of Campus Ministry, who serves at his discretion, according to a SHU spokeswoman.
“Fr. Hall’s assignment is ending in June,” said James Goodness, Vice Chancellor and Director of Communications of the Archdiocese on Monday, who cited “confusion and misperception” surrounding the issue.
“Fr. Hall was promoting an organization that has as one of its principal agenda items the promotion of same sex unions, which conflicts with Catholic teaching,” said Goodness in an email. “Pope Francis has said that marriage is a union of man and woman. This will not change. Continued promotion of this organization’s agenda creates confusion over the clarity of Catholic teaching.”
Goodness also noted that, in line with Church doctrine, Hall has called for nondiscrimination of people with same sex attraction, and for ensuring that all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation, are treated with dignity and respect. “All human life has value — another long-held Catholic teaching,” Goodness said. “In fact, Archbishop John Myers of Newark in his pastoral on marriage in 2012 specifically cited the Church’s teaching on the need to ensure that all are treated with respect and dignity.”
Goodness said Hall is available for a new assignment but declined to comment on whether he had been reassigned.
Calling it a “sad day for a fine university,” North Jersey Pride executive director CJ Prince said, “The notion that one can treat LGBTQ individuals with respect and dignity, while at the same time denying them full equality, is just so, so wrong. So is the notion that it isn’t inherently disrespectful to fire a teacher for supporting the respectful treatment of LGBTQ families.”
Prince said the archdiocese should realize the action sends a message to youth not that “all human life has value,” but rather that some human lives and some kinds of families, have less value than others.
“We need to get past this idea that we can hate the sin but love the sinner,” said Prince. “Frankly, it’s hard to imagine that Fr. Hall is feeling loved today. It’s equally hard to imagine that the LGBTQ students at Seton Hall are feeling loved, cherished and valued today.”
Prince said her organization plans to reach out to Hall to see if he would like to participate in an interfaith panel as part of the upcoming NJ Pride week in June.
Since then, Hall has pleaded with students and alumnae to not let the incident anger them but to use it as a springboard to conversation on LGBT issues in Catholic schools.
The incident threatens to cast a pall over the University’s commencement ceremony Monday night. Ironically, the move also comes as the University has just recruited Derrick Gordon, the first openly gay Division 1 men’s basketball player. Gordon said in an interview with PIX/11 that some schools didn’t want to recruit him because of his sexuality, but he feels “great” about joining Seton Hall.
On Monday, an SHU spokeswoman issued a statement calling the university “a welcoming and accepting academic community with a diverse array of students, faculty and administrators. We pride ourselves on the close-knit fabric of our community and celebrate, accept and embrace all of our members. Countless students comment on how safe, comfortable and at home they feel here at the University and how diverse, accepting and welcoming the Seton Hall community is.”
The LGBT community at SHU has an Allies club that is acknowledged through the Office of the Vice President, but it is not a Student Government Association (SGA) recognized club, according to a recent article in The Setonian.
However, some gay students have had a different experience at the university. Tiffany Do, a senior and former managing editor for The Setonian (who also has freelanced for The Village Green), wrote in a recent column for the school paper that she found her four years at the school “disappointing.”
She continued, “As an ethnic, queer, non-Christian woman…I’ve found it difficult to be myself at school. Whether it be someone asking where I’m ‘really’ from or having plastic fetuses shoved in my face, Seton Hall has been anything but a walk in the park.”