Waymon Hudson

More Problems at Notre Dame: Ex-Gay Speaker Invited to Talk About "Authenticity"

Filed By Waymon Hudson | February 10, 2010 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Living, Living
Tags: Edith Stein Project, ex-gay, Melinda Selmys, Notre Dame

It seems that the outrage over the publishing of a pro gay-bashing cartoon in the student newspaper, along with the continued refusal of the administration to allow an LGBT group on campus or include non-discrimination protections for LGBT students, hasn't taught Notre Dame anything.

pCEtPSEFyGnIIwX-201x148-cropped.jpgThe school has invited Melinda Selmys to headline its "Edith Stein Project," an annual event and speaker series that examines what it means to be "authentic women and men." The glaring issue? Selyms is an ex-gay activist who promotes praying away the gay and debunked anti-gay "science." From our friends at Change.org:

In three columns for the National Catholic Register in 2007, Melinda Selmys wrote that she gave up her lesbian relationship when she decided to be Catholic, and accepted the Virgin Mary as a seminal role model of femininity. But the juicy bits don't stop there. Selmys says that gay men have a hard time accepting God because he reminds them of their own harsh father figures.

I guess that baseball bat from the Observer cartoon can be both literal and figurative at Notre Dame when it comes to gay bashing...

This event isn't an academic debate, which some might argue have a place on campuses. It's a speaker series- with no opposing views to Selyms ex-gay rhetoric. Funny that the mission of the Edith Stein Project is:

Our goal for the conference is to promote fruitful dialogue on issues of human dignity, with an emphasis on the dignity of women. We foster a spirit of openness while remaining rooted in the Catholic Church's teachings on authentic personhood--to provide a forum for discussion that is not reactionary, but positive and optimistic.

Doing so empowers us to make truly free and conscious decisions that will reflect our inherent dignity and help us become the people we are meant to be.

This conversation is especially fitting at Notre Dame, because it is a Catholic university that is committed to the search for truth, the mutual importance of faith and reason, and the formation of moral citizens for society.

I guess the inherent dignity as moral citizens of society doesn't include LGBT people, unless they have "converted" to ex-gays by way of Catholicism, as Selyms seems to promote:

For more on Melinda Selmys, check out these links, including her advice on how to evangelize the homosexual, or why it's right for the Catholic Church to view sexual orientation as just a tendency and not an inherent human trait.

You should click over to Change.org and see where Selyms has engaged in the comment section, defending her positions as trying to get the Catholic Church to be more "sensitive" to gays and lesbians (while at the same time trying to "de-gay" them) and how she doesn't really take much stock in what science says (who needs the American Psychiatric Association, American MEdical Association, or the American Psychologists Associations, who have all studied and commented on the dangerous of promoting "ex-gay" ideas and conversions?), because her faith and philosophy are what informs her.

Elevating someone who promotes ex-gay conversion in an academic setting is bad enough, but combine that with both the recent and historical troubles at the university and you are heating up an already dangerous atmosphere for LGBT students at the school. This is wrong on many levels, but more importantly it is dangerous.

One-sided, debunked speakers aren't academic discussions. It's prosthelytizing and shoving down an already endangered and beaten segment of the student population.

That's some "formation of moral citizens for society"- Right, Notre Dame?

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Waymon, I haven't read all of comments made by Melinda Selmys at the Change.org site, but she seems to be against the ex-gay movement. She states she would never recommend reparative therapy and considers most ex-gay testimony to be "cheesy" because it often is a parroting of the psychological indoctrination they were given.
She seems pretty much anti-psychology.

What she is arguing is that individual identity, to some degree, is culturally constructed. And that it is possible for some individuals to rearrange how they understand their past and current experiences, and thus change their self-identity. And in this way, once gay doesn't mean always gay.

At least I think that is what she is claiming. She distanced herself from the views she expressed in her National Catholic Register articles, saying (without elaborating) that her views are more nuanced now.

I dunno... her speech at Notre Dame will be followed by a panel discussion on the “Universal Call to Holiness: Homosexual Persons in the Church." That might be interesting to hear, if its not simply a recitation of the Catechism or Theology of the Body.

It's interesting she is distancing herself from the body of work she is being brought to Notre Dame to speak on- her session is called "Homosexuality and identity." The "rearranging" she speaks of is through conversion to Catholicism- while she may not like the words "ex-gay" or "pray away the gay", that is exactly what she is advocating.

It seems her reasonings, based on her past work and her comments, are based solely on theology, completely discounting psychology or even sociology. That hardly seems like a academic discussion. Or one of "authenticity."

At the very least, there should be divergent views (or at least ones based in other areas in academia besides theology) represented, which there do not appear to be.

It's at the very least unfortunate timing at a time when any LGBT or questioning student may be attending Notre Dame or the sessions- especially given the atmosphere and the unresponsive nature of the administration to the concerns of LGBTQ students.

I think the issue here is that the Edith Stein project isn't run by the University, perse, but by a group within the University. It's not meant to be "academic dialogue"- rather, it's a conference, rooted in JPII's theology of the body, meant to present, from a theoligical perspective (and a narrow one at that) on the nature and dignity of women.

The prominence of homosexuality at the conference is new (although their speaker last year was just as bad- "Dr." Janet Smith)-- it was originally developed to deal more exclusively with women's sexuality. You can think of it's foil as the Vagina Monologues.

As Maura said, however, "University is a Catholic University. According to that identifiction, they have not only the right but the obnligation to push the Church's viewpoint, students being expected to acquire a "Catholic" education"... Father Jenkins used to allow the Vagina Monologues (and a play entitled "Loyal Daughters" same idea, but stories from students that happened on campus) ONLY if there was to be dialogue afterwards which presented Church theology. Since Edith Stein is grounded in TOB, there are no requirements of post-presentation dialogue.

Notre Dame speaks in the language of "family" and that is what she is to me. In so many ways she has been, and remains, my family... but she has a long way to go to understand, love or even respect, accept and tolerate her gay children.

But I think the language of family is particularly relevant here too. That's how real change is going to occur at Notre Dame- it will be effected through her family that refuses to give up on her, that won't just walk away- her family that sees conferences like this, cartoons in the Observer and responds- with anger, certainly, but an anger that is rooted in authentice love which works for change. My love for Notre Dame is this kind- the kind that isn't satisfied when I see her being less than she is. And this conference, that cartoon are less than she is- I have seen Notre Dame at her best and I know she can be that again for all her children.

You bring up a great point- I think Notre Dame can change, which is why I (and others, like alumni and student groups), keep bringing pressure to the school and administration, hoping to make some changes in the atmosphere there.

Some folks may find it easier just to write it off as more Catholic homophobia, but as an institution that caters to all students, we should work and pressure them to be better and point out their failings when it endangers a section of their student body.

Thanks for the great comment and insight, Meli!

(I'm also an alumni.. a double domer, in fact. I'll graduate with my second degree this summer.. not sure if I've mentioned that before)

A family -- you mean like the Menendez brothers?

Just a passing thought on the infamous cartoon. The creators defended it by saying the not-so-funny line was being expressed by a regular character considered a tool (literally as well as figuratively): in other words, they *knew* it was the wrong thing to say and they gave it to a standing character that apparently *alway* says the wrong thing.

I can accept that. Problem is, it's so subtle that unless you've read this thing for a long time, you'd never know, and as a result, it's easy to decry them as anti-gay... when in fact they're actually not. They're making fun of the anti-gay crowd. But it takes a few readings and some serious after-the-fact thought to figure that out.

Single strip, three-frame cartooning doesnt lend itself to subtlety, not without a firm grasp on your audience. No Anton Chekov, please: just make it simple and quick and funny so I can move on with my day. But what they attempted (and seemingly failed to accomplish) was a good idea in concept, just p*ss-poor in execution.

Just my 0.02. YRMV.

I somewhat agree, Sean. While I understand their "it was a tool saying" reasoning, the fact that the previous punchline (instead of "a baseball bat", it was "AIDS") shows a lack of sensitivity at the very least- and an underlying sense of less value towards a community.

your points about it being extremely poorly executed are spot on though.

The difficulty with all of these ex-gays is that we will never know just how many hold onto a superficial heterosexual life by their fingernails and how many ware simply bisexuals turning their backs on half of their identity...we will never know.

Our own community has largely discouraged bisexual identification, covertly or overtly, for decades. I've no doubt that the so called "gay" identificaion of many ex gays comes out of that.

That's a great point, Maura. In the comments section on Change.org, Selyms dodges the bisexuality question repeatedly. I think you are probably right on point with your assessment.

On a note of less profound substance, the University is a Catholic University. According to that identifiction, they have not only the right but the obnligation to push the Church's viewpoint, students being expected to acquire a "Catholic" education.

Notre Dame si out on the edge of that issue, having offended Bishops across the nation with their now famous invation to President Obama to speak. Gay bashing is a great way for them to get back into the Church's god graces, especially since they really cannot push the Church's teachings on the roles fo women whithout having their buildings burned by co-eds....

On a note of less profound substance, the University is a Catholic University. According to that identifiction, they have not only the right but the obnligation to push the Church's viewpoint, students being expected to acquire a "Catholic" education.

Notre Dame is out on the edge of that issue, having offended Bishops across the nation with their now famous invation to President Obama to speak. Gay bashing is a great way for them to get back into the Church's god graces, especially since they really cannot push the Church's teachings on the roles fo women whithout having their buildings burned by co-eds....

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | February 11, 2010 9:42 AM

Along Maura's line of reasoning it is also a private school for 8000 students thus does not have to permit a campus gay org. I know something about establishing a campus gay org for the first time my "baptism in fire" being in 1972. A publicly financed school cannot discriminate easily. A private one can determine pretty much what they like. It is also a very complacent student body. Google "Notre Dame University riot" and read about the the great milk riot of February 28th 1952.

The tuition is a fortune and those students who choose, or must, attend also know that they will have to be good hypocrites like their parents. It is worse at Liberty Baptist College or Oral Roberts University. In South Bend there are at least gay bars.

I'm glad I belong to a spiritual community that allows me to be who I am, celebrates my unique expression, and sees that the love, my wife and I share, as beautiful, Divine and Sacred.

I also teach at a Catholic University and I won't stop teaching that people are LGBT people are a part of the diverse expression of life and we are equal to straight people in all ways. Our love is beautiful, Divine, Sacred and should be legal and accepted by all around the world.

'Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.'
Denis Diderot, French man of letters and philosopher, 1713-1784

The only good sect is a dead sect.

The catholic cult is by far the worst of them. Since Caesar Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus appointed catholic cult leaders as official state propagandists for the Imperial system in 325 of the Common Era that cult has infiltrated itself into state apparatuses all over the world, using threats and corruption to increase it's parasitic wealth and oppress it's critics.

Thomas Jefferson, the American Revolutionist, in a letter to Horatio Spafford on March 17, 1814, noted that

"In every country and every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot ..."

Thomas Paine, a Revolutionist active in England, America, and France said:

"Of all the tyrannies that affect mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst."

There's really no room for compromise with religion and religionists. Religion is the enemy. There are no practical differences liberal bigots and conservative bigots.

We should fight to end the unfair tax exemptions of the cults, to extradite American bishops and priests taking sanctuary in the Vatican and to expropriate cult schools and colleges without compensation, reopening them as secular educational centers.

Well, that's certainly painting things with a wide brush.

If you say so Sean but facts are facts.

John Adams asks "Can a free government possibly exist with the Roman Catholic religion?" in a letter to Thomas Jefferson.

Thomas Jefferson said ""Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced an inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth."

The Marquis de Lafayette thought that "If the liberties of the American people are ever destroyed, they will fall by the hands of the clergy."

Benajmin Frankin said "Lighthouses are more helpful than churches."

Mark Twain said "I will say this much for our noble rulers: that, tyrannical and morally rotten as they were, they were enthusiastically religious."

Revolutionary anti-clericalism is as old as the country, and just as necessary now as it was in 1776, if not more so.

Funny thing, facts: they're like statistics -- you can make the numbers say just about anything you want. Same thing with loosely constructed facts. The *fact* that you assembled a bunch of quotes doesnt mean the church is one big Evil Death Star. The fact that the Church has engaged in some pretty heinous things over the centuries doesnt mean it hasnt learned a bit from its obvious mistakes. If you're going to take that hard a line, no one will be spared, because we have all participated -- even you -- in acts that have resulted in harm to someone somewhere.

Yes, the leadership of the church, by and large, has a lot of atoning to do for itself. And slowly it's happening: when an archbishop in England apologizes for his remarks, that's a *huge* step. Appreciate it as an opportunity.

I will not deny you that the conservatism within the church has caused irrepairable harm. Any entity in a position of authority -- religious leaders, law enforcement officials, government bureaucracy in all its burgeoning splendor, the banks that run our economic lives with such ruthlessness -- all of these are inherently conversative, so if we are to damn one, let us damn them all across the board. I'm sure you can find far more quotes damning government and Wall Street than you ever could for the Vatican.

Again, that's not justifying their actions. What it is saying is that there are progressive pieces of the church that make it less than a completely lost institution. Afer all, faith has to come from somewhere, right? :-)

"After all, faith has to come from somewhere, right?"

Wrong. Sorry Sean but The Exorcist was not a documentary. Science trumps faith. And the historic facts of mass murder and oppression are the only facts we need to know. Money and political power remain the driving force behind jesus christ inc.

The central leadership of the American and French Revolutions knew it for a fact. And so does modern Europe.


Of all the advanced countries only the US is in any real danger of succumbing to theocracy and even that's a slight danger. The days when cults were able to steal and kill at will are over. Now they're just a joke.

From JMG and The Gist.

From Guam roman cult archbishop Anthony Apuron, commenting on Guam's proposed Bill 185, which would allow gays to enter domestic partnerships.

"The culture of homosexuality is a culture of self-absorption because it does not value self-sacrifice. It is a glaring example of what John Paul II has called the culture of death. Islamic fundamentalists clearly understand the damage that homosexual behavior inflicts on a culture. That is why they repress such behavior by death. Their culture is anything but one of self-absorption. It may be brutal at times, but any culture that is able to produce wave after wave of suicide bombers (women as well as men) is a culture that at least knows how to value self-sacrifice.

"Terrorism as a way to oppose the degeneration of the culture is to be rejected completely since such violence is itself another form of degeneracy. One, however, does not have to agree with the gruesome ways that the fundamentalists use to curb the forces that undermine their culture to admit that the Islamic fundamentalist charge that Western Civilization in general and the U.S.A, in particular is the 'Great Satan' is not without an element of truth. It makes no sense for the U. S. Government to send our boys to fight Al Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan, while at the same time it embraces the social policies embodied in Bill 185 (as President Obama has done). Such policies only furnish further arguments for the fundamentalists in their efforts to gain more recruits for the war against the 'Great Satan.""