Catholics begin ‘ongoing dialogue’ after university’s porn screening canceled
Fr. Kyle Ingels
Fr. Kyle Ingels

.- The University of Maryland at College Park has canceled a screening of a “hard-core” pornographic film after state lawmakers threatened to cut university funding. The campus’ Catholic chaplain, warning against assumptions that pornography is generally accepted, reports that Catholics have been very involved in the “ongoing dialogue” about the cancellation.

The film’s screening was to take place at the school’s student union and had been approved by a student programming committee. The student union had planned to have Planned Parenthood give a pre-screening presentation on “safe sex,” the Baltimore Sun reports. UM President C.D. Mote Jr. decided to cancel the screening after negotiations between state Senate officials and the university.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said the General Assembly will not support the screening of pornographic movies at a taxpayer-funded state college.

“That's really not what Maryland residents send their young students to college campus for, to view pornography,” he told the Baltimore Sun.

State Sen. Andrew P. Harris, a Republican, suggested amending the state’s annual budget to deny funding to any higher education institution that allows a public screening of a film marketed as an “XXX-rated” film, unless it is part of an official academic course.

According to the Baltimore Sun, Senators had debated the evils of pornography and the First Amendment for much of Wednesday morning, but discussions had to be repeatedly postponed as groups of young school children on field trips entered the Senate gallery.

"If you kids are wondering what we're doing, we're waiting for you to leave the room," Miller explained to the children. "We're going to talk about some bad stuff."

The Baltimore Sun reports that the student union had not received complaints about the film, with many people on campus being apparently unaware it had been scheduled.

The pornographic movie, which cost $10 million to produce, was provided to the university for free.

The event was criticized by several religious leaders.

Fr. Kyle Ingels, chaplain of the school’s Catholic Student Center, said pornographic films are “degrading to the human person” and “run counter to our efforts to try to form people to be men and women who will go out and contribute to society.”

Jessica Schulte, a Baptist Collegiate Minister on campus, told the Baltimore Sun she did not believe pornography is “appropriate” in any context but she believed it is “legal and is protected by our right to free speech, so from that standpoint the university is certainly ‘allowed’ to show it.”

CNA spoke with Fr. Ingels in a Thursday phone interview.

He said the Catholic Student Center had been “very involved” in the “ongoing dialogue” about the event. He reported that the center had engaged in many calls, e-mails and conversations with students, parents, faculty and administrators about the controversy.

Explaining the purpose of the student center’s programs on Catholic sexual ethics, Fr. Ingels said:

“We want to promote a healthy dialogue about human sexuality. We believe it is a beautiful gift from God.”

He explained there are Bible studies run by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) which address the “big three” issues: sobriety, chastity and excellence.

A student center group named “Triple X” discusses Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. According to a Catholic Student Center bulletin, the Xs in the group’s name refer to the words “Exposed, Expound, Example.” The bulletin says the group helps students “discover the truth of REAL love.”

Another student center group, “Girls Gone Mild,” is a women’s discussion group focused specifically on chastity and purity, Fr. Ingels said. The group started last year and is currently reading a work by Bishop Fulton Sheen, the famous Catholic evangelist.

Fr. Ingels challenged the notion that collegians generally accept pornography, telling CNA:

“We have to be careful about assuming that this is just a normal part of what students accept in being on a college campus.

“There are a lot of students on campus who don’t find this acceptable and find it insulting They were very insulted that the university and the student panel find [pornography] a ‘normal, fun activity’.”

“Living in a world that is often saturated with ‘inappropriate’ expressions or degradations of sexuality, it can be tough for students,” he continued, explaining that the Catholic Student Center helps support them.

“The students, especially the Catholic students, are very supportive of each other. They’re really challenging each other to live the Church’s teachings and to share those teachings with others.”

“People need a community where they know they’re not alone,” Fr. Ingels told CNA. “We’re very blessed to have over 1,000 students weekly who are active in our program.”

The web site of the Catholic Student Center at the University of Maryland, College Park is at www.catholicterps.org

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