The University of Notre Dame has established a "GLBTQ" student organization that one critic says is "astonishingly extensive" and provides a potential venue for homosexual activists to undermine Catholic teaching.

William Dempsey, President of the Sycamore Trust, said the university previously opposed a gay student organization because it was "incompatible with its Catholic identity."

"Few will be credulous enough to think that the school finally got around to considering the matter carefully," he said in a Dec. 6 e-mail to supporters of his independent organization which aims to preserve and strengthen Notre Dame's Catholic character.

University of Notre Dame President Father John I. Jenkins on Dec. 5 accepted the Office of Student Affairs' recommendation to "expand and enhance the support and services for students who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and questioning (GLBTQ)." The recommendation includes the creation of a university-recognized student organization.

Fr. Jenkins said the goal is "to create and sustain a welcome and inclusive environment for all students."

"I am confident that this multi-faceted, pastoral approach represents the next step in advancing our efforts toward this aspiration for our GLBTQ students," he said.

The student affairs office issued a plan that involves the creation of a support and service organization for "GLBTQ students and their allies" whose activities the university says will be "consistent with Notre Dame's Catholic allegiance and commitments."

An organization is more permanent in structure than a student club. Unlike student clubs, which can select or change their advisors and bylaws, the advisors for organizations are always appointed.
Notre Dame said it will hire a full-time student development staff member to oversee the organization's "awareness and education programs" aimed at advancing "inclusion" and sharing Catholic teaching. Student leaders will play a role in the selection of the person hired for the position.

The university will also launch a new advisory council to provide guidance to the vice president for student affairs on the needs of "GLBTQ" students.

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The university's pastoral plan said it will support "out or questioning students" with programs and initiatives from "multiple units on campus" including the Gender Relations Center, Campus Ministry, the University Counseling Center, the Institute for Church Life and student groups, many of which are already active in this area.

These initiatives will involve speakers, conferences, retreats and student groups. 

The university's pastoral plan said the school calls all students to "chastity in lives of self-giving love."

But Dempsey of the Sycamore Trust said there is "emptiness" to the university's statement that it promotes Catholic teaching on sexual morality. He said the plan provides a venue for opposition to Catholic teaching, boosts the gay rights movement, and damages the school's Catholic reputation.

In an Aug. 22 bulletin, the Sycamore Trust noted that Alex Coccia, a student leader in the push to recognize "GLBT" groups, is a supporter of "gay marriage."

A March 6, 2012 article in the Notre Dame newspaper The Observer discussed how homosexual students at the school "hook up" and meet "potential romantic partners" in the absence of an officially recognized student group.

Dempsey voiced concern about Fr. Jenkins' Dec. 5 statements to The Observer which as reported implied that Catholic teaching is not intended to limit the organization's actions.

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Fr. Jenkins said that Catholic teaching is "about the role of sexuality, about intimacy, about human relations, about responsibility to the community, about relationships to the Church."

"To put this in a 'Well you can do this, you can't do that,' is to distort the issue," the university president said.

CNA sought comment from the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend but did not receive a response by deadline.