Boston College

In shocking twist, Boston College expects Catholics to be Catholic

Boston CollegeIt seems freedom of association and religious doctrine, and the juxtaposition thereof, are concepts destined to elude liberals’ grasp. That’s the inescapable takeaway from The New York Times’ report on trouble at Boston College, where the Jesuit school’s administrators have decided to crack down on an unofficial student group dedicated to free condom distribution:

“While we understand that you may not be intentionally violating university policy, we do need to advise you that, should we receive any reports that you are, in fact, distributing condoms on campus, the matter would be referred to the student conduct office for disciplinary action by the university,” the letter said.

The group and the administration scheduled a meeting to discuss the matter for April 29 […]

“As a Jesuit, Catholic university, there are certain Catholic commitments that we are called to uphold, including the commitment not to publicly distribute condoms on our campus,” Jack Dunn, a spokesman for the college, said in an e-mail.

The so-called Boston College Students for Sexual Health, of course, don’t see it that way:

“Students are going to be having sex regardless, and unless they have the education to know that you need to use a condom every time — for pregnancy prevention, S.T.I. prevention — and unless they have them available, they’re not going to use it,” said Lizzie Jekanowski, a senior and the chairwoman of the group. “It harkens to a much deeper Catholic morality of caring for your neighbor — and that’s literally what we’re doing, is caring for our neighbors” […]

“We just wanted to help normalize the presence of condoms, whereas before, they were super taboo,” said Scott Jelinek, a founding member of the group, who graduated from Boston College in 2010 and teaches at a public school in Denver. “Students need the resources to make safe and healthy decisions.”

And naturally, the Massachusetts chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is on the case:

“They don’t have a right to impose their religious beliefs on students or faculty, through threats and intimidation, when those students or faculty are engaged in lawful and constitutionally protected activity,” said Carol Rose, the executive director of the A.C.L.U. of Massachusetts.

That’s as good a place as any to begin dismantling this nonsense. The Constitution dictates what laws can’t keep people from doing; that doesn’t extend to voluntary participation in private institutions. Choosing to skip classes is also perfectly legal, but so is your school cracking down on you for it. The Constitution would protect my right to start writing pro-abortion screeds; it wouldn’t obligate Live Action to keep me on board while doing so.

This is not complicated: religious schools exist to teach religious values, presumably to students who share their religion and want to learn and follow its precepts. Enrollment at one is voluntary. When you claim membership in something, you don’t just take from it; you also assume certain responsibilities above and beyond those of the law.

In this case, that means honoring Boston College’s mission of “integrating intellectual, personal, ethical, and religious formation,” and adhering to the responsibilities contained in its code of conduct, which include “respect[ing] the values and traditions of Boston College as a Jesuit, Catholic institution.” In particular:

As a Catholic, Jesuit institution of higher learning, Boston College adheres to the Church’s teachings with respect to sexual intimacy. Consequently, sexual activity outside the bonds of matrimony may be subject to appropriate disciplinary sanctions.

Yes, you have the right to disagree with Catholicism’s positions on sexuality and birth control, to buy all the condoms you want, and to have sex out of wedlock. But y’know what else you have the right to do? Choosing to get your higher education somewhere that isn’t founded on beliefs you don’t hold. Choosing not to sign onto behavioral standards you have no intention of honoring. Choosing to find a religion (or lack thereof) more to your liking.

Jekanowski’s claim to represent some “deeper Catholic morality” is patently absurd. For one thing, she must have an awfully low opinion of her fellow students to assume they’re that ignorant of sex’s risks, or that all of them are as dismissive of Catholic sexual ethos as she is. For another, it erects a false choice between physical and spiritual health. The right way to satisfy both is by cultivating an honest and truly comprehensive understanding of sex’s benefits, dangers, and meaning, not skipping right to facilitation of irresponsibility and sin. Other Boston students get it:

“To sort of be treated like either we’re not adults enough to provide for ourselves, or in some instance we’re animals that can’t control our passions, I think it’s degrading to the student body,” said Nathaniel Sanders, a Boston College senior.

“Having condoms distributed on campus is the university kind of validating hookup culture,” said Katelyn Conroy, a junior who leads the college’s Pro-Life Club. “The argument is that condoms prevent the spread of S.T.D.’s, but, really, if you hand out condoms on campus, it puts an idea in their head.”

Though not a religious school, my alma mater, Hillsdale College, has a similar outlook on moral matters. I wouldn’t be so naïve as to suggest that hookups never happened during my time there, but somehow the student body managed to avoid any STD outbreaks or out-of-wedlock pregnancy epidemics, without the aid of free condom distribution. It’s no big secret how: Hillsdale makes perfectly clear that personal virtue and responsibility are cornerstones of its mission and culture, so prospective students know what to expect, and accordingly they either attend and comply or try their luck elsewhere.

Freedom works. When you let it.

  • Julia

    If the students/faculty don’t like the school’s religious policies, they can leave. More of a case of the students trying to force their immorality on the school!

  • Stormii

    Sometimes I’m lead to believe people get stupider in college. I know high school students who won’t have sex without some kind of protection.

    • Basset_Hound

      There are high school students who won’t have sex…period.

      • Stormii

        True but I have a few…promiscuous friends. While majority of high school students haven’t engaged in sexual activity we still have that other percent.

        • Basset_Hound

          Sad but true….and it’s being encouraged by the popular culture…

  • Mary Lee

    My alma mater. Good for them.

  • Anyone smart enough to get into college is smart enough to walk down to a drugstore, buy a condom, read the instructions, and use it.

  • “But y’know what else you have the right to do? Choosing to get your higher education somewhere that isn’t founded on beliefs you don’t hold.”

    If BC only admitted Catholics who agreed with their dicta on birth control, they’d be hard-pressed to fill a handful of classes. The last number to be published (by Gallup) was 82% Catholic approval of birth control in this country.

    BCSSH just reflects the reality of the American Catholic congregation.

    • Calvin Freiburger

      Seriously. Your inability/refusal to do anything more intellectually strenuous than recite poll numbers as if they somehow determine the merit of any given position on morality, ethics, philosophy, law, or even religion is just getting stale and tiresome. If that’s how little you have left, why are you still here?

      • If the laity is the church and the laity is in solid agreement on this topic, it rises above being a mere “poll number” and becomes an entry-point into discussing how the hierarchy of the church has lost the plot on the moderating of American sexual mores. And that number is worth repeating, because you work so strenuously to ignore it, usually in the service of licking the Bishops’ boots.

        For what it’s worth, I agree with you that private organizations have the latitude to promulgate their own rules. But in the same breath, if the rules have moral or logical weaknesses, they’re going to be challenged by the members. So here’s an opportunity to bring up another number: 90%. 90% of the BC student body voted in a 2009 referendum that they needed more sexual health resources and more access to birth control (which, in turn, gave birth to BCSSH). But given that you’ve apparently never met an authority you didn’t want to genuflect to, I imagine a 90% vote of the plebes won’t really move you.

        • Calvin Freiburger


          2.) “Private organizations have the latitude to promulgate their own rules” – What’s this? You’ve finally found a case where your more jackbooted instincts don’t kick in? Maybe there’s hope for taxpayers, insurers, and business owners after all!

          3.) To rely solely on an argument from popularity, then throw in a reference to the rules you dislike having “moral or logical weaknesses” – that you nowhere identify – is a hoot, even by your standards.

          4.) You haven’t exactly landed a “gotcha” by noting that the Catholic Church and Catholic institutions do an abysmal job of getting the laity to actually follow Catholicism. In fact, it’s something I’ve criticized Catholicism for myself ( But again, that has no bearing on the correctness of the rules themselves. That brings us back to the original point: they’re called “religious beliefs” because people believe they’re the Word of God – which isn’t up for a vote.

    • Sussan

      If Catholic colleges actually held and taught and lived Catholic teaching, a LOT more faithful Catholics would seek out these schools to send their children. Many, many, many Catholic parents cannot justify the high cost both monetarily and morally for their kids, so they take their chances as community colleges and state schools where the immorality is prevalent, but not as insidious as the lies of a supposedly “Catholic” college with rampant immorality.

    • All of which is COMPLETELY MISSING THE POINT. If someone who is not Catholic wilfully and knowingly chooses to attend a Catholic institution, they don’t get to complain that the Catholic institution they freely chose, is–unbelievably–Catholic and adheres to the teachings of the Catholic church.

      For the record, BTW, I am not Catholic and even I’ve got this one figured out.

  • Basset_Hound

    Not being from the Northeast, I always assumed that Boston University was just another ultra-liberal politically correct Ivy League school where religious influence is not tolerated. Glad to see I’m wrong…

    • Mary Lee

      Boston College and Boston University are not the same institution. Boston College is a Catholic (Jesuit) university; Boston University is not. Also, the Ivy League schools only include: Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, Columbia, Cornell, Brown, University of Pennsylvania. There are some schools considered “New Ivies”–that would be Stanford, MIT, Duke, University of Chicago….

  • musiciangirl591

    don’t back down, thats all i can say