Although it happened a couple of weeks back, it was bound to happen.
A President of a Catholic University has cited Pope Francis as an influential factor extending health benefits to same-sex “spouses” of university employees.
According to the Omaha World-Herald:
[The President of Creighton University, the Reverend Timothy Lannon, SJ] said the idea began to take root after Pope Francis took a different tone on gays in the church. He said he discussed it with campus leaders for a year before making the decision. Though he largely heard agreement on campus—Lannon said the university’s benefits committee approved it unanimously—Archbishop George Lucas was firmly opposed.
In the article, Fr. Lannon is also quoted as saying:
I asked myself, what would Jesus do in this case? And I can only imagine Jesus being so welcoming of all people.”
So, in a letter to Creighton University Board of Trustees, President Timothy Lannon, SJ, wrote:
This is to inform you that I have decided that Creighton University will extend healthcare benefits in 2015 to the same-sex spouses of our colleagues who have been legally wed in other states.
I have notified Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha of my decision, acknowledging his disagreement and disapproval of such a decision based upon a previous conversation he and I had.
Consequently, the decision was not made lightly. After much prayer and discernment, I believe the extension of benefits is the right thing to do at Creighton. The decision involves the tension between the Church’s teaching on same-sex marriage and social justice concerns for the care and well-being of our colleagues’ families.
Many other Catholic universities, including 21 of the 28 Jesuit universities in the U.S., have done the same. I asked the University Benefits Committee to consider benefits coverage for legally married same sex couples. They were unanimous in supporting this change. The extension of benefits is not a statement of approval of same sex marriages but rather an acknowledgement of our responsibility to serve the needs of faculty and staff who faithfully serve our students and patients every day.
This decision not only reflects a commitment to our colleagues, but our ongoing commitment to health and wellness. It is important in today’s competitive workplace environment that values fairness and equal treatment and is consistent with our efforts to foster an inclusive, compassionate and respectful campus environment. Many major employers in the Omaha area as well as the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the University of Nebraska at Omaha and the College of St. Mary all offer these benefits to their colleagues.
Marquette University theologian Daniel Maguire has summed things up pretty well, telling the Omaha World-Herald:
Pope Francis has softened the collective Catholic mood about same-sex relationships in the last year. The Jesuits are listening.
In a statement released October 27, Omaha Archbishop Lucas responded:
I am disappointed in Father Lannon’s announcement that Creighton University will extend healthcare benefits to same-sex spouses of employees who have attempted marriage in states where this practice is legal. I disagree with the decision. Despite Father Lannon’s claim that this is not a statement of approval of same-sex marriages, this is precisely the message that the University is giving. I am dismayed that the recommendation of the University Benefits Committee is thought to supersede divine law regarding marriage. There is no tension between Catholic teaching and social justice. Both are grounded in the same truths about the nature of the human person, the complementarity of man and woman and the meaning of human life and love. When we experience tension in ensuring respect and just treatment for all persons, including those with same-sex attraction, we have a right to expect a Catholic university to help us see a just path forward, rooted in faith and founded on the rich Catholic intellectual tradition. Creighton has failed to fulfill this expectation in this expansion of benefits.
So, here’s the important question concerning the Catholic identity of U.S. Catholic higher education: What’s going to be done when academic administrators make decisions that fly in the face of Church teaching?
The answer: Absolutely nothing.
To read the Omaha World-Herald article click on the following link:
To read Fr. Lannon’s letter of the Board of Trustees, click on the following link:
To read Archbishop Lucas’ statement, click on the following link:
To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, Omnibus, click on the following link: