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Issue Date:  February 22, 2008

Catholic university announces club for gay, straight students

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The University of Portland, run by the Holy Cross Fathers, has recognized a club that seeks to build community and understanding between students who are heterosexual and those with a homosexual orientation.

Approved in January, the Gay Straight Partnership’s mission statement says it aims “to help all students grow in friendship, knowledge, faith and service.” Club members also plan to educate students on issues surrounding sexuality -- without advancing an agenda.

University vice president John Goldrick, in charge of student life, approved of the club after asking for some changes in its proposal, including the removal of a section on networking with other schools.

The university’s officers also suggested the group strengthen the wording of its mission to ensure that “the group will provide balanced programming and education and will offer a clear, faithful presentation of the Catholic church’s teaching about human sexuality and sexual orientation,” said a memo from Goldrick to the student activities office.

“I’m delighted and honored that this group of students got to be involved in a process and it went this way and got recognized,” club founder Valerie Silliman told The Beacon, the University of Portland newspaper.

Silliman, a senior English major from Sequim, Wash., said the club will make the university a more welcoming place.

The university turned down groups in 1994 and 1999 that seemed to promote beliefs counter to Catholic teaching on homosexuality. The church teaches that all homosexual acts are morally wrong but affirms the dignity of those with homosexual inclinations and says that having such an inclination is not in itself sinful.

Advisers for the club will be Holy Cross Fr. John Donato, the university’s associate vice president of student life, and Stacey Noem, a campus minister.

The group will receive a small budget, which The Beacon reported is currently $174.

-- Catholic News Service

National Catholic Reporter, February 22, 2008

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