BY ANNA MILLER
This coming April, St. Norbert will have the privilege of hosting an American icon who is a world renowned humanitarian and longtime social justice activist. Our guest was inducted to the National Women’s Hall of Fame, received a Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism and just last year, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Yes, I am referring to Gloria Steinem. The woman who faces a great deal of heat from our Catholic college. The woman who was asked by 15,799 petitioners to not speak at our campus.
Yes. Fifteen thousand. Currently there is a petition circling the Internet asking St. Norbert College to rescind Steinem’s invitation to our campus. This petition was organized by the TFP Student Action group, which is a project of the larger organization, American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property.
On the petition webpage, the group has written, “While dedicated pro-lifers work to save babies, St. Norbert College will be doing something oddly different: welcoming radical pro-abortionist Gloria Steinem to speak on campus.”
Since our social media outlets have been flushed with opinions on Steinem’s presence at our college, I’m going to start with the facts.
It’s important to note that Steinem has spoken on at least a dozen Catholic campuses in her lifetime. Even more importantly, Steinem has spoken on our campus twice already: once in the 1970s and then again in the 1990s.
Next, it’s essential to remember that our campus is Catholic, but has about a 50 percent population of non-Catholic students. That’s about 1000 students who may not share the same values as the Catholic Church.
Finally, we all should know that St. Norbert administration supports Steinem’s presence at our school. Many critics have asked President Kunkel how he could invite Steinem to a Catholic college, to which he has responded, “We’re a Catholic college. We’re Catholic and we’re a college. And I think sometimes people forget the college part.”
While St. Norbert fosters remarkable religious values and teachings, the institution also functions as an intellectual, learning environment. Steinem is a public intellectual, who has been working in her field for over 60 years. Though she may have ideas that some of our campus population does not believe in, she still has the right to share her perspective. According to Kunkel it’s not only a right, it’s a tenet of Catholicism. “In Catholic intellectual tradition, it’s not only okay that a college has different people of different perspectives on campus, it’s expected.”
For those whom facts are not enough, have faith. Have faith that one woman coming to share her ideas on a college campus does not adulterate your religion. Have faith that your college wants to encourage growth and learning and that they would never wish to compromise your beliefs. Have faith in our administration when President Kunkel says that, “Probing who we are as human beings and investigating and exploring the world doesn’t in anyway mitigate our faith in God or our Catholic beliefs.”
With faith and facts in hand, I ask that we move forward in peace. I have seen far too many hateful reactions to Steinem’s upcoming visit. On the petition web page, Steinem is smeared for her beliefs. On Facebook, several students have expressed that Steinem has no place at our college. Yet if we turn to the religious leadership at the St. Norbert College Parish, we will see that there is no reason for such hatred.
At Mass on October 26, Father John gave a homily about Steinem’s visit to St. Norbert. Though he stressed that Catholics will always be pro-life, he also argued that Catholics practice radical hospitality. Part of radical hospitality is welcoming everyone. Not just welcoming those who share our beliefs or who fit our standards but, truly, everyone.
Towards the end of his homily, Father John reminded us of the biblical command to love your neighbor. After a moment of silence, he asked the congregation—“Isn’t Gloria Steinem our neighbor, too?”
It’s in the spirit of Father John, President Kunkel and Gloria Steinem that I ask all of us to move forward in peace. Accept that a public intellectual is entering our community, entertain the thought that we could learn from her and spread the idea that love and acceptance is for everyone.
Do this, so the next time we are asked, “How on earth can a woman like Gloria Steinem give a lecture at a Catholic institute?”
We can all answer, “Isn’t Gloria Steinem our neighbor, too?”