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Students divided as Catholic college bans condoms on campus

Free condoms had been distributed for some years but now Boston College has decided to get tough.

  • Wayne Laugesen, National Catholic Reporter
  • United States
  • April 5, 2013
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Sophomore Ethan Mack has watched a few of his fellow Boston College students flaunt disrespect for Catholic teaching and school policy for years. They hang free condoms and other sexual products in envelopes outside of dorm-room doors and approach freshmen to place condoms in their hands.

In March, college administrators told them to knock it off in a letter that threatened disciplinary action if such students don’t stop the on-campus condom giveaways.

“It is about time,” said Mack, managing editor of the independent campus newspaper The Observer, which promotes and defends Boston College’s Catholic identity. “For a while, a few of us who were concerned didn’t know if the administration was even aware of it. Finally they have taken action.”

The administration’s opposition to on-campus condom distribution is supported by the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities and reflects policies of most Catholic institutions.

Despite this, condom distributor and Boston College senior Lizzie Jekanowski said she will endure expulsion and forgo graduation instead of obeying a written order to stop distributing condoms in dorms at the Jesuit university.

“I find it extremely disturbing that we are even mildly threatened with expulsion,” said Jekanowski, who heads a group called BC Students for Sexual Health.

“We’re not going to compromise our work in any way,” she said. “We will not let this threat stop us from the work we do.”

At issue is a March 15 letter from the dean of students, Paul Chebator, and George Arey, director of the Office of Residential Life, telling students to stop giving out condoms in the dorms. Jekanowski claimed distribution of condoms and other sexual products received support from Chebator, Arey and Christopher Darcy, associate director of residential ministry, “for years” before the ultimatum.

“The assertion that was made is false,” said Chebator in an email to the Register. Arey and Darcy did not respond to the Register’s requests for comment.

“All students who live in our residence halls sign a contract agreeing to abide by the university’s Code of Conduct,” added Chebator.

Church Teaching

In his 1968 encyclical letter Humanae Vitae (On Human Life), Pope Paul VI re-emphasized the Church’s constant teaching that it is always intrinsically wrong to use contraception to prevent new human beings from coming into existence. 

Humanae Vitae defines contraception as “any action which, either in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible” (14).

The March 15 letter to condom distributors was composed, Chebator explained, after students expanded the scope of a condom-distribution program that administrators knew about.

“In recent years, this group of students moved from distributing condoms on public streets near campus to distributing condoms from several dorm rooms within BC’s residence halls,” Chebator told the Register. “Administrators from our office met with them on several occasions to request that they refrain from publicly distributing condoms in residence halls, which was a violation of university policy. When the students continued their public distribution, we sent a letter to the students warning them that their actions could result in disciplinary sanction.”

Boston College senior Ben Martin remembers the first time he encountered BC Students for Sexual Health.

“Someone handed me a condom,” Martin said. “They just place something in your hand, and you don’t even know what it is at first, until you look at it.”

Martin threw the condom away and decided to have a conversation with Jekanowski about Catholic teaching and Boston College policy. The two met for lunch on several occasions during Martin’s freshman and sophomore years, but little was accomplished.

“I actually have tremendous respect for Lizzie,” Martin said. “But she and other members of the group long ago stopped participating in dialogue. They view any effort at dialogue as confrontational. I’ve hear them say, ‘We are about action, not dialogue.’”

Added Martin, “They are a small minority on campus, and the administration has tried to dialogue with them for years. Whenever the administration reaches out to them, it shows up in the press as ‘patriarchal tyranny.’ So I think the administration is done trying to reason with them.”

Full Story: Boston College Holds Firm on Decision Banning Campus Condoms

Source: National Catholic Register

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