By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) - Mia Lillis knew that she was gay when she was 12. She felt lucky to attend a public high school in Austin, Texas, that was highly supportive and had a gay student alliance. Then she arrived at the University of Notre Dame.
She enrolled there because Notre Dame's reputation as a premier Catholic school appealed to her family. But from the very first day, Lillis was scared.
She searched for a gay and lesbian student organization. There was none. She sought out literature for gay students. Again, nothing.
"It gave me the impression that Notre Dame didn't care about queer students," said Lillis, 20. "It was pretty intimidating."
She went back in the closet. She even considered transferring. "I would say a lot of gay students think that way," she said.
But this week, Lillis celebrated after Notre Dame announced that it will create services for students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning, as in those who are still figuring out their sexual identity.
After a five-month review process, Notre Dame made the recommendations in a comprehensive pastoral plan that the university said is grounded in its Catholic mission.
“As articulated in the university’s ‘Spirit of Inclusion’ statement, Notre Dame’s goal remains to create and sustain a welcoming and inclusive environment for all students, and I am confident that this multi-faceted, pastoral approach represents the next step in advancing our efforts toward this aspiration for our GLBTQ students," said the Rev. John Jenkins, president of the university.
The university said it will create a student organization that will offer support and services to GLBTQ students and form an advisory committee to provide guidance on such matters.
It will also appoint a full-time student development staff member to oversee new programs and ensure that they help emphasize Notre Dame's goal of inclusion.
"Rooted in Catholic teaching on sexuality and gender identity, the plan emphasizes the 'respect, compassion and sensitivity' due to all, and calls all Notre Dame students to cultivate chaste relationships and to support one another in a community of friendship," said a university news release.
Lillis said the actions were huge for a school that has not been welcoming to gay students and has often found itself atop national lists of gay-unfriendly schools. Too bad, she said, because she found the students to be accepting of her. But they had not been afforded the channels to vocalize their thoughts. The climate was one of silence on gay issues.
Alex Coccia, who helped spearhead the student effort to change things at Notre Dame, said a new environment will be especially a big deal for questioning students.
"People need to have a safe environment to go through that process especially in college, which is a trying time for everybody," said Coccia, 21.
Coccia has been involved in bringing change to Notre Dame for a while. He is part of a coalition called the 4 to 5 Movement - named for data that say four out of five Americans between the ages of 18 and 30 support gay civil rights - that raised a gay-unfriendly profile of Notre Dame on social media.
A video posted on YouTube highlighted Notre Dame's treatment of gays, including its refusal several times to authorize a gay student organization and to exclude sexual orientation in its non-discrimination clause.
Conservative Catholics oppose the idea of a university that espouses the values of Catholicism catering to homosexuality.
The Sycamore Trust, which says its goal is to protect the Catholic identity of Notre Dame, expressed concern on its website, saying the university's support of a gay club "would give grave scandal damaging to the church, to the university, to students, and to other Catholic institutions and would establish a potential source of serious mischief within the school."
It went on to say, "Surely it is predictable that a group whose organizing principle is same-sex attraction is likely to be a forum, overt or covert, for opposition to the Church’s teachings about homosexuality. It may also become an instrumentality in the student 'hookup' culture."
Others were more accepting.
Kevin Rhoades, the bishop of the Indiana diocese where Notre Dame is located, said the university's plan affirms Catholic teachings that men and women with homosexual tendencies “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.”
Michael Sean Winters of the National Catholic Reporter wrote that Notre Dame's decision was not just the right thing to do but a courageous act.
"I have no idea how the future debates about the moral issues raised by homosexuality will play out, but I do know that Notre Dame is here insisting on the fact that, whatever our theological views on human sexuality, we also have a Christian obligation to 'create a community where all may flourish and feel welcome, where we aspire to an even deeper understanding and appreciation of Catholic teaching, and where the human dignity of each Notre Dame student is valued,' " Winters wrote. "That, too, is part of our Catholic moral tradition."
Openly gay student Karl Abad, 21, said he hoped prospective students will no longer have a fear of enrolling at Notre Dame like he did.
"We now will have a place where gay students can get together," he said. "I am expecting a lot more student involvement in terms of gay issues."
He said GLBTQ students will no longer have to go underground to seek support.
He applauded the university's decision, acknowledging the difficulty in balancing a Catholic identity with policies that are inclusive of gay students. In that respect, he said, Notre Dame has taken a giant step.
Because of my national socialist upbringing I was hoping that the "service" offered would be Euthanasia .
The Catholic compromising its principles for money? Go figure. Next they'll allow adultery support groups to keep enrollment up.
II believe that if we allow gays to do this we will have more rapists!
Gods law. Not man's. As modern Babylon becomes more apparent I hope that others will see the reason for God's LAW. An unrepentant society has no future. We are about to find out just how wrong this country has become.
Or maybe you'll find out how wrong you are and give up bigotry against others.
this is not helpful.
I went to ND. though I think the school is very welcoming, i think this is a good thing to be officially welcoming. really, I don't think it makes much of a difference.
Wonderful! Now how about a support group for the girls raped by football players?
you don't have any idea what you're talking about.
I demand to be treated equally no matter how different I am. Let's see how different I can be...
It's a disease that should be treated with medication isn't that the answer for everything in this country?
Is that disease you are talking about religion? I don't think there is a medication for that one, yet. But you can get rid of it by realizing that fantasy lands and super natural powers don't exist. God is the explanation for everything and nothing.
Yep, so says you right? Mo Jo master of what? Nothing?
I will not review anything to CNN anymore.Because lo*sy censorship is wasting my time.
Typical catholic, hate filled and venemous.
Jon. It sounds like your intolerance is showing. Hate? Say what you will, its only words.
dude catholics aren't like that
Roman catholicism has nothing to do what soever with Apostolic Christianity found in the Book of Acts "If the blind lead the blind they both fall into a ditch" In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them
Have you ever read the letters of the early Christians, i.e. those who were disciples of those mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles you mention? Sure looks Catholic to me.
You may disagree with the church as it exists today, but you can't deny the apostolic tradition of the Roman church. That has existed unbroken, despite several anti-popes, since St. Peter.
I always love it when they say stuff like "...expressed concern on its website, saying the university's support of a gay club "would give grave scandal damaging to the church,"
Very sad day.
On the contrary, a Very Happy Day.
Whatsoever church that accepts, endorses, and supports the expansion of sin, is not at all a church, but rather just a mere building made with hands with no life in it.
It is nice to see that Notre Dame will offer counseling for these poor confused and hurt kids.
Jim- the accusations shouldn't be hurtful the actions were-according to what I've read the vast majority of pediophiles are straight- I wonder if the church has determined how many of their pediophiles are gay. When is the church going to take away ND's religious affiliation
Congrats Notre Dame! thats fantastic. As a practicing and proud catholic, who fully supports gay rights, this article makes me so happy. It shows that change is possible even in some of the strictest of religions.
Gee, I'm friggin' thrilled.
Jim – I don't think the reference was to the molestation scandal. More a comment about the vast majority of all priests and nuns, both historically and today, being gay. It was always the safe haven that allowed them to find acceptance and purpose in life while escaping societal and family pressures to get married. Of course as society evolves (in the best meaning of the word) the need to use church or convent as an escape route becomes much less significant. But no question most priests and nuns are gay, and always have been. Those that accept themselves, and find a natural (albeit discreet) "outlet" with like minded colleagues are well-adjusted. And those who are conflicted and repressed sometimes do things they shouldn't (now there's the molestation reference you were looking for).
The catholic mission? Open, heathy gayness and the catholic religion don't see eye to eye...are they going to advocate for equal rights? No. Inclusive participation? No..wonder what those catholic priests are doing? Hope the aren't trying to shop around for their next repressed fling. Wouldnt trust the Catholics if they claimed they had a hand written letter for god. They do not care about those they exclude and hurt.
like the thousaqnd yeqr hatred of the Jews that begat the holocaust. which also inlcuded all the gays those catholic maniacs in the reichstg could find
about 45000 up thru 1943, no data ever found on 44 or 45
HOw anyone can be a catholic just shows how the church brainwashes people form birth.
I don't think there's any doubt which way the U.S. Supreme Court must rule next year. History moves forward only.
Aaah, yes. Here we go with the petty finger pointing and hurtful accusations... You're right on schedule to bring up the child molesting scandals...
What type of bible are they going to use for them?
The same bible that most (religious) Americans use. Being gay is an abomination and eating shrimp or catfish is an abomination. Same crime. I like shrimp, so I’m okay with people choosing their partners by how they feel.
I think you may be interested in my blog post "How Does the Bible apply": http://juliesthoughts.com/?p=188
Where's the groups for straight people?
All around you
They exist, there are a couple... like... EVERY DAMN GROUP OUT THERE! Even Straight people are welcome with open arms into basically ANY Gay group... so yeah.
The daintiness of siding towards emotionally insecure relevancies of certain social ambiguities leaves awash a pleasing scent of aromatic servile tenaciousness bent to bow ever lower becoming the kneeling augmentations arousals.
lionlylamb...you do not impress me at all. You think you are smart, smarter than just about everyone that is around you. However, I find you really stupid sounding. Remember that when you are looking at yourself in the mirror and telling yourself how intelligent you are.
I'm not really sure I understand. How is not having a support group the same as not being "friendly"? Did they allow gay students to be harassed before this? Did they kick students out if they found out they were gay?
I'm handicapped. I've been to many places that didn't have support specifically for handicapped people. That never made me feel unwelcome. Now, not being able to get into the john - THAT made me feel unwelcome. 🙂
Everyone ALL the time wants to have the cake......
If they dont like it, they dont have to go there. Plenty of othet
Finally, its about time! Now the clergy can attend mass.
So, they are basically being segregated...and they're fine with that??
My point is proven over and over, you don't have to be smart to attend college.
I guess reading comprehension is not one of your strong suits? Segregated? Not at all. Anyone can join the GLBT Alliance, in fact many "straight" people do. But just like so many other organizations, the Alliance gives this group a chance to get together, discuss issues, and god only knows they're many. Maybe you don't see or fight discrimination, or verbal or phdical abuse, but many GBKT people do every day. How many suicides do we see in teens because other students are relentless in harassment and abuse? No, it's not segregated, maybe survival. Jesus taught compassion, love the sinner, hate the sin. Of course many GLBT do not see the sin because there isn't any, but that's a different argument. The school is doing the right thing, and should have done it sooner, but better late than never.
Well said Mikey.
Many of us who are white support african-americans in their fight for full equality and support latinos in their fight for inclusion as do many of us who are straight support gays and lesbians in their fight for dignity and respect.
"Of course many GLBT do not see the sin because there isn’t any" Where is your direct line to God, and when did he tell you that?