Pro-Marriage Bulletin Posting Triggers Providence College Students

Printed from: http://newbostonpost.com/2018/03/22/pro-marriage-bulletin-posting-triggers-providence-college-students/

Students at Providence College upset by a resident assistant’s posting of material supporting Catholic teaching about marriage are planning to hold a march against homophobia Friday night.

Meanwhile, the college is investigating the appearance of a cartoon in a dorm bathroom showing the residential assistant being anally raped.

And the local bishop has weighed in, challenging the college’s president to decide whether to stand by the Catholic faith or succumb to political correctness.

The conflict began March 1 when senior Mike Smalanskas posted material on a bulletin board at a residential hall for freshmen males at Providence College, a Catholic school run by Dominicans.

Smalanskas, as a resident assistant at St. Joseph’s Hall, was expected to post informational material every other month on a bulletin board in the building. His previous postings — welcoming students back to school, supporting the pro-life cause, and offering information about how to be a Catholic gentleman – drew little reaction.

But when he put up materials supporting the Church’s teaching that marriage is between one man and one woman, he got a speedy response.

“It’s very tame. It wasn’t targeting anybody. But it’s received tremendous backlash,” Smalanskas said in an interview with New Boston Post.

The bulletin board posting was vandalized. He got angry text messages from other resident assistants. Groups of students showed up several times outside his doorway, including late at night.

Last week, while he was working at the campus bookstore, he got a call informing him that a cartoon had been found in a dorm bathroom depicting him being raped. That led campus security to move him from his room to another location for his safety.

“Someone took a long time to draw that. It’s pretty detailed,” he said.

New Boston Post for the time being is not publishing an image of the cartoon, which is obscene. But readers can see an image of it here. [Editor’s Note:  Warning. The cartoon is graphic.]

Smalanskas said a small group of professors on campus has expressed support for him, but school administrators have either kept their distance or actively supported his detractors.

Before the cartoon was found he had a meeting with two school vice presidents – one of them a Catholic priest – along with a faculty member advising him. He said they asked for school officials to condemn harassment and intimidation against him, state publicly that arguing that marriage is between a man and a woman is consistent with the Catholic college’s mission, and make a public statement supporting his right to freedom of speech.

After two hours, though, the administrators said no.

“We asked for very simple things,” Smalanskas said. “… And they wouldn’t do any of that.”

Providence College spokesman Steve Maurano said the college will not comment.

“All I can tell you at this point is that the matter is under investigation and the College won’t have any official comment until the investigation has been completed,” Maurano said in an email message to New Boston Post, apparently referring to the cartoon.

Smalanskas said he posted the pro-marriage materials partly in response to pro-lesbian materials that were previously put up on a bulletin board in an all-female dorm on campus.

“I have been here for four years, and I know what it’s like here. The type of views I hold, they’re not protected in the way those other views are,” Smalanskas said.

He added that he thought the pro-marriage posting might “expose the double standard on campus. And it has.”

Pro-lesbian bulletin board posting at all-female dorm at Providence College. Courtesy photo.

An administrator who met this past Monday with angry students demanding that Smalanskas be fired sent mixed messages, according to a story in The Cowl, the student newspaper, saying she couldn’t say whether the pro-marriage material contradicts Catholic teaching and that she would neither approve it for posting nor say it cannot be posted.

Some students, meanwhile, are not satisfied with the response, and are calling for Smalanskas to be removed.

Smalanskas said he has not been threatened with discipline by college officials. His job as a resident assistant just about covers his room and board.

He said he contacted the Roman Catholic bishop of Providence, Thomas Tobin, the week after he posted the pro-marriage materials. He hasn’t as of yet met with Tobin, but the bishop sent a supportive letter to him this week that he also cc’d to the college’s president, Father Brian Shanley, a Dominican.

“It is truly unfortunate that in explaining our Faith, you have received such a negative and even reprehensible response, particularly at a Catholic college, one that is publicly committed to professing Catholic and Dominican values,” Tobin wrote. “As I have stated previously, I think we have the right to presume that those who teach or study at a Catholic school should accept, or at least respect, the stated identity, mission and fundamental teachings of the Faith. Otherwise, there are lots of other good options for higher education they can choose if they really feel threatened by or are uncomfortable with the teachings of the Church.”

The bishop said he personally supports Father Shanley and mentioned what a tough job leading a college is. Then he added:

“Having said that, it does seem to me that Providence College is standing at the crossroads and now has to make a conscious decision about which road to travel. Will it maintain, proudly, unapologetically and unambiguously, its Catholic heritage by preaching, teaching and living the Catholic Faith in all its beauty and richness? Or, like so many other institutions today, will it succumb to modernist trends and become just one more progressive, secular bastion of political correctness? Or, we might ask:  Will it continue to be P.C. – the Providence College we’ve come to know and love; or simply be p.c. – politically correct, the pathetic, ephemeral fashion that has, in recent years, taken such an ironclad grip on our culture?”

A request for comment on the bishop’s letter to a spokesman for Father Shanley was not immediately answered Thursday.

Providence College experienced a high-profile defection a year ago when one of its most prominent professors, Anthony Esolen, left after 29 years there for Thomas More College in Merrimack, New Hampshire. Esolen said he found no support from administrators at Providence College when left-wingers on campus objected to his attempts to uphold the Catholic identity of the school.

Esolen met Smalanskas last year before he left Providence.

“Michael is a soft-spoken, gentle, and yet determined young man,” Esolen said in an email message to New Boston Post. “He’s been unfairly criticized, I believe, by some at Providence College who should have backed him up, not because he spoke the truth but because he spoke it in what they say was an imprudent way.  I’ve seen the poster he put up, and it’s hard for me to imagine any poster affirming the Catholic / natural view of marriage that would be more prudent.  Michael didn’t condemn anybody and didn’t even name any sins.  What then should he have done?  I am guessing that they believe he should never have posted anything at all, but that just forfeits the point to the opponent.”

Esolen praised the senior for not giving up.

“I don’t think he foresaw that this explosion would happen, but once it did, he wasn’t going to back down.  I admire him for that.  You don’t bleed before sharks,” Esolen said. “I’ll also say that I’ve never seen a single good thing to come from the actions of mobs, whatever their political positions are.  When you invite ‘demonstrations’ on campus, don’t expect that rational discussion is going to be the result.  It never is.”

Smalanskas, 22, who is from Holden, Massachusetts, is majoring in philosophy and theology. He expects to graduate in May, and is interested in teaching.

[Editor’s Note:  The text of Bishop Thomas Tobin’s letter to Michael Smalanskas is at the bottom of this story.]

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

[Editor’s Note:  Text of bishop’s letter is below.]

March 21, 2018

Mr. Michael Smalanskas
Providence College
[address deleted]

 

Dear Michael:

Thank you for your letter of March 4, 2018 in which you describe the troubling situation you have experienced at Providence College as a result of your attempt to express in a public way the teaching of the Catholic Church about the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. I take this opportunity to share with you a few observations about this matter, with the hope that, in response to your request, we can still meet personally in the near future.

First, I admire and commend your courage in stepping forward to proclaim the teachings of the Church about Holy Matrimony. It is so sad that, in response to your bulletin board posting, you have experienced ridicule and personal attacks, especially on a Catholic campus. I am pleased to note that a number of prominent Providence College professors, as well as the priest chaplains of the College, have now come forward to support you. Good for them!

As your billboard expresses so clearly, marriage is designed by God to be a union of one man and one woman; it is the “way God intended it.” This teaching of the Church is most certainly not arbitrary, nor is it homophobic or bigoted, but, in fact, is based on the Word of God and reflects the immutable teaching of Christ.

In a broader context, however, I would also like to observe that, along with courage, prudence is also a virtue that we always need to practice in expressing our Catholic beliefs in a secular, hostile world. Timing, and the context of our prophetic statements, should always be carefully evaluated. We avoid being aggressive, provocative, inflammatory or “in-your-face” in stating our beliefs and in challenging others. As you know, if you poke a beehive, you can expect to get stung, and in the world today a strong, traditional moral stance will invariably draw a fierce response.  

Charity is also a virtue. As others have emphasized, we need to respect those individuals who hold diverse beliefs and opinions on these important issues, and even be willing to dialogue with them. However, we do them no favors, and we fail to fulfill our Christian vocation, if we hesitate to present and explain the divinely revealed truth about faith and morals.

It is truly unfortunate that in explaining our Faith, you have received such a negative and even reprehensible response, particularly at a Catholic college, one that is publicly committed to professing Catholic and Dominican values. As I have stated previously, I think we have the right to presume that those who teach or study at a Catholic school should accept, or at least respect, the stated identity, mission and fundamental teachings of the Faith. Otherwise, there are lots of other good options for higher education they can choose if they really feel threatened by or are uncomfortable with the teachings of the Church.

For the sake of the record, I want to say that the President of Providence College, Father Brian Shanley, O.P., continues to have my personal support. He is a good man, a dedicated and faithful priest, and has proven to be an effective leader of Providence College. As I have stated on other occasions, I think that as a president of a Catholic College he has the toughest job in the Church these days, at least as difficult as being a bishop! He has so many diverse constituencies to think about and affirm, and to keep peace and harmony on a college campus in these turbulent times is a Herculean task. I am confident that in the end Father Shanley will do his best, and will be successful, in helping the College move forward in charity, truth and unity.

Having said that, it does seem to me that Providence College is standing at the crossroads and now has to make a conscious decision about which road to travel. Will it maintain, proudly, unapologetically and unambiguously, its Catholic heritage by preaching, teaching and living the Catholic Faith in all its beauty and richness? Or,
so many other institutions today, will it succumb to modernist trends and become just one more progressive, secular bastion of political correctness? Or, we might ask: Will it continue to be P.C. – the Providence College we’ve come to know and love; or simply be p.c. – politically correct, the pathetic, ephemeral fashion that has, in recent years, taken such an ironclad grip on our culture?

Once again, Michael, in response to your request, I hope to meet with you in the near future to continue this interesting and very timely conversation. In the meantime, please be assured of my admiration, prayers and blessings. May God reward your faithfulness and courage, and give you his richest blessings in the days to come.

I hope that you will have a blessed Holy Week and Easter. Sincerely yours,

C: Father Brian Shanley, O.P.

+Thomas J. Tobin, Bishop of Providence

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