A Catholic university based in Ohio is under fire over an official course description that lists homosexuality as a “deviant behavior.” While this title, alone, will offend some who are more sensitive to the issue, the controversy doesn’t end there. The class at the Franciscan University of Steubenville allegedly teaches the issue alongside a number of truly-deviant criminal activities — drug abuse, prostitution, murder and rape.
According to The Christian Post, the course, entitled, Social Work 314, was discovered by a former student who happens to be gay. The individual, a member of a Facebook group for gay Franciscan University alum, discovered the course description, then posted it on the social network. NPR has more about the individuals involved and details about what happened next:
“As a lesbian and as a psychological professional, I found a couple of things offensive,” says Elizabeth Vermilyea, who graduated from Franciscan University in 1991 with a psychology degree. Today she’s working on a doctorate and consults with mental health organizations. She objects to including both mental health and homosexuality in that list. [...]
“What if you’re a gay student at Franciscan University? How are you going to feel if you’re sitting in that class and they’re putting you in the same category as murderers?” asks Gregory Gronbacher, who graduated from Franciscan University in 1990.
Gronbacher and Vermilyea contacted school officials, trying to get the course description changed. The university’s attorney responded instead with an email warning them not to use the university’s name or logo in their activities.
Inevitably, the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), the accrediting agency for social work education, was contacted in an effort to spark an investigation into the issue.
“The fact that homosexuality was identified in the course description as a deviant behavior raises a flag,” explained CSWE director Stephen Holloway.
Being that SWK 314 is a social work class that focuses in on deviant behaviors in society, studying the aforementioned criminal acts is understandable. But, for some, speaking about homosexuality crosses a line and seems to equate illegal activities with a gay lifestyle.
The term “deviant” means, denotatively speaking, “a person or thing that deviates or departs markedly from the accepted norm.” By this definition, alone, some would argue that homosexuality fits the mold. However, it is the clumping of the other more problematic — and illegal — issues that piqued the alumnus’ interest. The official course description on the university’s web site details what students can expect to learn in the course.
“Deviant Behavior focuses on the sociological theories of deviant behavior such as strain theory, differential association theory, labeling theory, and phenomenological theory,” the description reads. “The behaviors that are primarily examined are murder, rape, robbery, prostitution, homosexuality, mental illness, and drug use. The course focuses on structural conditions in society that potentially play a role in influencing deviant behavior.”
While the university didn’t respond to the Post when the outlet sought comment, the college did release a statement about the incident, reiterating its beliefs in Catholic doctrine — particularly when it comes to same-sex attraction. Here’s a portion of the statement’s text (read the entire document here):
“Franciscan University bases its educational mission on the teaching of Christ as proclaimed in Sacred Scripture and Tradition and authoritatively interpreted by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.
Accordingly, Franciscan University follows Catholic Church teaching in regard to homosexuality and treats homosexual persons with ‘respect, compassion, and sensitivity’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2358) while holding homosexual acts as ‘intrinsically disordered’ (Catechism, No. 2357).
In the statement, the university also noted that the description for the course is derived from textbook headings. Rather than framing homosexuality in a negative light, the purpose of the book, Franciscan University argues, is to explore the notion of activities that differ from the norm. Now, the school is claiming that they are reviewing the course description to see if, indeed, it needs to be changed.
This isn’t the first time the educational facility has been in the news of late. The university has also recently found itself — though not directly — at the center of an atheist battle over its presence on the City of Steubenville’s logo.
(H/T: The Christian Post)