Hundreds of students lined the sidewalks outside the Chapel of Christ the Teacher Wednesday night for a silent demonstration protesting the appearance of Fr. Paul Scalia, who was the keynote speaker at a dinner following UP’s annual Red Mass.
Scalia, who is the son of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, has triggered controversy for some things he has said and about homosexuality, as well as his leadership in an organization called . The organization encourages people with same-sex attraction to be chaste.
“I felt a very strong sense of community and solidarity,” said Keely Grealish, a junior nursing student. “I’m very proud of the University of Portland students coming together and standing up for what they believe in.”
As the Mass went on inside the Chapel, protesters gathered outside holding signs with a variety of messages advocating acceptance: “#Love is an awful thing to hate,” “Jesus had two dads” and “Homophobia is gay.”
Demonstrators wore pride flags and pride ribbon pins that some of the protesters made earlier in the day.
For 30 minutes, the protest remained silent even as people started to come out of the Chapel after the Mass ended.
Scalia walked alongside his mother, Maureen McCarthy Scalia, through the protesters to the Bauccio Commons to attend the dinner where he was scheduled to give a lecture titled “In Fairness to the Pharisees: The Law, Laws, and Lawlessness.”
Some attendees of the Mass took note of the signs and large group. Some clapped and gave thumbs up to show support for the demonstrators.
Emotions at the protest ranged from appreciation for the solidarity of the group to inspiration to anger.
“I felt angry at first and extremely emotional,’ said Brooke Zimmerle, a junior secondary education major. “But seeing how many people came out to support really inspired me and made me feel better about the students at this school even if the (UP) administration isn’t in touch with the times.”
“The University of Portland’s core values include fostering an environment that respects the differences and opinions of every student, faculty, and staff member,” the statement said. “We embrace all members of our UP community, regardless of sexual orientation.
As a place of higher learning, the University of Portland values free inquiry and academic discourse. We believe it is important to create an environment in which everyone in our community is able to exchange diverse ideas and viewpoints, question without fear of disrespect or discrimination, and respond in constructive and peaceful ways.”
But some demonstrators were not satisfied with that response.
“To see somebody be invited in by our administration, inviting someone who says rhetoric that quite frankly contradicts that entire rhetoric of inclusion and of welcoming just felt really hypocritical,” said Abby Sherman, recent UP graduate and former president of Students Against Sexual Assault.
For many of the protestors, the demonstration took them outside their comfort zone.
“I felt really vulnerable and definitely a little bit uncomfortable,” said Grealish. “But I can imagine they felt even more uncomfortable because we very clearly outnumbered them.”
Clarification: An earlier version of this article described the Red Mass dinner event as a fundraising dinner. According to Karen Eifler, co-director of the Garaventa Center, "Ticket sales just cover the cost of food and serving it to attendees . No funds are raised in the sense that phrase implies in regular usage."
Claire Desmarais is the News and Managing Editor for The Beacon. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.