OPINION: ​​The LGBTQ+ community deserves more — Father Dan Parrish is not a safe resource in Lund Family Hall

By Brienne Pfeifer | April 8, 2022 6:10pm

Photo courtesy of Brienne Pfeifer.

In Spring Semester 2021, the Department of Residence Life was made aware of the Twitter page of Fr. Dan Parrish, Pastoral Resident in Lund Family Hall. The page consisted of liked and retweeted posts that were homophobic, transphobic, sexist and pro-life. Concerns about the public nature of Fr. Dan’s beliefs were brought to the senior staff of Lund Family Hall. The semester soon ended and the concerns were no longer at the forefront of Residence Life’s attention. 

Midway through fall semester 2021, the RA team, which included myself, in Lund Family Hall was made aware of the concerns brought to the senior staff regarding Fr. Dan. The RA team again brought concerns to our hall director, Brittani Klindworth, but felt unheard, invalidated and under-supported. We were told that Residence Life was made aware of our concerns and that Fr. Dan was working to mend broken relationships, however the RA team never received follow up regarding what was being done or any form of acknowledgement or reconciliation from Fr. Dan. We were left feeling invalidated, under supported, and alone. 

Upon returning from winter break, the RA team was made aware of an email that was sent from Fr. Dan to Lund’s senior staff. The email discussed the upcoming statement of inclusion event that was being held by Lund’s Hall Council. In this email, Fr. Dan stated that “whatever statement is crafted must align with Catholic teaching and cannot advocate for anything that is contradictory to Catholic teaching.” He continued by saying, “Symbols like pride flags for instance, and potentially this statement of inclusion, are alienating to many traditional, religious, and conservative students, as they often have other political motivations that extend beyond simply welcome and inclusion.” He concluded his email by noting “Our primary sign of inclusion can be seen throughout the hall — it is the crucifix that hangs in many public spaces and we need not hang a myriad of other symbols.” 

The pride flag represents the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community around the world. It is representative of the perseverance and resilience of the LGBTQ+ community. Having a pride flag visible in our community lets our LGBTQ+ students know that they are in a safe and inclusive space. While Fr. Dan says the crucifix is indicative of inclusion of all people, it is a traumatic symbol for many individuals. 

On March 15, 2021, the Vatican said it cannot bless same sex marriage, no matter how stable or positive the partnership is. They declared illicit “any form of blessing that tends to acknowledge their unions as such.” They went on to say that “marriage should be limited to a union between a man and a woman,” saying that same-sex unions involve "sexual activity outside of marriage and in the Vatican's view, same-sex marriages are not part of God's plan for families and raising children.” They concluded by saying the church “does not and cannot bless sin.”

 On Sept 15 2021, Pope Francis declared that “Marriage is a sacrament. The church doesn’t have the power to change sacraments. It’s as our Lord established.” He went on to say that same-sex marriage by nature does not function in the church and that marriage is a sacrament between a man and woman.” The crucifix represents the Catholic church, which is represented by Pope Francis. His declarations discredit the legitimacy of same-sex marriage. The crucifix we see hanging in all public spaces of Lund Family Hall represent these statements made by Pope Francis, and in turn do not represent complete inclusivity of the LGBTQ+ community.

Another important factor to consider is religious trauma. Religious trauma is defined as symptoms that arise due to traumatic or stressful religious experiences. Many individuals in the LGBTQ+ community have had negative experiences in church settings. Whether these are direct homophobic, transphobic, or sexist remarks, or microaggressions, these aggressions have lasting impacts. Attending a Catholic school alone can be triggering for some people, and having a strong Catholic presence in residence halls can be off-putting. 

We as an RA team chose to display pride flags around the hall to show that, although we are a university associated with the Catholic church, Lund Family Hall welcomes people of all identities, sexual orientations, and backgrounds. The pride flag is a symbol of inclusion, a way to silently say to residents, “you belong here.” Demanding the removal of the pride flags from our community is a direct attack against the LGBTQ+ community. 

Brittani Klindworth, current hall director of Lund Family Hall, organized a “community conversation” on April 5, one year after initial concerns surfaced. The invitation email emphasized this was an event only for students of Lund in an attempt to limit student turnout – ignoring that this damage spreads further than the building. 

This was a last-minute event planned with no input from the RA team, and when the RAs asked for information regarding the event, they were ignored and excluded from any information. Despite the senior staff’s best efforts to produce a low turnout to the event, the student body, not just residents of Lund, turned out in impressive numbers to show their support of the LGBTQ+ community. 

During this event, Father Dan defended his actions by saying he “uses twitter differently than us,” and that we were misinterpreting his beliefs. However, when asked directly what his opinions are of the LGBTQ+ community, he responded by saying the LGBTQ+ community is not accepted by fundamental Catholicism and that the two cannot coexist. 

When asked about the email mentioned above that was sent to senior staff that discussed the removal of the pride flag in our hall, he said that he never would have said the things he said if he knew it would get leaked to the students. He did not take responsibility for the hurt he caused, he was instead sorry that he got caught. Father Dan did not apologize for the damage he had done to the community until a student directly told Father Dan that he needed to apologize. 

When asked what measures he was taking to right his wrongs and educate himself, he said that he was using Twitter as his primary mode of education and that, by following “experts” of the LGBTQ+ community, he was properly educating himself. As an educator in the School of Business, I am sure Father Dan knows that Twitter is not a credible source, and this is just another example of his lack of awareness and care for the LGBTQ+ community at UP. He then continued to say that a solution to the situation is to make his Twitter page private. So instead of actively changing his behavior, he instead wants to hide behind a private, hateful profile. 

The conversation was then cut short by facilitator and Director of Residence Life, Andrew Weingarten, because Father Dan had to leave for hall mass. He then proceeded to invite the students to hall mass, challenging them to step out of their “comfort zones.” This is yet another example of the lack of awareness of religious trauma and care for the LGBTQ+ community. With the amount of damage that has been done, a one hour time slot followed by hall mass is in no way an appropriate amount of time to address the student’s concerns. 

Father Dan’s presence in Lund Family Hall is a danger to all LGBTQ+ students. As a mental health resource for students, he is ill equipped to handle the unique challenges that plague the LGBTQ+ community. He is not actively educating himself, he is not taking responsibility for his actions, and therefore he is not fit to serve the Lund Family Hall community. 

Brienne Pfeifer is a UP alum and former Lund Family Hall RA. She can be reached at briepfeifer@gmail.com.

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