“Ask a Priest: What If a Professor Assigns a Pro-Gay Book?”

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Q: I am taking a young adult literature class at my school. One of the books we have to read is called Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. (Those are the two names of the kids.) A big theme in the book is their discovering that they are gay and being OK with that. I go to a Catholic college but have come across numerous classes where Catholic teachings aren’t taught. I have spoken to two leaders of my campus, but they don’t seem to want to effect change. This teacher is very pro-gay rights, and I doubt she will let me opt out of reading this book. I’m going to skip some of the classes where we have to discuss this book. But I do have to take two quizzes in class. Is it a sin for me to take quizzes on the book? I would just skip the quizzes, but then I would get two zeroes and that’s not good for my grade. I also don’t know if speaking up in class would be the best. I have shared my views in class before, but I think if I did it this time, people would just get angrier and I wouldn’t really change hearts. I think I do better when I talk to people one on one about my beliefs. But please let me know if I’m committing a mortal sin in any way in this situation. I am agonizing over this. Thanks. – M.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: If only more Catholics were like you!

It sounds as though your suggested approach is the way to go: talk to folks one on one, rather than risk fireworks in the classroom.

The campus seems to be suffering the same problem that plagues a lot of Catholic schools: a lack of coherence in living and witnessing to the faith.

So what to do? I would say that unless the books themselves are a source of sin for you (racy content, for instance), you could take the quizzes. It could be considered a merely academic exercise.

On the positive side, this might be a good moment to step back and view the wider landscape before you.

The culture is a mess, and the human side of the Church hasn’t been spared damage. Even at a purely intellectual level, it’s a pity that the college isn’t assigning weightier books in its classes.

Here, you might want to ask how you will form yourself from now on. This might be the moment to commit yourself to a steady diet of solid Catholic and humanistic works. For starters, you might want to look at The Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan.

In the short term, to survive life on campus, try to network with other solid Catholic students. If possible, avoid the dicey professors and try to invite solid speakers to campus.

Be sure to nourish your soul with prayer and frequent recourse to the sacraments.

And get ready to live in a pagan world. It won’t be easy, but it could a great opportunity to embrace the faith more closely and to look for ways to build a new Christian civilization.

That might sound like a heady task, but there is a precedent. Ancient Christians managed with God’s grace to transform Rome. You might find consistent inspiration in reading about the lives of the saints — for instance, in our daily e-mails from Uncle Eddy.

The change needed in modernity might take centuries to effect, but that’s OK. We aren’t called to change the world. We are called to be faithful.

If we do our part to unleash the Gospel, the Holy Spirit can work wonders.

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