Newman Center priest sparks outcry with anti-gay marriage blog

Father Greg Shaffer leads worshippers in prayer in the Marvin Center's Grand Ballroom. Shaffer posted a blog Friday about his anti-gay marriage stance that has come under attack by student leaders. Hatchet File Photo

The GW Catholics priest has come under fire for a blog post blasting same-sex marriage, drawing harsh criticism from student LGBT leaders.

Father Greg Shaffer, chaplain of the on-campus Newman Center, wrote a post on his blog Friday lambasting President Barack Obama’s May 9 announcement supporting gay marriage.

“Every single rational person knows that sexual relationships between persons of the same sex are unnatural and immoral. They know it in their hearts,” Shaffer wrote. “And, yet, they go against what their hearts tell them when they try to argue for same-sex relationships and ‘gay marriage.'”

“Neither [President Obama] nor anyone else has the authority to redefine marriage. God is the author of marriage; He has the sole authority to define marriage. No human being can redefine marriage, especially a politician in an election year,” Shaffer wrote.

Blake Bergen, former president of Allied in Pride, jumpstarted a conversation on Facebook by sharing the link to Shaffer’s blog post and soliciting comments from students.

Bergen said in an email that he was disgusted by the “flagrant homophobia in which Mr. Shaffer’s rhetoric has been steeped and saturated.”

“Mr. Shaffer’s blog post has direct psychological implications on students here at GW. To be told that something they know to be perfectly acceptable is ‘unnatural and immoral,’ takes a toll,” Bergen said.

Shaffer denied accusations of creating a homophobic environment at the Newman Center, adding he has given members of the LGBT community “nothing but respect and kindness.”

“I understand that my defense of the Church’s teaching on marriage causes some in our community to infer a personal attack,” Shaffer said in an email. “I don’t apologize for the Church’s teachings, but if my presentation of the teachings caused anyone to be personally hurt, I am truly sorry.”

President of Allied in Pride Nick Gumas called on Shaffer, who he described as a public figure on campus, to resign immediately.

“The University promotes an inclusive environment but the comments he made do not follow along with this. The post he made divides society,” Gumas said.

University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard declined to comment on the University’s reaction to Shaffer’s blog post.

“He is not an employee of the University. The Archdiocese of Washington assigned him to the Newman Center, which is run independently from the University,” Sherrard added.

Bergen said Shaffer’s positive work at the Newman Center that “has been overshadowed by what feels like a disregard for my humanity, and the humanity of those in my community.”

Another LGBT student leader, Damian Legacy, said he was also offended by the blog post. Earlier this year, Legacy co-founded a Catholic student organization welcoming LGBT students after he said he felt shunned by the Newman Center.

“We are here for anyone who may have been ostracized or otherwise hurt by Mr. Shaffer’s comments or the general homophobic and anti-gay atmosphere of the Newman Center,” Legacy said.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.