Student organizes sex lecture series at Sheil

Sammy Caiola

Sheil Catholic Center just got a little sexier.

Or at least the attendees of the Sexual Common Sense lecture series did. A group of 10 students met at Sheil on Sunday to listen to a lecture tape from Catholic theologian Janet Smith.

The lecture tapes will be played and discussed every Sunday for the rest of the quarter.

The program aims to provide a safe space for all students to discuss sexual issues in relation to Catholic teachings, Weinberg senior Christine O’Brien said.

O’Brien, who came up with the idea, is running the series without the involvement of Sheil officials. After the idea was approved, she purchased the lecture series and started advertising.

“I know that a lot of things the Catholic church teaches are difficult to wrestle with,” O’Brien said. “But I hope that they come with an open mind and an open heart because I really believe that the teachings behind sexual intimacy are beautiful.”

The first lecture dealt with the formation of conscience and how it is affected by peer pressure, O’Brien said. Next week’s lecture will address contraception.

Weinberg senior Katie McDonald, who attended the first session, said she has listened to Smith’s lectures before and enjoys them because she uses clear analogies rather than theological language.

She said this week she learned about decision-making.

“Conscience isn’t your own choice­ – there is a universal truth to right and wrong,” McDonald said. “The purpose of our conscience is to help us decide whether a particular action goes against the natural laws that we have. We don’t get to do whatever we want. We should confront the church and consult documents.”

Father John Kartje, chaplain and director at Sheil, said there should be a space for discussing sexual matters because people often only address “spectacular cases” or “red-button issues,” citing the Human Sexuality class incident as an example.

Kartje said he hopes the series creates a space where students can talk among peers.

“It’s not just someone reading a book or listening to someone else talk at them,” Kartje said. “It’s an opportunity to challenge each other with different perspectives. That’s not necessarily going to happen in the dining hall or at a party.”

O’Brien said certain issues are easier for people to talk about, like social justice and environmental concerns, both of which are the basis for different Sheil organizations. She said she wants more people to talk about sexual issues even if they don’t adhere to the Catholic church’s teachings.

“(The series) attempts to explain a lot of church teaching, not just from a theological perspective but also from a perspective that examines the impact on society,” O’Brien said. “I would really hope that people who are struggling with or disagree with church teachings will come to the series. I don’t need to be preaching to the choir.”

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