The College Tribune has learnt that The Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) will be on campus operating under the UCD Chaplaincy for the next two years. FOCUS who are based in the United States are a volunteer organisation whose stated mission is to “share the hope and joy of the gospel with college and university students.” The group have been the subject of some controversy in the last number of years due to the hard-line fundamentalist approach to the Churches teaching espoused by one of its primary sponsors in the Catholic Church Archbishop Charles J. Chaput. Archbishop Chaput has expressed views that are anti-LGBT, and has criticised pro-choice politicians in the USA.
The presences of an organisation that is supported by an Archbishop who expressed such views has worried some UCD staff members, who in an anonymous letter to the Tribune said that they are “concerned that these people who are very un-inclusive and not at all interested in diversity are being given support here by UCD”. Staff also expressed suspicion at the presence of the group on campus this year as possible “troops to be used against the repeal the 8th movement”
Speaking to the Tribune, head of UCD Chaplaincy Fr. Leon O Giolláin said that the group consisting of 5 persons were “not here to campaign” and their role was to engage with students on an invitational basis as a part of the Chaplain’s services. He also emphasised that the group was operating under the UCD Chaplaincy service and as a result bound by the chaplains ethos of openness and inclusivity.
The group was put in contact with the UCD Chaplaincy via DCU Chaplain Seamus McEntee, after FOCUS had expressed an interest in sending a group to the DCU campus. Fr. O Giolláin spoke with leaders of FOCUS in the USA via Skype and telephone before approving the move to allow them to operate on UCD campus. He praised their work on campus thus far citing their “sensitive and discrete nature”, along with emphasising that all of their involvement in student activities would be “invitational, not an imposition”. Fr O Giolláin also stressed the regular meetings between FOCUS and himself to ensure that the program established by both groups was being followed.
Commenting to the Tribune on the matter, UCD for Choice has said “We respect a difference in opinion and belief, and of course, hope to be given the same respect in return. We would hate to see the efforts of students fighting for equal human rights in Ireland undermined in any way”.
Aaron Bowman – Politics Editor