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The College of Holy Cross crusades for political correctness, not truth and reason

It is appalling how little those in Catholic higher education think of the persecution of Christians in the Middle East as opposed to their endless concern over the faux persecution of the “LGBT community” in these United States.

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In 1931, one of the 20th century’s greatest writers was invited to the campus of my alma mater, the College of the Holy Cross, a school founded by the Society of Jesus in 1843. That writer was G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936), the famous author and convert who is known today by his avid readers as the “apostle of common sense”. He was at Holy Cross to receive an honorary degree, which shows that back then my alma mater had the common sense to honor such a man. Such recognition would not be possible today, as Chesterton would be considered too “narrow” a thinker and not tolerant enough to be honored. But as Chesterton himself noted, “Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions.” Indeed, there was certainly more common sense and conviction decades ago on Mount Saint James, the hill where Holy Cross is located in Worcester, Massachusetts, than there is today.

The administration of the college established a committee in 2016 to determine whether or not to keep the “Crusader” moniker for its athletic programs on account of it possibly being too offensive. For over a year the committee engaged in a process of “discussion and discernment” as debate ensued on campus. Finally, last month the college president, Fr. Philip Boroughs, S.J., announced that Holy Cross would maintain the “Crusader” name. But just this week Fr. Boroughs announced the college would be dropping the use of the knight as its mascot and symbol.

The entire committee process of evaluating this matter and the ensuing debate demonstrates the increasingly emasculated nature of higher education. And it shows how Holy Cross, like so many other institutions of Catholic higher education, is more politically correct than it is Catholic or committed to the truth. This is, of course, all a far cry from the Holy Cross of 1931 that welcomed Chesterton. Before a large crowd on the steps of Dinand Library he was lauded as “One of the foremost crusaders in the modern world of letters” and as a result, the college wished to adopt him into “the humble ranks of the Holy Cross Crusaders.” The witty reply came from the large Englishman: “I have to thank you for this very great honor and I do so with all my heart. I can only say that I’m not much of a Crusader, but at least I’m not a Mohammedan!” And all those mean and intolerant people gathered on the library steps laughed.

In the decision to maintain the “Crusader” moniker, the recent statement of the college’s Board of Trustees reads:

While we acknowledge that the Crusades were among the darkest periods in Church history, we choose to associate ourselves with the modern definition of the word crusader, only which is representative of our Catholic, Jesuit identity and our mission and values as an institution and community.

The student newspaper at Holy Cross, named The Crusader, announced that it would, however, change its name to The Spire, stating:

No matter how long ago the Crusades took place, this paper does not wish to be associated with the massacres (i.e. burning synagogues with innocent men, women, and children inside) and conquest that took place therein.

In the decision to drop the logo of the knight for the college mascot, Fr. Boroughs wrote that the image “…inevitably ties us directly to the reality of the religious wars and the violence of the Crusades. This imagery stands in contrast to our stated values. Over the coming months, the College will gradually phase out the use of all knight-related imagery.”

This whole discussion is an embarrassment to the Holy Cross alumni and students. More importantly, it is also an embarrassment to the Church. It is especially dispiriting because it comes at a time when our Christian brothers and sisters are being persecuted across the globe for their faith in Jesus Christ, chiefly in the Middle East at the hands of various Muslim groups. It is appalling how little those in Catholic higher education, blinded by their desire to be respectable, think of the persecution of Christians in the Middle East as opposed to their endless concern over the faux persecution of the “LGBT community” in these United States.

It is ridiculous to think any Holy Cross students—those who laughed at Chesterton’s joke in 1931 or those who cheer on the Crusader basketball team today—uphold the violations of the rules of war committed by certain members of the Crusader armies. This assumption is not only insincere, it is based on an utterly wrong understanding of what the Crusades actually were. The administration of Holy Cross has fallen into the mistaken prevailing wisdom, summed up well by Dr. Rodney Stark in Gods Battalions: The Case for the Crusades, that “during the Crusades, an expansionist, imperialistic Christendom brutalized, looted, and colonized a tolerant and peaceful Islam. Not so…the Crusades were precipitated by Islamic provocations: by centuries of bloody attempts to colonize the West and by sudden new attacks on Christian pilgrims and holy places.”

In his superb history of the Crusades, which should be mandatory summer reading for all incoming freshmen at Holy Cross, Rodney Stark writes further:

Many critics of the Crusades would seem to suppose that after the Muslims had overrun a major portion of Christendom, they should have been ignored or forgiven; suggestions have been made about turning the other cheek. This outlook is certainly unrealistic and probably insincere. Not only had the Byzantines lost most of their empire; the enemy was at their gates. And the loss of Spain, Sicily, and southern Italy, as well as a host of Mediterranean islands, was bitterly resented in Europe. Hence, as British historian Derek Lomax (1933-1992) explained, “The popes, like most Christians, believed war against the Muslims to be justified partly because the latter had usurped by force lands which once belonged to Christians and partly because they abused the Christians over whom they ruled and such Christian lands as they could raid for slaves, plunder and the joys of destruction.” It was time to strike back.

And so the Crusades began with this cause and in this spirit. To equate the cause and spirit of the Crusades, which everyone knows (or should know) was what the mascot name is all about, with the atrocities committed over the course of these long wars is very bad and imbalanced history. It is also a violation of justice to the noble character of the many who fought and died for a righteous cause, and with a righteous intention. Simple distinctions have to be made. But such distinctions are apparently impossible for those guided by emotion and political correctness, not by reason and truth.

I graduated as a Holy Cross “Crusader” in 2010. I am now a parish priest whose parochial school’s mascot is, funnily enough, the “Crusaders”. These beautiful children play their sports under this name, with an image adorning their jerseys of a knight riding upon a horse wielding a sword. I don’t know about the players on the Harvard basketball team that Holy Cross plays every year, but the 5th grade opponents of my parish’s basketball team have so far not complained about any hurt feelings. When the students of my parish’s school play their games, they do so as “Crusaders.” They love this title because they are proud to be Catholic and they love our Lord Jesus Christ, the “King of kings” and “Prince of Peace”.

About Father Seán Connolly 7 Articles
Father Seán Connolly is a priest of the Archdiocese of New York. He currently serves as parochial vicar at Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Our Lady Parish in Tuckahoe, New York.

15 Comments

  1. I am appalled…baffled on one level, yet not. “Our Battle is NOT against flesh & blood, but against powers and principalities of the AIR, of wickedness in the high places. For the weapons of our warfare are not Carnal, but MIGHTY thru the pulling down of strongholds”. I was schooled for 12 yrs in Catholic Academy Education and taught over 30+yrs as a Music Director , Art & History. Twelves of those yrs I taught in the Catholic Schools. Over time, I began to see kids be brainwashed by the culture of a false god. I saw my Church fall away from the biblical principles that my Godly grandparents-parents had taught me thru God’s beautiful WORD of Truth. I am seeing many who call themselves Catholic Christians go the “way of Cain” as they homogenize the Gospel of our LORD & Savior Jesus Christ. It is HE who ON that very CROSS, SHED EVERY DROP OF HIS HOLY BLOOD FOR OUR FILTHY SINS & today’s PERVERTED THINKING & THEOLOGY. One of these evils is a “religious arrogance & false pride” in the “form of godliness that denies the power thereof” thru our present day, false PC thinking permeating our campuses & schools in general. “As a man thinks, so is he”. One of my own kids, who loves the Lord, has been infected by this false, political “social gospel” & teaches at the very Catholic university we sacrificed to send her to. If I didn’t know better, I’d have thought this University was a “New Age” school, where Nun’s teach her that Mary & spirit guides are parts of the Trinity-God help us! There comes a time in our walk alongside JESUS CHRIST, that we get down on our knees B4 our precious Savior & ask HIS forgiveness for our turning “away” to another gospel of this world, that replaces and denies what Christ has done for each & every one of us. HIS WORD tells us that “in the last days…men will be lovers of self, disobedient, false, unholy, hateful, men having sex w/men…” & on it goes. What we see happening at the COLLEGE OF THE HOLY CROSS, along with it’s Admin’s denying our Savior, is evident in this scripture : 1 Pet. 2:8 as well as GAL 5 which speaks of “the CROSS of CHRIST being an offense unto those who do not believe”. Also in 1COR 1: 18: “For the preaching of the CROSS is to them that perish, foolishness; but unto us which are saved, it is the POWER of God”. In addition, “The natural man does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God. For they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. For again- the message of the CROSS is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being Saved, it is the POWER of God.” God help us all, as after almost 67 yrs, raised Catholic, loving Jesus Christ, you or I begin to COMPROMISE the Gospel of Christ to allow for the ‘saline burning abortions of babies torn by their limbs from their Mother’s wombs, sucking out their brains-from a live human being! Or~we tell our little ones @ school that they can deny science & their blood of X&Y chromosomes—& that they can be taken away from their own families in grade school, (by the govt) to begin hormone tests to become the opposite gender. This, by which our beautiful Creator made & knit them together in their mother’s wombs. In the early 2000’s, I began to be shocked as a lone soldier on Catholic Staff’s where maybe one or two teachers (or a Nun) were left who still believed in the solid ROCK of Christ’s teachings that we were raised with. What has happened church? Why do you lack courage to stand as many of those Crusaders did (albeit some were in error)? Why are you offended by the HOLY CROSS OF JESUS Christ CRUCIFIED for anathema thinking that compromises everything that was done on Calvary road of suffering & pain, for you, because of HIS great LOVE? “If my people, who are called by MY Name, will HUMBLE THEMSELVES & PRAY, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sins, and I will HEAL THEIR LAND.” 2nd Chron.7:14. Come quickly LORD JESUS.

  2. The Board of Holy Cross College claims “We choose to associate ourselves with the modern definition of the word crusader…” Which is that exactly? Fr. Boroughs says, “This imagery stands in contrast to our stated values” Which are what exactly? The crusader is simply the one who goes sincerely into battle under the banner of the Cross. I am not sure what this means to the board in its “modern” terms, but in spiritual terms it means at least that the crusader bears the Holy Cross as a “boast” (St. Paul’s word, not mine) against all who oppose Christ, his triumph, and his kingdom as singularly unique and salvific. It is doubtful that the board and the Jesuits of Holy Cross are even up for that! They might have dropped “Crusader” all together and called themselves the “Discerners”, the “Apologizers” or the “Compromisers”. Perhaps these are terms they could actually “associate” with.

  3. The statement that the school makes “we acknowledge that the Crusades were among the darkest periods in Church history,” is simply idiotic. Our institutions are led by complete, pure idiots, who have neither the inclination or the simple courage to understand what they are talking about.

  4. Well said Fr. Connolly. As the Church splits in two over this and other Leftist Catholic thuggish actions, we still have voices that report the truth in spite of the lame oafish Church leaders who sit in their Fifth Avenue mansions in each diocese looking non-plussed. Onward Christian soldiers…

    • Dunno. The 4th Crusade was pretty thuggish. The Byzantine Empire was never quite the same, and just a few centuries later, the Ottomans were all over the Balkans. It’s rather convenient to forget parts of history that underscore our stupidity. Maybe Holy Cross and other Catholic schools would do better to tout Christian virtues that are in alignment with athletic and academic accomplishment: courage, persistence, loyalty, and such, and adopt these as mascot symbols.

  5. Mother Angelica liked to make this comment: ” Some people are just educated beyond their intelligence. ” I truly miss Mother. She was never afraid to speek out agaist the ridiculous. Some day the Church will declare her a saint. Where are tomorrow’s saints. For that mattet, where are today’s.

    • Maybe Mother Angelica borrowed that remark from Bishop Fulton Sheen, who described the intelligentsia this way.
      The Crusades lasted for seven centuries and succeeded in preventing Islam from conquering all of Europe. The Crusades did not, however, prevent the Muslims from capturing and enslaving more European Christians than the total of Africans sent into slavery in the New World. These are two facts that I never heard during my formal education. Even in Catholic schools, I heard that the Crusades were shameful and that Islam was innocent. Since 9/11, I have gotten much better informed about these things. Read anything (or everything) by Jonathan Riley-Smith.

  6. Extremely well-written and thought out. I have been for several years embarrassed by my Alma Maters pandering ways and weakening conservative spirit. History speaks for itself and Fr. Seans reiteration, as clear as it is written, should bring further shame on the administration on Mt. St. James. This is just a further erosion of the real Holy Cross we all knew and loved to be a part of. Another sad step into the darkness of the liberal and naieve left. Every year I feel further removed from Holy Cross.

  7. I’m not surprised that this happened at Holy Cross. I’ve been questioning whether Holy Cross is still a Catholic institution for a long time. I graduated from HC in 1971 and even then I was beginning to wonder about this. HC seems concerned primarily about its endowment fund, prestige and acceptance by the Ivy League. In my opinion it has abandoned the mission of the Catholic church.

  8. My primary comfort as I read about the all-to-common betrayal of our Savior’s values by so-called Catholic institutions of higher learning is that Jesus saw all this surrender to evil and still decided to do the Father’s Will and sacrifice Himself to give each one of us a chance to live with Him, Our Father and Our Holy Spirit in perfect Love and peace and joy far all eternity. All we can do is pray for the leaders of our Catholic institutions and continue to cry out to them to surrender to Jesus’ values and forsake the serpent tempting them to embrace our secular societi’s political correctness. I don’t know if they will listen to us; but I do know that Jesus knows and that is good enough for me. He is risen, alleluia and His Will be done.

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