Upon our return to campus two weeks ago, excitement was high among the student body over going back to a normal–or at least more normal–way of life.
Unfortunately, the past three weeks have brought some concerning aspects of the “new normal” on campus to light that seem to directly compromise the ideals and values that the University of Dallas purports.
Most alarming of these is students getting turned away from Sunday Mass.
Ushers have been kicking people out of Mass because the church is at capacity, despite Catholic doctrine stating that no one can be turned away from a sacrament.
According to Canon Law, “sacred ministers cannot deny the sacraments to those who seek them at appropriate times” (Can. 843§1).
An article entitled “An Apologia for the Underground,” by Peter Kwasniewski says, “It would be a distortion of the meaning of the canon to claim that the phrase ‘appropriate times’ refers to times when there is no risk of danger or contagion. If such were the case, then the sacraments would never be administered in certain parts of the world where there are wars, famines, diseases and constant religious persecution.”
Many people who live on-campus do not have the means to go to an off-campus Mass, nor should they need to. The Church of the Incarnation is designated by UD to serve the spiritual needs of its students.
This breach of its purpose is worsened by the irrationality of the capacity limitations. Students are required to sit three seats apart unless they’re roommates, even though they’re only required to sit one seat apart in classes. Why is fitting people into classrooms prioritized over fitting them into Mass at a Catholic school?
Many people I’ve talked to say that they lie about friends being roommates just so they can get into Mass. The fact that people feel driven to lie (a sin) in order to receive a sacrament is simply deplorable. Unrest among the student body is palpable when it comes to this issue.
By requiring ushers to turn students away from the Eucharist, the UD administration is negating its duty to love and minister to them.
The unprecedented rules extend into other areas of campus life. For example, roommates are not allowed to move the furniture in their own rooms as part of the coronavirus policies. This makes no sense; roommates already share a room and aren’t required to wear a mask in this space. They also share the same toilet with dozens of people in their dorm hall, which is more of a coronavirus risk than a shifted nightstand.
Additionally, the university has adopted an unnecessarily punitive attitude towards students.
Authorities are threatening a $100 fine for mask non-compliance (an unrealistic and inconsiderate sum). Students are being reported by peers and threatened with extreme consequences by the school for activities carried on in their own off-campus homes. It is one thing to implement rules on campus, but the school has no business punishing students for what they do in their own homes.
The general attitude is that of a dictatorial state.
People, in general, are more likely to respect others’ wishes if they themselves are treated with respect. As adults paying for services and education from UD, the students are especially deserving of respect and consideration.
As of now, campus life is in a sad state.
Most days I go on campus to see people warily looking around for authority figures despite doing nothing wrong. Amid the frenzy that the coronavirus has caused, UD has sacrificed its vibrant community life for a community of fear. The fact that people are getting turned away from Mass makes it seem like the school has also sacrificed some of its Catholic identity.
I think these issues could be resolved with more upfront, logical and respectful communication from the administration, but right now we aren’t getting that.