A “Choose Life” banner hanging from the entrance gate at Seton Hall University is causing some controversy on the Catholic campus.
The banner which was put up midway through October in honor of Respect for Life month shows a picture of a mother kissing a newborn baby with the words “Choose Life” followed by the phone number 1-800-848-Life for a pro-life help hot line. Father Stanley Gomes, director of Campus Ministry, told the Cardinal Newman Society he intends to keep the banner up for two more weeks.
But the student newspaper The Setonian says the banner has elicited “mixed reviews,” even quoting one student who said, “We are a college whose primary focus should be about providing a quality education to its students, not making a bold political statement before prospective students and families can even drive inside the gates and see what we have to offer.”
In an interview with the Cardinal Newman Society, Fr. Gomes said he is aware of the controversy. “You see, even at a Catholic university like this one, students and even some intellectuals are not clear why we would put something like this up,” he said. “They think it’s a political statement. That’s how the world sees it but our idea is to celebrate life.”
Fr. Gomes said, “Some of the negative comments are that it’s an institution of learning, and they’re asking why are you making a political statement. But some students say it’s about time that we should celebrate our identity as a Catholic university and we should do this stuff more.”
Fr. Gomes said he expects more negative responses but he is undeterred. “I’m not afraid. We’re Catholic people. God loving. People loving people,” he said. “Even those who oppose us, we embrace them all.”
The University began honoring this month on the first Sunday of October with a special prayer during the day’s masses.
Fr. Gomes said he sees he believes good will come of the banner for those who support it and even those who don’t. “This is a very pro-woman, pro-motherhood banner,” he said. “As an institution of higher learning we need to face complicated matters. We need to face touchy matters. Students need to be given the chance to deal with life’s difficult issues, to face challenges of the world. Bringing our faith and reason together helps us act as an intellectual and faithful member of the church.”