Many Catholic students at George Washington University are praying for the fate of the priest who heads the campus' Newman Center after some students began an effort to fire him.
Two gay Catholic students are headlining an effort to remove Father Greg Shaffer, chaplain of the GWU affiliated Newman Center, from his campus position.
Amy West, campus minister for the student group GW Catholics, told The Christian Post that since the efforts to remove Shaffer began members "have redoubled their prayer and trust in God."
"This is a serious civil liberties issue involving the right of a Catholic priest to practice and teach the faith as chaplain of the Newman Center," said West. "It is an attack on the freedom of expression of Catholics on campus to discuss their religious beliefs and practices."
According to Chloé Sorvino of the independent student newspaper The GW Hatchet, Shaffer has been preaching at GWU as a chaplain for five years. Recently, two gay seniors began an effort to remove Shaffer from his position arguing that his "strong anti-gay and anti-abortion views are too polarizing."
"The students lambasted Shaffer's counseling sessions, in which he said he advises students who are attracted to members of the same sex to remain celibate for the rest of their lives," wrote Sorvino.
"They also criticized the priest for a fiery blog post he wrote last May, calling gay relationships 'unnatural and immoral' after President Barack Obama came out in support of same-sex marriage."
The effort against Shaffer has included a letter sent earlier this week to upper university officials, a review of the case by GW's Office for Diversity and Inclusion, and a call for GWU Student Association to defund the Newman Center.
The Newman Center is officially part of the Roman Catholic Church. Students involved with the Center have come to Shaffer's defense, with efforts including a blog called "The Chaplain We Know."
"This site is dedicated to publishing student accounts of their positive interactions with Father Greg and The Newman Center," reads the About section of the site. "Even when we feel as though the rest of the world has walked out, Fr. Greg is there to comfort us and to help us to overcome our challenges."
The attention garnered by the controversy led the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., to release a statement regarding the matter.
"Fr. Greg Shaffer, chaplain at the Newman Center on the campus of the George Washington University, shares the teachings of the Catholic Church in a welcoming and joyful manner. His ministry is a vital component of the vibrant faith community on campus," reads the statement.
"The Catholic Church welcomes everyone. The teachings, however, are not tailored to an individual's personal beliefs. Thus, priests have a commitment to educate people in the truths of our faith, regardless of the current cultural trend."
Nicholas Gumas, president of the GWU LGBT student group Allied in Pride, told The Christian Post that his organization neither had involvement in the effort to remove Shaffer nor had knowledge of the plans of the two students overseeing the efforts.