A right-wing group staged a protest outside Georgetown University’s front gates after a prominent Catholic priest known for his LGBTQ+ advocacy visited Georgetown, resulting in a counterprotest by Georgetown students.
The group, Traditional, Family, Property (TFP), is a Traditionalist Catholic, conservative advocacy organization with a student action arm that sends students across the country. Fr. James Martin, S.J., a long-time advocate for LGBTQ+ rights in the Catholic Church, gave a talk on campus about his recent book to celebrate Jesuit Heritage Month. Martin spoke Nov. 6, after the protest, on the Gospel story of Lazarus, in which Jesus Christ raised Lazarus from the dead, though this was unrelated to the protest.
TFP has protested Martin’s advocacy in the past, including publishing articles saying Martin supported un-Catholic teachings and staging demonstrations at events he has attended. TFP held up posters and banners outside the front gates with statements including “Pray for conversion don’t spread perversion,” “We support Catholic teaching & reject Fr. Martin’s attempt to normalize homosexual acts” and “Fr. Martin is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
Martin’s talk at Georgetown was unrelated to LGBTQ+ rights.
Vice President for Mission & Ministry Mark Bosco, S.J., who helped organize the talk, said TFP does not represent the Roman Catholic Church or Georgetown’s Jesuit values.
“They are a fringe group, more interested in getting media attention than any form of constructive conversations,” Bosco wrote to The Hoya.
Bosco said Martin acknowledged that TFP follows him around regardless of his speaking topic.
Matthew Buscarino (CAS ’27), Martin’s nephew, said he has attended many of Martin’s talks.
Buscarino said he expected protests and chose to counterprotest the TFP rather than avoid them.
“In the past, my parents were always extremely vigilant about avoiding these protesters and their hate-filled rhetoric, but now that they were here at Georgetown, I felt that I had a responsibility as a member of the community to stand up for our LGBTQ+ friends and defend true Catholic values,” Buscarino wrote to The Hoya.
Buscarino said that while having lunch with his uncle and other Jesuits, he learned that the protesters were gathering at the front gates. A small group of Georgetown students had already gathered with pride flags and were shouting at TFP members when Buscarino arrived at the protest.
Buscarino said students attempted to overpower TFP’s messages and cover up their signs.
“Over the coming few minutes, various people started bringing objects to drown out the messages the TFP were spreading,” Buscarino wrote. “Some of the ones I got my hands on were a large drum, which I started beating whenever the TFP began chanting their homophobic slogans, pride flags, which we used to cover their signs from view, and a megaphone, which I was handed and used to respond to their chants.”
Buscarino added that he talked to one TFP member but could not have a full discussion with them as other members were yelling insults at the counterprotesting students.
“I only spoke to one of them, but it wasn’t very productive since both of us were getting caught up in semantics, so I gave up,” Buscarino wrote. “I did notice, though, that a different member was insulting the students holding pride flags by saying stuff along the lines of ‘This is disgusting! You all should be ashamed of what you’re promoting.’”
Finley Heesch (CAS ’27) said she joined the counterprotest after hearing about the TFP protests from other members of the GU Pride club.
Heesch said she felt the need to stand up to the hate.
“Remembering seeing these types of protesters gathering and spreading hateful messages when I was a kid in my hometown, I knew what was going on,” Heesch wrote to The Hoya. “I decided to skip my biology lecture, grab a speaker, and join in so that the TFP’s loud band and lecturers could be drowned out by fun music and queer joy from me and my friends that let queer students know they were welcome and loved on campus.”
A university spokesperson said Georgetown welcomes individuals of all identities.
“Georgetown is committed to being an inclusive campus that welcomes people of all faiths, races, ethnicities, sexualities, gender identities, abilities and backgrounds, and we do not tolerate discrimination or harassment in violation of University policies,” the spokesperson wrote to The Hoya. “At Georgetown we are deeply proud of our religious tradition and recognize the inherent human dignity of every member of our community.”
The spokesperson said external protesters can stand on public sidewalks outside the front gates but are not allowed to enter campus, though the university prioritizes free speech.
“We respect the rights of members of our community to express their personal views and are committed to maintaining the values of academic freedom and serving as a forum for the free exchange of ideas, even when those ideas may be controversial and objectionable to some,” they added.
Heesch said she will continue to stand up for Georgetown’s LGBTQ+ community.
“I honestly had so much fun gathering people together to counter protest and dance to music and if they come back to campus, we will be right there drowning out their rhetoric,” Heesch wrote.
Similarly, Buscarino said he was proud of peacefully countering TFP’s message for his uncle as well as the LGBTQ+ community.
“I felt a need to be there to not only defend my LGBTQ+ friends and neighbors, but also my uncle, whose ministry is focused on loving one another.” Buscarino wrote. “As a freshman, this was my first time truly experiencing the strength of the Georgetown community, and I’m a prouder Hoya because of it.”