By: Catriona Fee
Catholic universities and high schools present a unique set of challenges for conservative students—challenges that, in comparison, are uncommon at public or secular schools. Young America’s Foundation’s Standing Up for Faith & Freedom seminar equips student activists with the information and tools necessary to successfully advocate for conservative principles on our Catholic campuses.
My name is Catriona Fee and I attend The Catholic University of America (CUA), where I serve as the Chairman of our Young Americans for Freedom chapter. Starting a YAF chapter at CUA was not as easy as you might think. Our members worked through three denials by the Office of Campus Activities over five months before we were finally granted club status in March of 2020. Two reasons were given to us for these delays and refusals:
1. We were told there were “too many political clubs on campus.” Apart from the simple irrationality of this reasoning, it was also not true. Only five other “political” groups existed on campus at the time, despite political science being CUA’s most popular undergraduate major (the school is in the nation’s Capitol, after all). And, on top of this, YAF isn’t even a political organization but, rather, a 501c3 educational non-profit!
2. After patiently explaining all this to our administrators, along with the unique benefits and opportunities a YAF chapter would provide to students, they had to come up with another excuse to deny our application. This one was as empty as the first: they didn’t want YAF to make “trouble” on campus. They continued to associate YAF with political organizations, rather than looking at the reality of what YAF provides: an opportunity for civil discussion and exchange of ideas.
The administrators we dealt with used CUA’s status as a Catholic school to defend their reasoning, saying it was their role to remain non-partisan (which YAF is) and to avoid politically charged events (YAF is not political). As we learned at the Standing Up for Faith & Freedom seminar, despite being irrelevant, these claims were also completely baseless, as the Church has been vocal on public policy issues throughout her history.
It was clear these denials were simply an attempt by the administrative powers in our Office of Campus Activities to hinder the creation of a conservative group. Fortunately, with help from the wonderful staff at YAF, we were able to put pressure on senior administrators, which led to our chapter finally being recognized in February 2020.
As a conservative activist on a Catholic campus, I see leftism coming to my campus specifically in the name of Catholic Social Teaching, especially on the issue of immigration. My peers make the argument that open borders are in accordance with Catholic teaching and that a border wall is immoral. On this issue, as well as countless others, our faith is being used against itself to argue for leftist policies. That is what our YAF chapter stands against, as we promote conservative principles and a love of freedom and confront leftism wherever we see it.
The Standing Up for Faith & Freedom seminar better equipped me and the members of my YAF chapter to fight for freedom even when our faith is brought into the conversation. Young America’s Foundation’s work is critical to empower young conservatives on campus to be ambassadors for conservatism, whether that’s on a Catholic campus, or at a public school. YAF’s ability to provide all the tools we need, for any situation we face, is something I am abundantly grateful for.
It was YAF seminars like this one that gave me the tools to help bring some of the most prominent conservatives to my campus, like Rachel Campos Duffy, Michael Knowles, and Senator Ted Cruz. These conferences, particularly the Standing Up for Faith & Freedom seminar, have helped me to forge my path as a young conservative, and have made me who I am today.
If you see leftism coming to your Catholic high school or college in the name of Catholic Social Teaching, like I do at CUA, I invite you to join me at the next Standing Up for Faith & Freedom seminar on April 22-23, 2022 in Reston, Virginia. Details and application can be found here: https://www.yaf.org/events/2022-faith-and-freedom-seminar/
Catriona Fee is the chairman of Catholic University of America’s Young Americans for Freedom chapter.