Op-Ed: Silently Catholic, Pro-Life and a Stanford Outcast

Opinion by and
March 2, 2011, 12:25 a.m.

I have never tried to convert anyone in my life. I am one of the most open-minded people you will ever meet. I rarely even tell people that I’m Catholic.

But I have felt isolated for being Catholic and pro-life since the first week I came to Stanford. I vividly remember my first few days here, how I had gone to MemChu a few times because I was a little lost and lonely. The news of where I had gone on my walk was met with odd glances and uncomfortable silences. Later that night in the Lag dining hall, some kid made the mistake of revealing that he had signed up on the pro-life e-mail list. And at least 10 people went at him for being so conservative, so close-minded.

I learned quickly that I was in the minority, to keep my mouth shut about a lot of my views unless I wanted to be verbally attacked. So I stayed silent.

It is at times like the Roe v. Wade memorial when I feel the deepest sense of isolation. I am not fiery enough to stand out there on the White Plaza grass on the pro-life side. I don’t like creating conflict or focusing on doctrine when it comes to religion; that’s just not what it means to me. For me, religion was always more about love and bringing people together than it was about driving them apart.

Three weeks ago, I sat on a cement block in front of the post office watching those Roe v. Wade protests for hours. I was angry for a variety of reasons. At myself for being too weak to put myself out there. For the flak that the pro-life people get every year campus-wide for what they believe in. At myself for being so upset.

But anger is a second-degree emotion, so as it cooled, I paid attention to the emotions that came next. And what I found underneath that anger was an intense hurt. I was hurt that people felt like it was okay to attack a background I loved and am proud of when I never do that to anyone else. I was sick of feeling attacked and lonely, of feeling like no one understood where I came from and thus can’t fully understand who I am now.

Although this feeling isn’t new, it’s one I’ve only recently identified. One my good friends, Yvorn “Doc” Thomas unknowingly identified the causes of it best when he spoke recently at a Black House program. He talked about living in Ujamaa and his need to be a part of the Stanford black community. He said that in high school, there was no BSU because the entire school was the BSU. He never felt hyper-aware of being black until he stepped onto the Stanford campus.

I stayed silent in the back row, thinking that without realizing it, he perfectly summed up my Stanford struggles. Back at home, there was no Catholic community because everyone was the Catholic community. Coming to Stanford, I was in the minority. And I didn’t really know how to handle it.

I ended up choosing to exist in two worlds. In one world, I had wonderful friends and sorority sisters who weren’t Catholic and didn’t really understand how key it was in my life, while in the other, I went to church every Sunday by myself. In one world, I was an incredibly active Stanford student; in the other, I felt lonely and misunderstood.

It’s been an okay system for three years. But then at times like this, when I am sitting on a cold cement block, wanting to cry and not entirely sure why, who do I have to talk about it with? When I am in the history building and a professor cracks a joke about Catholic sexual frustration, I don’t know what to do. I am scared of revealing my other isolated world when I feel like no one will support me in doing so.

I write this not to complain, but to share my story in hopes that it might reach someone feeling like I do, even if a different reason is the cause. Be blessed.


Courtney Crisp ‘11

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