I grew up in the United States, a staunchly Protestant land. My childhood consisted of Vacation Bible Schools and Sunday School Bible trivia. Words and sites familiar to Catholics were completely foreign to me. We had no clergy, no mass, and absolutely no eucharist. I was vaguely familiar with Catholicism from the words of stories that took place in lands such as France, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Latin America.
Sadly, in my country intense hatred towards Catholics has also been something that has been brewing under the surface. From my childhood I was always taught to love and learn from those who were different, and I always embraced foreign cultures that were not my own.
I wish I did not have to say this- but my country has had a blind spot when it comes to discrimination against minority religions. We proclaimed religious liberty for all but Muslims and Catholics were never treated as Americans. This often caused them to retreat into their own communities for fear of persecution. This is a dark history that we never discuss, and remains deep in the shadows of American discourse as we pretend that all is happy between the various religious sects in the United States. Of course, much of this was a carry-over from Europe. Intense hatred and deep cultural divisions between Catholics and Protestants tore apart Europe in intense conflicts. Instead of confronting our differences and discussing them, people turned to the sword and to hate. In the United States this resulted in anything Catholic becoming a haven for Catholics who felt they were oppressed by the USA. In recent years, institutions that were previously religious have become secularized. Anybody from any religion can attend any school and the focus is on education not on religious background.
Fast forwarding, many schools and universities were founded by religious organizations but this does not mean that the students are part of that religion. Many such as Harvard are considered totally secular today. Others such as Georgetown remain Jesuit but do not require the students to be Jesuit. I attended Catholic University for a Masters program because it was in Washington, DC and I enjoyed the professors. This is not make me Catholic, I have never had communion nor confirmation. I do not believe in the eucharist, nor do I believe in clergy or saints. I am a Protestant, and remain one. I believe all people are entitled to human rights regardless of their religion and we all should have a right to express our own religious views whenever the discourse arises. But please, not assume that by talking to me that I go to mass or do confession. I respect the rights of Catholics to do that, but when you attend a university you are not attending for the religion- you are attending for the education.
A university is a place for open discussion, for encountering viewpoints different than your own. At universities professors argue and disagree, and they teach you to do the same. If everybody from a particular university had the same politics or religion- it would be a very unusual world! I think part of the beauty of diversity is when we intermingle with the greater picture of humanity.