College Fraternities


#1

I recently learned (from reading the Catholic Encyclopedia’s article newadvent.org/cathen/14071b.htm) that the Church looks on secret societies with a certain degree of disfavour. It mentions warnings from three popes on such societies in colleges and universities. Being a very recent convert to Catholicism, I had no idea that any secret societies were formally banned (though only 4 of them by name) when I joined my fraternity a few years ago. It is a prominent undergraduate greek-letter society and I never thought any of its practices to be morally questionable, and still don’t. I do wonder, however, whether my involvement with it would either jeopardize my state of grace according to the Church’s teaching, or should exclude me from partaking of the sacraments.

I haven’t yet spoken to a priest, but I plan to. I don’t see anything in my fraternal oath of secrecy which would preclude me from speaking privately to a priest about it, since the oath itself is taken on the Bible, with which the Church has authority. Besides, priests are themselves sworn to secrecy in a way. There are several other Catholic brothers in my fraternity as well, and they see no problem with it (the fraternity itself or discussing it with a priest).

Are there any other Catholics here who are in “secret” college fraternities, greek-letter or otherwise? Can anyone offer me some insight or arguments on how/why this might or might not compromise my standing with the Church? Thanks!


#2

I was in a college greek letter fraternity 24 years ago. From what went on, if I had to do it over, I wouldn’t have joined.

Socially, I was corrupted in a lot of drinking and saw a lot of sexual activity around me and things that were certainly ‘mortal sins.’

I have never gone back on Homecoming events for 10 years and really don’t miss that life. I know this all sounds negative, but my college life was in a time I true regret.


#3

my husband was in a fraternity in college. Later in grad school he converted to Catholicism, and soon afterwards met me :slight_smile: He’s never expressed any sentiments that membership in his fraternity was anti-Christian to any extent. True he did many unchristian things while in college, but these were due to the fact he was young, human, and spiritually searching, not because he was a member of Phi Kappa Tau. The frat had it’s own little secrets, like what the Greek letters stood for, that he won’t even reveal to me. But he certainly wouldn’t withold the secret, say, in the confessional if it were somehow relevant. And he was still a Christian in college and would not have involved himself in a group that was covertly occult - like the Masons. Overall his fraternity was a positive experience for him and he made many great friends through it. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a Catholic joining a frat or sorority per se, just watch out for the wild ones who have no purpose beyond getting drunk all the time.


#4

[quote=Neithan]I recently learned (from reading the Catholic Encyclopedia’s article newadvent.org/cathen/14071b.htm) that the Church looks on secret societies with a certain degree of disfavour. It mentions warnings from three popes on such societies in colleges and universities. Being a very recent convert to Catholicism, I had no idea that any secret societies were formally banned (though only 4 of them by name) when I joined my fraternity a few years ago. It is a prominent undergraduate greek-letter society and I never thought any of its practices to be morally questionable, and still don’t. I do wonder, however, whether my involvement with it would either jeopardize my state of grace according to the Church’s teaching, or should exclude me from partaking of the sacraments.

I haven’t yet spoken to a priest, but I plan to. I don’t see anything in my fraternal oath of secrecy which would preclude me from speaking privately to a priest about it, since the oath itself is taken on the Bible, with which the Church has authority. Besides, priests are themselves sworn to secrecy in a way. There are several other Catholic brothers in my fraternity as well, and they see no problem with it (the fraternity itself or discussing it with a priest).

Are there any other Catholics here who are in “secret” college fraternities, greek-letter or otherwise? Can anyone offer me some insight or arguments on how/why this might or might not compromise my standing with the Church? Thanks!
[/quote]

I was in one that will remain nameless, and by the terms of our brotherhood, they would say that I’m still in the fraternity since they consider you a brother forever. I personally don’t see anything wrong with joining one, but it would be a good idea for any potential “pledge” to read up on the brotherhood’s ritual beforehand and find out what kind of guys they are. I stayed Catholic all throughout college, but my hypocrisy was amazing. We claimed to be a group of Southern gentlemen (we were polite sometimes and the girls said they felt safe around us) but it was just a front that attracted a certain group of girls the fraternity so that the brothers could use them sexually. It was deplorable. I always said I’d never do anything to compromise my morals for the sake of the brotherhood, but when I look back on my fraternity experience, that’s all I did.

I can certainly understand the Church’s sentiment. And as a former “secret society” member, I would STRONGLY urge you and anyone else never to join a Greek fraternity or any secret society.

And the sororities are in many cases worse. The ones at my school forced their pledges to circle their body fat.

In any case, despite what’s in your sorority’s or fraternity’s by-laws or code of conduct or whatever they have, the Greek/secret society world revolves around an unholy triumvirate: excessive drinking, extramarital sex, and grossly excessive pride.


#5

Ps. 26:5-6: I hate the company of evildoers; with the wicked I do not sit. I will wash my hands in innocence and walk round your altar, LORD

1 Cor. 15:32-34: If the dead are not raised: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” Do not be led astray: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” Become sober as you ought and stop sinning.


#6

[quote=sweetchuck]I was in one that will remain nameless, and In any case, despite what’s in your sorority’s or fraternity’s by-laws or code of conduct or whatever they have, the Greek/secret society world revolves around an unholy triumvirate: excessive drinking, extramarital sex, and grossly excessive pride.
[/quote]

For all you parents of college students reading this thread in a panic–take heart. I will certainly not deny these factors existed in Greek society when I joined a Greek sorority while attending a Catholic University. There was plenty of drinking, partying, etc…BUT no more so that in other sectors of the non-Greek student population. Ditto for the pre-marital sex.

The big difference no one has mentioned and I thoroughly enjoyed was that the Greek system provided a regular outlet for charitable and civic involvement. There was not a month in the school year that went by when we were not volunteering somewhere, usually in partnership with one or more of the fraternities. My sorority sisters and I reperesented the University at events intended to promote cooperation with the local civic officials, we mentored young girsl in local schools, sponsored food, school supply, clothing and blood drives. We often took leadership positions in student government as well as events which promoted school spirit and alumni relations. By contrast, I saw peers not involved with the Greeks live a much more self-centered existence with considerably less volunteer activity.

Involvement with these service projects was not discretionary–but an integral part of sorority life–a fact made clear during rush. We also had academic requirements and were held to them. The sorority, through its national organization, provided scholarships to those who maintained certain GPA’s or were admitted to professional/graduate school. All in all I had a lot of fun and a very favorable experience, and other than a silly initiation ritual, (clumsily re-enacting an ancient temple rite) can’t think of anything officially sponsored by the sorority that came close to compromising my being Catholic & Greek.


#7

I agree about the philanthropy thing. We did a lot of fund-raising and some volunteer work and stuff like that. So it wasn’t all-bad. We had the grade requirements, too. I was just saying people should watch out for what they become a part of. They should make an informed decision.

However:
Other fraternities at my school drugged women to have sex with them. Hazing was rampant. Pledges were urinated on, had softballs thrown at them, had loaded guns pointed at them by drunk brothers. That life has a definitive dark side. No question. (of course, no more than the soccer or lacrosse teams at my school, who engaged in much of the same behavior, though not the extreme hazing.)

Were I to open a college, I would forbid fraternities and sororities. It’s not all fun and games. They hurt people.


#8

At Kansas State University, they started a Catholic fraternity about four years ago or so. It was begun as a Catholic group of men who met from attending the campus center. They attended daily Mass together, shared prayer time, lived together, had fellowship - it sounded like a great organization and one countercultural in the traditional Greek societies world. Not all fraternities fit in the traditional mold and stereotype, luckily.


#9

With the exception of Free Masons, I had not heard much about the Church’s position on secret society. How would this fit with the Knights of Columbus who aren’t allowed to share what takes place at their meetings with others? I’m just curious.


#10

[quote=goravens]With the exception of Free Masons, I had not heard much about the Church’s position on secret society. How would this fit with the Knights of Columbus who aren’t allowed to share what takes place at their meetings with others? I’m just curious.
[/quote]

I don’t think it’s secrecy that the church is against. Otherwise, the pope would have to divulge the remaining secrets of Fatima. I think the Church takes its stance against secret secular organizations because frequently they require of their members to make pledges and take oaths that are contrary to moral truth and spiritual health.


#11

Okay, well the secrecy part of it was my greatest worry, and if that isn’t a problem than I’m releived, since it doesn’t share the same questionable rituals that exist in the Masonic Lodges, Odd-Fellows and others like them. There’s no doubt that I’m glad I joined my fraternity, it has added a vital dimension to my college years. It’s awesome socially, and I’ve been involved in a great deal of philanthropic projects with it. The immorality is rampant, I’ll admit, but it’s usually only a few brothers who are really bad, and they sort’ve spoil the image for all the rest. One of the primary rules in most secret societies is morality, so they’re breaking their own code anyway, not only the Church’s.


#12

[quote=sweetchuck]I agree about the philanthropy thing. We did a lot of fund-raising and some volunteer work and stuff like that. So it wasn’t all-bad. We had the grade requirements, too. I was just saying people should watch out for what they become a part of. They should make an informed decision.

However:
Other fraternities at my school drugged women to have sex with them. Hazing was rampant. Pledges were urinated on, had softballs thrown at them, had loaded guns pointed at them by drunk brothers. That life has a definitive dark side. No question. (of course, no more than the soccer or lacrosse teams at my school, who engaged in much of the same behavior, though not the extreme hazing.)

Were I to open a college, I would forbid fraternities and sororities. It’s not all fun and games. They hurt people.
[/quote]

I agree with the fund-raising but is the fund raising used as a PR for future pledges OR for the actual good that comes from the heart. In our fraternity, yes it was another feather to put in the cap to get pledges. I joined a fraternity because I wanted to ‘belong’ to a group. Our fraternity chapter was difficult to categorieze because we weren’t jocks, brains, studs, or burnouts, we were just ‘mutts’ a blend of all of them and this a minature of society.

What I did like about our fraternity chapter was that we didn’t do some of the extreme things that are mentioned in the news, i.e. stranding pledges away from the university, extremely overly drunk pledges, or other overly ‘stupid’ things.


#13

I currently serve as the National Philanthropy Coordinator for my sorority, so this is my input for this thread. I wasn’t Catholic during college (actually grew up in an anti-Catholic household). Little did I know that my ‘sisters’ would actually assist to leading me Home! Little did I know at the time, most of them were Catholic. One sister is now a Godparent for one of my children! Yes some errors were made during our college days, but I can’t say that the experience was totally immoral.

I can tell you first there is a huge difference between local & national organizations as well as between fraternities & sororities(while there are always an exception to this). While there are ‘secrets’ in my Sisterhood, I would be proud to have my mother/grandmother learn and go through the rituals and new member/pledge period that I did (if not, the organization is not worthy of your membership). Most national sororities are, in fact, God-based with prayers & even New Testament scripture verses & a strong base in high standards in self development & giving to others.

All our chapters are required to have a chapter advisor, campus advisor, assistant advisor, and chapter consultant (all volunteers). This is in addition to our National Staff support team that includes two different staff members (only 4 paid) having annual visits to the university to meet with the Dean of Students, etc. about concerns, etc. This leads to the next point…

Hazing is wrong, if it is in Greek letter organization, a sports team, or within a group of friends. As a national staff member I can tell you that my sisterhood confronts hazing head on and will even contact the college authorities if they hear of any incidences and go in and reeducate the members, dismissing if necessary. Do you know there are only 2 insurance companies that will even cover Greek organizations?! Why would we want our insurance premiums to go up due to hazing? The only thing insurers rate higher risk is Nuclear Power Plants.

I can also tell you that the organizations are only as good as their leaders. Our current national president is Catholic and many of the staff are either Catholic or very religious oriented people. What a great opportunity it is to demonstrate our faith through practice! I assisted in developing a national service program with Habitat for Humanity - definately a faith-based action group! As Catholic leaders we never know if we are planting a seed or watering the flower!

I strongly disagree with the statement that the only reason groups are performing philanthropic activities is to get new members. However that being said, who wouldn’t want someone who is selfless and thinks it is important to serve others in their organization?

In just 9 months my Sisterhood of 65 chapters nationwide (ave. chapter size less than 30) completed more than 288 different service projects, logging in over 17,224 hours (ave. chapter volunteering 287 hours; ave. member performing over 15 hours) valued at over $90,000 if paid. This doesn’t include the $51,000 raised for service organizations (over $800 a chapter). Not bad for college students!

Projects are chosen at the local level so activities aren’t just check the block ones, but meaningful ones to the members. Some projects include - domestic violence awarness, AIDS awareness, assisting with the elderly, cancer research, after-school programs, homeless shelters, environmental issues, voter registration projects, YMCA, foodbanks - just to name a few! I don’t think that an egocentric, immoral person would want to join an organization that takes up their time volunteering when they could be out partying, etc.

Now for some statistics… members of Greek organizations give 9% more to their alma mater than non-Greeks, Greeks participate more in volunteer work than non-Greeks, and increase retention of college students by 28%. Also, more than 80% of Fortune 500 executives are Greek; Every U.S. President, except for three, born since 1825 have been Greek; More than three-fourths of the United States Congress is Greek; Forty of the 47 Supreme Court Justices since 1910 have been Greek; Eighty-five percent of Presidential Cabinet members since 1900 have been Greek; Every U.S. Vice President, except for two, born since 1825 and three Canadian Prime Ministers have been Greek; Of North America’s 50 largest corporations, 43 are headed by Greeks; More than $20 million was contributed to the national philanthropies of the 26 National Panhellenic Conference member sororities between 1990 - 1995. As you see, being a “Catholic” Greek can be very influential in today’s society. Again, as a leader these people can plant seeds or water the flowers that are coming to bloom.

I am so proud be be a now Catholic sister of my sorority! If any person (parent or young adult) has a question about what a fantastic opportunity a Greek organization can be, feel free to contact me.


#14

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.