Will Catholic Parents End Catholic Education?

Commentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS

Charlotte catholic highReports on a fiery meeting between parents of Charlotte Catholic High School students and school administrators over a presentation in which Church teaching on homosexuality was presented raises the question of whether parents will force the Church to stop teaching the Truth in Catholic schools.

According to the Catholic News Herald, more than 900 parents packed the gym of Charlotte Catholic High School last night to criticize school leaders who arranged a presentation given by Dominican Sister Jane Dominic Laurel which presented Church teaching on human sexuality.

The presentation, which took place on March 21, was entitled “Masculinity and Femininity: Difference and Gift.” Based on Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, the presentation focused on the differences between the genders, the role of the family, importance of real friendships, emotional intimacy and the impacts of contemporary culture on our concepts of sexuality. Her talk touched on homosexuality, single parenting and divorce, some of which upset students who later told their parents that Sister Jane criticized gays and lesbians and made inflammatory remarks about single and divorced parents.

Students started a petition drive denouncing the presentation which garnered about 3,000 signatures. Students who supported the presentation started a counter-drive which drew nearly 2,000 signatures.

Meanwhile, parents began complaining to school administrators that they were not informed about the talk beforehand, which prompted school officials to host a meeting which took place last evening in the school gym.

The only media who were permitted into the room were reporters from the diocesan newspaper, the Catholic News Herald, whose reporters said that even though there were supporters among the parents who attended the assembly, most of the attendees were critical.

“Parents said they felt betrayed by school administrators for not being told about the March 21 all-school assembly beforehand. Other parents objected to some of the material Sister Jane had presented about homosexuality and the way she presented it,” reports the Herald’s David Exum and Patricial L. Guilfoyle.

For instance, one parent said her child came home from school the day of the presentation feeling ashamed and embarrassed. The parent proceed to chide Father Matthew Kauth, the school’s chaplain, for arranging the event.

“I have lost confidence. I do not trust your judgment and I do not respect (Father Kauth),” the parent said.

Her comments were vigorously applauded.

On the other hand, whenever a parent tried to defend the school and the presentation, they were loudly booed by the crowd.

This was in spite of a statement read aloud from Bishop Peter Jugis, who was unable to attend due to a prior commitment. Bishop Jugis prayed there would “be a friendly and respectful conversation among Catholic brothers and sisters, united in the one faith and in the love of Almighty God.”

Judging from the Herald’s reporting, it was anything but.

” . . . (M)any parents’ emotions boiled over, with arguments even carrying over into the school’s parking lot when the meeting ended after two hours. Two observers called the meeting’s climate ‘disrespectful’ and ‘hate-filled’,” they report.

Indeed, parents seemed to be out-for-blood because the school allowed a presentation that included politically incorrect facts about homosexuality – the kind that gay activists never want  mentioned in public and silence with their own version of “hate speech” that falls under the umbrella term “homophobe”.

In an effort to cool tempers, Father Roger Arnsparger, diocesan vicar of education, apologized for the section of Sister Jane’s talk that included the alleged offensive data.

“Many said that the first part of her [Sister Jane's] presentation at Charlotte Catholic High School was excellent and fully in line with the Catholic faith,” Father Arnsparger said.

“There was unfortunately a misunderstanding about the content of the last part of the presentation. In that part, I understand that Sister used data from the Linacre Quarterly, a reputable journal, and from other sources. That data can be debated and, in fact, is debated back and forth by scholars who are researching the areas of human sexuality. Because of the ongoing debate, it would have been better if these studies and data were omitted from the presentation to the students.”

This was not enough to satisfy parents, one of whom claimed to be representing lesbian, gay and bisexual students at the school and who said the presentation created an unsafe environment for these students.

Another told the school chaplain: “You don’t know what’s best for our children. What are you planning on doing for the healing? We want our children to remain Catholic, but we are being pushed away by the climate of what is going on here.”

Judging by the hostile attitude of these parents, it’s hard to imagine what they might want short of a retraction of Church teaching in order to assuage their offended children (who wouldn’t be offended in the first place if they were being taught the Truth at home). If not a retraction, then they are certainly gunning for the watered-down version that is creeping into so many other Catholic schools where youth are served the same kind of cultural pabulum they can get for free in the public school down the street.

I applaud Father Kauth for his courageous statement to parents last night.

“When I came here, I experienced to an increasing degree the suffering that comes to our children and the blackness they feel inside. They are taught by nearly every form of media that Christ’s teachings in His Church are restrictive bars, medieval torture chambers to keep them from happiness.  When they have ‘broken free’ I get to see their agony,” he said.

We can only hope at least a few parents in the room will spend some serious time reflecting on the truth of his words.

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