Commentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
The theologian whose presentation about human sexuality at a North Carolina high school sparked a furious backlash from parents and students has announced that she has withdrawn from all speaking engagements and is taking a sabbatical from teaching at Aquinas College.
Sister Mary Sarah Galbraith, President of Aquinas College in Nashville, issued a statement on Friday lamenting the fallout from a talk given by Sister Jane Dominic Laurel, O.P. at Charlotte High School in Charlotte, NC where students accused her of making offensive remarks about homosexuality, divorce and single parenting.
“In her presentation, Sister Jane Dominic spoke clearly on matters of faith and morals. Her deviation into realms of sociology and anthropology was beyond the scope of her expertise. Sister is a trained theologian from a Pontifical University and has the credentials to contribute to scholarly bodies of work. This she has done in the past with distinction,” Sr. Galbraith wrote.
“The unfortunate events at Charlotte Catholic High School are not representative of the quality of Sister’s academic contributions or the positive influence that she has had on her students. The students at Charlotte Catholic were unprepared, as were their parents, for the topic that Sister was asked to deliver. The consequence was a complete misrepresentation of the school’s intention to bring a message that would enlighten and bring freedom and peace.”
She adds: “There are no words that are able to reverse the harm that has been caused by these comments. The community of Aquinas College is saddened by this extreme outcome and wishes to reiterate that this is not something the College condones or desires to create. There is division where there should be unity. The events and discussions that have transpired over the last two weeks reflect that there is something in this that surpasses an ordinary high school assembly.”
Therefore, Sr. Jane has cancelled her speaking engagements and, at her request, is preparing to begin a sabbatical from teaching at Aquinas College.
Even though Sr. Galbraith believes Sr. Jane spoke outside the realm of her expertise, she also clearly states that the parents and students at Charlotte High School were “unprepared . . . for the topic that Sister was asked to deliver.”
The question Catholic educators need to ask themselves today is why the faithful are left so unprepared to face the challenges of today’s culture with the kind of educated and informed Catholic response that is so desperately needed in the world today.
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