A Catholic high school in New York City has cancelled a scheduled event with Fr. Donald Timone, who is associated with Courage, a controversial ministry to lesbian and gay Catholics, after outcry from the school community.
Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx was set to host Timone last night until Fr. Trevor Nicholls, the school’s president, announced the postponement. His action resulted from protests by alumni and staff members. NY1 quotes gay alum Diego Santiago as saying:
” ‘I think it [[Fr. Timone’s planned lecture appearance] panders to fear and misinformation’…
” ‘If I was a student at Spellman and I saw something, a meeting like that being advertised at the school, I would feel ostracized. I would feel afraid…I would say to myself, “Oh, here’s another person who hates me.” ‘ “
School staff also reacted negatively to Timone’s planned visit reports New York Daily News:
“The cancellation did little to appease some staffers, who cited new Pope Francis’ attempt to get church leaders to move beyond divisive issues such as gay marriage, homosexuality and abortion.
” ‘With the Pope urging people to back off on this issue the whole thing seems a little out of place.’ The worker also worried that controversial issues would undermine fundraising. ‘If the alumni find this to be something that they don’t agree with it could affect the school.’ “
Courage is considered a controversial Catholic ministry because it view a homosexual orientation is a flaw or defect in a person. While it does not condemn people with a lesbian or gay orientation as being sinful because of their orientation, it does consider homosexual behavior as sinful, and encourages people to maintain a celibate life. The support the group offers for maintaining celibacy often follows a 12-step approach to sexual behavior, viewing it as a temptation that should be avoided. Some Courage groups have also offered and even suggested that their members attempt reparative or conversion therapy to “change” from homosexual to heterosexual, a theory debunked by the scientific community, and in some states is outlawed.
The Bronx LGBTQ Center reached out to Cardinal Spellman’s administration to foster dialogue around this controversy and potentially host LGBT-positive voices alongside the Courage priest.
The event had targeted parents as the audience. In a New York Times article, students said Cardinal Spellman is a fairly welcoming environment. However, some people believed Timone’s planned visit would threaten this inclusivity:
“To Francis DeBernardo, the executive director of New Ways Ministry, which works to connect the church with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, the planned appearance by Father Timone seemed to be going against a trend. He said several Catholic high schools and colleges had support programs for gay students and worked to help them form alliances with straight students.
” ‘I have to imagine that this is going to present a very negative view of lesbian and gay people to young people…It is going to create a lot of conflict in their lives, unneeded conflict.’ “
One of the unique responses to this controversy came from Miss Coco Peru, the drag persona of Spellman alum Clinton Leupp, who spread opposition to the event using social media and created a video as Miss Coco to affirm LGBT students.
For his part, school president Nicholls said he plans to re-invite the controversial priest after consulting with the Board of Trustees. Bondings 2.0 will update readers on any further developments.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry
January 5, 2013: Parishioners Protest Courage at Toronto Newman Center
October 21, 2012: Courage Ministry Instituted in Archdiocese of Louisville
January 5, 2012: When Courage Fails