Charlotte Catholic High School is facing protests after hosting an anti-gay lecturer known for promoting harmful falsehoods about LGBT people.
Sr. Jane Dominic Laurel, a Nashville Dominican nun and professor at Aquinas College, Nashville, spoke last Friday during a mandatory assembly at the high school. She claimed gay people are the result of absent fathers or masturbation and condemned same-gender couples as unfit parents, directly linking them to child abuse. These claims became public in a student-initiated Change.org petition, and were corroborated by an anonymous student speaking to QNotes, who also said:
” ‘Then she talked about the statistic where gay men have had either over 500 or 1000 sexual partners and after that I got up and went to the bathroom because I should not have had to been subject to that extremely offensive talk…’
” ‘I would like them to issue a formal apology to the students and to the parents and alumni…I want them to know how upset everyone is and for them to acknowledge that.’ “
Students and alumni also released a letter to Sr. Laurel and the school’s head Fr. Matthew Kauth, asking for a formal apology about the assembly after which, it is reported, some teachers left in tears. The letter, signed by 64 students and 86 alumni states, in part:
“As Catholic educators, it is your vocation and your responsibility to bring the message of the Church to students. However, you took advantage of this position to push your own prejudices and bigotry upon the Charlotte Catholic community despite this community’s deliberate efforts to avoid it when presented as an extracurricular event…
“Presenting these false ideas to high school students not only advocates discrimination of LGBTQ students, but also tells those individuals that they are damaged or incomplete. Consider for a moment the severe and ongoing effect this type of message has on the current LGBTQ students at Charlotte Catholic. Consider the power this message has to empower bullies of these same students…
“Last week’s presentation represents a betrayal of trust. Your responsibility to provide nurturing and informative education to the students of Charlotte Catholic was shrugged off. Your mission to truthfully convey the teachings of the Church—the teachings of love, compassion, and humility—was replaced by teachings of hate and intolerance.”
Critics also questioned Sr. Laurel’s denigration of women by promoting antiquated gender roles and her condemnatory comments against divorced and single parents. Catholic parents of students at the school also initiated a letter writing campaign targeting everyone from the high school’s administration to the Vatican. The Charlotte Observer reports:
“Shelley Earnhardt, who is divorced and who sent one of the emails, wrote that ‘in my home, there was outrage, embarrassment, sadness, disbelief, and further reason for my 16-year-old to move as far away from her religion as possible and as soon as she can.’
“Other parents faulted the school for not notifying them about the sensitive nature of Laurel’s planned remarks. ‘It’s too big of a topic for parents to be surprised,’ said Casey Corser.”
In response, the Diocese of Charlotte has scheduled a meeting with parents tonight to discuss Sr. Laurel’s lecture, which will be closed to the media and which Bishop Peter Jugis will forgo. Diocesan spokesperson David Hains defended Sr. Laurel’s remarks, saying she was a frequent speaker throughout the diocese and held a doctorate from a Catholic university in Rome. However on the topic of homosexuality itself, Hains focused on the positive teachings about respect and human dignity, and clarified that Church teaching does not link homosexuality and masturbation.
This situation in Charlotte is extremely troubling. Sr. Laurel’s record of inflammatory anti-gay remarks is well known. One wonders why administrators thought she would be appropriate for a teenage audience, of whom at least some are struggling to define their identity, including their sexual orientation and gender.
What gives hope from this terrible incident is that the students have shown they are people well-formed by the Gospel. They condemned Sr. Laurel’s intolerance from a faith perspective, following Pope Francis in living out a Catholicism defined by “love, compassion, and humility.” As we witnessed with the students at Eastside Catholic High School in Seattle these past months, and now in Charlotte, the Church’s emerging generation has little tolerance for anti-LGBT prejudice from the Church’s leadership. Most importantly, they show a willingness to act up and ‘make a mess’ as the pope urged them when injustices do occur.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry