The backlash against Sr. Jane Dominic Laurel’s lecture at Charlotte Catholic High School has been swift since last week she suggested homosexuality is caused by failed parenting and masturbation, and linked same-gender couples to child abuse.
Almost 1,000 parents attended the meeting, and most came to voice their concerns about the school’s decision to host Sr. Laurel, as well as the school’s failure to notify parents in advance that a sensitive topic was to be addressed. Before the meeting began, alumni and students passed out wristbands that said “We are all God’s children.” These individuals were removed from school property.
The meeting lasted an hour longer than scheduled, and it included administrators, the chaplain, and the diocesan director of education. Though closed off to non-parents and all media except the diocesan newspaper, all accounts reveal a highly charged evening notes the Charlotte Observer.
The Catholic Herald, the diocesan newspaper, reported parent reactions:
“The first parent to speak said her student came home after the March 21 assembly feeling ashamed and embarrassed.
” ‘Where was the trust? Where was the communication?…It is trust. It is respect. It is confidence. I have lost confidence. I do not trust your judgment and I do not respect (Father Kauth).’ Her comments drew loud applause from many others.” …
“One parent told Father Kauth, “You have divided parents, you have divided students, and we’ve lost respect for you.”
“A parent who said she was representing homosexual and bisexual students at Charlotte Catholic said Sister Jane ‘pounded home the message’ that if these students are questioning their sexual identity, they had better stay in the closet. She also said she felt the presentation created nothing but an unsafe environment for these students at the school.”
Diocese of Charlotte spokesperson David Hains concurred that most parents were upset with Sr. Laurel’s lecture, both her anti-gay content and the failure of the school to notify parents beforehand. He said the chaplain, Fr. Matthew Kauth, apologized saying “that was not the [speech] he expected her to give.” The chaplain also wrote a letter to the school community defending Sr. Laurel’s talk which he had arranged, available here. Of Fr. Kauth’s attempts to pacify parents, the Herald reports:
“Several parents questioned why Father Kauth did not stop the presentation once it went awry.
” ‘I wasn’t sure where (Sister Jane) was going,’ he responded. ‘I assumed her goodwill. She didn’t say anything that was contradicting to our faith.’ ”
“Another parent told Father Kauth, ‘You don’t know 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.’ “
It seems that parents identified crucial points which Fr. Kauth, the chaplain, does not. Foremost, there are pressing pastoral implications. Simply allowing Sr. Laurel to continue speaking because, in his estimation, she was not contradicting Catholic doctrine, is an inadequate response when tremendous pastoral harm is being done. The enormous outcry from parents and the anger expressed by students are clear indications of such harm, not to mention the silent sufferings of LGBT students which do not make headlines. Second, parents understand that vicious anti-gay attacks during a mandatory assembly are perhaps the most effective of what Pope Francis has called “vaccines against faith” and drive students out of the Church.
The public outcry against this incident has caused Sr. Laurel to cancel all upcoming speaking engagements. She is also on sabbatical from her teaching position at Aquinas College, though the school’s president, Sr. Mary Sarah Galbraith, defended the Dominican nun’s lecture. You can read about Sr. Galbraith’s defense in a Tenneseean article.
Catholic students deserve better than anti-gay lectures using pseudo-social science. Let us pray that Charlotte Catholic High School will cause all Catholic educators to think about more pro-active and positive initiatives for LGBT students and other marginalized communities.
You can read Bondings coverage of the original incident by clicking here.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry