New Marianist Booklet Helps Catholic Educators Discuss LGBT Issues with Youth

blog marianist pictureA new resource to help Catholic educators discuss LGBT issues with students has been published by a committee of the Marianist community.

Addressing LGBT Issues With Youth:  A Resource for Educators is an 11-page PDF booklet which provides “strategies for assuring that our institutions and ministries promote understanding, respect and acceptance for all young people, regardless of their sexual orientation,” according to the LGBT Initiative page of the Marianist Social Justice Collaborative website.   The Collaborative describes itself as:

“a joint initiative of the Marianist Lay Network of North America, the Society of Mary (brothers and priests) and the Marianist Sisters. . . . It is a network that provides mutual support, resources, leadership for peace and justice, and links to other peace and justice groups.”

The document stresses the importance of creating safe space for LGBT students and provides a number of suggestions for educators can become “caring and supportive adults who will talk with them and guide them.”

The need for such a resource is described in the booklet’s first section:

“LGBT youth need reassurance from people who represent their faith if they are to integrate their self-understanding into their faith commitment. Catholic teaching often is misrepresented or misunderstood, which can cause turmoil for those who may conclude that God doesn’t love them. . . .

“While bullying affects a wide range of students, LGBT students or those perceived to be LGBT endure particular ridicule. . . .

“If adults don’t support their students, if they ignore bullying, if they remain silent when they should speak up, what is an LGBT youth to conclude? That he or she is not loved and valued, a flawed human person.”

The booklet situates its message within the Catholic tradition of non-discrimination towards LGBT people, which is taught in the Catechism.  Additionally, the rationale for their approach is supported by various bishops’ documents calling for pastoral care of LGBT people.  The Marianist charism itself is also referred to as a source of backing.  One of the “Characteristics of Marianist Education” that is quoted states:

“Educate persons to accept and respect differences in a pluralistic society. As the people of the world come increasingly into contact with one another, differences among them become more apparent. If the world of the future is to be peaceful, students of today must learn how to appreciate cultural difference and how to work with people unlike themselves.”

The booklet provides tips for how teachers can show support to LGBT students, but it also adds suggestions for how to educate the entire school community–administrators, faculty, parents–about sensitivity to LGBT people.  One significant section offers practical answers for how to answer critics who would oppose this type of approach.

The resource suggests a variety of practical ways to transform a school into a safe space, including updating the curriculum, adopting inclusive policies, establishing support groups, and ways of talking about LGBT issues in the classroom.

The booklet neither condones nor condemns sexual relationships, but does note that this topic is not connected to the idea of creating a safe space:

“Supporting LGBT students does not condone sexual activity any more than support ing heterosexual students condones sexual activity. Your care and support simply honors the dignity of each person and provides a place where he or she is accepted and valued.”

Connected to this topic of sexual relationships is an important concluding section on the Catholic Church’s call to all individuals to develop and follow their consciences.

Many Catholic educators can benefit from the suggestions offered in this resource.  If all Catholic schools adopted such an approach, our church and its educational system would be a much more welcoming place for LGBT students.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

8 replies
  1. Peter
    Peter says:

    This booklet claims to address and prevent discrimination against LGBT students by situating “its message within the Catholic tradition of non-discrimination towards LGBT people, which is taught in the Catechism.” The Catechism, however, is solely responsible for the discrimination against and the abuse of LGBT people. The Catechism refers to LGBT people as “intrinsically disordered” and “contrary to natural law”. It claims that LGBT sexual expressions are “acts of grave depravity” and cites scriptural references, which, when examined in their original language and in the context of their day, state nothing of the sort. Subsequent translations are merely prejudices and ignorance disguised as objective translations.

  2. amagjuka
    amagjuka says:

    Indiana Republicans just crafted a bill where businesses could refuse service to gay people. The church needs to stop being complicit with discrimination, period. Catholics must stop trying to phrase things so the elephant in the room–DISCRIMINATION–is ignored and allowed to fester. When the church itself discriminates, then tells kids that bullying is wrong, moral authority is lost. Catholics do not want to be complicit with discrimination. We need a simple and clear message: no discrimination of any kind, period. Firing LGBT teachers is discrimination. Trolling FB pages and firing people who advocate for LGBT rights is discrimination. Come on, Catholic church. Get on the right side of this. Discrimination cannot be a tenet of faith.

  3. Barry Blackburn
    Barry Blackburn says:

    Congratulations to Marianists for their booklet in support of LGBTQ students!

    As a Catholic Educator (Rel. Ed. Dept. Head) in Toronto in 1995 I was part of an editorial team that produced an Issue of the Canadian Jesuit Journal THE MOMENT- Number 26 1995. ISSN 0838-8083 (see below) dedicated to LGBTQ coming out issues and safety called IN SEARCH OF SAFETY: The Lives of Lesbian & Gay Youth. It was widely distributed in Catholic schools in the Toronto area and well received in these schools. The 1996 Update below: The Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Factor in the Youth Suicide Problem describes this LGBTQ issue of the Moment:

    “…In April, 1995, a 200+ page education package was completed and sent to about 40 Roman Catholic junior and senior high schools. All heads of Guidance & Counselling, heads of Religious Education in high schools, all trustees, most superintendents, and some coordinators received a complete or near-complete package, including the paper presented in Banff and Counselling Lesbian & Gay Youth (1995) produced by GALE, B.C. for all junior and senior high schools in British Columbia. All principals received a copy of the 10-page cover letter addressed to the Chairperson of the Board and the Chief Superintendent. The most important item sent – out of 20 articles, papers, and book segments – was the 16-page article, In Search of Safety: The lives of lesbian and gay youth” published in the December 26, 1995 issue of the Toronto magazine The Moment. This is probably the first time a Canadian Roman Catholic publication addressed GLB youth issues and, in the article, a Catholic teacher reported on his increasing recognition of the role he had played in the social situation which harms GLB youth. One of his former students – described to have been “bright, articulate, and a bit on the shy side, [and] simply a gem in the classroom” – had committed suicide for reasons related to his homosexual orientation. [All items in this education package are not part of the references listed herein.]”

    The Jesuits and Toronto Catholic educators made history here!

  4. Bernie
    Bernie says:

    This booklet is sexist and discriminatory. Respecting homosexual orientation while at the same time condemning homosexual activity as immoral and disordered is bigotry. Lies are lies and injustice remains injustice, even when they come in the guise of “doctrine.” Whitewashing and hypocracy does not help to build bridges. The Catholic doctrine on homosexuality is wrong. There is no way around it. Denying this is not a way to build bridges.

    • Kat
      Kat says:

      This Marianist booklet is a compassionate attempt to ease the suffering of those who are being wounded by its own Church. It puts gel on the wounds, but supports the aggressor. It’s no good. Until Catholic doctrine is corrected, there is no denying Catholic Church culpability for worldwide discrimination against lgbt persons.

  5. amagjuka
    amagjuka says:

    Bernie, I totally agree. Middle school and high school students can spot hypocrisy a mile away. They hate injustice. There is no reason for LGBT youth or the adults who love them to continue allowing the church to call them disordered, to tell them that if they are gay, there will be no sexual intimacy in their lives, and no bonding with another for life. How can anyone who loves a LGBT person tell them they have dignity, while also insisting that their sexuality is sinful, intrinsically disordered, and makes them unfit for jobs and interactions with the “normal” Catholics? It is ridiculous. I will not do it. Neither should any Catholic of conscience who is sure that the Holy Spirit has led him/her to know beyond a doubt that LGBT people deserve everything we “straight” people would have for ourselves.


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