Furor at Catholic high school after nun presents Church teaching on homosexuality
CHARLOTTE, NC, April 2, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A North Carolina Roman Catholic school is holding a meeting today to address the concerns of parents and students who say they are outraged about remarks a visiting nun made criticizing homosexuality, divorce, and sex outside of marriage during a recent speech.
Dominican Sister Jane Dominic Laurel, who often speaks to high school and college-age students on matters of sexuality, gave an hour-long presentation to students at Charlotte Catholic High School on March 21 called “Masculinity and Femininity: Difference and Gift.” School officials told the Catholic News Herald she spent about half her allotted time discussing homosexuality, blaming its rising influence in part on fatherless homes created by divorce and extramarital sex.
Sister Laurel is a member of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, often called the Nashville Dominicans, which is an order known for its fidelity to the Magisterium.
Although the Catholic Church has always held both homosexual behavior and sex outside of marriage to be gravely sinful, students and parents at the Catholic school reacted to her remarks with shock and anger, launching both an online petition and a letter-writing campaign calling the sister’s words “offensive and unnecessarily derogatory.”
“We the students of Charlotte Catholic High School would like to issue a formal complaint regarding Sr. Jane Dominic’s speech given on on [sic] Friday, March 21st,” the petition begins. “We found some of ideas [sic] expressed to be both offensive and unnecessarily derogatory. We are incensed that you knew the content of this speech and allowed these ideas to be expressed in a school that should be preaching a message of love and acceptance.”
“As rational people, we know that most homosexual people lead healthy, normal and productive lives like their heterosexual counterparts,” the students wrote. “We resent the fact that a school wide assembly became a stage to blast the issue of homosexuality after Pope Francis said in an interview this past fall that ‘we can not [sic] insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptives [sic] methods. We are angry that someone decided they knew better than our Holy Father and invited a speaker who addressed the issue of homosexuality to our school to speak twice in the course of one school year.”
Students weren’t the only ones outraged by the sister’s remarks. Parents have supplemented the students’ petition with an e-mail campaign targeting the Diocese of Charlotte, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the Vatican with complaints about Sr. Jane’s speech.
“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,” wrote divorcee Shelley Earnhardt, according to the Charlotte Observer.
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Another letter sent to school officials and signed by current students and alumni said, “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.”
Parents, alumni and students involved in the petition and letter writing campaigns are demanding that the school and Church apologize.
But not all students were upset by the nun’s presentation. A group of students who adhere to Catholic teaching on sexuality have launched a counter-petition condemning the protesters’ actions. “We are outraged that the topics talked about are being debated within a community where the shared faith teaches us what truly is holy and that anyone would stand up against a nun, who has given her life for the Lord, and blantly [sic] deny God's teachings,” the petition reads.
The students defending Sister Jane say, “We believe that every human regardless of gender, race, or sexual orientation, should be treated with love and respect.” They add, “We accept homosexual men and women into our community with open arms.” But they explain, “We do not approve of homosexual marriage or activities, because we understand that it is against the Holy Bible. … We believe that it is important to discuss these topics so that the young people of today may better understand righteousness and God's divine will.”
Reaction from local Church officials has been largely supportive of Sister Jane.
Fr. Tim Reid, pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, sent out a mass email which said in part, “She represented well the Catholic positions on marriage, sex, same-sex attraction and proper gender roles. … The Church has already lost too many generations of Catholic schools students to … a very muddled and watered-down faith.”
Fr. Roger Arnsparger, diocesan vicar for education, stated, "Our students are bombarded with confusing messages about sexuality. Our task in religious formation is always to help people understand the meaning of love and relationships."
Although Sister Jane has the backing of the local bishop and clergy, she has withdrawn from another planned speaking event in Charlotte which had been scheduled for May during the 2014 Diocesan Youth Conference. Fr. Arnsparger announced the change in a statement today, and said Sr. Jane’s mother superior, not the diocese, had made the call.
"I completely understand the decision of Sister’s Mother Superior that the timing is not right for her to make a return visit to the diocese,” Arnsparger wrote. “It was very thoughtful of Sister Jane to withdraw from this planned speaking engagement as the Diocese of Charlotte deals with the concern of parents of Charlotte Catholic High School students. Sister Jane Dominic has been a frequent speaker throughout the country and we look forward to learning from her in the future."
The April 2 meeting will take place in the school’s gym. Representatives from both the school and the diocese will be on hand for the discussion.
Charlotte Catholic High School
Diocese of Charlotte
Phone: (704) 370-6299