Uproar over diocese’s decision on scholarship for gay student — UPDATED

Details:

A gay student at Prince of Peace Catholic School in Clinton has been chosen to receive a scholarship from an Iowa organization that promotes tolerance, but controversy has erupted over presentation of the award.

Keaton Fuller, a senior at Prince of Peace, is one of eight recipients of a Matthew Shepard Scholarship from the Eychaner Foundation based in Des Moines. The scholarship honors the memory of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old tortured and murdered in Wyoming in 1998 because he was gay. Scholarship recipients and their schools agreed in the application process to permit an Eychaner representative to present the award during graduation awards ceremonies.

While Keaton can receive the scholarship award during graduation ceremonies at Prince of Peace Church May 20, a school representative — not an Eychaner representative — will present it. That decision has generated national press attention and confusion about the award presentation.

Diocesan officials explained their decision in a May 7 press release: “The Diocese of Davenport congratulates Keaton Fuller on receiving the Matthew Shepard Scholarship. The diocese has a long-standing policy regarding guest speakers. This policy was explained to Keaton’s parents at their meeting with Bishop Martin Amos last week. It states: ‘We cannot allow anyone or any organization which promotes a position that is contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church to present at a diocesan institution.’ Bishop Amos also expressed his congratulations for Keaton’s reception of the award and recognized his hard work in achieving it.

“We are glad that Keaton and his family chose to pursue his education at Prince of Peace Catholic High School in Clinton, IA.,” the diocesan statement continued. “We hope that Keaton will benefit from the generous award and wish him well in his academic pursuits.”

Keaton expressed disappointment and frustration with the diocese’s decision in a May 7 letter addressed to the Prince of Peace student body and staff. But he had plenty of praise for his school.

“Being the lone openly gay student in a small, Catholic school has not always been easy. Upon first realizing I was gay, I suffered a lot of anxiety over wondering how everybody in this school would treat me if I were to tell people the truth about my sexual orientation,” he said. “When I did begin to tell people, I was pleasantly surprised and touched to find that nearly everybody treated me with the same acceptance and respect as they always had. I have always been very grateful to you for this.”

Learning that he had been awarded the foundation’s highest scholarship — the $40,000 Gold Matthew Shepard Scholarship — was one of the happiest moments in his life, he wrote. “When word got around about this achievement, I received a great deal of praise from many of you, for which I am extremely grateful.”

He said that he felt “invalidated and unaccepted” by the diocese’s decision and felt that he was being “made to feel that my accomplishments are less than everybody else’s.”

The award recipient concluded his letter by asking the student body and staff to “please help me by respectfully requesting that this decision be reversed. Share your thoughts about why all students deserve to be treated with respect and dignity at Prince of Peace.”

Read on for more. Meantime, the AP offers this detail:

Fuller is believed to be the first gay student at a Catholic high school to attend multiple school dances with a partner of the same sex, said foundation executive director Michael Bowser.

“We were very proud of him for that,” he said.

Am I the only one who finds that surprising?

UPDATE: The Anchoress has a few thoughts on this subject:

My first thought was, “so, you friends at Catholic high school have supported you as you came out and by your own admission, always been respectful, and the school was fine about your bringing a boyfriend to prom, and you’re going to reward them by making commencement all about you? Why all the taking and no giving?”

I think you do nothing to build goodwill when you say, “your friendship, support and all the rest have meant nothing unless this advocacy group is now given a platform at our graduation.” It’s suggests an insensitivity to both one’s classmates and — dare I say it — the very Catholics who have supported you.

Is sensitivity and tolerance something that only goes one way? Is there to be no sensitivity for people of faith, only for “people of [name an issue]“, no tolerance for church views, only secular ones? Unless everything goes your way, and only your way, you feel “invalidated and unaccepted”?

I’m sorry, but that bugs me.

Me, too.  Read the rest.

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  • FrMichael

    “Am I the only one who finds that surprising?”

    There is no depravity that AmChurch is not capable of, so I’m not surprised at all.

  • Joanc57

    ‘We cannot allow anyone or any organization which promotes a position that is contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church to present at a diocesan institution.’ – Of course.

    Fuller is believed to be the first gay student at a Catholic high school to attend multiple school dances with a partner of the same sex, said foundation executive director Michael Bowser.
    “We were very proud of him for that,” he said. – Come again?? Michael Bowser can’t be Catholic.

  • Joanc57

    Why do so many non-Catholics waste their time trying to attack church teachings? What do they think they are accomplishing? Whining is so un-Catholic. Hopefully the worst thing that happens to this guy is feeling “invalidated and unaccepted”.

  • Drake

    I do not find a single point that has been cited , as an example as to why the scholarship awarded to a gay student is contrary to Catholic doctrine. What act and what doctrine? It is the usual denunciation with a broad brush that the hierarchy loves. Let’s be clear, the church is in fact warring against homosexuals, not the alleged sexual sins. The bishop’s position seems to be that one should not accept one’s self that God created, and at any rate, keep it hidden or stay in denial. Usual prescriptions by Church leadership. Of course, it also demonstrates yet again a Church woefully wanting to stay as ignorant as possible regarding science and medicine. I laugh when I recall an incident years ago when my wife’s maiden aunt died, and we cleared out her house. I came across a very old copy of the “Catholic Digest”. There was a cover story article blaring “May Catholics Use Tampons? A Priest instructs. ” Reading this article was one of the best arguments I have ever seen for why we should have both married priests, and while we’re at it, ordain women. This guy’s knowledge of biology and anatomy was rather crude, to say the least.
    The student seems like a very well educated and well-rounded young man. I am sure that he will go far.

  • Deacon Greg Kandra

    Drake…

    The issue is not the scholarship itself, which the diocese has made clear is a great accomplishment. They have no problem with that.

    It’s the presence at the school of the person presenting the scholarship. As the story says:

    The diocese has a long-standing policy regarding guest speakers. This policy was explained to Keaton’s parents at their meeting with Bishop Martin Amos last week. It states: ‘We cannot allow anyone or any organization which promotes a position that is contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church to present at a diocesan institution.’ Bishop Amos also expressed his congratulations for Keaton’s reception of the award and recognized his hard work in achieving it.

    “We are glad that Keaton and his family chose to pursue his education at Prince of Peace Catholic High School in Clinton, IA.,” the diocesan statement continued. “We hope that Keaton will benefit from the generous award and wish him well in his academic pursuits.”

    Deacon David Montgomery, diocesan communications director, said the diocese has an anti-bullying policy and is strongly committed to tolerance and respectful behavior toward all people.

    The opening statement of the policy reads: “The Diocese of Davenport encourages programs that promote anti-bullying and anti-harassment for all students. The diocese has taken a strong stance against the bullying and/or harassment of any student including on the basis of sexual orientation.”

    “While the diocese supports anti-bullying programs promoted by the Eychaner Foundation, its advocacy for same-sex marriage is contrary to Catholic social teaching,” Deacon Montgomery said.

    The story goes on to say that a school representative will give the boy the award.

    DGK

  • Drake

    It is the student who is being honored, not the organization. But, what exactly does the organization promote that is contrary to a particular Catholic doctrine? I am generally against the Catholic policy of shunning like this. Here in Washington, DC, it has gotten Catholic University of America ( where the entire Board of Trustees is composed of US bishops) in the situation where not a single member of the Council of the District of Columbia, nor the mayor, is allowed on campus. This is not a good situation for the university to find itself, but it has existed for years. It makes no difference that the appearance has nothing to do with a point of Catholic doctrine/civil politics that is contested. Blanket prohibitions and disapprovals are issued against individuals. The more that the Church does this, the more irrelevant it makes itself. The fact that most of these bishops have been so timid in fighting the sex abuse crises should make most of them banned on any campus, Catholic or secular.

  • Deacon Greg Kandra

    Drake…

    Did you read the story? The organization giving the scholarship advocates for same-sex marriage, which is contrary to Catholic teaching.

    DGK

  • Drake

    From the web site of the Eychaner Foundation, its mission statement:
    “The Eychaner Foundation is a non-profit organization committed to promoting tolerance and non-discrimination.
    The foundation invests in distinguished students through Iowa’s Matthew Shephard Scholarship Program and the Howard and Mildred Eychaner Scholarship in DeKalb, Illinois. To date, over two million (dollars) has been committed in scholarship assistance.
    The foundation is dedicated to anti-bullying. In December 2011 the Eychaner Foundation launched reportbulying.com and has been instrumental in the creation of the Iowa Pride Network and the GLBT Youth in Iowa Schools Task Force.” (end of mission statement)

    I fail to see where the problem is. People mistakenly cite Maryland as having been established as a “Catholic Colony”. In fact, by the “Toleration Act”, Trinitarian Christians were to be “tolerated” in the colony. Likewise, toleration of gay kids by ultra Catholics is a good place to start. What is so un-Catholic about this foundation working for “toleration” of gays? If Christ preached love, one needs to start with toleration, dignity, respect, and move up the spectrum before one can achieve Christian love. I think the Bishop has acted as a bully here.

  • cathyf

    Fuller is believed to be the first gay student at a Catholic high school to attend multiple school dances with a partner of the same sex,

    I find that pretty hard to believe — heterosexual high school students go to dances with a partner of the same sex all of the time. For the simple reason that they don’t have a steady boyfriend/girlfriend, or they do and the -friend can’t come to the dance for whatever reason, or they simply want to go to the dance (a school social function) and they don’t want it to be a date. No one gives it a second thought. If a gay student who treats his/her homosexuality as nobody else’s business were to do this, no one would give it a second thought either.

    There seems to be this notion that high school (and college) are some sort of giant sexual meat market of the hook-up culture and that it’s terribly unfair that the gay students are not included. How about we say wait a minute! In a high school — especially a Catholic one! — all the students are called to chastity because they are not married. Just who a student is not sleeping with shouldn’t be of interest to anyone as long as they are not sleeping together! And if they are sleeping together, then it is a sin regardless of the relative genders of the couple — and the school should not be supporting it!

  • http://catholicsensibility.wordpress.com Todd Flowerday

    I suppose that only MaChurch thinks that high school dances are occasions of sexual sins, depravity, if you will.

    Persons living chaste lives, even clergy and religious, attend public functions with other individuals all the time. And nobody questions such behavior.

    Years ago when I was single, I went to a ballgame with my spiritual director, a diocesan priest, once. Would FrMichael suggest we were gay because it was the same situation as when I took a woman friend the next week?

    The threads and tangles of bigotry run very, very deep in a Church that otherwise offers sound moral guidance to people.

  • http://catholicsensibility.wordpress.com Todd Flowerday

    Actually, Greg, I think the Church would be hard-pressed to point out what, besides sexual intercourse, is wrong with same-sex unions. Many aspects of these unions, including legal support, medical visitation, adoption, and the like, are moral goods that are not provided in lives of promiscuity or living together (even of heterosexual couples).

    This is probably where the focus of the moral and political disconnect might lie on this issue. As long as the diocese is vigilant about sexual sins outside of homosexuality, I’d say they are on firm-enough ground. If, however, this is a particular focus on homosexual advocacy to the exclusion of other “irregular” situations, then we have the matter of hypocrisy to consider here.

  • IntoTheWest

    Todd, the situations — the intent of the situations, actually — are different. Bad analogy.

    Not that I disagree with you. Especially your last sentence.

    Anyway, were these multiple school dances held at Prince of Peace or at other schools? Which would explain the seeming disconnect.

    Frankly, all this gay stuff is getting very boring. It’s amazing how many heterosexuals are obsessed with gay people.

  • Deacon Steve

    If the group does openly advocate for same-sex marriage then the Bishop is within his rights according to his policy for deny the group the opportunity to present the scholarship. Their website says nothing about same-sex marriage, so I think the Diocese should provide the evidence that this group has indeed promoted same-sex marriage. The school should have gone to the Diocese when they had to agree to allow the presentor from the group for approval before they signed the agreement. That would have stopped the issue before it became an issue. The one thing on the groups website that bothered me is their misrepresentation of what the Bishop is not allowing. Their press release says the scholarship is being denied to the student, which is false. It is only the presentor that is in question not the scholarship. The scholarship is still being presented to the student at graduation.

  • IntoTheWest

    In this case, he may have made it clear that he was attending with a date of the same sex, not just showing up with a bunch of other guys who couldn’t get dates. ;~)

    Also, I’m not sure it’s clear that the dances he attended were held at Prince of Peace or at other area schools. I assume it’s other area schools.

    Anyway, good for him for the scholarship!

  • Ty

    I suggest Catholic schools do away with the prom. Put all that energy and money to something more useful.

  • IntoTheWest

    Oh, I dunno, Ty. First of all, parents are mostly footing the bill for prom (or students themselves, perhaps). Secondly, there is value in teaching young people how to dress up and behave at a formal event, especially in these dress-down, casual-everyday times we live in. Catholic schools should be teaching young people how to interact with romantic interests in a respectful, dignified way.

    It’s the after prom stuff that we should be worrying about, however. But that’s the parents’ domain. When you have parents willingly renting the party bus and encouraging drinking and clubbing afterwards, or even an unsupervised week at soemone’s beach house (very popular when my kids were in high school), that’s a problem. Drinking and teen dating are no better a mix than drinking and driving.

  • Romulus

    Drake, even from what you quote it’s pretty hard not to figure out that the agenda here is normalizing homosexuality by bullying people into tolerating something that’s objectively disordered. The foundation has an agenda. “Scholarships” are merely seed money to get things started. Worst case, they purchase a captive audience at a hijacked graduation/awards ceremony. In this case they’ve hit the intended jackpot: millions in free publicity from the liberal media echo chamber, plus a certified, sympathetic “victim” who can be rolled out on demand.

  • Deacon Greg Kandra

    But in the teaching of the Catholic Church, there is a significant difference with homosexual sex.

    Homosexuality itself is considered an intrinsic disorder, and homosexual acts are described in the catechism as being acts of “grave depravity.” To quote the catechism: “They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.”

    Other “irregular” situations — couples living together outside of marriage, for example — are not characterized this way.

    DGK

  • Romulus

    Todd, most of the moral goods you find possible in a chaste same sex union are available through private contractual means. What’s not available is the establishment of SS unions as de facto equivalents of marriage. The Church has excellent arguments against the deprivileging of marriage, both because it would tend to teach scandal — that SS unions (inevitably including unchaste ones) are morally permissible — and because it would promote social disorder, unlike authentic marriage, which in the course of nature produces social goods.

  • http://catholicsensibility.wordpress.com Todd Flowerday

    “Other “irregular” situations — couples living together outside of marriage, for example — are not characterized this way.”

    Perhaps this is a flaw.

    People are born gay, or develop the orientation so early in life they are not culpable.

    Now, there are situations in prisons for example, where heterosexuals are raped, sometimes with the cooperation of the authorities. These situations, where a person is not living out his or her life in accordance with how they were made, and “lawful” authority throws its weight behind injustice and immorality–these would qualify in my thinking as “grave depravity,” much more so than a situation of mutual adult consent. However squeamish the latter makes someone, or however much we want to close our eyes and minds to the former.

    I’m not entirely at ease with Church teaching on this point, though I will continue to practice it myself, and counsel others to do so. It strikes me as worthy of discernment to look at our language on this, and take care not to inflate smaller matters or deflate gravely serious matter–to attempt a perspective, in other words that does morality justice.

    As for the “deprivileging of marriage,” I sense conservative Catholics are blowing smoke here. Even the bishops. Individuals (and couples) produce goods, not institutions. Institutions are only the ritualization and framework that allows people to marry, raise children, and be a sacramental sign of Christ in the Church and the world. But bad heterosexual behavior: pornography, adultery, military separations, child abuse, battered spouses, addiction–these are much more things that tear at the fabric of marriage and cause discouragement.

    The Church needs to focus more on our own, and less on what other people are doing.

  • Gerry

    You need to correct the lie:
    Matthew Shephard was not killed because of his homosexuality

  • Drake

    When I was growing up in the ’50′s and ’60′s, divorced persons were the favorite target of the Church for ostracizing and marginalizing. I see the same thing happening in the current era regarding gays. I think that much of this hostility toward gays fueled by the hierarchy comes from sexually maladjusted men in our church leadership. I am very unconvinced that celibacy truly has been a “gift” to the Church. I am sure that in a few cases, it has been good for the spiritual lives of some individuals. However, generally speaking, I think it has been a major cause of depression and other psycho-sexual problems found within our clergy. My psychologist wife showed me a study some years ago that indicated a far higher incidence of depression and other problems among Catholic clergy. What a pity for these men who entered with the best intentions.

  • Victor Nakas

    Drake is incorrect when he states the following: “Here in Washington, DC, it has gotten Catholic University of America ( where the entire Board of Trustees is composed of US bishops) in the situation where not a single member of the Council of the District of Columbia, nor the mayor, is allowed on campus.” Actually, half of the Board of Trustees is composed of bishops (see http://president.cua.edu/staff/trustees.cfm ). And, in fact, the
    mayor of Washington, DC spoke on campus in November 2011 (see http://publicaffairs.cua.edu/releases/2011/groundbreaking-post-event.cfm )

  • naturgesetz

    Yes he was. An interview with one of the killers which is included in “The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later” makes it clear. The innuendoes about other motives are latter-day revisionist denials which the inventors and propagators somehow think will let them save face for themselves or for Laramie.

  • pagansister

    Congratulations to Keaton Fuller—that $40,000 will most certainly be useful since college costs so much these days. Though I disagree with the representative from the organization not being allowed to present it to Fuller—-he will still receive it at graduation, which is good. I can hope that perhaps the decision will be reversed.

  • naturgesetz

    Assuming it is true that the Eychaner Foundation advocates same-sex “marriage,” then there is some ground for Bishop Amos making the decision he did. But in contemporary American culture, there are so many people and institutions that oppose some point of Catholic moral teaching that keeping ourselves unstained from all of them can put us into an unfortunate ghetto. I think it would be preferable to allow the outside institution to participate so long as the participation is not specifically about the point of disagreement.

    Here, where it’s about opposition to bullying and “accept[ing homosexuals] with respect, compassion, and sensitivity,” (Catechism §2358) it might have made more sense to display those qualities by letting the foundation present the scholarship.

    What could have been a useful lesson to all about the Church’s true position on dealing with homosexual individuals, as exemplified by what has happened at Prince of Peace, has been ruined by a controversy that was not absolutely necessary. To the “man in the street” it makes the Church appear less tolerant than it really is.

    That said, I think it was over the top for Keaton Fuller to say that the decision made him feel “invalidated and unaccepted” and that his accomplishments were being devalued. The decision wasn’t about him; it was about the Eychaner Foundation.

  • naturgesetz

    Besides, that’s entirely beside the point. The award simply honors “openly LGBT Iowa high school seniors with a GPA of 3.0 or better on a 4.0 scale, an ACT score of 22 or better, demonstratable LGBT activism and community service, and a history of high moral and ethical standards and conduct.” Whether Matthew Shepard is the best person to name the scholarship for doesn’t change the facts of this case.

  • RomCath

    What a shock! You disagree with something the Church stands for. Is there anything you agree with?

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  • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

    Wow–does the “anti-bullying” policy of this school mean that the school must give permission for students to form same-sex “couples” at school dances?

    That’s….er….stunningly immoral.

    God bless.

  • FrMichael

    Drake, rather than dealing with anecdotal evidence from your wife, why don’t you read Stephen Rosetti’s newest book where he takes a statistical look at the mental health and other indicators of contemporary American priests.

  • FrMichael

    Todd, I wouldn’t label your spiritual director your “partner,” nor your woman friend. Nor do I consider my priest friends “partners” when we go out to dinner. Perhaps it was an unfortunate choice of words in the article, but since the situation of the “partner” brought effusive praise from the LGBT agitprop executive director, I’m guessing that it wasn’t simply a matter of the student going stag at the prom with a couple other buddies.

    Of course, the issue of proms and how overblown they have become is another problem…

  • Michelle

    I’ve attended MANY graduations in the past, most recently, last year. Never have I seen any student presented with a scholarship during the graduation. Why make a point of this particular scholarship during the ceremony. If the Foundation wants to make a presentation, why can’t they make it at their own location or somewhere else in the town, etc? That’s what other organizations do – present the scholarship in their own ceremony or mostly just send a letter to the student telling them they were awarded the scholarhship. Imagine if all scholarship awards were presented during during graduation ceremonies – we’d never go home.

  • Karl

    Sexual relations are choices, period. A preference for maintaining an extremely close relationship with a person of the same or opposite sex can certainly be “preferred” but is
    subject to change by choice and with a determined effort and well chosen reinforcements. That is how behaviors are. It is simply not true that sexual orientation is “absolutely” fixed. When one side or the other is challenged on this their colors are shown by the extent to which they will go to force the other to believe their position.

    When I was in high school, the closest relationship I had was with a male, who I considered my best friend. I remained in touch with his family even when he moved to California, on the opposite coast. I ached to be with him as much as I could. I loved him as much as I could describe accurately. I was joyous when I was with him. All of these are exactly the same “feelings” I had when I met and “fell in love with my wife”. He and I were very close. We did not really have the same type of relationship I remember having with the other guys I grew up and became friends with. This one was singular and precious to me, beyond description. I could never forget him, even if I never had contact with him again. We were “tight”. However, I think I was more attached to him than he was to me, but this has never surprised me in any relationships. I hope he is able to come back home for a visit for our 40th class reunion. God knows how many we have left in us!

    I am angered when I hear I am homophobic because I think in concert with the Catholic Church. It pisses me off(forgive me for that expression but it is, I feel, appropriately used here).

    I want to cause no one pain. I have had enough of my own and have had a hand in causing plenty in others. Sadly, in spite of my best efforts some pain is still likely resulting from my sinfulness. Marriage is for the sake of procreation which cannot happen between the same sexes until man has perverted himself so much that he thinks he has the audacious right, because “science” has made it possible, to enable a male to carry a child to term. I fear this is coming soon and foolish man will pursue this with a passion, simply because he has the tools! There is no perversion beyond man, who seems to “worship” science as a “God”, rather than the means that it is. We are soon to use “science” to subjugate all for the exultation of “double blind” studies which “prove” this way is better than that way……all to, ultimately, the loss of FREEDOM, subjecting it to “what is best”!

    This is a horrible thought and a bit off topic, but it is coming.

    It is 42 years ago, since the relationship I described began, but I can still “feel” the ache and loss I had when he moved away to attend school but such was part of life as I knew it. But I loved him and there has never been a doubt of that in my mind. The solitary difference is that I was not moved to develop a sexual relationship with him. Although we maintain contact loosely, that is one subject which never arose between us in all the years. I owe him a letter, since he wrote to me earlier this year but I have yet to respond. I must do it soon, especially to inquire about his mother who is in failing health. He has been on my mind, gently, in the last couple of months.

    We are seeing a complete upheaval of culture which is going to destroy civilization as we know it. What will replace it, will be a horror, but I am convinced that those who are pushing so hard for change, do not really believe this will happen, but will find they are mistaken. Then, as is usual, except in the very rare exception, power will corrupt and there will be nothing to stand in the way of total subjugation of humanity.

    Somehow, God is supposed to win in all of this. That is the shred of hope I retain. My generation, is lost. We saw things as unjust when we came of age and we have done a great work to undermine what came before us. What we have to replace it with, is tyranny beyond our dreams.

    Kyrie Eleison.

    My two bits.

  • pagansister

    Why yes, RomCath, I agree with many things. :o )

  • http://catholicsensibility.wordpress.com Todd Flowerday

    It’s hard not to see more than a smidgen of obsession when I read and hear from things from the Catholic Right. Your guesses, for example, are optimal when they are in line with CCC 2478, not running counter to its letter and spirit.

    Indeed, it is easy to grow tired of this issue. I have to wonder if moral outrage has jumped the shark: we look at the people up and down our street, in stores, in churches, and all over. People the way they were made, living just like the rest of us, trying to escape the crush of the economic boot heel and live simply.

    Mr Keaton has transcended, if not beaten the bullies. I’m not going to be a frowny-face is Mr Bowser wants to crow about it. He’s crowing about a Catholic school–that should be a very good thing.

  • http://catholicsensibility.wordpress.com Todd Flowerday

    Sensitivity and tolerance are indeed good things (Romans 14:1-6). Western culture encourages a hyper-sensitivity from many on both the Right and the Left, so certainly some people, like Ms Scalia, tend to zero in on critics while forgiving the commentariats under their very noses.

    Insensitivity is a human flaw. It has nothing to do with ideology. It has more links to poor parental upbringing than anything else.

  • Corita

    I really don’t see what the problem is with him attending a prom with a date of the same sex. BECAUSE *JUST BEING* SSA IS NOT A SIN. Attending an event with a teenage “boyfriend” doesn’t mean you are sinning, either– though some people might call it “a near occasion.” But, whatever. Take that weirdo, in-your-face purity-pledging, sexually-obsessing crap to the Bible Churches and leave it, where it belongs. This is the Catholic Church. People– especially children!– are MORE than their sexual desires, and that is true when they are confused, and young, and working out their “identities”, too.

    (BTW, when I was in high school there was a heterosexual couple, together for a while, that attended dances and routinely got VERY freaky on the dance floor. Occasionally somebody got up the cajones to tell them to knock it off. There shouldn’t be any sexually-charged contact allowed at a Catholic school prom, period. And there the problem is solved.)

  • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

    Hi, Corita–thanks for sharing your thoughts, though they are in opposition to my earlier comment. But the authentically Catholic view is this: our sexual “identities” are already worked out by God, in terms of who we are called to be in our masculinity and femininity and in our “bodiliness”. The Catholic view is that no one is “called” by God to SSA. This is why SSA, while not sinful itself, is disordered.

    The reason it’s contrary to the Catholic faith to either tolerate or encourage same-sex “dating” or “coupling” or anything like it (particularly in a Catholic school…) is because it indulges the disorder, and we are called to offer someone suffering from SSA the hope found in God’s grace to answer His call and grow in holiness as “gracefully” as possible despite SSA.

    God bless you.

  • Corita

    I understand the theological position you are taking, Deacon, and while I disagree with some of your terms I want to focus on a clarification and one comment.

    When I put “identities” in quotes I meant to refer to the fact that teenagers are working on identity no matter who they are, and also if not for the fact that gay politics has made such inroads into the process of identity for middle-and-high school children, there would not be such an emphasis on declaring oneself gay in high school. As a previous poster wrote about, close, intimate friendships can and will become sexually-charged and/or contain all the love and longing of a romance, even for people who eventually lead heterosexual lifestyles. The point is that sexual expression should not be co-opted by gay/straight politics; it should just be (in my opinion) left alone while we teach the Catholic theology of sexuality.

    Which brings me to my second point: as a high school teacher, I am very familiar with the dilemma of what to encourage, discourage, or roll-you-eyes-in-secret at, with regards to the students. I do not see any reason there should be a deal made out of a gay student bringing a man to the prom unless all the girls who arrived with a best girlfriend were also hassled, and all the couples were being screened for sexual acting-out before they were allowed to come. There is nothing non-Catholic about ignoring a “same-sex couple”, any more than ignoring the other couples that are made out of confusion, desperation, or wrong-headed longing.

    I don’t know if you have any teenagers, but to be honest there are a lot of things you have to “tolerate” until they make it through to the other side. That is not in any way in conflict with speaking the truth to them about their faith and setting boundaries on obvious sin. But there is no boundary to be set with a date to a dance. Pressing bodies and kissing on the dance floor? yes. Sleeping over at the date’s house? yes. Showing up in dressy clothes and dancing around with friends? no.
    ….All those scenarios work the same for gay OR straight couples at a Catholic dance. I think that if the Catholic school is unapologetic about its teachings AND makes no distinction between how it treats the unmarried, called-to-chastity straight AND gay kids then it is doing its job quite well.

  • Deacon Greg Kandra

    I’m sure JR — who has a deeper understanding of the Theology of the Body than I do — can explain this notion better…but it seems to this deacon that Catholic high schools should strive to avoid enabling or encouraging behavior which the catechism has branded “intrinsically disordered” and “gravely evil” and “contrary to natural law.”

  • Corita

    Also– I can’t just leave it alone: You said, “No one is called by God to SSA.”
    That is just strange to me, and it seems like a misuse of the idea of a calling. We are made in our bodies for a reason, and yes, male and female but our bodies are also affected by the sin-soaked world. When we say SSA is “disordered” we are not saying the cause for it, nor has any Church teaching spoken authoritatively on the cause(s) of SSA. Perhaps there is something basic happening in the genetics that is causing some people to identify as SSA. And for others the reason is undoubtedly something, or things, else.

    But the origin of same-sex desire is so complicated, really, that we do a disservice to speak so lightly and easily of “disorder”, as if by saying that we can say it can be discouraged and not-tolerated as simply as we might talk of a teenager’s messy room, or with the seriousness we would have to use in discouraging a teenager from dating a turtle. You are conflating the experience of desires with the original plan for humankind.

    No matter what our cross– nature or nurture, or a combo of the two– we are NOT “called” to a desire at all. We are called to express ourselves as truthfully and with as much integrity as we can, striving to reflect as far as possible God’s vision for humanity.

    This involves putting our sexuality into as-right-as-possible relationship to the rest of our Self. For some people with “disordered” sexual attraction, this means they will marry, not (initially or ever) feel overwhelming attraction to the spouse (whether due to being SSA or just being mostly asexual) but will have sex and produce children, even enjoy it on many levels even if not on the mind-blowing-slightly-creepy-Christopher-West-ideal of sex. For others this means lifelong celibacy. For others (like me) this means being “straight-enough” to get married, have children, and struggle with married chastity in the same way other people who are married do, it’s just that the objects of desire might vary in gender.

    I do not see where any of my ideas conflict with Catholic teaching. It’s the way we understand the terms, I think, that causes the disagreement. Also I meant no offense making the comment about bible-churches and purity balls.

  • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

    Hi, Corita–sounds like we’re pretty much on the same page here–I heartily agree that the “group” social dynamic of a school dance is quite different and that “non-couples” of the same sex will often attend on that basis. It’s just that the story above is referenced by this AP quote: “Fuller is believed to be the first gay student at a Catholic high school to attend multiple school dances with a partner of the same sex, said foundation executive director Michael Bowser. ‘We were very proud of him for that,’ he said.”

    My immediate inference is that this is a deliberate “partnering” happening based on the SSA (otherwise why the “pride” from Bowser?). Now, I do admit that upon second glance it is not clear whether the “multiple school dances” were held at the *Catholic* high school (maybe they were non-Catholic?). It’s probably a safe bet that they were all at his high school, given the context, but I would be much relieved to find out otherwise…

    God bless you!

  • Corita

    I guess my position is that, if the Catholic school makes a policy that *nobody* gets touchy at a dance, then it matters not who the “date” is, especially when nobody knows the actual status of their sex life. Teenagers are fickle, and trying on all kinds of identities. We are not talking about adults here, who are politicking for gay marriage. We don’t encourage them to become punk rock vandals when they get tattoos and we let them in to the dance. We aren’t encouraging the girls who date football players “only after one thing” to be used-up sex objects by letting THEM come to the dance with their horny football-player-boyfriends.

    These are children. Many of the “gay” ones will get married to a member of the opposite sex eventually. ALL will remember how their sexual “identity” was not made a big deal out of, and the teachings that the Catholic staff witnessed to them every day, both the sexual teachings and the charitable actions of acceptance of them despite their muddled vision of who they *think* they are at the ripe old age of 17.

  • ron chandonia

    I so agree with you, Deacon Greg, but I think the reactions here (and, even more, in general commentary on this story elsewhere) suggest that the student’s feelings of being “invalidated” are supposed to trump every other card, even one with the clear teachings of the Church written on it.

  • Corita

    Yes, and if any of those things were true it would make it less distressing.

    But I also think that the school benefits from being utterly ABOVE guessing-games about the sex lives of its students–including the self-professed gay ones– by not singling out any one for anything other than blatant sexual acting-out, gay or straight. They should not get sucked into the identity politics. Catholics don’t even believe the premises of identity politics, so they shouldn’t play the silly game.

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  • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

    Hi, Corita–our last comments crossed over each other a bit, so I’m one comment behind! Just briefly: The “called” language is theology-of-the-body-based, but not essential to the point (though I hope Christopher West’s work doesn’t really seem “creepy” to you! :-) ). The “disordered” language is from the heart of the Magisterial documents on homosexuality, and it does reflect some understanding of the origin of SSA–it’s concupiscence-driven (a result of our human nature wounded by sin and subject to disordered appetites).

    This means that SSA is a “wound” in our nature, but the “salve” for that wound is ultimately grace (not to the exclusion of the psychological dimension here, but you probably get my drift).

    And, yes, I think we’re thinking a lot a like on this–so thanks for the follow up!

    God bless!

  • Jem

    The somewhat ungrateful comments by this student in his criticism of his school, which it seems has been unusually tolerant of him, are indeed irritating. However, I would contend that this kind of selfish attitude has more to do with being a teenager than about being gay. Such self-centered behavior is very common among teens. The only reason this whole issue is newsworthy is because of the student’s gay status, but his consideration of only himself is typical teen behavior, gay or straight.

  • Joe

    and yet no one has mentioned JPII work on The Theology of the Body. Amazing.

  • Richard M

    Well said, Karl.

  • http://catholicsensibility.wordpress.com/ Todd Flowerday

    “The Catholic view is that no one is “called” by God to SSA.”

    This point likely needs a lot more exploration and discernment, because it may well not be God’s view.

    Too many approach serious matters like this bass-ackwards: making presumptions about theology and backtracking to natural science (in this case genetics and human biology) to justify it. Is this another Jupiter’s moons moment for the Church? It may well be.

    The harm I see is that the Church self-marginalizes itself in important discussions where it may impact known evils, such as the oversexualization of children, or the practices of sexual abuse.

    If some people are born SSA, and retain the human instinct for intimacy, that’s a serious problem for moralists. I’m inclined to think we don’t have the answers to it, and our desire to provide black-and-white guidance is more a product of our perfectionism (if not our narcissism) than it is an authentic search for and adherence to divine truth.

    We can tell young SSA people to be celibate, and that we’ll support them. But if we fall down on that commitment, we may well be entering ocean-and-millstone territory.

  • Karl

    Thank you, Richard M; sincerely.

  • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

    Hi, Todd– you wrote:

    [re my statement: “The Catholic view is that no one is “called” by God to SSA.”]

    “This point likely needs a lot more exploration and discernment, because it may well not be God’s view. ”

    But a Catholic believes that God promised us the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth and that He has safeguarded the Church’s teaching authority since Christ established His Church. In this light, it’s hard to claim a need for more exploration and discrenment of whether this is “God’s view” since we believe that it is God who *brought* the Church to this view. That is, to the view that God does not will (and thus does not “call” us to) the disorder in human nature that arises from original sin.

    Meanwhile, a peek at the AP article quoted by Deacon Greg above yields the fact that the boy in question did actually take his “boyfriend” to his Catholic school’s senior prom, presumably with no argument from the school, according to the school board’s president (who says the board was aware of the scholarship foundation plan to present the award and did not object!) The AP story also seems to suggest that what we really have here, therefore, is an out-of-control school (or school board) enabling SSA contrary to the school’s Catholic identity, and now the bishop is trying to mop up the mess and is getting pilloried for it, seems to me.

    Prayers for our bishops, please! God bless you!


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