Catholic School Board Handles Concerns of Homophobia by Calling it ‘Objectively Disordered’

Even when religious people try to do the right thing, their enemy is often their own faith.

In Ontario, Canada, the government is instituting anti-bullying legislation in schools — including Catholic ones.

The Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington Catholic District School Board answered this call by creating a “20-page equity blueprint… to help teachers tackle all kinds of discrimination, from race and religion to disability and sexual orientation.”

It looks pretty impressive (PDF) at the outset, talking about the problems of ableism, ageism, racism, sexism, etc. Homophobia, too. In fact, that particular page doesn’t look too bad. Nice job, Catholic school board!

But then you look closer…

That line, classifying homosexuality as “objectively disordered” came as a surprise to a lesbian couple whose children attend the school. They were expecting something that would, you know, actually prevent further bullying.

To [Ann] Tesluk, who has a son in Grade 3 and a daughter in Grade 6, such talk “creates an unsafe learning environment. We know gay students are being bullied to death.

To teach that homosexuals are ‘disordered’ gives a negative connotation, and I worry that students who might feel they are gay are going to think there is something wrong with them; our school goes up to Grade 8,” said Tesluk.

“This catechism (church teaching) needs to be changed and I’d like to see that part of the brochure removed.”

The director of education said they just “misunderstood” the catechism:

… he said he understands why the word “disordered” is upsetting some parents, but said it is probably misunderstood.

“I understand absolutely they’re offended by the phrase. It’s not my phrase though, I’m just quoting the Catholic catechism,” said [Greg] Reeves.

It’s the go-to phrase for religious people trying to get away with doing something they know is wrong: I know this is untrue and harmful, but my holy book says so!

The phrase isn’t misunderstood, either. In fact, if you look at the catechism in context, it’s very clear what the Church thinks about homosexuality:

2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” 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.

2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

No matter how hard the administrators try, the Church teachings are part of the problem, not the solution. If they’re bound to include them as justification, they won’t be able to put out a document like this one.

Tesluk will try to have that section removed at the next school board meeting on March 27th. If the board is serious about defending and protecting victims of harassment, they’ll remove the offensive portion.

(Thanks to Ibis3 for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • gski

    Celibacy makes every priest, nun, bishop, cardinal and the pope disordered, and they chose it for themselves they weren’t genetically predisposed to it.

    • Anonymous

      Correct, and objectively so.

  • http://cousinavi.wordpress.com cousinavi

    Catholic doctrine:  Created, approved and promulgated by aging pedophiles in dresses who rape children, enable the rape of children and protect those who rape children.
    In any sane society, anyone who remains of member of that hateful cult bears the shame and guilt for the continuing discrimination and violence perpetrated by its members and by its undeserved authority.

    • Anonymous

      What the priests who rape children wear is irrelevant. Wearing dresses is not perverted nor shameful. I can’t stand this “men who wear dresses” thing as one of the standard insults thrown out against the Catholic clergy. It is inherently sexist and heteronormative.

      ETA: Implying that cross-dressing is somehow related to raping kids is not okay.

      • marshmallow

        Thank you for this.  I was having similar thoughts.

      • Anonymous-Sam

         On the other hand, if you’re using the phrase ironically, given that the Bible condemns cross-dressing, then it’s still a valid point. Otherwise? Yes, cross-dressing is just one more thing religion hates for no good reason, dating back to when a man dressing as a woman was lowering himself to the shameful status of being female in a deeply misogynistic society, and a woman who dressed as a male was trying to ascend above her status as lowly disgusting breeder slave. Just one more piece of archaic filth we should put behind us.

      • http://cousinavi.wordpress.com cousinavi

        If one wears a dress (or sari, or kimono or muumu) because one finds it comfortable or simply preferable that’s one thing.  When one wears a garment designed to set one apart from others; to reinforce one’s position of authority – a particular sort of garment that advertises one’s position of authority and carries with it an image of higher moral authority, then it stops being just a dress and becomes a tool, like a policeman’s uniform, that assists in the perpetration of the crime.

      • Anonymous

        It is hypocritical of them though, considering that they would condemn any other man for doing the same

  • Justablokexxx

    Can I say, why do we still expect respect from the Catholic Church of all organizations? We know well what their position is. If you don’t want your kids being exposed to religious bigotry, don’t send them to a catholic school! Life is about choices. ~And if you decide to be associated with this medevial association, be mature enough not to be offended by their leaflets…

    • Zontario

       I understand and agree with what you say, but it’s a bit more complicated than that in Ontario. Catholic schools are 100% publicly funded here. Strange but true. That’s why so many of us are outraged. Outside of Ontario, there are very few examples in North America where public tax dollars are used to push an anti-gay (and anti-choice) agenda.

  • http://twitter.com/LynnFDR LynnFDR

    While the words “objectively disordered” or “intrinsically disordered” might be bothering some the most, what I find most objectionable is that the catechism says that the “psychological genesis remains largely unexplained” – as if homosexuality has a proven psychological genesis at all.  The Church necessarily has imput Freudian psychological thinking into their spiritual teaching.

    • http://www.thinkyhead.com/ Thinkyhead

      The church adopts any science or philosophy that bolsters its positions and ignores or condemns those that don’t.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ORRVVC5R2QWLTXEM6SX5L6BORE Jay Arrrr

    ““I understand absolutely they’re offended by the phrase. It’s not my
    phrase though, I’m just quoting the Catholic catechism,” said [Greg]
    Reeves.”

    In other words, “Don’t get pissed at ME, GAWD seddit, get pissed at HIM. Leave me alone, I’m just tellin’ ya what Gawd said!”

    • Erp

       Actually I suspect it means get angry at the bishop and his immediate representatives who are probably insisting that the phrase be in there.

  • oambitiousone

    Here’s a thought, inspired by a documentary about ancient Spartan culture.

    The boys began military school at age seven. They were assigned an older mentor around age twelve. The men were so accustomed to the male-only environment and the state-sanctioned homosexuality that some had to be forced to marry. Even then, the new bride would shave her head and dress like a man for their wedding night.  The groom continued living with his fellow soldiers.

    The male-male relationship with one’s fellow soldiers made one fight harder in battle to protect the brotherhood of Sparta.

         ~The Spartans, a PBS documentary
         
    http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=1418324

    This strikes me as similar to a prison situation, wherein there’s a lot of reordering society’s hierarchies and a wolf pack mentality takes over, including who is “below” someone else (literally et al).

    What does all this mean? When an organization dictates one’s preferences (this is how we do it around here), it is a subjective disordering. There’s no “objective” because those enforcing the system are WITHIN the system, not outside of it.

    Spartan men thought you could be bisexual for the betterment of the state.

    Prison inmates “turn” homosexual for…I can’t speak anecdotally as non-inmate, but probably to maintain their safety and place in the hierarchy–or by force.

    Priests celibacy is against natural law, too. 

    It seems their concern about what’s natural/what’s not is a case of projection, Dr. Freud.

  • Denis

    You focus on the “disordered” part, but miss the glaring out clause: “Unjust” discrimination. Ethical people understand that the word “discrimination”, in this context, implies the word “unjust”. But the people who wrote the catechism don’t see it that way. They would consider many forms of discrimination against LGBT people to be completely just. So the phrase “unjust discrimination” gives them an easy out; they just have to claim that any discrimination they practice is “just”, which they can easily do, since in their eyes, the Church itself determines what is just and what isn’t.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/YBUR5Q2Y7CJ2WNXFZBE7S2VWOA flo bee

    Well, if you join a bigoted school, expect bigoted sayings. Really, let them keep their doctrine out in the open for all to see. I just wonder why it takes so long for people to leave such a  hateful organization.

  • T-Rex

    If you want to belong to a cult or send your kids to a cult’s school, you must abide by their rules. No matter how archaic or ass backwards they are. You’d think LGBT people/parents would understand that by now. The school is just doing what their 2,000 year old “hand book” is telling them to do.

    • Anonymous

      The Catholic schools in Ontario are PUBLIC — they are supported by the public’s tax dollars and are subject to the same laws that secular public schools are.  My husband and I are secular humanists who send our children to the public Catholic school in our district because it outperforms all other local public schools in all academics.  

      • Anonymous-Sam

         Also, weren’t we just commenting not so long ago that there are regions in Ontario where there aren’t any secular schools available?

        • Anonymous

          I believe you’re thinking about St. Albert in Alberta. I’m not sure if there are any such districts in Ontario.

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          Not sure about Ontario, but probably.  It is the case in Alberta where it is being challenged.

      • http://twitter.com/yenmano Yen Mano

        I WANT the Catholic school to continue it’s obviously anti-LGBTTQI streak. 

        It seems like most of Ontario is uncaring about challenging that the Catholic school board is government sanction discrimination. Elementary and middle school kids MUST be Catholic and have a baptismal certificate in all boards (or most).

        Teaching positions usually require that their priest writes a letter that the teacher is involved in the Catholic church.

        I don’t want the Catholic school board to change and be more “tolerant” and fly under the radar – I want them out! Maybe if they continue their anti-gay streak, it will build up more protest and rally support by humanists. Quebecois managed to get rid of their Catholic board… why can’t we?

        • Anonymous

          They don’t require baptismal certificates to attend.  My kids are in school with children who are other religions.  None of my children were ever baptized, let alone members of any church.  We’ve brought the subject up repeatedly — ending the separate school system, but the politicians use it for a campaign platform then never mention it again once they’re elected.  I would prefer there be one secular school board, too.  Funding is unfairly stacked in favor of the Catholic boards and that is a large reason why they outperform the secular schools.  Teachers generally need to be Catholic or at least willing to teach on a Catholic bent.  However, they will employ people of other faiths.  One of my children’s math teachers is Sikh.  

  • Anonymous

    I cannot tell you how livid it makes me that there is even a question of a publicly-funded school getting away with something like this in my province.

    And that, so far, these Catholic schools have been able to avoid/work around allowing gay-straight alliances………it’s disgusting.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/FRJD66AT6LQ6CZZ46XJO43A4FM Artor

    Yep, the Bible considers homosexuality as a “grave depravity,” just like wearing mixed fibers, eating shellfish, or getting tattoos. Why do they never rant about those other abominations?

    • dauntless

      This time, the shellfish eating agenda has gone too far. There’s a Red Lobster in every town in the U.S., and their waiters hang out near schools handing out coupons. 

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    I understand absolutely they’re offended by the phrase. It’s not my phrase though, I’m just quoting the Catholic catechism

    “Ist not mein fault. I vas chust followink ortahs.”

  • Nordog

    To what then is the object to which homosexuality is ordered?

    It would seem to me that a group that has within it members who actually use phrases like “heteronormative” in a not altogether positive way would also reject the idea that having an “order” to sexual orientation would itself be something to reject.

    In other words, I’m surprised the reaction of LGBT folks to  “objectively disordered” isn’t something like, “You better believe it!”

    Instead, we get high dudgeon (for which I suspect a genetic component).

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      I’ve sometimes mused that there must be a genetic component to my deep hatred of things (cars, signs) blocking the sidewalk.

  • TiltedHorizon

    The term “objectively disordered” is not new, the Catholic Church has been using it for years when referring to homosexuality. I never heard it while I was a practicing Catholic but I became aware of it after reading a New York Times article regarding a Vatican rule to ban ‘gays’ from priesthood back in 2006.

    I recall this article so well because it hit a personal nerve. As a 9/11 survivor, the name Mychal Judge has a special place in my heart. Judge was gay priest who died at ground zero, giving solace, absolution, and assistance to all the firefighters and the injured. He never left, even after he was ordered to vacate, because there were still hundreds of firefighters present. Those who knew him have dubbed him the saint of 9/11. As an atheist I disagree with his faith but I admire his unquestionable courage.

    So in 2006, when I read how the Vatican had decided to deny the “objectively disordered” from the priesthood I interpreted is as a slap to the face, a means of dishonoring Mychal Judge’s memory. It hard to claim homosexuals as evil and immoral when a priest who just so happens to be gay is able to show proof to the contrary. Better to get them all out before another “objectively disordered” person gets an opportunity to put a human face to homosexuality.

    Sorry for the tangent,  I wanted to explain how the term is not new but I could not do it without venting just a bit.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Thanks for the informative vent.

  • Where This All Began

    Read the full petition to see where this all started from.

    http://www.change.org/petitions/teach-children-the-true-colors-of-equity

  • Gribblethemunchin

    The problem here really isn’t Catholic dogma. The problem is allowing the church to run schools. Let these nutcases say whatever they like in their churches, but for FSM sake don’t give them children to educate.

  • Sami Hawkins

    They squirm, deny it and try to abandon the debate when you point it out, but if someone thinks homosexuality is a sin than they consider us inferior to heterosexuals. Slip-ups like this just show what they’re really thinking when they say they ‘hate the sin, love the sinner’. Anyone who believes homosexuality is a sin or immoral is contributing to a culture of bigotry that ruins lives by either driving LBGT people to depression and suicide or pressuring them to live a life of miserable self-loathing, celibacy and denial.

    ^Sorry for the rant, but this subject pisses me off.

  • Wasd

    Catholic School Board Handles Concerns of Homophobia by Calling it ‘Objectively Disordered’

    Whether you godless atheist like it or not words have meanings and no amount of political agenda based redefining is gonna change that! The definition for “disordered” is pretty clear. Here is one definition from the Stanford encyclopedia on philosophy: [Mental disorder, ] “disturbances of thought, experience, and emotion serious enough to cause functional impairment in people, making it more difficult for them to sustain interpersonal relationships and carry on their jobs, and sometimes leading to self-destructive behavior and even suicide ”

    Well lets just look at the despicable morally repugnant behaviour in question and see whether it fits. Homo….phobia is clearly a severely disabling anxiety disorder that leaves sufferers wrecking relationships and unable to fulfill their jobs to the point where one wonder if there even will be jobs for those afflicted in the future.

    …. what? did my post set you off on the wrong foot there? Well Imagine how I felt reading that headline.

  • Sam

    Gosh, using such slimey, disingenous words like ‘disordered’ almost makes one (almost) long for the days when the Catholic Church had the balls to relish and openly celebrate their hatred & bigotry by burning homosexuals alive (the activity from which the term ‘faggot’ derives, as gays weren’t considered worthy of a stake, like ‘witches’).  At least the openness of that evil has a certain honesty to it.

    I was looking for a fuller definition for the word “fury” because the xian god so very much enjoys expressing it (EZ 38:18, IS 10:6 (NASB), Job 20:23, EZ 36:6
    (KJV), REV 14:10, 16:19, 19:15 (NIV)).  Webster defines ‘fury’as “intense, disordered, & destructive rage.”  Rage is defined as “violent & uncontrolled anger.”  These definitions suggest that the ‘Mind’ of this ‘Person’
    is uncontrolled & disordered, much like the minds of this gods’ followers.

    I guess as atheists, we have to take the moral high ground and insist, “Thou shalt suffer a christian to live.”


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X