NOT MANY OF THOSE AROUND AT PRESENT
In the aftermath of Irish Television’s failed attempt to do a hatchet job on the Pure in Heart movement – which organises speakers to go into Catholic schools giving presentations of Catholic Church teaching on the morality of sexual behaviours – further afield the same onslaught against orthodox Catholic teaching is taking place.
In Wakefield Rhode Island in the US, controversy has erupted at a Roman Catholic school after students and parents reacted with outrage to Church teaching on sexuality as presented at a school assembly. This follows the same pattern as events at a school in Charlotte, North Carolina some weeks earlier.
Meanwhile in Paris a French government minister accuses those who assert the teaching of the Catholic Church of trying to wage an ideological war from another era. In all cases the story seems to be the same. As with Irish Television’s presentation, orthodox teachers are misquoted and Catholic teaching is represented in grotesque forms, all the better, it seems to facilitate its consignment to the rubbish dump of history.
In Rhode Island Father Francis “Rocky” Hoffman spoke to students at The Prout School and in the course of his talk, he apparently made comments critical of homosexuality and divorce that some students found offensive. There has been uproar and some Catholic observers feel let down by the Diocese of Providence’s spokesman on the issue who has seemed to agree with Hoffman’s critics. They see the controversy as part of a growing tendency to rage against Catholics for simply professing Church teaching on marriage and homosexuality.
There is as yet no response from Bishop Thomas Tobin, a bishop known for his strong defence of Church teaching on life and family, to clarify the diocese’s position.
Administrators at Prout, however, issued written and verbal apologies to parents and students alike after a number of parents expressed anger about the content of Fr. Hoffman’s presentation, and that they weren’t notified in advance. Some are openly calling for Principal David Carradini’s resignation over the matter. A transcript of what Fr. Hoffman actually said in the discussions with the students is no yet available, but as one source, Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, commented, it could hardly be stronger than what Sacred Scripture itself says.
“What did Fr. Hoffman say that was so horrible? Could he have been harsher than the Bible?” the priest asked, quoting Leviticus 20:13: “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination.”
“Could his talk have been more challenging than Matthew 5:32: ‘But I say to you that every one who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.’?”
In a separate post, Zuhlsdorf lamented, “If you speak in public now with any clarity about the Church’s teachings on sexuality, marriage, etc., or avert to conclusions which rational people reach about the same derived from the Natural Law, you will be met with fury.”
The incident at Prout is reminiscent of the recent furor at Charlotte Catholic High School in North Carolina, where comments made by Sister Jane Dominic Laurel that were critical of divorce and homosexuality provoked anger among students and parents, leading to a contentious meeting between diocesan and school officials and parents that attracted roughly 1,000 people. That controversy became so heated that Sr. Laurel, a professor at Aquinas College, has taken a sabbatical from her teaching and speaking duties.
The similarity between the two stories has led some Catholic bloggers to accuse diocesan and school officials in both locations of throwing those who dare to promote unpopular Church doctrines “under the bus.”
“Catholic education’s easy bargain of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ concerning dissent against Church teachings and morality has coalesced into ‘outrage’ from parents and students when high schools try to teach and enforce Church teachings,” wrote Rebecca Hamilton of the Public Catholic blog. “Bishops, when faced with these angry mobs have turned to the time-honored bureaucratic practice of court-martial-the-private/fire-the-secretary/shoot-the-messenger. Sister Mary Tracy resigned in Seattle. Sister Jane Dominic Laurel took a sabbatical in North Carolina. Father Rocky Hoffman hasn’t been cashiered the way the nuns were, but he has been properly apologized for to the mob.”
“The response to angry mobs demanding that Catholic schools not teach Catholic teaching has been to wave the white flag and toss the hapless offender who committed the crime of doing what the Church says we should all do under the bus,” Hamilton wrote. “If every Catholic who believes what the Church teaches gets thrown under the bus for being politically incorrect enough to say so in public, we’re going to need a lot bigger bus.”
Meanwhile a school in Paris is to be investigated after complaints from parents and teachers of a similar nature.
Benoit Hamon, the education minister, has ordered an inspection of the Gerson school in the 16th arrondissement, saying there is evidence that pupils are being subjected to “an ideological war from another era”.
It is alleged that members of a group called Alliance Vita or “Life Alliance told sixth formers that women who used birth control were “semi-murderers” and abortion was “tantamount to murder”, according to a parent quoted in Le Parisien newspaper.
Alliance Vita said its members had been invited by the school to address pupils about topics including in-vitro fertilisation and surrogacy. “Some want the subject of abortion to remain taboo but abortion is a genuine issue in society that should be discussed with young people,” the group said in a statement.
While allegations fly around about what was said or not said – including an allegation that the school is being taken over by Opus Dei, a prelature of the Catholic Church, a statement from the school board of management said the Alliance Vita had merely “taken part in extra-curricular sessions,” adding that it had received no complaints from teachers or pupils.
Philippe Person, the headmaster, said: “It’s possible that two members of the school faculty belong to Opus Dei out of 150 teachers and staff”.
That does not sound too much like a take-over.