The angry Tweets started before the nun’s talk ended.
“My dad doesn’t love me because I’m gay?” followed by a supportive amen chorus, “We got you, man.”
Such was the level of debate that began even before the end of Sister Jane Dominic Laurel’s talk to an all-school assembly at Charlotte Catholic High School last month.
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
Sign up to get Crisis articles delivered to your inbox daily
The nun’s talked roiled the school, her religious congregation and the college where she teaches for weeks, became an internet sensation and a national scandal, and it appears to have started with students only half listening followed by a cacophony on social media, all the while egged on by faculty and a group of divorced parents.
Using material from the Catholic Medical Association and the prestigious if conservative Linacre Center in Great Britain, Sister Laurel talked about the causes of later homosexuality saying that a distant or absent father can cause a boy to seek masculine affirmation in a sexual attraction to other males. This theory is now rejected by the psychological establishment but still held by a stalwart yet rump group of psychologists like Rick Fitzgibbons and Joseph Nicolosi.
On Twitter, Facebook and other social media this theory became something like “I’m gay because my dad was mean” or “I’m gay because I have a single mom” and “my mom’s divorce made me gay.”
The kids also fastened onto the Sister’s assertion that gays have an inordinate number of sex partners. It’s disputed what she really said. Some say she put lifetime gay sex partners at 500-1,000. Other said she put that number yearly. Either time period with that number is shocking but survey data tends to back her up on this. In fact, men who have sex with men are fairly open about the rather open relationships they have, even among the “married.” Sex columnist Dan Savage even coined a term for it. He called it “monogamish.” A “married” couple of MSMs will go out to the clubs and deliberately end up with other men. Do this enough and it adds up pretty fast, as do the diseases.
One student, who insisted on anonymity because she fears retribution from fellow students and also from teachers, said the students were barely listening to the nun’s talk. “Where I was sitting, lots of them were asleep. There was this nun blabbing on and on and talking really fast.” The student said some students might have perked up during the gay part of the talk and then started tweeting.
The immediate result is that at least some teachers became enraged. One math teacher, Catherine Bischoff, walked out of the talk because she was so upset, and announced that her class would have an open day, no teaching, because she was so angry.
According to this student, Bischoff told her class, “The God I believe in loves you all. Don’t let anyone bring you down. I’m telling you I love you. The God I believe in wouldn’t say those things about you.” According to my source, the students “were like, yeah!” The student said the controversy got bigger and bigger and “it became all that anyone talked about” but that “the faculty made it that much worse. It would have passed much more quickly except for the faculty and a few students. And the parents took it much too far. It was the parents who were so angry.”
Emma Winters, daughter of math teacher Joanne Winters, went so far as to put up a petition on Change.org, a laundry list of liberal talking points about homosexuality and parenting that some observers believe had to have been written in part by adults. Before it was taken down altogether it garnered more than 1,000 signatures.
The petition found the “ideas 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 love and acceptance.”
Specifically the petition said children can thrive even if their parents are divorced, same-sex couples can raise successful children, homosexuality does not occur because of a parent’s shortcoming, masturbation or pornography. The petitioners reject the phrase “homosexual lifestyle,” believe “homosexual couples are capable of monogamy” and that “homosexual people lead healthy, normal and productive lives.”
They “resent the fact that a school wide assembly became a stage to blast the issue of homosexuality after Pope Francis said … ‘we cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage, and the use of contraceptive methods.’”
The petition closed with a call for condemnation of “world hunger, gun violence, the death penalty, unjust care of the elderly, human trafficking, genocide, discrimination etc.; OR been promoting: love, prayer, the Beatitudes, practical ways to serve Christ, patience, just war theory etc.” Lefty folks now routinely use their misunderstanding of Pope Francis as a battering ram against those who uphold and espouse Church teaching.
Besides agitation by faculty and students, parents joined in.
Shelley Earnhardt, a divorced mother of a Charlotte Catholic student, sent out an email asking people to write to the Pope, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. “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.” She said, “the overall flavor and tone of the talk was that of overt sexism, the near bullying attitude toward gay men and women, facts and figures thrown out with no scientific basis whatsoever, grossly overstated generalizations regarding both the roles of men and women in relationships and in society, the sad state of children raised in one-parent homes, the perversion of the gay community in general.” One assumes Ms. Earnhardt is fine with her daughter leaving such an unenlightened Church.
A group of Charlotte Catholic mothers told me that the parents were so angry because the nun’s talk highlighted their own personal shortcomings. “Their sins are coming to light; divorce, promiscuity, contraception, abortion, even homosexuality.”
Another told me Earnhardt is part of a dissenting Catholic parish called St. Luke’s and is under the tutelage of a nun there named Sister Veronica who trains laymen to protest Church teaching, even to picket the Bishop.
All of this led to perhaps the most acrimonious part of this story, the intense and vexatious school assembly where Father Matthew Kauth, school chaplain and the one who is blamed for all of this was—in the words of several witnesses—crucified. And this is where the real story of the nun’s lecture comes to light.
The story was never really about the nun. She was collateral damage for those who wanted the scalp of Father Kauth and even more want to stem encroaching orthodoxy from this otherwise Catholic-light enclave. The larger story is about how the dissenting Church is dying in Charlotte, North Carolina and this is perhaps its dying gasps.
So quickly did the poison build up in the school—what with teachers fanning the flames, parents in irregular relationships stoking the fire, dissenting nuns and perhaps a few grey-haired priests lending a hand, and all the largely unformed students wanting to be “fair” and “loving” and “non-judgmental”—the diocese decided to have an all-parents meeting to let off some steam.
The meeting started with general statements by the diocesan representatives and then a prepared apology from Father Kauth. When I first read his statement, it seemed to me he was throwing Sister to the wolves. He said she did not give the talk he asked for. But here’s the problem. According to sources close to the situation, when Kauth asked for the talk he heard previously that talk did not have the homosexual part in it.
Sister had been to the school last fall and spoken to smaller groups segregated by sex and in the company of parents. That talk had the gay stuff in it and it was received positively. When Father asked for a talk, Sister thought he meant that talk. She went to him twice to ask, “Are you sure you want that talk?” Father twice said yes, but they were talking about two different lectures. Sister knew in her bones the talk with the gay stuff would not fly in an all-school assembly.
Kauth apologized for that and that makes sense. He did not back away from the material, only from the venue and he blamed himself.
Did that stop the wolf-pack come to pick at his innards and suck on his bones?
The angry parents yelled and screamed and demanded for what was supposed to be an hour and a half but stretched into two and a half hours. Their cries were like cries of pain from deep within their souls. They were smart not to challenge Church teaching. Very few are willing to come right out and say they disagree with Church teaching, to announce they contracept, or believe in a woman’s right to abort, or that men who have sex with men can marry each other.
One mother shared with me a text message she received from a dissenting mother. I quote it in full so as not to be charged with cherry picking:
Parents’ objections were never about the churches official teaching on adultery as it pertains to homosexuals having sex. Or about the church’s teaching about any kind of sex for that matter. Contraception never came up? The objection was to the statement of non doctrine “scientific facts” made, the manner in which the facts were presented, the age range and co-gender audience it was presented to, the fact that parents were not notified of the program like EVERY OTHER program at the school, etc. No one is afraid to talk. We just want to stick to the facts of what happened and not defend ourselves against baseless claims that we are “dissenting” simply because protocol in partnering with parents was violated on purpose and non scientific, non doctrine facts were dumped on kids as young as 13. In a co-gendered audience. [Austin Ruse’s] message back to you indicates he may just be part of that crowd insinuating heterodoxy where it simply doesn’t apply just to cause more division. The division in the school is because of the way it was handled. And in so doing children were marginalized and the saddest point of all of it, not once was God’s love for all his children ever, ever mentioned. And that last part? Came straight from my daughter’s mouth. They accomplished nothing if that is what my amazing, wholesome, smart and faithful girl walked away with.
Note this mother thinks that men who have sex with men is simply a matter of adultery as if they could have sex if they were married, yet she is at pains to say she does not disagree with Church teaching.
She is upset that “non-doctrinal” facts were presented though if you go to the catechism you find the only reason for homosexual attraction is “psychological.” The church is silent on genetic factors. Note also her insistence in using the word “gender” even in the clumsy formulation “co-gendered” rather than something simple as “co-ed” or even “boys and girls.”
Their insistence on process masks their deep problem with Church teaching and a lack of courage to express it.
So, at the meeting they did not yell and scream about Church teaching but about process, and yell and scream they did. “Why weren’t we told?” “Why didn’t you stop her?” After each emotional outburst, a crowd of parents, at least one gay couple included, would stand and cheer and it all came out like the stomping of little feet among those who have not gotten their way.
Any parent who rose to defend the Priest and the school, were shouted down. Parents who tried to defend the priest and the school are now frightened, frightened physically and frightened for their children. That is why none of them wanted to go on the record.
As the meeting progressed, Father Kauth tried to answer their questions but the questions became all the same and the angry mob was not listening. Someone told me it reminded them of why Christ did not answer some of his questioners; the questioners simply were not interested in listening, only venting and getting a pound of flesh. Sympathetic parents said they had never seen such a display of anger and hatred directed at a priest.
And this gets to the slightly larger question. Prior to Father Kauth’s arrival two years ago, the school only had visiting priests, no regular confession, never regularly daily Mass. Kauth arrived and insisted on a daily presence, an open door, regularly scheduled confession, daily Mass. Mass attendance began to spike. Now half the chapel may be filled for the twenty minute Mass he gives each morning before lunch. If he runs late, there is a stack of “Mass Passes” that get them back into class without problems.
He outraged the lefty faculty not long ago when on a weekend day, not during school hours, he blessed the school, the whole school, all the classrooms, and then presided over the Traditional Latin Mass in the chapel. At least one teacher was outraged. “He blessed my room? He did this without MY permission?”
The left is dying in Charlotte and this is at least one of their last gasps. The small seminary has twenty-two young men, all orthodox. As they are graduated and ordained they come to run parishes that hitherto had been run by the pungency of dissent. One source told me, “When a new orthodox priest takes over a parish, the dissenters up and leave and have to go somewhere else and they are running out of places to go.”
At least a few old lefty priests were sitting among the angry parents at the meeting with Father Kauth and though none of them stood and cheered one source told me, “I am sure they wanted to.”
Charlotte is a remarkable place, stunningly beautiful, clean, and charming. It is home to vibrant orthodoxy. Saint Benedict Press is there, run by the Gallagher family whose children are now grown attended Charlotte Catholic High School battling for orthodoxy all the way through. Saint Benedict Press just bought Tan Publishers and Newman Press and is run out of an impressive facility only a few miles from Charlotte Catholic. Father Kauth’s mother works the front desk there.
Just down the road is Belmont Abbey College run by the remarkable Bill Thierfelder, former Olympic athlete and sports trainer and psychologist who has trained one hundred top-level athletes, amateur and professional. And he has put the orthodoxy back into what is now an amazing school that, by the way, has been fighting the federal government over contraceptive coverage since 2007, long before any of us had ever heard of such a thing.
The contracepting Catholics of Charlotte, and the dissenting priests and nuns who egg them on, have only themselves to blame for their project slipping from their grasp. Demography— coupled with authentic catechesis—is destiny. Thierfelder has ten children. Robert Gallagher of Saint Benedict Press has almost that many. The contraceptors and divorcees don’t have a chance and they know it, hence their outrage.
And what of the nun? Sadly, she immediately cancelled all of her upcoming speaking engagements. Reliable sources tell me she received too many threats of violence to proceed. Such is the tolerance of the sexual left. She has gone on a sabbatical from her teaching job at Aquinas College in Nashville, which is run by her congregation. And sadder still, the head of that college criticized Sister for going beyond her scholarly expertise, as if scholars are only ever allowed to speak in their area of specialty. There is no doubt she will be back.
What about Charlotte? Death and birth can both be wrenchingly painful. Both are happening right now in Charlotte and none too soon.