Homosexuality in Catholic Schools

As part of his doctoral research in the education program at St. Louis University in the 1990s, Michael Maher studied the attitudes toward student homosexuality in Catholic high schools. He was shocked by the silence about this topic. When he met with four experienced Catholic school counselors, with over 50 years of counseling experience among them, they told him only one student had ever come to them to discuss the topic of homosexuality. Some of the things he reported in his book Being Gay and Lesbian in a Catholic High School: Beyond the Uniform included the following:

Why Catholic high schools? What is so important about this issue in Catholic schools? The American bishops' Committee on Marriage and Family sent a very important pastoral message to their communities in 1997 with Always Our Children. The committee told parents of gay and lesbian people that they must love their children. However, orientation itself  is not sinful.

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The focus of the book is a study I conducted in 1995 and 1996. I interviewed twenty-five (thirteen male and twelve female) gay and lesbian adults who had attended Catholic high schools in the 1980s and 1990s. On average, I spent about two hours listening to each person. I chose adults rather than current high school students for a few reasons. First, I didn't think that I could  find many openly gay and lesbian students in Catholic high schools to interview. In fact, very few of the people I interviewed were open about their sexuality while in high school...In addition to this study, I conducted two other studies...one included 124 Confirmation candidates and another was with incoming freshman at a Catholic University.

These studies, when combined with Maher's knowledge of over two decades as a teacher, campus minister and researcher (now at Loyola Univeristy of Chicago) offer important insight on a neglected subject. So have things have changed in Catholic high schools during the past two decades? I recently asked Maher what he has observed:

Things have improved, most definitely. Another study done in 2003 in Chicago indicated that there isn't a culture of silence in most Catholic high schools today regarding homosexuality. This is not a complete change, but other research showed that youngsters are now more comfortable in bringing their homosexual concerns to professional staff in Catholic schools. The silence has been breaking, and I think we are continuing on this same positive trajectory.

A major difference between Catholic and public schools is that themes of social justice and community--so vital in Catholic educational philosophy--are creating an environment with greater tolerance for sexual minority youth in Catholic high schools. Statistical research has shown graduates from Catholic high schools display more tolerance than their public school peers.

There are findings worth noting from all male Catholic high schools. There is increased joking and innuendo in these environments, particularly in the intense environment of locker rooms and competitive sports, where feelings of emerging sexuality may become blurred; anxiety becomes expressed as a "homophobic" response. One researcher from Australia, D. Plummer, in One of the Boys: Masculinity, Homophobia, and Modern Manhood views this "homophobic" bullying as a ritual rite of passage, of young men trying to overcome the "feminine" within themselves. Since our society lacks formal rituals, we ostracize and bully someone who doesn't fit in.

What does Maher think of the relationship between bullying and homosexuality? "We saw a great deal of emphasis on bullying per se after Columbine. It's important to keep in mind the value of community in Catholic education--schools, youth projects, CCD--these all give us an advantage on what it means to be a community. Having a strong community is a great antidote to bullying."

Maher offers these other helpful thoughts relevant to Catholic educators: "It's bad enough to be bullied by peers, but it's worse when it is tolerated by teachers or others who should know better. We also need to be careful in villianizing bullying 'perpetrators.' We need to see bullying events as a community issue--not just as what one individual or one group of people does to another. How do we make an entire community that doesn't promote bullying behavior?"

William Van Ornum

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James Murck
7 years 10 months ago
As someone gay who went to both Catholic and Public high schools as will as Junior College Minor Seminary in the early to mid 80's, I can tell you all from personal experience that bullying is a real and devistating experience.  It was psychological, it was physical and it was relentless.  The only thing that I found to mitigate it, (much to my chagrin - and to that of my perpetrators), was that I just snaped one day in the library, picked up a 12 foot long library table, lifted it over my head and through it across the room at the whole cabal of them, left the room and walked 12 miles home to get away from the whole situation.  They left me pretty much alone after that, mostly because that then thought of me as a loose canon.  By the time I was in junior high, I can tell you from personal experience that my sexual orientation was not "in flux".  It was set quite firmly and I only awakened to what had been there probably my whole life.  What got me through all this was my loving and compassionate family. My mother would come to my room somedays and see me lying there all sad and caress my back and console me in my lonely confusion.  She knew what was going on.  Finally in my senior year, a wonderful nun cajoled my secret out of me and informed me that mine was a Gift to Love in a special way.  Perhaps some would deighn to call her a heratic.  But in that moment, I was filled with such overpowering love that it could only have come from the Lord of Life.  I have since lived, however feebly, progressively to embody that Love to all I encounter and will not give up on the Gospel emparted to me that day.
we vnornm
7 years 10 months ago
Hi Colleen:

I don't think I said anything about sexuality being a "choice" for anyone. If I did, please point out to me for clarification. I hope I haven't come across as an authority; a point of the article is that there appears to be an entire spectrum of sexuality, from heterosexual to those who know early in life that they are homosexual, to others whose sexuality may be at times in a state of flux. There is great diversity in sexual experience along the lifespan.
And all are God's children.

I'm suggesting that we listen and learn more to many different voices: to Mike Maher, who in his considerable experience has discovered some positive elements about Catholic education in many different settings, findings contrary to many who repetitively find harsh criticisms of the Church; the American Psychological Association, who say that many individuals discover that they have a homosexual orientation very early in ife, one that does not change; to the people Fr. Jim Keane described, who have been afected by a lack of understanding and support in the Church; to David, who notes that there are yuongsters who are in a state of flux concerng their sexuality and may feel coercion to express their sexuaolity in a certain way. Can't all of these voices be authentic and truthful? The fact that some youth are in flux does not negate the fact that others may have had a different sexual orientation from early on, even since birth.

Anyway, seems to me there is much mystery and much more to be learned about this topic.

Thanks for writing. I suspect your thoughts are shared by other readers and it is good you brought them into the discussion. Please write if you have more questions!

Geesh, are we guys always such rigid authority figures? Seems I'm always doing alot of bending, and other guys I know feel the same! :-)     best, bill
Marie Rehbein
7 years 10 months ago
Different people have different limits as to when they feel bullied.  Some people who perceive offense begin behaving like bullies, thinking they are defending themselves, while others experiencing the same offense believe themselves to be the helpless objects of bullying.  Still other genuinely laugh off what would concern most people.  The only cut and dried form of bullying, it seems, is repeated premeditated physical assault.

I think that unless we know exactly whether we are talking about simple exclusion or premeditated beatings or something in between, it is very difficult to assess in what areas the problem lies.  Is the problem with bullying of homosexuals the result of the victim not asserting himself as he might if he did not also feel negatively about being homosexual, for example?  Do people who flunk the test of being teased become objects of bullying because their reaction makes the teaser feel bad about himself?  Is generalization impossible, leaving each situation to be evaluated on the specific circumstances, behaviors, and personalities involved?

From my perspective, there are considerably more questions than answers.
we vnornm
7 years 10 months ago
Michael,

I suspect that you speak for many parents of Catholic youth as well as many persons in the American electorate. As I understand it, tenets of both cultural divesity, magazines in the tradition of AMERICA, and the democratic foundation of our nation are open to respectful dialog with diffeent cultures, and the cultural framework in which you were raised and wish to raise your children in deserves its voice to be heard with all the rest.

As David Smith suggests, there is a viewpoint that somehow part of the "anti-bullying" crusade has been, in a way, "hijacked" by those with strong ideological reasons for putting focus on the experience of homosexual and gay youngsters. If this is indeed so, it's an understandable practical and political technique and approach and can be discussed calmly an openly without counter arguments of "bias" being brought into the argument.

I forgot to address David's point about overprotection. There are many coercive forces in life, and each of us having skills to confront these is important, as no one will ever be able to control the enrivronment around onself. Sadly, there are always going to be bullies, despite all our good efforts against them.

You are speaking the truth when you say that it is impossible to do certain kinds of research or ask certain kinds of questions and yes, we don't hear about those individuals who, after being in a state of "flux", find their life going in a certain or different direction.

Thanks for your own thoughts and for the careful and precise response to others. best and amdg, bill
we vnornm
7 years 10 months ago
Dear Mr. Murck:

It's very understandable how one can finally reach a breaking point when there is continued verbal and physical abuse and your word to describe a group of bullies as a "cabal" is certainly and apt one. Sometimes the "loose cannon" in a group is the one who is sensitive to cruelty or dysfunction in a siutation and is not glossing over what is going on. Using a 12-foot library table is certainly not a technique that can be approved here, but for you it stopped the bullying. I seem to remember St. Peter was a loose cannon of sorts. Enough said. I'm glad that you were able to experience the Lord in the person of the religious sister and are able to bring the Good News to others. Thanks for writing. I know that many will read your account and their experience will resonate with yours. bill
we vnornm
7 years 10 months ago
Marie,

I really like your thought about each situation needing to be evaluated on the specific circumstances, behaviors, and personalities involved. That is why it seems to me it can be hard to analysze about situations which occur in the news. Even after I found the mental health notes (which had been posted on the Internet somehow) of one of the young men from Columbine, there sill were so many unanswered questions in my mind. best, bill
Colleen Baker
7 years 10 months ago
Bill I appreciate your feedback and now will get serious rather than sarcastic.  The Church needs to listen first to it's gay voices.  Not the secular professionals or professionally curious, or those in authority.  It needs to listen to it's gay voices and there are many in this church.  It needs to listen to gay voices because their experience of life is different, not just their sexual experience. 

They 'see' things and 'know' things differently.  Catholicism has benefitted from this difference all through out it's existence.  Our Cathedrals sparkle with this vision.  Our choirs sing the songs of this vision. Our spirituality has benefitted from the insight of this vision and our religious ranks are served by this different vision.  The price gays have been made to pay for giving this cornocupia of gifts is silence and deceit concerning a core aspect of their lives.  They are expected to be  untruthful about who they are in a spirituality which tells them truth is what it's all about.  This is a fundamental and unsolveable conundrum for many spiritually committed gay Catholics.  It is a pressure cooker for gay teens.

I just wish Catholicism could get off the intrinsic evil aspect of the sexual behavior long enough to take a real look at the intrinsic creative good of the actual people.  It just seems to me it would be a far more Christlike thing to do.
we vnornm
7 years 10 months ago
Colleen,

Here we go!

"The Church needs to iisten first to its gay voices."

I don't have your experience so I do not know the extent you have not been listened to. And perhaps the cumulaitve experience that you and others have is much greater than mine. Is it more accurate to say, "From my experiences and readings, too many people in the Church have not listened to me." If you say it this way, I will agree with you.

But is it fair to say "The Church" isn't listening?" The Church in the US probably has over 50,000 priests. I KNOW many of them listen. Of the 282 or so bishops, can we honestly say that NONE of them are good listeners? You get my drift. I think it's unfair to make an accusation against "the Church."

I think this magazine certainly listens; some in fact think it listens too much. And that's okay, too. The First Amendment covers this.

***

"The price gays have been made to pay for giving this cornocupia of gifts is silence and deceit concerning a core aspect of their lives.  They are expected to be  untruthful about who they are in a spirituality which tells them truth is what it's all about.  This is a fundamental and unsolveable conundrum for many spiritually committed gay Catholics.  It is a pressure cooker for gay teens."

Said this way, it sounds like you are speaking for all gays. Are you?  Are you speaking for all gay teens?  If you insert "many" as an adjective instead of implying all, I have no problem with what you say, and it gives me an option to ask you to elaborate and describe further.

By implying you are speaking for everyone, aren't you in effect not listening to many persons who you haven't met or talked to and whose experience you have not even an inkling of?

I suspect you wish to convey dedication, passion, and commitment with your words. Perhaps a bit of repharasing would bring this across and would certainly cause me to agree with what you are saying. Maybe! :-)

***
"I just wish Catholicism could get off the intrinsic evil aspect of the sexual behavior long enough to take a real look at the intrinsic creative good of the actual people"

Colleen, you have a wonderful thought here-but the Church in our lifetime isn't going to rewrite the Catechism! So getting mad about it hurts your statements, and is especially going to make many people defensive right off the bat. How about saying "I hope more people in the Church can be like the good folks who are already present in the Church who
look at the intrinsic creative good of everyone else." I think it's what you mean and when you say it this way, I agree strongly and suspect you might even get a list of folks to sign on over in Rome land.

If I'm putting words into your mouth or twisting your meaning, I apologize, but sometimes I think (especially on blogs) that people can actually be in agreement about things but langauage causes misunderstandings. best, bill
Marie Rehbein
7 years 10 months ago
I should let Colleen speak for herself, but in the first paragraph of your reply to her, I am struck by the fact that the Church to which you refer is the local Church, while the Church she is probably referring to is the Vatican.  I think what Colleen would like to see is the Vatican acknowledging the possibility that a number of its named saints might have been gay.  I think I agree with her that the church is a bit prissy about acknowledging homosexual orientation as compared to acknowledging other aspects of its saints that are frowned upon by society, such as short temperedness or a history of promiscuity.
we vnornm
7 years 10 months ago
Good point, Marie; was trying to head off a confrontational response of my own, and I suspect there may have been other meanings that would get the point across and have it heard better by others.

"The Vatican." Again, hundreds of people work here. It has departments, prefectures, a curia, and is organized lots of other ways, too. Let's be fair and not attack a group which is really quite diverse in composition! I've even been inside, very deep inside, met a few of the good folks who work at different levels, and diversity exists within those walls.

Words and how we use them are important, especially when making accusations against another. best, bill
Marie Rehbein
7 years 10 months ago
Janice's comment in #8 above reminded me of an experience from my young days.  By way of background, my parents immigrated from Germany after WWII.  Since they had lost all their money and property in the war, we were on the poor side.

When I was seven my parents decided they would send me downtown to the YMCA after school for an art class and my brother to play basketball.  My mother put us on the bus with instructions to get off at the Y.  My father would pick us up on his way home from work.  Since the Y was downtown and it was still the standard to dress up when going out shopping or the doctor or dentist downtown, my mother dressed me up before sending me off to art class at the Y.

The neighborhood behind the Y was even poorer than ours.  It was an outright slum.  The other art "students" were three girls the teacher had gathered from the streets.  They were wearing dirty shorts and t-shirts and were mouthy, and I was afraid of them.

The second week, when I walked into the lobby of the Y by myself (my brother had rushed off to the gym), the three girls were huddled in the center of the lobby.  When one of them saw me, I heard her say "here she comes". 

I assumed they wanted to hurt me, and I weighed what I would do.  I didn't think I could fight all three of them, but I might be able to outrun them.  I figured the worst thing to do, though, would be to show fear, so I kept walking toward them.

When I was almost at the point where trying to run would no longer work, they all lined up next to each other, revealing the youngest one of them in a fancy (but dirty) dress.  They wanted to surprise me.

I was so touched, I almost cried.  We went over to a bench to wait for the teacher, and all sat there next to each other smiling at one another. 
Marie Rehbein
7 years 10 months ago
Janice's comment in #8 above reminded me of an experience from my young days.  By way of background, my parents immigrated from Germany after WWII.  Since they had lost all their money and property in the war, we were on the poor side.

When I was seven my parents decided they would send me downtown to the YMCA after school for an art class and my brother to play basketball.  My mother put us on the bus with instructions to get off at the Y.  My father would pick us up on his way home from work.  Since the Y was downtown and it was still the standard to dress up when going out shopping or the doctor or dentist downtown, my mother dressed me up before sending me off to art class at the Y.

The neighborhood behind the Y was even poorer than ours.  It was an outright slum.  The other art "students" were three girls the teacher had gathered from the streets.  They were wearing dirty shorts and t-shirts and were mouthy, and I was afraid of them.

The second week, when I walked into the lobby of the Y by myself (my brother had rushed off to the gym), the three girls were huddled in the center of the lobby.  When one of them saw me, I heard her say "here she comes". 

I assumed they wanted to hurt me, and I weighed what I would do.  I didn't think I could fight all three of them, but I might be able to outrun them.  I figured the worst thing to do, though, would be to show fear, so I kept walking toward them.

When I was almost at the point where trying to run would no longer work, they all lined up next to each other, revealing the youngest one of them in a fancy (but dirty) dress.  They wanted to surprise me.

I was so touched, I almost cried.  We went over to a bench to wait for the teacher, and all sat there next to each other smiling at one another. 
Marie Rehbein
7 years 10 months ago
Bill,

I guess you are saying that the Vatican is not the fearsome thing that it is portrayed to be in literature.  However, the Catholic Church is more than just a collection of everyday individuals like you and me, just like the White House is both a collection of everyday individuals like us but also something greater and powerful.  Is there some term or name we can give that?
we vnornm
7 years 10 months ago
Marie,

Great example! I hope others find that their fears, too, can be misplaced. Marie, have you ever thought of visiting Rome/Vatican? It really is pretty neat. Hard to put one word on the experience. They havde a neat website. best, bill
7 years 10 months ago
Bill, you replied, in part, to me:

"...and the cultural framework in which you were raised and wish to raise your children in deserves its voice to be heard with all the rest."

I have to wonder, Bill, that if a regular contributor to Catholic magazine believes that traditional notions of family and a desire to try and protect one's kids from opting for a homosexual lifestyle is just one of many voices to be equally heard on the subject of homosexuality in Catholic schools, will the Catholic school system ever recover from its ever decreasing enrollment? 

When the morality taught in the Catholic schools becomes the same as that taught in public schools, and when public schools are so often superior in educational and extra-curricular opportunities for students, what's left for a faithful Catholic to choose a Catholic school over a public one?
Marie Rehbein
7 years 10 months ago
Excuse me for butting in all over the place here, but since I have two children going to Catholic School and one going to public school, I would like to say to Michael that the reason we send our children to Catholic school is so that they learn how to be considerate of God in everything they do.  The reason we have one in public school is because the Catholic high school is a work in progress and wasn't meeting my son's social and academic needs.  We don't think of Catholic school as a place to hide our children away from the sins of the world.
we vnornm
7 years 10 months ago
Michael, not what I meant. Let me try again.

''Unfortunately, many advocates for alternative lifestyles, both in society and in the Church, attack traditional moralities and family lifestyles with vehemance. In trying to silence voices of traditional Catholic teaching, they are themselves being hypocrites to their own principles, which stress tolerance and acceptance of other cultures. And they forget that they can go elsewhere if they don't like Catholic teaching. Cartholics have a right to teach their beliefs in their own schools.''

ok? bill
7 years 10 months ago
I suspect one reason some people want to separate  the subject of bullying from the subject of homosexuality is that they feel antagonism to homosexuality isn't bullying, that it's a "normal Catholic" reaction.  

The Church/Vatican does promote that kind of antagonism, I believe.  If you ask, what ChurchVatican, I'd say the same  one that has  stated ...

that homosexuality is disordered ... http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19861001_homosexual-persons_en.html

that homosexuals must always be chaste ... http://www.vatican.va/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a6.htm

that same-sex marriage is bad ... http://www.boston.com/news/specials/gay_marriage/articles/2005/06/07/pope_says_gay_unions_are_false/

that gay/lesbian parenting does violence to children ... http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20030731_homosexual-unions_en.html

that gays can't be good priests ... http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccatheduc/documents/rc_con_ccatheduc_doc_20051104_istruzione_en.html

I find it incredible that a church that makes all these assumptions and teaches them as well can feel no responsibility for homophobia.
Colleen Baker
7 years 10 months ago
Bill, I wasn't speaking for all gays.  I was very specific.  I even used the word 'many':
 
"This is a fundamental and unsolveable conundrum for many spiritually committed gay Catholics.  It is a pressure cooker for gay teens."

I should have changed the last sentence to read: It is also a pressure cooker for spiritually committed gay teens.  I just thought that would be redundant. My bad.

The problem with having individually compassionate listening Catholics, even in the Vatican, is they don't have a voice, or they don't use it.  So the official voice is the only voice.  In the last twenty years the relatively few voices which promulgate the teachings have been getting louder and more shrill. (Thank you Crystal for your links.)  For me personally it's harder to relate to the deafening silence than it is the shrill voices.  I feel the pain in the silence.    

we vnornm
7 years 10 months ago
Colleen,

It comes down to that we will just have to agree to disagree. I see a great deal of compassion around me in the Church on this topic, and a great deal of focus on it-perhaps even too much focus in the Catholic press at times. You see otherwise. As neither of us have access to the full reality of what is going on, someone with greater powers is going to have to be the one to make greater sense of things. best, bill
Marie Rehbein
7 years 10 months ago
Crystal,

I find it hard to believe that homophobic attitudes in society can be blamed on comments made by representatives of the Catholic Church.  I think that some of the policies of the Church lately may be homophobic in nature.  For example, I think the Church is overinvolved in the issue of gay marriage. 

I think making comments that people who are homosexual cannot parent and that their parenting equates to violence within their households reveals that there is a gulf between the daily lives of most people and the rarified existence of those who make these comments.  For the most part, I think these reactions and statements are based on "knowing" what gay is by watching gay pornography.  It really isn't all that different from how life within a heterosexual marriage seems to be misunderstood by the Church based on statements made at various times by people representing the Church.

I think the point Bill is making is that if a gay or lesbian person makes himself or herself part of the Church, instead of excluding himself or herself because he or she is offended by these types of comments, then his or her voice will be one of the voices of the Catholic Church, as well.
7 years 10 months ago
Hi Marie,

I had just seen this research page   ... http://www.publicreligion.org/research/?id=426 ....  
"Less than 1-in-5 Give America's Places of Worship High Marks on Handling Issue of Homosexuality,   Two-thirds see connections between messages coming from America's places of worship and higher rates of suicide among gay and lesbian youth"
Gabriel Austin
7 years 10 months ago
The Church's [or say, the heirarchy's] statements on homosexuality and homosexual activity would be more convincing were they grouped in sermons and papers with statements of equal force about infidelity in marriage, fornication, divorce, the pill and condoms, and the like. These are all part of the same question - sterile copulation.

Perhaps worse anong them all is divorce. For it is the breaking of a freely-given vow; it is a lie.
Jim McCrea
7 years 10 months ago
If this church should EVER take back and apology for the use of an expression, it should do so with "intrinsically disordered."  I know that it is a very technical term and Archbishop John Quinn tried to get that point across in America quite a few years back, but the reality is that 99.99% of Catholics, including teachers, do not understand nor make that distinction.  The result is that fearful young men and women - and lay and clerical adults - use that term as an excuse to perpetrate some of the most heinous treatment of their fellow Catholics.
If the church can apologize for clerical abuse (as it most certainly should) then it should apologize for sexual abuse of its LGBT members.
Fat chance of that, I guess. 
Jim McCrea
7 years 10 months ago
That s/b "and apologize for -"
Mark Davenport
7 years 10 months ago
In his post of 11/4 Michael Brooks asked:  Where are the stories about those individuals with homosexual inclinations who chose a heterosexual life and never looked back?  I suppose I can speak here as this was my choice.  However, I must say that it didn't really change the way that God made me.  It did not change who I was in a biological sense.  It did not change who I am inside.  So even I don't speak of this aspect of myself with many people, it is still there.  I must tell you Mr. Brooks that being homosexual isn't a lifestyle, it is a state of being.  Gay people have all different kinds of lifestyles just as straight people do.  I have to tell you that in speech, I don't even use the term homosexual.  I am uncomfortable with this term and would never use it to refer to myself.  However, I have to say that I am gay to a certain extent.  I prefer the term gay because to me it is more affirming.  Mr. Brooks, I find your comment, "How many would-be homosexuals were shamed out of their homosexual thoughts .....?"  to be very offensive.  People (especially young people) should not be made to feel ashamed of who they are.  This is the point that people are trying to make in the campaign against bullying.  More young people are being open about their sexuality and they need to be commended for their honesty and supported by the people in their lives.  Hopefully a day will come when there is no longer such prejudice and discrimination against gay people. 
we vnornm
7 years 10 months ago
Dear Marie, Crystal, Mareczka, Gabriel, and Jim,

Good points, all. I suspect this is a topic where listening to others may be the best thing. What we or others write on blogs, magazines, missives from across the sea, etc. probably isn't as important as the walk we walk each day (known only to God), and for this there will be judgment on each of us, regarding how we treat other people, whatever their sexual behaviors, rather than how we police the Church or what others say or do. Hope you are all having a good weekend. Thanks for your participation on this and on other topics, and I look forward to your ideas on topics in the future.  best and amdg, bill
Mark Davenport
7 years 10 months ago
This is a very interesting article.  I went to 12 years of Catholic school and don't remember ever hearing anything said against homosexuality or gay people from teachers or staff.  When I heard of documents referring to homosexual persons as disordered or intrinsically evil, this is something quite foreign to me.  I don't really recall a lot of bullying in high school.  There was some name calling but I feel that the other students respected me.  When I heard things that I felt were objectionable I mostly just kept quiet.  I had a lot of nuns for teachers and they were excellent teachers and good role models for the most part.  One of the priests was homosexual and he was very nice.  Another priest did not like me that much and was sarcastic and put me down at times but he was a predator and eventually was removed from his parish and sent to a treatment center out of state and was held there.  From what I have read, it seems that gay students are treated better in Catholic schools and there is often more tolerance there.  I think most Catholics are tolerant and accepting of gay people but there is a small minority that have a strong dislike of gay people.
Joseph O'Leary
7 years 10 months ago
I'm sorry, but this essay, and the author's responses in the combox, strike me as the characteristically smug Catholic outlook on gays, whom he insists on calling "homosexual" - such a nice, clinical, distancing word. I imagine that many young people are dropping the tags such as homosexual, gay or GLBT and just saying "I like boys" or "I like girls" or "I like boys and girls" as the case may be, and this would be a very welcome development.

"But is it fair to say "The Church" isn't listening?" The Church in the US probably has over 50,000 priests. I KNOW many of them listen. Of the 282 or so bishops, can we honestly say that NONE of them are good listeners? You get my drift. I think it's unfair to make an accusation against "the Church.""

The 282 bishops, or rather their more enlightened predecessors, showed some listening skills with "Always our children" but to judge from the public noises they currently make and their public silence amid the recent anti-bullying campaign, which even got the President involved, their listening is confined to something that goes on discreetly behind closed doors. Such private "concern" easily morphs into tut-tutting about "those people" or "those dreadful gay people". Open discussion and consultation has not been practiced at all by the Vatican and efforts to practice it on the part of bishops would lead to quick disciplinary intervention (think Hunthausen). The reason is that such discussion or consultation would be seen as compromising the doctrine.
Joseph O'Leary
7 years 10 months ago
The link to the Notre Dame Law Society is a disheartening revelation of the sort of homophobic ranting that passes as faithful upholding of Catholic doctrine: http://www.catholicsocialscientists.org/CSSR/Archival/2001/Krason_57.pdf The Catholic Church is not NARTH, but unfortunately, because of its refusal of open discussion, consultation and rational thought it plays right into the hands of groups like NARTH (which has links with the Church-approved group Courage) who have painted the face of Christianity as stony and cruel. Particularly horrific is the sight of experts oozing "compassion" for "homosexuals" who are actually doing all in their power to put down gays and their sympathizers; just this is the kind of mind-rape that pushes sensitive adolescents to suicide.

we vnornm
7 years 10 months ago
Crystal and Marie:

Your points are noted. tx bill
we vnornm
7 years 10 months ago
Dear Mareczku:

Thanks for the detailed sharing of your experiences. I hope that things are going well for you. best, bill
we vnornm
7 years 10 months ago
Dear Mr. O'Leary,

Interestingly, I have avoided writing about this topic since I became a blogger. Even with good intentions, I wasn't successful in delivering information that was helpful for you. It seems to be difficult to write about this on a blog without stirring up alot. One of the other responders noted that one approach is to not talk about this as much. Maybe there is some wisdom in this. I don't know...So as often happens, you and I wll have to agree to disagree, and we have both had our say. I hope you keep reading and perhaps on other topics we might have a more fruitful exchange? Thank you for writing. wm van ornum
we vnornm
7 years 10 months ago
David,

Thanks for geting these sources, and it certainly would be a good idea to have a comprehensive list. best, bill
Marie Rehbein
7 years 10 months ago
Crystal,

I wonder what people's opinions are as to how the attitudes of churches influence young gay and lesbian teens to commit suicide - not that I think opinions necessarily have validity compared to actual research as cited in the article. 

I tend to think that people begin to form their understanding of what is normal before they can even walk and talk.  I think that gay people arrive at adolescence with the same prejudices that they see expressed in churches.  Perhaps, the only problem this poses is that churches are supposed to offer reassurance, comfort, and hope, but encountering these same prejudices confirms their own disappointment with themselves, which leads them to thinking that they do not deserve to live. 

Do we know if suicide rates are higher among those gay and lesbian teens who have been active in church prior to adolescence?  In my opinion, being part of a church community that affirms one as the individual one is - like Crystal or Marie, rather than a type of individual, i.e. always cheerful, dependable, etc  - would counteract the sense of being inferior and persecuted no matter the official teachings.  

It would certainly be a good thing, if true, that Catholic schools are places in which young people do not feel uncomfortable about being homosexual.  However, I think, like you probably, that there are elements in the Catholic Church, who would react to the idea by insisting that more condemnation of homosexuality become part of the Catholic School curriculum.
7 years 10 months ago
If one wants the official Vatican stance on homosexuality, these links from the Vatican website might help ...

LETTER TO THE BISHOPS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ON THE PASTORAL CARE OF HOMOSEXUAL PERSONS ... http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19861001_homosexual-persons_en.html

Catechism of the Catholic Church, Chastity and homosexuality .... http://www.vatican.va/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a6.htm

CONSIDERATIONS REGARDING PROPOSALS TO GIVE LEGAL RECOGNITION TO UNIONS BETWEEN HOMOSEXUAL PERSONS .... http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20030731_homosexual-unions_en.html

Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in view of their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders  .... http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccatheduc/documents/rc_con_ccatheduc_doc_20051104_istruzione_en.html
Mark Davenport
7 years 10 months ago
Bill, thank you for your kind comments.  I am active in my parish and volunteer in several ministries.  I learn much from following these topics and taking part in discussions.  I am very concerned about our young people and wish for the Church to nurture and support young Catholics.  Joseph, I checked out the link that you provided.  That paper was pretty awful.  Is homosexualist actually a word?  It sounds like a slur to me.  You are correct, the Catholic Church is not NARTH.  This paper sounds like NARTH propaganda.  I think the Catholic Church should not involve itself at all with NARTH.  In particular I am troubled by this organization's treatment of children in therapies which in my opinon (and also the opinion of some mainstream medical and psychiatric groups) are emotionally and in some cases physically abusive.
Molly Roach
7 years 10 months ago
There's a critical paradox in bullying: the bully isolates his/her target from the community and undermines confidence in community altogether.  As someone who was targeted by a bully at work for a few years I can attest to how thoroughly confusing it is to be attacked publically and then told by witnesses afterward not to pay any attention to it.  It was completely crazy!.  As an educator and a loving aunt, I have long been available to confront and defuse the energy that propels bullying-frustration, confusion, anger-and assist in redirecting that energy.  I think that a lot of bully's are profoundly lonely people who haven't had an honest conversation for a long time.  Perhaps the people who tolerate them are in the same situation.  To me, the presence of bullies signals a community that is not functioning.
we vnornm
7 years 10 months ago
Molly,

"Alot of bullies are profoundly lonely people who haven't had an honest conversation for a long time." How right you are. And if it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community to deal with all the issues involved in bullying, scapegoating, etc. And the experience of being bullied is remembered for a long time. I suspect alot of bullying goes on in work environments (despite or even because of our "pc" efforts?)  and is denied or glossed over-a topic for another time. Thanks for writing. bill
7 years 10 months ago
I didn't go to a Catholic high school but I'd think bullying of gays/lesbians would be worse there due to the church's stance on homosexuality.  I'm not sure everyone can make that fine distinction between hating acts and hating the people who commit them - I think the church deserves a lot of the responsibility for homophobic bullying.
7 years 10 months ago
I went to a Catholic high school in the eighties: I was not bullied, but I was not out either. Only one boy was known to be gay, and he was not physically assaulted (that I know), but his psychological tortures by other students was constant. At my school there were class and race issues tied in. An enormous amount of students from my class later came out as lesbian or gay. Most of us were not the rich kids, but the scholarship kids and the kids that worked for tuition, and a high percentage Mexican.

Though we weren't beat up, we certainly knew it was not safe to come out in an atmosphere where we were already considered second class, and in one where our sex ed consisted of anti-abortion films.

We weren't beat up, so we were ''safe'' to a certain extent, but I wouldn't say that our community nurtured us. I do hope this is getting better, but without clear discussions of racism, classism, and homophobia it won't.
we vnornm
7 years 10 months ago
Hi Crystal,

I was a bit surprised by Dr. Maher's findings but he has my endorsement as a true expert. He has systematically studied this topic with scientific tools (as well as an incredible amount of experience in schools and in talking with young people.) Instead of inferring or deducing he went out there and got some empirical data in the field.

I think this is one of the things psychology (and other social sciences) have to offer the Church-you and I and others have our opinions-but what actually is going on? I think Andrew Greeley's work as a sociologist has also done alot of good for the Church.

Good to put this topic out there...and I hope parishes, bishops, etc. will be open to research of the kind Dr. Maher is doing.

best, bill

 
we vnornm
7 years 10 months ago
Kara,

When a student receives "constant psychological tortures" from others, there is little doubt in my mind that the adults who are in charge are not intervening, and this is the total opposite of a community that gives support. The interactions between homophobia and classism and racism are extremely worthy of further discussion and research. I will offer observations from my high school days, a bit more than a decade before yours, and I went to public high school...I was aware of "economic elitism" and strong cliqueishness of many of the neighborhood peers who went to the Catholic High Schools, there was even the term "publics" applied to those of us who didn't go to Cathloic High Schools. I guess today we would call that bias. The link to Maher's book above includes about fifteen pages of the text and some of the examples of what he found occurring are heartbreaking. One of the reviewers said his examples will "disturb, enrage, and sadden you." So he is writing about the kinds of things you and your peers endured. I was impressed talking with Maher (and the skill he displayed by using two-hour in-depth interviews) and think he would make a good potential author for a publisher somewhere.
Thanks very much for writing! bill 
Jim McCrea
7 years 10 months ago
It would be nice to think that one could expect treatment of GLBT students at the hands of their fellow Catholic students and the administration of their school that would be a cut above what one can expect in a secular school.

However, my 70 years of age (43 of which have been as an accepting gay man) have taught me NOT to expect very much out of this church when it comes to LGBT issues.
7 years 10 months ago
I don't know if much can be drawn from my experience in a small, rural Midwest public high school, but maybe some of the dynamics in bullying could be compared to contemporary experiences in public and Catholic high schools.  The bullying by boys was targeted to girls who were good students  and consisted of verbal abuse. I realized as an adult that these bullies were boys who had little or nothing going for them.  They would be taking over their father's farms whether they wanted to or not.  The boys who had options to go to college were not in the bully group.  This really came home to me one time while visiting my home town I ran into the leader/instigator.  He hugged me and said, well here we are, the PBK and the farmer.  Said with not a little irony and a lot of sadness. 

Another characteristic of this example was a kind of herd mentality,  The boys imitated the leader and got his approbation which must have been very important to them.  As Molly said, they were perhaps lonely boys as well as boys without a future.  I agree with Dr. Maher that bullies shouldn't be villainized but attempts should be made to understand their psycho-social realities.  A sort of individualizing wiithin the community.


I'm glad to see that the bullying of gay and lesbian high schoolers is being brought to the forefront for discussion and education.  As a parent of children who were tormented throughout high school I am very aware and sensitive to the needs of any child who is the target of bullying.  And it is worse when it occurs in a Catholic school which should be a model of acceptance of differences and should be providing a safe, peaceful  environment in which to learn.
we vnornm
7 years 10 months ago
Jim,

Your experiences can and have been echoed by many others. I suspect you could write much more and it would be heartbreaking for us to hear. I hope other people and resources have been able to bring you support, friendships, and peaxe. best and amdg, bill
we vnornm
7 years 10 months ago
Janice,

The dynamics and underlying personality characteristics you mention point to a complex situation where envy and jealousy are also simmering beneath the surface. Let's hope that teachers and parents will adopt your courage and warch for instances of bullying. BTW, I think in many situations it takes an amount of courage for adults to intervene in these situations: fear of being criticized, lawsuits, having one's actions reviewed by others. The educational system has its own built-in difficulties and injustices which may be a reason many adults do not intervene. Do you think sometimes the parents of bullies might also be bullies? I have not heard the acronym PBK before. Please Be Kind? Peoria's Best Kid? Phi Beta Kappa? best, bill
we vnornm
7 years 10 months ago
David and Father Jim,

There are enough good thoughts in your postings to have a long seminar, hopefully the kind where there is coffee and rolls, with a good lunch in between, and as JR Cosgrove has just noted somewhere around here, time to talk with each other about things not related to the topic to put everything in perspective.

David, your views, and I suspect you know this, go against some or much of the pc-orthodoxy in talking about homosexuality or bullying with education or the social sciences. Your phrase of "kids for whom sexuality ought to be in a state of flux" is, some believe, true for many youngsters and at least within secular schools and the popular cultiure they may feel encouraged or even forced to see themselves as "gay", to celebrate this, and to make others aware of it-when in fact they are in a situational state or are, simply, confused. (Now, for how many? Who knows? I have never seen good statistics. This is very hard to measure.) There is a continuum of sexuality that is recognized by three major professional associations; yet study of individuals who are indeed "in flux" or who do not fit into categories of homosexual, hetersexual, or bisexual may receive less attention:

The American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the National Association of Social Workers state:

“Sexual orientation refers to an enduring pattern of or disposition to experience sexual, affectional, or romantic attractions primarily to men, to women, or to both sexes. It also refers to an individual’s sense of personal and social identity based on those attractions, behaviors expressing them, and membership in a community of others who share them. Although sexual orientation ranges along a continuum from exclusively heterosexual to exclusively homosexual, it is usually discussed in terms of three categories: heterosexual (having sexual and romantic attraction primarily or exclusively to members of the other sex), homosexual (having sexual and romantic attraction primarily or exclusively to members of one’s own sex), and bisexual (having a significant degree of sexual and romantic attraction to both men and women). Sexual orientation is distinct from other components of sex and sexuality, including biological sex (the anatomical, physiological, and genetic characteristics associated with being male or female), gender identity (the psychological sense of being male or female), and social gender role (adherence to cultural norms defining feminine and masculine behavior). (wikipedia)

***

Are the kids "in flux" receiving knowledgeable and honest counseling? I don't know.

Having mentioned this (and please hold these thoughts), Father Jim, your experience also rings with truth for many counselors, spiritual directors, and indeed the persons coming in to seek counseling or guidance. Many persons discover while growing up (and indeed, some may know this in their hearts very early on, as the American Psycholoigcal Association points out), that they indeed possess deep and singular same-sex attraction which yearns for expression in a deep relationship. And as you point out, they are mired in their pain, don't have adults to speak with, may have family members they fear would disown them if this were discovered, and feel additional burden because of what the Church teaches, what others tell them the Church teaches, or what they perceive the Church teaches. And these are three different things. I can't imagine the difficulty of a good priest, wanting to do as the Lord would do, having to navigate such a complex situation. Much easier to be a psychologist, at least I think.

It is incredibly difficult now to do any kind of research in schools, even on non-controversial topics. The permission slips, risks of research, review committees at two levels, and potential legal problems make it difficult to know how many youngsters experience a "flux" situation and how many have a full homosexual identity they yearn to express.

David and Father Jim-please allow me to parse your choice of words.  "Same-sex attraction" can obviously refer to a deep homosexual identity as well as fleeting thoughts. The word "homosexuality" is clear but goes beyond "same sex attraction" as it implies behaviors. What about the word gay?

In most usage today "gay" and "homosexual" are synonymous, although they did not begin as the same and even now some suggest that using the word "gay" has a persuasive culture force, as David implies. During the late 1980s and into the 1990s "gay" was used in specific reference to a cultural-political movement emphasizing equal rights for homosexuals, calls for social supports to counteract prejudice and bias in society, the need to "come out" to establish personal authenticity and as a means to alleviate psychological depression and alienation, calls for funding for AIDS treatment, and even to imply the "genetic" basis of homosexuality.

The editors and I went to great pains on this blog to use the title "Homosexuality in Catholic Schools" rather than "Being Gay in Catholic Schools" due to the distinction made above between homosexuaity and being gay. One can  feel homosexual feelings or have a homosexual identity but not be gay-ie one can define one's own needs for support rather than accepting an entire socio-political viewpoint preset by others. So I think this is important to keep in mind.

Perhaps these two questions are for another day, but I will mention them here as they are relevant. "is psychological health and fulfillment the same as spiritual health?" And, "Can we expect the Church to provide a true family for homosexual or gay individuals-or indeed for anyone who comes with a neediness from not having an accepting, loving, and enduring family of their own?" We know from reading Dear Abby or Blessed Ann Landers that bringing intense needs into any relationship is a cue for the other person to run in the other direction, or for a relationship to fail because the unmet needs of one person simply cannot being met." Yes, the Church needs more Christ-like acceptance. But can it offer a new family-and if it can't, are we setting up the Church with some unrealistic expectations.

Thank you each for your good thoughts, they deserve even more back-and-forth talk on another day. Off to work! amdg, bill
7 years 10 months ago
I think David Smith makes a good point in suggesting that bullying and homosexuality are better treated as separate topics; my guess is that they have become linked because it is the pro-homosexuality "powers that be" in the public educational system that have been driving the anti-bullying efforts in schools, seeking to promote the acceptance of homosexuality by linking it with an abhorent conduct by bullies that no reasonable person could ever justify.  Just because we do not accept bullying; however, does not mean we must accept homosexual conduct.

I appreciate Mr. Smith's hesitance to take a position with respect to whether cultural pressure to encourage homosexual experimentation is good or bad.  Speaking as a parent of two kids on the brink of puberty, while I would not want my children to suffer through repression of any immutable homosexual feelings that they might have; in the event that they more likely fall along that supposed continuum of bisexuality where they could be pressured into choosing an exclusively homosexual identity over a heterosexual one, I would desire that such a choice not even be presented to them; many parents would want it to be discouraged, and I suspect that the best compromise is the one now in effect in the Catholic schools: to not talk about it.

In the interest of protecting, through acceptance, a fringe class of immutable homosexual individuals, we open the floodgates to a much larger pool of potential homosexuals to consider an lifestyle from which, frankly, their taxpaying/tuition-paying parents should have a right to protect them, regardless of their reasons.  I'm not saying that we should persecute homosexuality; but encouraging it as an equal option to a tradtional family is extreme in the other direction.

Where are the stories about those individuals with homosexual inclinations who chose a heterosexual life and never looked back?  How many would-be homosexuals were shamed out of their homosexual thoughts and are now fathers and mothers in stable families?  Nobody performs that research because it would be politically incorrect to do so, and because it would be difficult to find ostensibly straight men and women to concede that the they had, in fact, considered homosexual lifestyles at some point in their lives. 
Colleen Baker
7 years 10 months ago
Bill, are you and your editors serious?  Do you make these distinctions about heterosexuals, that being 'straight' is a term with an agenda, and engaging in heterosexuality is a choice? 

Do heterosexuals have to constantly choose to be heterosexual, or is just that heterosexuals have to believe homosexuals are making choices to be homosexual because in point of fact heterosexuals are not homosexual and can't think outside the heterosexual box? 

Maybe my sarcasm is coming from the certain knowledge that I am not male and would not presume to make definitive statements about how men are to experience their sexuality.  I don't understand why straight, I mean heterosexual, males think they can make definitive statements about female sexuality or gay sexuality.  I'm told by my heterosexual male religious authority, they can because they are my heterosexual male religious authority.  Isn't that kind of circular thinking also an agenda that's most certainly aimed at influencing and coercing choice? Some 'overly sensitive' people might consider it bullying behavior.

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