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Our readersApril 09, 2001

Mature Support

In his article Coming Out’ as a Catholic School Teacher (3/19), Gerald D. Coleman, S.S., makes some valid points. He indicates, for example, that it is not right for a mature adult to depend upon adolescents for emotional support and that young students should not be required to cope with matters beyond their level of maturity.

But, if homosexuals should not suffer from prejudice against their basic human rights, and if they have a right to respect, friendship and justice, why must their orientation be kept a secret? There is a further question. What does Father Coleman propose to do if a teacher ignores his advice and does come out? Officially, the church has declared that the homosexual orientation is an objective disorder, but it does not level any sanctions against persons merely because they have the disorder. Should a person who comes out be fired? What for? The violation of a prohibition against revealing one’s sexual orientation, or the imprudence of doing so? The loss of credibility as a role model? If these reasons will not suffice for dismissal, must the institution launch an investigation to prove that the individual is sexually active?

James Cosgrove
Wantagh, N.Y.

Safe Spaces

After reading the article by Gerald Coleman, S.S., Coming Out’ as a Catholic School Teacher (3/19), I was left with an overwhelming sense of incredulity. Does Father Coleman really believe silence and secrecy on the part of gay teachers will further enhance the dignity and respect all homosexuals deserve?

This is another example of the bizarre leaps of logic required to make sense out of current church teachings about homosexuality. The church tells us gay people must be treated with respect, friendship and justice, but in the same breath we are told homosexual activity and relationships must be condemned. Church teaching accepts gay people with respect, compassion and sensitivity, even as it denigrates the lives and families gay people have built for themselves. This love the sinner, hate the sin stance does not make sense in the lives of gay people and is increasingly untenable for families and friends of gay people.

Contrary to Father Coleman’s theory, gay teachers who reveal their sexuality probably do not do so in order to seek support from their students or to push their way past more fundamental coming-out passages; indeed, it is difficult to imagine any gay person having the courage to come out in any public way without having first taken that step within him/herself and with trusted others. Rather, gay teachers are more likely to reveal their sexual identity to be true to themselves, to model integrity and personal responsibility and to be available for any students or colleagues who may need their support. And even though Father Coleman would prefer to have students who are struggling with their own interior coming out passages discuss this with a school counselor equipped to carefully process these types of inner feelings, there are very few school counselors so equipped.

Almost hidden within Father Coleman’s pedagogical and psychological rationale is the primary reason he does not want gay teachers to acknowledge their sexual identity: it puts the Catholic school in a tenuous and unfair position. I submit that gay Catholic teachers are the ones put in a tenuous and unfair position by hypocritical church teachings which necessitate a culture of secrecy. Sadly, I ultimately agree with Father Coleman that this kind of sharing probably should not take place in a Catholic school: but my concern is for the safety of gay students and teachers. As Father Coleman inadvertently demonstrates by his article, Catholic schools for the most part are not safe spaces for gay people, especially gay students, who will be unable to find a positive role model there. What a tragedy. To use Father Coleman’s own words: If Catholic schools cannot teach students to treat homosexuals with the respect, friendship and justice’ required by the bishops, then we have a more serious problem than that of a few teachers coming out.

Dugan McGinley
Philadelphia, Pa.

Charity Without Limit

Perhaps my reaction to the article by Gerald Coleman, S.S., Coming Out’ as a Catholic School Teacher (3/19), is overly simplistic. Or perhaps I completely missed his point. But it seems to me that what he is saying to homosexual men and women in positions of authority in the church is basically: Stay in the closetdon’t upset the rest of us with the reality of who you arewe have other more important things to be concerned about.

Why quote from the 1976 statement of the U.S. bishops, To Live in Christ Jesus, that homosexual persons have a right to respect, friendship and justice and then insist that publicly announcing to the members of the community with whom one lives and works every day something about yourself that is fundamental to your identity as a person and as a believer is misguided...flawed? Is this the way we teach our children justice and non-discriminationby encouraging one of the most important role models in their lives to be dishonest about who he/she is? Is this the way we model for our daughters and sons the charity that Jesus taught is to be without limit and without condition?

(Rev.) Ken Lohrmeyer
Minneapolis, Kan.

Wary to Laud

In his article The Amoral University (3/19), the Rev. Willard F. Jabusch lamented the absence of ethical and moral guidance for students at non-Catholic colleges. While I agree with his claim that many Catholic students are endangered by the value-free educations offered at non-Catholic universities, I am not so quick to laud the fine Catholic colleges and universities of the United States, as he does. While Catholic colleges certainly turn out some ethical, moral people, we cannot deny that many of our graduates go on to perpetuate injustice and have very immoral worldviews. College life, even at Catholic universities, remains insular and in many ways immoral.

I am a senior at a Jesuit university and am not convinced that my school offers a value-laden curriculum in a comprehensive way, as it promises to do. I do not claim to have a solution to the many problems in Catholic higher education, but I am wary of the claim that Catholic universities are doing a fine job. In many ways, we struggle with the same issues that non-Catholic colleges do.

Susanna Puntel Short
Scranton, Pa.

Spiritual Themes

Thank you for the poetry in America. It’s hard to find quality poetry that deals with spiritual or personalist themes, and poets whose works do not reflect self-absorption or nihilism need to be supported.

Virginia Haddad
Tujunga, Calif.

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