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Catholic School Upholds Church Teaching while Others Demonstrate Hypocrisy

Recently the local Catholic High School in my area made the local news after an incident involving the school’s prom.  I heard about the story from two very different corners.  From one corner, praise for the school for holding up the teachings of the Church; from the other corner, a particular group I am affiliated with had concerns about representing itself at the school after this incident.  I was one applauding the school after the reported incident and found myself defending the school to the other group.  I’d like to take this opportunity to explore the issue, the facts, and the hypocrisy involved in this.

First, what was the issue?

A female student at the school and her girlfriend, also a student, were denied entrance to the senior prom because they were coming as a same-sex couple.  Remember: this is a Catholic school.

This made the local news in our area.  Including pointing out that the students had started a petition to be sent to the school’s principal, president, and the bishop.  I don’t expect it to go any further than that.  End of story.

The Catholics in the area that I know (and I know many people across several parishes) praised and applauded the school for standing by its Catholic roots.  It is a Catholic school after all.  It has every right to handle situations as it sees fit, according to the teachings of Mother Church, the Magisterium.

But then I got an email early this week that unexpectedly referred to this incident.  I am on the email list for the local Alumnae Club of the college where I received my master’s degree.  The college is an all-female, private school in New England and mostly an undergraduate school.  As a graduate student I did not participate in many of the college traditions that the undergraduates did (the House system, afternoon teas, etc.).  So although I am on the email list and have been to one gathering of local alumnae several years ago, I don’t participate in anything beyond that.

The Club presents a book award to a graduating female student at all the area high schools each year, including the Catholic high school.  So the email I received was from the person who had volunteered to present the award at the Catholic high school.  She was concerned that the Club shouldn’t give an award there in light of the “incident” and she felt “uncomfortable” attending the awards ceremony.

Initially I was shocked.  But then I realized that I should not be shocked at all.  What did I expect?  We do live in a world that thinks the secular way is the only way and anyone that lives differently must be wrong and must be corrected or boycotted or whatever until they conform.  Then I just got irritated.

I won’t go into the specifics of what transpired over the course of the afternoon and several more emails back and forth.  But I do want to present a few of the facts.  The facts that show the hypocrisy involved in something like this. Let’s look at those.

Fact #1-Catholic school: This is a private school.  Thus is has the right to admit whomever it wants, kick out whomever it wants whenever it wants, make its own rules regarding its events, etc.

Fact #1-Private college: This is also a private school.  Thus it also has the right to admit whomever it wants, kick out whomever it wants whenever it wants, make its own rules regarding its events, etc.

Fact #2-Catholic school: This school is Catholic.  Being Catholic means it must align itself with the Church in every respect.  They teach religion classes, they teach abstinence education, they expect their students to attend Mass once a week and on Holy Days of Obligation, etc.  They are Catholic and are allowed to be because of the religious freedom we are guaranteed in this country.

Fact #2-Private college: This school is all-female.  It prides itself in offering single sex education and in developing strong, female leaders for society.  They can remain an all-female college because they are private and thus are not considered to be discriminating based on gender.

Fact #3-Catholic school: This school admits any student willing to attend, willing to pay the tuition, and able to meet the standards set forth by the school, including an entrance exam.  Students of all faiths can be admitted if they score well on an entrance exam, but they must know that it is a Catholic school and it will not bend its teachings for non-Catholic students.

Fact #3-Private college: This school only admits women.  No men are admitted as regular, full-time undergraduate students.  The only men you’ll see on campus besides professors, college employees, and visitors are men from some of the other area colleges taking classes there as part of an agreement between the colleges and the occasional male graduate student (the graduate program overall is really small).

Fact #4-Catholic school: As a Catholic institution, the school is a part of the 2000 year old tradition of the Church.  2000 years of traditions!  2000 years of unchanging teachings!  The school is not free to bend teachings at will to please students or parents or anyone else.

Fact #4-Private college: Also has a long history of traditions that students and alumnae take great pride in, traditions that go back a hundred years or so, but traditions I can respect.

Considering these few facts, I see two private schools, one that follows the moral principles and teachings set forth by a 2000 year old church and the other who prides itself on single sex education.  Is the first discriminating unfairly for not admitting a same-sex couple to an event it is sponsoring on school grounds?  Is the other discriminating unfairly for not admitting men to its prestigious school?

Is respect too much to ask?

The answer to both is … no.  The first has religious freedom on its side, the other has the fact that it is private on its side.

Think what you want about the Catholic high school and its decision, but they are within their rights as a Catholic school.  The private all-female college is also within its rights to remain an all-female school.

My question is where is the respect?  Respect for a school who stands by a set of values, which is so rare in our society these days.  Respect does not have to mean agreement.  I would think a group of women who take pride in the single sex education they were privileged to receive through the private college they attended would be able to respect a high school that also functions under a set of guiding principles that go much deeper than their alma mater.  It seems hypocritical to me that they would fight for their school if it was somehow threatened to be made co-ed and expect others to stand with them while at the same time giving no respect to a school that also lives by a high moral standard that creates a unique set of circumstances.

Am I the only one that sees the hypocricy?

But maybe mutual respect is too much to ask?  How sad if that is true.

What say you?

[As of this writing, the original club member agreed to graciously attend the award ceremony (the NEXT day) to give the award (I wanted to volunteer, but I couldn’t find a babysitter on such short notice) and the club decided to discuss the issue further with the national alumnae association to decide how to proceed in future years.  I may not have the same kind of connection to this particular alma mater of mine as the other ladies who spent their undergraduate years at this college, but I will be highly disappointed in my college if they advise the club to no longer attend the awards ceremony at this particular Catholic school.]

By Kerri Baunach

Kerri Baunach is a Catholic wife and mother of three boys (plus three in heaven). She and her family live in beautiful central Kentucky where she is active in her church, a member of Cursillo, and a Benedictine Oblate. Kerri often writes on her Catholic faith, pregnancy loss, her kids, and pro-life issues. Kerri is a former music librarian (16 years) now stay-at-home mom, was a musician for over 20 years, loves taking her kids to the library (and loves that they love it), is passionately pro-life, can’t cook, and has lived in six states. In additional to writing at Catholic Sistas you can also find Kerri on her own blog at Journal of a Nobody.

8 replies on “Catholic School Upholds Church Teaching while Others Demonstrate Hypocrisy”

Beautifully unbiased and very well written. It’s a shame that people can’t seem to see things in black and white this way. I agree with your stance 100%.

I agree with you, mostly. I think that private institutions should be able to make and follow their own rules, especially if there is a good effort to make sure that everyone knows the rules in advance. So I think that the college should have the right to refuse a scholarship to someone at the school if it violated their beliefs. I also agree that the Catholic school should have the right to limit their prom to whomever they deem acceptable. However, these limits are not very far off from the discrimination faced by people of other races not so long ago. I am not saying it is the same, but that it is a very fine line and one must tread carefully. And why I am glad for a government that should not be “private” (meaning exclusive) in any way.

Carolann: Thanks for your comment and I understand what you’re saying completely. But just to clarify, we are not talking about a scholarship from the school. We are talking about a book award that gets presented to one student from all the area high schools by the Alumnae Club. I doubt there is one student from every area high school who will be attending this particular college in the fall. I will admit, I do not know what the criteria are for giving out the book award, but I do know it happens every year and at all the various schools (about 6 or so). And yes, the school (or the Alumnae Club) can certainly choose to stop giving the award at a Catholic school because they disagree with the Catholic Church’s stance on homosexuality (or abortion, contraception, [name your issue]). However, my point is that the same protection the college gets to run its school however it wants as a private institution is the same protection the Catholic school has. So even if one disagrees with the other, I don’t see why they can’t respect each other’s views (not necessarily agree with them, just respect them). That is why I say the Alumnae Club is guilty of hypocrisy. Thanks for your thoughtful comment!

I found this to be a very good article. In relation to what Niesa wrote in relation to Catholic or Christians enforcing their values on students, faculty and staff, I read this article earler today: “Dozens of faculty and staff at a Georgian Christian academic institute are resigning over a statement from school officials in which employees must pledge to refrain from activities including drug use, alcohol, adultery, and homosexuality. Known as the “personal lifestyle statement,” around 50 members of the faculty and staff at Shorter University based in Rome, Ga., have chosen to resign rather than renew their contracts at the private school.” they are upset and resigning because something in ‘personal lifestyle statement’ goes against their beliefs. Another part of the statement calls for them to be active Church goers, but does not specify any particular and be a ‘Bible beliving Christian’. I don’t see this college doing anything different from what the Catholic High School did, nor the ‘all woman college.’
It is sad to say but many Catholic and Christian high schools and colleges/universities are bending their standards or re-writing them over protest of others instead of standing firm.

Fact #1-Catholic school: This is a private school. Thus is has the right to admit whomever it wants, kick out whomever it wants whenever it wants, make its own rules regarding its events, etc.

Fact #1-Private college: This is also a private school. Thus it also has the right to admit whomever it wants, kick out whomever it wants whenever it wants, make its own rules regarding its events, etc.

This is not exactly true. The government can, at its discretion, force either organization to change its admission rules, what the rules about disciplining students, etc. This is done via the Civil Rights Act and Title IX vis.:

The federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in educational institutions is Title IX of the Educational Amendments Act of 1972 (amending the Higher Education Act of 1965). This act is codified as Title 20, United States Code, Chapter 38, Sections 1681-1686. The act was also amended by the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987 (“Title IX”).

The law states that “no person in the United States shall on the basis of sex be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” The amendment in 1987 expanded the definition of program or activity to include all the operations of an educational institution, governmental entity or private employer that receives federal funds.

If either school takes so much as a penny from Uncle Sugar in any way, shape, or form, then the hook is set.

Thank you, KathiJo, for your comment. I think one of the reasons these schools are private is because they do not accept federal funds. It’s why the tuition at private schools is so high (believe me, I know). I currently work for a public university and our budget gets partly determined by the budget the commonwealth sets during their legislative sessions (and anything we don’t get from the state/commonwealth has to be made up through donations, tuition, staff or program cuts, etc). Private schools are a whole different arena, they do not accept federal funds and thus are not subject to the same laws (on a certain level, I’m not a lawyer so I wouldn’t know what the exceptions might be, if there are any). Students at private schools can accept federal funds in terms of work study, students loans, or other programs they qualify for and that does not impact the school’s private status since it is the student accepting the assistance. I imagine (though I don’t know the specifics) that the same holds true on some level for professors who go after government grants to support their research, even if they work for a private institution. Thank you again for your thoughtful comment, I hope you will continuing reading along on the blog.

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