Ontario bishops address homosexuality in schools.
My first introduction to the teacher's resource guide entitled Pastoral Guidelines to Assist Students of Same-Sex Orientation (Education Commission, Ontario Bishops, 2003) came from a Catholic New Times article written by Michael Arbour and 'gay' activist Barry Blackburn called "Good News for gay and lesbian kids" (June 4, 2006).
Two views of homosexuality
Arbour and Blackburn share a vision about homosexuality that is not Catholic and that appears to oppose the central message of the authors of Pastoral Guidelines (henceforth, PG). It is my intention in this paper to compare the views of Arbour and Blackburn to the reality of PG. I will refer to the Catholic Medical Association (CMA CMA - Concert Multithread Architecture from DEC. ) as evidence for the Catholic interpretation of what to do about students who have same-sex attraction. Finally, I will conclude with some thoughts of my own, through which I hope to assist the bishops and those concerned for our Catholic students.
PG is the product of a Catholic School Education Writing Team which consists of representation from four Catholic school boards: Durham (Denise Colterman-Fox); Dufferin-Peel (Michelle Glavine); York Catholic (James P. Kelly) and Toronto Catholic District (Michael Paulter). Also represented are two moral theologians, Dr. Moira McQueen and Basilian Father Leo Leo, in astronomy
Leo [Lat.,=the lion], northern constellation lying S of Ursa Major and on the ecliptic (apparent path of the sun through the heavens) between Cancer and Virgo; it is one of the constellations of the zodiac. Walsh, both of the University of St. Michael's College The University of St. Michael's College (USMC), often referred to as St. Michael's or St. Mike's, is a federated college in the University of Toronto. It is one of two Roman Catholic colleges within the university (the other being Regis College) and the only one at at the University of Toronto Research at the University of Toronto has been responsible for the world's first electronic heart pacemaker, artificial larynx, single-lung transplant, nerve transplant, artificial pancreas, chemical laser, G-suit, the first practical electron microscope, the first cloning of T-cells, . Rounding out the team are Sr. Joan Cronin of the Institute for Catholic Education, and Sharon McKeever of the Catholic Association of Religious and Family Life Educators of Ontario. PG is approved by the Education Commission of the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops (OCCB OCCB Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops
OCCB Organized Crime Control Bureau (NYPD)
OCCB Ottawa Community Concert Band (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada)
OCCB Oceanic Credit Commission Bank ) for use in Ontario Catholic Schools whose chairman is Bishop Paul-Andre Durocher.
The authors of PG acknowledge the difficulties encountered by youth in schools, and are pro-active in meeting their needs. They give us a bigger picture, however, when they say, "In Catholic education, students should be brought to an understanding of a loving God who gives to them ... a dignity beyond our imagining. It is in this context that the teaching of the Church on the morality of homosexual orientation and homosexual activity is presented and within the context of moral teaching on sexuality and marriage generally" (PG, p. 4).
Arbour and Blackburn, to the contrary, stress the "anti-homosexual Church" that affects today's youth "who are both afraid of and angry at the Church" as the problem. Although everyone concerned about students with same-sex attraction agrees that schools need to be safe, nurturing and inclusive, Arbour and Blackburn in contrast with PG say nothing about the serious ramifications ramifications npl → Auswirkungen pl of health risks for youth who might take on a 'gay' identity and engage in homosexual activity.
Unmarried persons are called to chastity
Unlike Arbour and Blackburn, PG does not presume that a homosexual identity is a given in high school. It says, "Adolescent students are not always the best judges of their own sexual orientation sexual orientation
The direction of one's sexual interest toward members of the same, opposite, or both sexes, especially a direction seen to be dictated by physiologic rather than sociologic forces. ." Those who drew up PG know that with the help of the cultural milieu, many adolescents are in the process of coming to terms with their developing sexuality.
The Catholic Medical Association (CMA) concurs with the PG when it says, "Persons should not be identified with their emotional and developmental conflicts as though this was the essence of their identity" (Homosexuality and Hope, henceforth HH, p. 3. See HH at http://catholiceducation.org/articles/homosexuality/ho0039.html).
Arbour and Blackburn tell us something quite different: "It is a huge undertaking for gay and lesbian youth to acknowledge who they are (my emphasis), understand what this entails, see themselves as worthy human beings, and determine when they are ready to come out to family or close friends." The CMA authors who do not accept homosexuality as a true identity, nor any support group that conscripts students into accepting homosexuality, do not endorse the "coming out" process promoted by Arbour and Blackburn. They say, "'gay' rights activists have insisted that at-risk adolescents be turned over to support groups which will help them 'come out.' There is no evidence that participation in such groups prevents the long-term negative consequences associated with homosexual activity. Such groups will definitely not encourage the adolescent to refrain from sin and live chastely chaste
adj. chast·er, chast·est
1. Morally pure in thought or conduct; decent and modest.
a. Not having experienced sexual intercourse; virginal.
b. according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. his state in life." (position paper HH, November, 2000, p. 11)
The PG too does not see "gayness" as something to be celebrated. This again contrasts with Arbour and Blackburn, who say that "gay students" have a "contribution to make." It is unclear what they mean by contribution, since everyone, including students who believe that they have same-sex attraction (henceforth SSA (Serial Storage Architecture) A fault tolerant peripheral interface from IBM that transfers data at 80 and 160 Mbytes/sec. SSA uses SCSI commands, allowing existing software to drive SSA peripherals, which are typically disk drives. ) has a contribution to make. Are they suggesting that "gayness" is their contribution, or their natural talents, such as acting or sports, or whatever those may be?
The CMA cites studies which indicate that, although at risk, a high percentage of students with SSA do not become homosexually active in adulthood. Many later "positive interactions," personal choices as well as the role of God's grace, have allowed these individuals to make a conscious decision not to act on SSA and even to lessen its effects (ibid, p.5). It is therefore crucially important that educators heed their warning that "The labeling of an adolescent, or worse a child, as unchangeably 'homosexual' does the individual a grave disservice," because it denies them the potential healing that they need which in turn may put them at serious risk (ibid).
While acknowledging that there is still much to be learned about homosexuality as a lived experience, PG makes clear that all persons outside of marriage are called to celibate chastity: "Chastity is a positive orientation to life. It is to be taught as a discipline of the heart, the eye, of language and all senses, which frees us to embrace important human goods" (PG, p. 3). Young people are called to form solid friendships marked by "genuine love and affection" and to see that "sexual activity between unmarried people can undermine such friendships and block vocational discernment." Lest any think that our desires need to be indulged, the bishops remind us that "all of us have the freedom to act morally even in the face of great temptation."
Formation in the image of Christ
In the introductory remarks of PG, Bishop Paul-Andre Durocher impressively states the goal of pastoral care of students in Catholic schools: "to help them be formed in the image of Christ." He acknowledges that "we have not always been sensitive to the particular needs of students with a same-sex orientation." Yet, although making the school community a truly Christian environment is a crucial goal of the resource guide, he wants us to know (unlike Arbour and Blackburn who want gayness "affirmed" and "accepted") that unless the dangers concerning homosexual inclination and practice are faced and accompany the Church's sound pastoral teaching and guidance, we will not succeed in meeting the needs of these students. Those who mentor our young people must excel in teaching and example. PG says, "In the case of inappropriate moral conduct, the duty of Catholic schools is to guide students into morally acceptable paths."
The goal is moral and spiritual conversion
Pastoral Guidelines points out that a distinction must be made between feelings and behaviour. (This distinction seems unimportant for Arbour and Blackburn whose interests seem to lie elsewhere.) Students who experience SSA must know that they will receive understanding, sensitivity and compassionate care from teachers who are encouraged to be well-formed to deal with the issues raised by struggling students. However, teachers are to understand that "moral and spiritual conversion is the goal" in relating pastorally to students with SSA.
PG addresses teachers, counsellors, chaplains and others with these words, "We share responsibility for bringing the truth of the Gospel to our young people, including young homosexual students who are struggling with identity and self-worth." They back up this claim with strong and positive resources for teachers. This includes a solid theological treatise on the nature of Christian marriage and the nuptial nup·tial
1. Of or relating to marriage or the wedding ceremony.
2. Of, relating to, or occurring during the mating season: the nuptial plumage of male birds.
n. meaning of the body as well as an equally good explanation of natural law, the formation of conscience, sin, moral living (including a theology of chastity and the moral virtues of prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude), and the scriptural background as it applies to homosexuality. Educators need to study these gems, "always with the intention of understanding and accepting the teaching."
PG knows that where confusion and emotional instability, coupled with possible compulsive behaviour, are involved, the good will of students experiencing SSA is not enough to ensure their safety. We are told not to underestimate the poor religious practice and devotion of many adolescent students, nor "the often negative impact of the media on sexual morality," and the "sexual permissiveness of the general culture." This can be counteracted by the expertise of the teacher, who is "called to understand the particular strengths and weaknesses of each unique student in order to assess his or her moral capabilities at any given time; what can and should be the next step in this person's journey toward chastity" (PG, p. 5.).
The Catholic Medical Association adds the important role of priests who, through counselling and especially confession, "can help individual penitents deal not only with (any) sin, but also with the causes of same-sex attraction." (HH, p. 9) PG makes it clear that knowledge and understanding, grace and the sacraments need to be encouraged as necessary parts of the life of any student wishing to live an authentically Catholic Christian life.
Finally, in contrast to the attitude of popular culture, which sees moral rectitude as an unrealizable ideal, PG offers young people words of hope from the late Pope John Paul II Pope John Paul II (Latin: Ioannes Paulus PP. II, Italian: Giovanni Paolo II, Polish: Jan Paweł II) born who said, "By walking always with Christ, even when the path is uphill, we can achieve joy" (World Youth Day, Toronto, 2002).
The authors of Pastoral Guidelines have given teachers much to think about, as Catholic schools find ways to properly address the needs of students with SSA. They have framed their theological, philosophical and pastoral approach within the overall context of the dignity of each human person, made in the image and likeness of God. The Catholic educators who contributed to this resource guide have also been particularly helpful in offering the possibility of "a spirituality of communion" in "solidarity" and "good stewardship" as a focus for each school (PG, p. 10). A "spirituality of communion" stresses the indwelling indwelling /in·dwell·ing/ (in´dwel-ing) pertaining to a catheter or other tube left within an organ or body passage for drainage, to maintain patency, or for the administration of drugs or nutrients. Trinity, the need to share the joys and sufferings of others, and "to see what is positive in others."
Educators would be wise to exercise good pastoral judgement when entering the section of PG called "pastoral practices." This section offers general and practical guidelines for teachers when approached by students who acknowledge a "homosexual orientation." Words like "orientation," "self-discovery" and "homophobic" are used freely. Teachers are encouraged to seek out "resource material" and "in-service" presentations. Furthermore, there is the definition of terms, specifically "heterosexuality het·er·o·sex·u·al·i·ty
Erotic attraction, predisposition, or sexual behavior between persons of the opposite sex.
heterosexuality ," "bisexuality," "homosexuality" and "transgender transgender or transgendered
Because there is ambiguity in the use of these terms and the bishops want clarity, educators need to be clear that these concepts should be interpreted in the light of the Church's official teaching concerning homosexuality. This is particularly important because sectors of our society and the media have clear biases in favour of the 'gay' lifestyle. For these reasons, I recommend serious consideration of the following:
1. The recent scientific discoveries that indicate healing for homosexual inclination.
Many social scientists, including those who promote 'gay rights,' no longer believe that homosexuality is necessarily permanent. Recently, the president of the American Psychological Association The American Psychological Association (APA) is a professional organization representing psychology in the US. Description and history
The association has around 150,000 members and an annual budget of around $70m. (APA (All Points Addressable) Refers to an array (bitmapped screen, matrix, etc.) in which all bits or cells can be individually manipulated.
APA - Application Portability Architecture ), Dr. Gerald Koocher, announced that the APA will now support homosexual reorientation Noun 1. reorientation - a fresh orientation; a changed set of attitudes and beliefs
orientation - an integrated set of attitudes and beliefs
2. reorientation - the act of changing the direction in which something is oriented therapy for those experiencing unwanted homosexual attractions (LifeSiteNews.com, August 29, 2006). Furthermore, there is the recent "Spitzer Study" in which renowned Columbia University Columbia University, mainly in New York City; founded 1754 as King's College by grant of King George II; first college in New York City, fifth oldest in the United States; one of the eight Ivy League institutions. psychiatric researcher Dr. Robert Spitzer Robert Spitzer is the name of:
Not to be altered; immutable: the unchangeable seasons.
un·change and who played a pivotal role in 1973 in removing homosexuality as a psychopathology psychopathology /psy·cho·pa·thol·o·gy/ (-pah-thol´ah-je)
1. the branch of medicine dealing with the causes and processes of mental disorders.
2. abnormal, maladaptive behavior or mental activity. from the psychiatric manual of mental disorders mental disorders: see bipolar disorder; paranoia; psychiatry; psychosis; schizophrenia. , now believes after recent scientific study, that for committed individuals there can be healing from a homosexual inclination (Archives of Sexual Behavior Archives of Sexual Behavior is an academic sexology journal and the official publication of the International Academy of Sex Research.
Contributions consist of empirical research (both quantitative and qualitative), theoretical reviews and essays, clinical case , Vol. 32, No. 5, October 2003, pp. 403-417). He states,
"I am convinced that many people have made substantial changes toward becoming heterosexual ... I came to this study skeptical. I now claim that these changes can be sustained."
Other former promoters like Dr. Simon Levay and psychologist Douglas Haldeman now agree with Spitzer. There is a wealth of material available that seriously challenges genetic predisposition genetic predisposition Molecular medicine The tendency to suffer from certain genetic diseases–eg, Huntington's disease, or inherit certain skills–eg, musical talent and determination theories claimed for homosexuality (see HH). Recent studies seem to indicate the interplay of environmental factors, including family background, as reasons for SSA. This is further strengthened by the testimonies of "ex-gays" who give hope to those struggling with SSA.
The authors of PG are justifiably concerned about bullying and harassment especially of students who are "at-risk." Yet PG, which stresses that sexual activity is appropriate only within marriage, knows the risks for students who engage in sexual activity outside of marriage. I suggest that there can be no serious consideration of how to help students with same sex attraction without considering the following:
2. The medical and social risks present in the active gay lifestyle.
Some social commentators give the impression that the only harm faced by same-sex attracted youth in schools is societal oppression (that is, mistreatment mis·treat
tr.v. mis·treat·ed, mis·treat·ing, mis·treats
To treat roughly or wrongly. See Synonyms at abuse.
mis·treat and misunderstanding from peers and others). As realistic as these concerns may be, these same social commentators give little if any consideration to the view that unwanted homosexual attractions and unhappiness with the 'gay' lifestyle (a claim of many 'ex-gays') is a potential for harm. The psychological harm includes serious clinical depression, suicide attempts, and addictions including drugs and alcohol. As to physical harm to health, youth who engage in the gay lifestyle are at risk for HIV HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), either of two closely related retroviruses that invade T-helper lymphocytes and are responsible for AIDS. There are two types of HIV: HIV-1 and HIV-2. HIV-1 is responsible for the vast majority of AIDS in the United States. , anal cancer Anal Cancer Definition
Anal cancer is an uncommon form of cancer affecting the anus. The anus is the inch-and-a-half-long end portion of the large intestine, which opens to allow solid wastes to exit the body. , herpes simplex virus Herpes simplex virus
A virus that can cause fever and blistering on the skin, mucous membranes, or genitalia.
Mentioned in: Conjunctivitis
herpes simplex virus , human papilloma virus human papilloma virus
n. Abbr. HPV
A DNA virus of the genus Papillomavirus, certain types of which cause cutaneous and genital warts in humans, including condyloma acuminatum. (HPV HPV human papillomavirus.
human papilloma virus
Human papilloma virus (HPV) ), gonorrhea gonorrhea (gŏnərē`ə), common infectious disease caused by a bacterium (Neisseria gonorrhoeae), involving chiefly the mucous membranes of the genitourinary tract. , syphilis, genital warts genital warts: see human papillomavirus. , Chlamydia trachomatis Chlamydia tra·cho·ma·tis
A species of Chlamydia that causes trachoma, inclusion conjunctivitis, lymphogranuloma venereum, nonspecific urethritis, and proctitis in humans. , Hepatitis A Hepatitis A Definition
Hepatitis A is an inflammation of the liver caused by a virus, the hepatitis A virus (HAV). It varies in severity, running an acute course, generally starting within two to six weeks after contact with the virus, and lasting no , B & C, and a host of other infectious diseases infectious diseases: see communicable diseases. , some of which are not presently curable cur·a·ble
Capable of being cured or healed. (see HH, p. 10).
PG speaks of the importance of faithfulness to our tradition as we strive to build "school communities which are more Catholic in the fullest sense of the word" (Bishop Durocher). That is why I suggest the following:
3. Support Networks
One thinks immediately of Courage, a group for men and women with unwanted same-sex attraction, started by Father John Harvey of New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of . Courage encourages prayer, the sacraments, and fellowship as means of support. Do not forget Encourage, a faithful Catholic support group for parents who have children with SSA and PFOX PFOX Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (Parents & Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays). These groups have philosophical, theological and moral differences with "pro-gay" groups like PFLAG PFLAG Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (since 1972; Washington, DC) (Parents, Families and Friends of Gays and Lesbians) and GSA (1) (Global mobile Suppliers Association, Sawbridgeworth, U.K., www.gsacom.com) A membership organization of suppliers of GSM products and services. Its goal is to promote GSM as the worldwide mobile communications standard. See GSM Association and GSM. (Gay Straight Alliance). The latter are not recommended.
Though difficult to find, there are also good Catholic and Christian psychologists and psychotherapists who can be of help. Also recommended is the website of NARTH NARTH National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuals at www.narth.com). This is a group of professionals who give various helps to those who are unhappy with their SSA. And the CMA position paper Homosexuality and Hope should be consulted. (The CMA specifically recommends this paper as a reference and educational tool for parents and educators.)
4. Critically and consistently evaluate information and statistics that are references from 'pro-gay' sources
While stories about 'gay' people appear daily in media reports, many statistics given are unquestioned by those same media, as if to say that the end ('gay rights') justifies the means (dubious, unproven or false statistics, confusing terminology, etc.). With this in mind, and to go along with the competent theological presentation in PG, I would like to clarify certain terms used in common by both bishops and popular culture, but with very different understandings. For example, ambiguous terms like "homophobia" and homosexual "orientation" need to be explained. When PG uses the term "homophobia," it is in the context of condemning aggression and unjust discrimination toward individuals with SSA. Conversely, "homophobia" in the 'gay' community describes anyone who disagrees that homosexuality is a healthy and normative lifestyle.
Again, when PG uses the term "same-sex orientation," they simply mean the SSA desires of an individual, and to what degree. On the other hand, 'gay' activists use the term "orientation" to impress upon the public that homosexuality is unchangeable. The approach of PG is to charitably help students through difficult and confused periods of their lives. This is why Arbour and Blackburn (and many homosexual activists) cause confusion when they call SSA students "our gay brothers and lesbian sisters," and go so far as to create and identify those who suffer from SSA as "sexual minorities." They do this despite the reality that homosexuality as a biological trait (like skin and eye colour) has never been accepted in current scientific evidence.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church The Catechism of the Catholic Church, or CCC, is an official exposition of the teachings of the Catholic Church, first published in French in 1992 by the authority of Pope John Paul II. uses the terms "predominant" and "exclusive" but never "irreversible" with respect to same-sex attraction. Arbour and Blackburn, on the other hand, imply this irreversible sense and more when they tell educators that "more attention needs to be paid to the crucial moments of identity formation" in ('gay') students who are most at-risk in "the movement from self-awareness to self-acceptance." PG poses a challenge to 'pro-gay' biased thinking in saying that encouraging an affected youth away from homosexual ideology and practice should not be classified as "homophobia" (OCCB Letter to All Involved in Catholic Education, March 31, 2003, reprinted in PG, p. 25).
Arbour and Blackburn express concern for 'gay' students who are bullied and harassed in schools. But the PG is clear to point out that all bullying and unjust discrimination need to be eliminated from Catholic schools. Homosexual activists and sympathizers promote the view that SSA students are subject to school bullying and abuse more than others. This is politically motivated. For example, Arbour and Blackburn promote an agenda of 'gay' friendly schools when they accept as gospel that "verbal taunts and abuse of these 'gay and lesbian kids' have led to a suicide rate higher among them than for their peers." This is contradicted by an extensive December 2003 study published by the British Journal of Psychiatry which acknowledged high levels of bullying and harassment in schools, but it noted that it was reported no more often by students with SSA than other students.
The bishops of Ontario are to be congratulated for addressing the important issue of students who suffer from same-sex attraction. The Church welcomes experts in the field who can provide a wealth of information to help Catholic students with SSA, and those who misunderstand and abuse them.
Parents and professional educators need guidelines that are consistent with the teaching and pastoral experience of the Church. Educators need to pay special attention to the bishops and the CMA, who are eminently qualified to speak about the true nature of homosexuality. Furthermore, they should ignore ideologically driven perspectives of Arbour and Blackburn and those like them. Young impressionable im·pres·sion·a·ble
1. Readily or easily influenced; suggestible: impressionable young people.
2. minds depend on true guidance, information and hope; it may even save their lives.
Peter Mahoney is an Ontario educator.