The nun was not the issue. She was never the issue. At most the nun was a vehicle, an instrument of the unhappy dissenters. She was collateral damage in an attack on a priest trying to bring orthodoxy into a dissenting Catholic high school. The story isn’t really about him either, but about the last dying gasp of “liberal” Catholicism in North Carolina.
I spent two days on the ground in Charlotte last week interviewing half a dozen parents, priests, students, faculty, and alums. Uniformly, they did not want their names used. The atmosphere on the campus, at least among some faculty and some parents, can only be described as toxic.
The group I spoke to – those not offended by the nun’s talk – are literally frightened of those leading the charge against her. Those leading the charge would not speak to Breitbart News, even after repeated attempts.
The national reports say the controversy was over a lecture Sister Jane Dominic Laurel of the Nashville Dominicans gave to an all-school assembly last month. The lecture–given to a largely bored student body, most of whom weren’t even listening–focused on Catholic teaching about men and women, relationships, and something known to Catholics as the Theology of the Body, a dense teaching developed by Pope John Paul II.
The Theology of the Body has been unpacked by scholars, priests, and laymen for nearly twenty years and explained in lectures all over the world. Some have dedicated their whole careers to explaining this teaching. It is a teaching that has brought many back to the Church, others to a more intense practice of Catholicism, and shows the Church is far from the Puritan prude about sex portrayed by the mainstream media and other critics of Catholicism.
The talk broached many topics, including controversial ones like divorce and its negative effects on children. Given that many students in the school come from broken homes, it was to be expected that some of those kids and their parents might be upset.
However, the real problem came at the end of her talk when she delved into aspects of homosexuality. This caused at least a few bored students to sit up and take notice.
Quoting Church teaching, Sister Laurel said homosexuality has a psychological genesis. She explained theories – now rejected by the psychological establishment – that physically or emotionally distant fathers can cause homosexuality in their sons. The theory goes that boys seek and learn masculinity from their fathers, but if fathers are distant, as the boys grow older, they may eventually find masculine affirmation in sexual relations with other men. Sister Laurel quoted a study that shows a baby boy’s brain activity demonstrates comfort when his mother approaches but shows excitement and even attractive danger when the father approaches. This emotional and even physical bond with the father is needed for proper sexual development.
Sister Laurel got into even more controversial areas – that the average homosexual may have an inordinate number of sex partners, for instance. This is unremarkable in gay literature which, going back decades, has celebrated a broader understanding of sexual fidelity. Gay author and activist Dan Savage even coined a term for the lack of fidelity in gay relationships, calling it “monogomish.” Even so, the few students who were listening were wholly unprepared to hear that gays may have upwards of 1,000 sex partners in their lifetime. The added problem is that the nun misspoke and said they may have that many in a single year.
In most parts of her talk on homosexuality, Sister Laurel cited scholarly if controversial sources. It should be noted that even scholarly sources that seem critical of homosexuality are deemed controversial.
Some parts, though, were not from scholarly research and did seem pejorative. She suggested watching hardcore porn and masturbating could lead to homosexual behavior. She inexplicably brought up the widely reported story of the Australian same-sex couple who adopted a Russian boy and spent years pimping him out to pedophiles.
The problem with later reports of Sister Laurel’s talk is that the talk was not recorded, and, according to the student I spoke to, most of the students weren’t paying much attention. One parent told me, “Students have cotton in their ears anyway.” What’s more, the nun was clearly nervous and speaking rapidly.
Several sources told Breitbart News that she was nervous because she knew the subject matter was controversial, most especially for an all-school assembly including boys and girls together. This gets to the genesis of the problem.
Sister Laurel did not want to give that part of the talk to that audience. In fact, she went twice to the chaplain who invited her to ask him if he was “sure” he wanted that talk.
The problem is the nun and the chaplain were talking about two at least partially different lectures.
She thought he was asking specifically for the lecture with the parts on homosexuality that she had given at the school last fall but to a much smaller group of only girls and their moms, all of whom could be considered on the conservative side and therefore not offended by what some came to consider “anti-gay.”
He thought he was asking for a lecture he had heard her give that had no segments on homosexuality at all, only relationships and theology of the body. Total confusion.
Sister Laurel knew she was bombing with the crowd as she spoke rapidly and tried to get through the material. Sadly for her, at least a few of the bored students perked up when they heard “500-1,000 sex partners” and that homosexuality can be caused by situations in the family and by masturbation. The pedophiles from Australia didn’t help her, either.
Some students immediately started tweeting their outrage. Several sources, including students, told me that the controversy would have died quickly except that angry teachers and parents fanned the flames, wanting to keep it alive for their own reasons unrelated to the nun and her lecture. A local two-day story became a national sensation dragging on for weeks.
Tomorrow, I will explain what unfolded next.