It isn’t news that some Catholics opposed an anti-gay-marriage DVD sent by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. But after the editorial board at Benilde-St. Margaret’s student paper, the Knight-Errant, criticized the archdiocese, school administration pulled the editorial from the paper’s website. For good measure, school leaders also pulled an op-ed by a staffer who had just come out of the closet.
The administration cited Catholic teachings and a “disrespectful environment” for the move.
I’ll have an interview with editorial board member Bernardo Vigil in my next post, but since the editorial no longer lives on the web, I’m republishing it in its entirety. Below that is a link to the op-ed, and the school’s just-issued statement.
I’m not a Catholic, and I’m pro-gay-marriage, so you may want to factor that in when I say both student pieces are exceptionally well-written. If you want to have a little faith in the next generation’s talent and guts, read on.
By the way, the administration did allow a news story about the DVD controversy to stay.
Here’s the editorial:
Staff finds DVD unsubstantiated
The Catholic Church has been a long-standing opponent of gay marriage both in civil law and the Church itself. In keeping with this teaching, Archbishop Nienstedt produced and mailed a DVD in which he explicitly endorses an amendment to our state constitution that would bar homosexuals from the right to marry under civil law.
We as a staff believe the Church has both the right to have a teaching on this issue and to deny homosexuals the right to get married within the Church itself. However, we also feel that the DVD many of our families received is inappropriate due to the civil nature of the issue, and the content is nothing more than simple, emotional propaganda.
Archbishop Nienstedt states in the DVD that gay marriage poses a threat not only to the children taken out of the foster care system and adopted by married gay couples, but to children everywhere. He warns us that if we were to legalize gay marriage, the government would start teaching children in public schools that gay marriage is okay — something that is not consistent with Catholic teachings. The DVD further equates the effects of growing up in a household with two moms or two dads to growing up in a polygamous household, or an impoverished, financially struggling, single parent home.
The DVD tells us that the legalization of same-sex marriage will result in a world that no longer cares about a one-man one-woman vision of marriage, which will in turn result in a society that is, “callous and indifferent to the suffering it imposes on its own children, and on women who are left to carry the burden of parenting, and on men who are fundamentally dehumanized.”
How gay marriage results in heterosexual divorce and poverty, the DVD fails to address. How gay marriage leads to the acceptance of polygamy, the DVD makes no mention of either.
In the end, the DVD simply tries to equate gay marriage (an institution that would actually bring families together through the adoption of children) to broken homes and polygamy, without providing any facts to back it up. And, while the struggles of raising a child without a mother or father as support are certainly real, this stems from the fact that single parents are doing the job of two people and is not a reason to deny homosexuals the right to marry under civil law.
The DVD also aimed to reject the notion that the issue of gay marriage is an issue of civil rights. They did this in the most subtle way imaginable: by having a black man quote Martin Luther King Jr. The quote in question was from “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” and stated that for a law to be just it must be in line with natural law.
What the speaker fails to address is the very next line of the letter that states, “Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statues are unjust because segregation distorts the soul.” Clearly this omitted line proves that MLK would not have supported discriminatory policies against any group, including homosexuals. The fact that the Church would go as far as to evoke MLK in an issue, which he clearly wouldn’t have supported, speaks volumes to the argument which the DVD presents.
To close its argument, the DVD states that the civil recognition of same-sex marriage would be an attack on our religious liberties as Catholics; however, no law that would be passed for gay marriage would have any impact on the Church’s ability to control its own definition of marriage. The legislature is discussing granting civil liberties to homosexuals in a legal way, not a religious one.
We have been told through this DVD to defend the historical definition of marriage through our votes. Well, up until 1967 it was a historical precedent not to let two people of different races get married in 17 states. In previous centuries, married women were considered their husband’s properties. But these things have changed, and it’s time for the civil definition of marriage to change again to account for our gay brothers and sisters, not in the Church, but at least in the civil arena.
Here’s a link to a cached version of the op-ed, with some of the original comments. Note: the paper’s staff did screen the comments, so not all may show up in the thread.
Finally, the school’s statement:
Benilde-St. Margaret’s School is committed to ensuring that all students are safe, respected, and protected. As a Catholic school, our responsibility is to respect and uphold the dignity of the vulnerable, including students who are attracted to the same sex. Section 2358 of the Roman Catholic Catechism says that men and women with homosexual tendencies must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.
As educators, we encourage student dialogue in a responsible way under the supervision of caring adults. As a Catholic high school, we have a responsibility to uphold the teachings of the Catholic Church. All high school administrators, public or private, have the right to regulate the standards for the school newspaper.
The online comments regarding the editorial and the opinion piece in question were creating a disrespectful environment as well as confusion about the teachings of the Catholic Church; therefore, the administration exercised its prerogative to have the material removed from the website.
Dr. Bob Tift
President, Benilde-St. Margaret’s School