I want to start this article off with a disclaimer. Please understand that my viewpoint is coming from my personal experience in catholic schools. I cannot speak for every student.
My first encounter with Catholic School was in 8th grade when I went to my Mother’s Alma Mater. I was not worried about going to a Catholic school as a Non-Catholic because I had been going to a religious school my entire life. I attended Christ Episcopal from pre-k until 7th grade where I was friends with people of every religion, but the majority of the students were Catholic. We had religion class, we prayed, and we had church services. How different could it possibly be at my next school?
Eighth grade religion class is pretty basic and filled with tons of “Pam” videos. If you know who Pam is, you’re welcome for making you laugh. We would talk endlessly about the ‘rules’ and ‘regulations’ of the Catholic Faith and we learned to memorize names and passages extremely well.
One lovely day our class was discussing the sacrament of marriage. This quickly evolved into a discussion about the legality and moral “issues” behind same sex couples being able to get married. As the conversation got heated and a bit out of control, I suggested that we have an organized debate. I not only respect other people’s opinions, I also have immense respect for people who are educated and informed.
Don’t expect to convince me with an uninformed, uneducated, entitled, and arrogant point of view. Our teacher agreed to let us debate as long as we kept it respectful. Our class then split into two sides. I’ll skip the boring details about all the girls bashing the LGBTQ+ community and how they shouldn’t be able to get married to address the real issue.
It was now time for my side of the classroom to talk, but that didn’t happen. As soon as it was our turn to speak, our teacher ended the debate. This was my first encounter in catholic school where a teacher was unfair toward the students because of their beliefs. This was the start to a long journey that I was not prepared to go on.
I could write books full of stories highlighting specific conversations, lessons, and discussions that were disrespectful to the LGBTQ+ community. I’m not here to bash Catholic schools, “expose” my teachers, or insult the Catholic faith. I’m here to shed light on the way these biased religious environments portray the LGBTQ+ community and treat them as if they are humanity’s biggest flaw.
I was in my second semester of my Junior year when the Supreme Court Legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. I feel extremely blessed to have been able to witness this part of history. With this case being so relevant, our teacher decided to make it a part of our daily lesson. For about two weeks my classmates and I listened to our teacher discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community. She brought articles to class, read first-hand accounts of people who had LGBTQ+ parents, and how “traumatizing” it was for those children. She was relentless in her efforts to influence our opinions. Our class was very small that year and every student in the class was a LGBTQ+ supporter. Some classmates of mine were even LGBTQ+, just not publicly.
Most students went through their 4 years of high school with little to no confrontation with teachers by just ‘going with the flow’. I was not one of those students. So often I heard, “But you go to a Catholic School and those are their beliefs, so quit arguing.” No. This was not about Catholics believing that same sex marriage was wrong. I knew that conversation would be a waste of time. The underlying issues were teachers, administrators, and pastors preaching kindness, love, acceptance, and forgiveness ad nauseam, while being shamelessly judgmental toward others. I heard daily lessons about how God forgives, how he loves unconditionally, how we are made in his likeness and image, how he knew us before we were born, and how God does not judge. If all of those things are true, which I believe they are, then why is it wrong for two people, who God made, to express their love? Would the God you share with your kids, the God you teach about in classrooms, the God you devoted your life to, punish two people for simply loving one another? “God made Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve,” which is correct. God made a man and women to reproduce, not to set the tone for all relationships. Adam and Eve were not put on Earth to be a customary standard until the end of time.
Attending a private school allowed me to receive a great education. It permitted me to learn about Christianity and Catholicism, pray, go on amazing class retreats, and have life changing spiritual experiences. If I could do it again, I would.
Families, friends, mentors, and the public need realize that these LGBTQ+ kids are in an extremely difficult and developmental stage in their life. They’re forming opinions and relationships that will guide them through the rest of their lives. This is frustrating. This is scary. School also becomes one of the most intimidating environments for them. They’re taught daily about this amazing faith in which they can find comfort, love, peace, and a relationship with God. This amazing God who they can always go to no matter what. Someone who will always forgive them and never turn their back. All the while they’re listening to their teachers, spiritual advisors, and others contradict those lessons by telling them how sinful their actions are. How being gay is wrong. How they should not be able to get married. How they should not be able to adopt. How their sexuality is a choice.
I have many friends at my schools and other schools who felt ashamed, scared, and humiliated every time homosexuality was talked about. They sat quietly, with fear of being judged and condemned for something out of their control. For wanting to be themselves, for wanting to be happy, to want to love and be loved. I knew so many students who were ashamed to be open about their sexuality because they were scared that their teachers would judge them. Students could not possibly think about coming out after experiencing the daily denouncing of their community. It is hard enough for a teenager to be a teenager. It is hard enough to deal with breakups, bullying, school, and everything else. Your child, your friend, your STUDENT, whomever, should not be scared of you. They should not be afraid of being judged by you.
I personally had some of the most comforting and loving moments during high school come from teachers. These teachers treat so many of us as extensions to their family, and that is one of the best parts of small schools. I also had some of my saddest moments listening to the people I looked up to be so hateful towards my friends, family, and others in the community. It hurt watching other students walk the halls hiding who they were because they didn’t want to deal with the repercussions of coming out. The harsh reality is that so many people have families who do not accept them. When these students go to school they shouldn’t have to deal with councilors, teachers, and everyone else judging them too. Do you know what that does to someone? Do you know what that does to a CHILD? It’s difficult enough to learn to love yourself in high school, but it’s even more difficult to love yourself and live your daily life being judged and put down.
So, I am asking you. Are you loving the way God loves? Are you accepting the way God accepted you? Do you forgive others the way God allows you to repent and be forgiven? Are you kind to others? Do you know the conversations your child has to endure? Do you know that your child is homosexual and terrified of not only you, but the people she is forced to be surrounded by for the next four years? Are you aware that you used to be that student’s favorite teacher until you discussed in length about how being gay is wrong? You said they should never be able to get married and that they should never be able to adopt and have a family. Are you aware of the affects you have on these students? That student now wants to transfer.
I asked another catholic school student how she felt and this is what she said:
“I have a lot to say… I was always pretty quiet about what I believe but I never felt like I could express myself without being judged, humiliated, or just sinful. I’m not lgbtq but coming from a family with a lot of people who are, it’s heartbreaking being made to feel as though loving someone for who they are is wrong. I 100% believe there were girls in our class that were lgbtq but felt as though they weren’t enough, or less than, or wrong, or sinful. How could someone be so controlled by “religion” that simply LOVING YOUR NEIGHBOR was conditional… Yeah, God said a man shall not lay with another. But read the rest of the Bible! There are sins even our “devout catholic” teachers commit DAILY. The Bible also says God loves unconditionally and forgives unceasingly. I believe that instead of teaching what is “wrong” why not LOVE, joy, peace, patience, KINDNESS, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control (fruits of the spirit), wisdom, UNDERSTANDING, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, fear of the Lord (gifts of the spirit). Those are the things the Bible tells us. Not to hate, disregard, judge, condemn. WHO ARE WE to decide who is wrong and who is right? Who is sinful and who is just? It’s a sin to do that, as we’re making ourselves who God is- blasphemy, idolizing ourselves. I don’t even identify as Catholic anymore and it’s merely from “rules” being shoved down my throat for YEARS. God is not conditional. I never even learned how to talk to God, how to pray.. Anyway, that’s my general opinion on the teachings of catholic school religion teachers. I think we need to move past the 1700s. just my opinion. Even the current POPE said we should love our lgbtq neighbors!”