Catholic students fight back against archdiocese's anti-family rhetoric

Minneapolis' Catholic DeLaSalle High School had a mandatory assembly recently for its senior class, to educate the students on what marriage is and what a family ought to look like. As you might guess, this also meant telling the students who didn't count as a family and why some families were bad.

It didn't go over very well, according to a story in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

"The first three-quarters of the presentation were really good," said Bliss. "They talked about what is marriage and how marriage helps us as a society. Then it started going downhill when they started talking about single parents and adopted kids. They didn't directly say it, but they implied that kids who are adopted or live with single parents are less than kids with two parents of the opposite sex. They implied that a 'normal' family is the best family."

"When they finally got to gay marriage, [students] were really upset," said Bliss. "You could look around the room and feel the anger. My friend who is a lesbian started crying, and people were crying in the bathroom."

Bliss was one of several students who stood up to argue with the representatives from the archdiocese. One girl held up a sign that said, "I love my moms."

It's not a coincidence that this assembly was mandatory for seniors only. Minnesota will be voting on a marriage amendment this year. In fact, the presenters from the archdiocese tried to bring that issue up, but didn't get much of a chance to talk about it because of students—politely and respectively—challenging the rhetoric and asking pointed questions about evidence.

Also not random chance: The fact that high school students would challenge the Bishops on these issues to begin with. There is broad support for gay marriage among people under 30. In fact, multiple polls have shown that somewhere between 55% and 65% of all people under 30 support gay marriage. Like the seniors at DeLaSalle, a majority of young Americans get that this isn't a political football, it's a civil rights issue.

Read the Minneapolis Star-Tribune story about what happened at DeLaSalle High School.

See two polls on gay marriage from 2010 and 2011.

Via Slacktivist


  1. Uhhhh…wait a tic.  They are attending a *Catholic* private school, to which they pay money, and are upset that they got preached at on “proper family models”?  I can totally understand if this was a public school.  Am I missing something here?

    1. Yes.

      You may wish to reflect on two things: First, who pays the money vs. who attends the school and is subjected to the preaching. Second, the fact that offensive preaching is not the only or even primary product being sold as part of the package.

      1. Then the kids should take it up with their parent(s).  Still don’t see the problem here.  It offends me a great deal, but then, I wouldn’t send my kids to such a place.

        1. I’m not quite sure what exactly you’re getting at. Are you suggesting that the kids should have remained silent?

          Like you I probably wouldn’t send my kids to such a place either, but I realize some of the parents who, regardless of their religious beliefs, may have chosen to send their children to this school in the hopes that they’d get a better education than what was available at local public schools.

          But regardless of the parents’ reasons for sending their children to this school I don’t think the students should have to remain silent. If anything I’d say they used this as an opportunity to educate the people normally in charge of educating them.

        2. Still though– comparing adopted kids to animals? That’s kinda’ harsh, no? I mean MOSES was adopted for -er, you-know-who’s sake!

          And if I recall, it was you-know-who that was born to an unwed  mother.

          1. @Antinous_Moderator:disqus  Gee, it’s almost like Joseph’s act of forgiveness is symbolic or something. Changing water into wine is easy compared with the miracle of a forgiving cuckold.

        3. You may be confused because, unlike other parochial schools, private Catholic schools in the US don’t serve an exclusively Catholic student body.  This is due to high-quality teaching (a specialty of the Jesuit order), tuition fees that are often lower than those of other private schools, and  scholarship programmes that are open to anyone.

          Also, according to most polls the American Catholic laity (who often teach in and conduct the day-to-day business of the schools as well as send their kids there) are far less dogmatic on sex-related issues than the RCC hierarchy.

          This is an American school, operating under the First Amendment. The first clause of that amendment states that church and state should be separate, and the rest says that when someone, student or not, observes that rule being violated outrageously he can bloody well speak out about it to whomever he likes: parents, school administrators, the media, etc.

          1. That is soooooo not what the First Amendment says, but I agree with all of your other points.

            See, Tinker v. Des Moines.

          2. ChcagoD:

            The students spoke up about it outside the school as well as in the assembly. Gary Smith was arguing that the only people they should complain to are their parents.
            Tinker limits student speech on school grounds only.

        4. I went to catholic school with kids who weren’t catholic. It was just seen as a higher quality of education, despite the religious affiliation. 

      2. Catholic schools have in the past been known for giving a rather rigorous education. If Jesuits are involved, near-supernatural debating and basketball skills are practically de rigeur. The Bishops and the Catholics running the school might have very different outlooks.

        I attended a Catholic school in first and second grades and practically lived in that school’s library. It was there that I first read about evolution, in fact. Unrelated to that, I was expelled for poor behaviour, with the nuns seriously asking my folks to consider demonic possession. I so wish I had that in writing. 

        1. The Jesuits have a reputation for casuistry. I didn’t know they had a reputation for basketball too.

    2. You are missing something. Even Catholics are allowed to think and disagree with the bishops. Well-educated young Catholics should ask “why” when the bishops say things that don’t make sense to them. You should see what happens at Jesuit schools!

      1. Absolutely. The Catholics I know don’t agree with the anti-gay bullshit being spewed out by the higher-ups. Just like you can be an American and disagree with the President, you can be Catholic and disagree with the Pope.

        1. Just like you can be an American and disagree with the President, you can be Catholic and disagree with the Pope.

          As far as I can tell, agreeing with the Pope is the fundamental definition of being Catholic. If you disagree with the Pope, you’re an Anglican or similar.

          1. I tend to forget about them. They’re probably counting on that, now that I think about it.

      2. Being allowed to ask is not the same thing as being allowed to expect an answer that isn’t demeaning, insulting, and belittling.

        I learned this by asking a Catholic priest, when I was 10, just who the people were on the outside, looking in on the Garden of Eden, you know, since both of the people in existance were inside already.

    3.  The failed public education system in the USA means that “catholic” schools aren’t so much catholic as “semi competent replacements that are good enough that you overlook the religious indoctrination”

      Still, it’s good for HS seniors to be exposed to this. The sooner they realize that the Catholic church’s agenda is one of hate and intolerance, the better.

      1.  And by this article, the indoctrination is still working pretty well. Big whoop – a couple of kids were annoyed at the typical catholic hypocritical “love everyone except the people on this list” proclamations.

        I’m sure the church is good with an indoctrination rate of over 90%.

    4. Are you saying that because this was a “private” school somehow these students are not afforded or have access to the same civil rights, and personal beliefs and opinions, as everyone else?

      Certainly there may be no “law” that will interfere with a moral or religious lecture at a Catholic school, but does that give them the right to treat these students as human pawns in a political game?

    5. I’m guessing you lack the basic human empathy to imagine what it’s like to be raised by a single parent, someone who gives up almost every minute of her (in my case) free time for 18 years to not only earn the money to put food on the table but to actually cook it and put it on the table as well.  Someone who spends almost nothing on herself and saves scrupulously to be able to provide a comfortable environment now and college later.  And the thousand other sacrifices single parents make to raise their children.  And then to have some prick who’s not even allowed to marry somehow tell you your relationship with your mother is somehow abnormal or inferior.

      It doesn’t matter who tells you that.  Anyone talking shit about single mothers in any context gets me pissed because they’re talking about my entire fucking life.  In these kids’ position I would get pretty upset. 

      I don’t really understand why you’d expect people to just sit quietly through something like this when it disagrees with their values.  Of course they’re going to get upset.

    1. Jesus loved everyone, he didn’t make exceptions. For some reason the Christian right who have ostensibly ‘devoted their lives’ to the teachings of Christ seem to forget this simple fact.

      1. Possibly because the Catholic Church is not modeled on the teachings of Jesus, but on the state religion of imperial Rome.

          1. Adoption was the norm in Rome, particularly in the imperial period.  I guess that, when the pontifex maximus switched deities, some of the paperwork was lost.

          2. With all the animal cross-parenting videos I’ve seen on YouTube, I’m starting to think that the idea of them being adopted by a wolf isn’t all that far-fetched.

      2. My Gawd slayed the Christian God eons ago in glorious intergalactic battle.  Your God’s decaying entrails were spread across the galaxy during the violent slaughter.  Jesus is now my Gawd’s poolboy.  He does a great job with the pool because he doesn’t need an extended pole on his net.  He just walks over and picks up the leaves, etc. – Jesus loves cleaning His pool.

      3.  What nonsense. Jesus (assuming he even existed which is a very debatable subject) didn’t love everyone. There’s plenty of of biblical quotes that Jesus condemned various folks

  2. Go after their tax exemptions for trying to bring up the marriage amendment at all.

    They were so upset that the priest and school officials abruptly ended the assembly.

    I thought it’s supposed to be the children who get butthurt when interacting with Catholic clergy.

    1.  Church representatives are allowed to conduct “voter education” so long as it is not explicitly partisan (i.e. “Vote for party X” or “Vote for candidate Y” and certain permutations of the like). Nevertheless, it is important to remain vigilant as church representatives often cross that line but the IRS will not act unless served a specific complaint.

      1. It’s not voter education, it’s the theology of the Church. They are allowed to discuss with students in Catholic schools.

        1. If the conversation is explicitly in the context of a ballot initiative, it is voter education. In either case, if they want tax-exempt status they are still obligated to follow the rules the IRS has established for them. If they prefer not to, then start paying taxes like the rest of us.

          1. The students believe so:

            “Hannah said students were anxious when they heard about the program and were suspicious because only seniors were required to go. “We put two and two together,” said Hannah. “All of us will be able to vote next fall [on the constitutional amendment that limits marriage to same-sex couples].”

        2. According to the article, the presenters had the gall to try and bring up the upcoming referendum. One-sided “voter education” on a yes/no ballot initiative is tantamount to taking a partisan position in an election.

          1. Any non-profit is allowed to talk about their position on an issue, as well as their position on a referendum or piece of legislation.  Be careful what you argue for, as taking this ability away would keep Planned Parenthood or N.O.W. from being able to say that they don’t agree with legislation reducing access to birth control.

          2. Any non-profit is allowed to talk about their position on an issue, as well as their position on a referendum or piece of legislation.

            There’s a difference between a non-profit and a 501c3 tax-exempt non-profit.

            To be tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, an organization must be organized and operated exclusively for exempt purposes set forth in section 501(c)(3), and none of its earnings may inure to any private shareholder or individual. In addition, it may not be an action organization, i.e., it may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities and it may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates.


          3. Be careful what you argue for, as taking this ability away would keep Planned Parenthood or N.O.W. from being able to say that they don’t agree with legislation reducing access to birth control.

            I think that would be fine. PP/NOW have to engage in legislation-oriented activites because churches are committing First Amendment violations and their members are proselytizing.

  3. I’ve known Minnesota Catholics, attending Catholic schools, who were adopted; I can easily imagine their anger at the suggestion that their families were inherently inferior.  I’m waiting for some of these students to suggest that Jesus wasn’t exactly born into a traditional family.

  4. Though I disagree with any implied Catholic discrimination against married Gay couples, this is a private school and it operates under slightly different rules than publicly funded schools. Though, discrimination against “alternative” families is evil, I don’t see how this assembly is wrong.

    1. It’s wrong because it’s wrong to tell anyone, for any reason, that LGTB people, adoptees or single parents are not citizens with the same rights as everyone else. It’s wrong because the Catholic church has such a disgusting, wretched history of destroying the lives of people who don’t adhere to their corporate line. It’s wrong because it’s so viscerally, head-splittingly unfair for a powerful entity like the Catholic church to attack individuals who are so often powerless to defend themselves. And you, my friend, are wrong, wrong, wrong for even thinking of trying to defend these scumbags. Shame on you.

    2. It’s not so much that the assembly was “wrong” as it was obviously a bad idea. I’m pretty impressed with the way the student body handled it – basically shutting the presenters down by “challenging the rhetoric and asking pointed questions about evidence.”  There school is a success as it has produced students intelligent enough to think for themselves and question the dogma.

    3.  You’re fishing for a “free speech” issue where there isn’t one.  Nobody’s suggesting the school can or should get in trouble, but the students can question their school leader’s bigotry if they like, and of course the school can discipline them as well in return.  Basically:  Bravo to the students for calling them on obvious bullshit.

      1.  I think the underlying story here is about institutionalized intolerance and the fact that it has no place in a society that is slouching into the 21st Century.

    4. Please read the post. Nobody is saying they had no right to hold the assembly. The post is about the students exercising their right to question information they find questionable. 

      1. btw, Maggie, when you say “politely and respectively” you do mean ‘nicely’ and ‘one after another’, right?
        Respectfully, Teller.

    5. What does “love thy neighbor” mean in this context? See if you can describe it without weasel-words.

  5. Remember folks: if representatives from a church or diocese advocate for a specific party (even in the context of a ballot initiative) or candidate, they have violated IRS rules regarding the political activities of tax-exempt churches and can be referred to the IRS for investigation.

      1. Agreed. Moreover, the IRS rarely revokes the tax-exempt status of churches that are formally identified as violating the rule/s; they are nearly always sent a written warning instead.

        That said, more violations will undoubtedly occur as religious rhetoric intensifies again in the U.S. If secularists remain aware and report this illegal activity, enforcement may increase (especially with high-profile cases).

        1. It’s the locus for an atheist activist program.

          Sure, the Constitution prohibits the government from getting mixed up in religion, but, as we constantly see, there’s nothing preventing the reverse.

  6. Good for you kids.  Show those adults what real morality looks like.

    I have nothing but praise for Catholic school education though.  They did such a great job educating me that I became an atheist.  That is what you get when you teach people to think.  It is a good thing for the Catholic church that critical thinking takes work and most people don’t take to it.

    1. It’s the risk good Catholic schools run. You can’t really be a Catholic if you have never tested and challenged your beliefs. A certain percentage who test and challenge will fall away. A certain percentage won’t. Kind of like the Amish Rumspringa.

    2. The more I learned about religion and history (two subjects that I still love very much) the more a loss of belief became inevitable.

  7. Then it started going downhill when they started talking about single parents and adopted kids. They didn’t directly say it, but they implied that kids who are adopted or live with single parents are less than kids with two parents of the opposite sex.

    As somebody who was adopted in Minnesota via Catholic Charities, this all seems so bizarre.  My father passed when I was young too, so I ended up being raised by a single parent.

  8. Hmmm.  Did this presentation also cover the role of the Catholic church in subjugating, persecuting, torturing, and murdering women on a large scale for centuries?  I mean, really, if we’re going to talk about the Catholic vision of a “normal” family, surely it’s one where the wife is eventually stoned, drowned or burned for having the audacity to have a functional mind and conscience.

  9. After a person has been cloistered in positions of power and privilege for as long as some senior priests have, he unavoidably loses all sense of decency, empathy, and reality.

    Bravo to the students for standing up against this.

  10. Once again this is a conflict between the spiritual, moral Church and the political beast that gives itself the same name.

  11. I don’t know about adopted kids, but children of single-parents families do suffer from the (on average) lessor amount of time available (from personal experience). I’m of the somewhat convoluted position that IVF is great, but I don’t support a solo person getting IVF (if you’ve got a partner, of whatever sexual orientation, go for it). Of all the things the Mormons have said, I agree with the slogan they used in a TV-ad campaign in Australia “Family, isn’t it about Time?”

    A series of studies that came out in the mid to late 90’s came to the revolutionary conclusion that businessmen shouldn’t work long hours hoping for a promotion so they could buy their families more stuff, they should go home and spend time with them, That’s what their partners and (especially) kids wanted. I love my Mum, she tried really hard to raise my two brothers and I well, however we all suffered from being members of a single-parent family. There’s just less time.

    And yes, some people might be able to gather a large support network of friends and family, but for most single parents, there’s just not enough time to go around. It’s hard enough to raise kids with two parents.

    1. And I, too, was raised by a single mom (my father died when I was small) and I or my brother didn’t suffer from any “on average lesser amount of time available”. Sure, we had one less parent there than in a two parent home, but our mom was there equally much as any two parent mom would have been… more so, actually.

      So… hmm… personal anecdote doesn’t quite mean anything.

      1.  So your personal anecdote beats my personal anecdote?

        I’m glad you had a good childhood, I wish more people did.

    2. I fail to see how one child with one parent gets less parental attention than six children with two parents, which would be about the Mormon and Catholic ideal.

      1.  Except that the average global birth rate is 2.6 children per woman, and in the developed world I believe it’s below that.

        Also, if you have those six kids in the one room, you get economies of scale.

        The problem is, when you’re dealing with low numbers like the difference between one and two parents, the amount of available parenting time doesn’t always follow a linear scale. At least with two parents, they can spell each other.

        Tight religious bonds are one way to get other people to help look after your kids though. One thing we really need to start using technology to do more is get parents together so they can trade off down days so they have time to themselves or just sleep. We’re not there yet.

    3. Not all time is positive. What’s the rate of domestic violence in family units with one vs two parents? My guess is that the former has a much lower value.

      1.  You may be surprised to know that some child protective agencies are starting to actually leave kids in domestic situations where there is ‘some’ abuse, as the overall impact on the child may be less then pulling them out. It’s a bit crazy initially to think about, but sometimes a slightly-shoddy parent is better than being thrown into the foster system. Better to fix what you can than start over completely, if possible.

        However your proposition could be tested emperically, not sure it’ll stand up though.

    4.  Well if you acknowledge that almost every moment your single parent does not spend with you is probably spent FOR you either earning money to keep you housed and fed etc. etc. and if you learn to appreciate that then the diminished time and attention is actually a positive thing.  And kids can learn some self-reliance that way which isn’t a bad thing.  I think “suffer” is the wrong word for this. 

      1.  I recognise that my mother spent her entire day away from home working because that was the only way that we could have a decent life, but I also suffered from a lack of human companionship and parental guidance. Suffering while understanding Why you are suffering and understanding that there is little to nothing that can be done about it is quite possible.

        I take issue with your conclusion that ” the diminished time and attention is actually a positive thing”. It’s Not a positive thing. It’s an understandable tradeoff, but it’s not positive. It’s making the best of a bad situation, but it’s not positive. Three therapists and a 14-year effort to get One University degree are symptoms of a deeply problematic childhood with lingering negative effects. Things are improving in my life, but they could have been a lot better a lot earlier if things had been different in those first 18 years.

  12. DeLasalle is a terrific school.  Largely due to the efforts of the late Brother Michael Collins. 

    From the article, it appears that the folks giving the lecture are/were misguided and “old school” and they bounced hard when they tried to influence the “new school” population at DeLasalle. 

    My guess is, it is only a matter of decades, at best, before the school regresses to the mean and is no different from any of the other Catholic high schools in the Twin Cities.

    Qualifying (or disqualifying info):  I’m not Catholic, wasn’t raised Catholic.  Am currently an Atheist father of two high school kids.  And my kids do not attend DeLasalle.

  13. “a majority of young Americans get that this isn’t a political football, it’s a civil rights issue. ”

    Almost like something happens to us that takes up all the time and attention of the previously openminded american adult.

    You know, like, basic survival in the plutocracy constructed by and for the olds.

  14. Officially, the Catholic Church isn’t going to change its mind about s/s marriage. I do see it eventually lightening up about gay adoption, though. And that figures to be the first step in altering its views on marriage.

    1. It will in a few years once the anti-gay stance starts losing it more parishioners and money than is justified by the diminishing amount of in-group self-righteousness it fosters.

      1. The Catholic Church will lose parishioners for its stances on many issues beyond gay ones. As to its amount of self-righteousness, I defer to you and other experts.

  15. It’s The Church, after all.  What else should we expect?

    The Church has an increastingly difficult time propogating its teachings, not the least reason for which is that beginning with the invention of the printing press more and more people started learning what is actually written in the Holy Books and thinking critically for themselves about whether any of it could possibly be true.

    Humans are born to reason, and reason we do.  Some of us like to hold on to the myths, believing that myths have value.  Aesop’s Fables had value, too.

    Not all of the myths are so valuable, though, and it is counterproductive for a society that claims to value freedom to continue to encourage bigotry.

    There are things that threaten the healthy existence of an otherwise free society: theft, murder, dishonesty, violence especially against children and the tolerance of violence especially against children… these things should not be tolerated.  But loving a person whose skin is a different color than ours or whose sex is the same, or a child who is not our own blood?  Those are not bad things.

    Superstition is giving way to reason.  Long live reason!

    1. Catholicism shouldn’t be confused with religions that are Bible literalists. The Old Testament, source of Adam and Eve and Noah and all that stuff – that’s not important to Catholics. The New Testament, the “thoughts” of Jesus and the apostles is the focus. And that stuff is more like Aesop – ethical lessons. And in Catholic schools I flunked many science and math classes, including anthropology, biology, physics, calculus, trig, organic and inorganic chemistry, etc. The fault was not theirs.

  16. This wasn’t just about kids opposing church policy. 

    These kids saw their friends being insulted and humiliated.  Straight kids saw their QUILTBAG friends being insulted.  QUILTBAG kids saw their adopted friends being insulted.  Adopted kids saw their friends raised in one-parent households being insulted.  Straight kids raised in two-parent households by their biological parents saw their QUILTBAG adopted friends raised by single parents being insulted. 

    These kids understood the politics.   But they also understood friendship and loyalty.  When they spoke up, right there in the assembly, it wasn’t just to oppose the politics that was being preached at them.  It was to stop the people running the assembly from continuing to hurt their friends.  And it was to let their friends know that they weren’t alone, that their classmates had their back.  

    The original article has the kids describing how students were crying, visibly distressed, as they were being attacked in their own school which should have been a safe place to be. Waiting to protest, taking complaints to their parents, staying quiet and “respectful” during the assembly would have meant leaving all those kids who were being insulted, who were having their lives and loved ones demeaned, to sit and listen, without any word of kindness or support.  If someone is being hurt, right now, it is immoral to wait quietly until it is all over to object.  

    The kids who spoke up were completely respectful.  They respected human dignity.  They respected good people, their friends, when they saw their friends being attacked.  

    What they didn’t respect was adults with titles of authority using their power to insult, demean and bully children.  Children who were a captive audience to the adults attacking them, expected by school rules to sit quietly as they and their families were insulted and humiliated.  

    As humans, they understood and acted with kindness and dignity.  As activists, they acted as allies when they saw oppression.


    And since when does the Catholic Church oppose adoption?  Isn’t it supposed to be the wonderful answer to every problem pregnancy, so that even a woman about to die because of pregnancy complications in the first trimester of pregnancy doesn’t need an abortion because “yay adoption”?  

    And if a good-Catholic-woman is divorced by her converted-to-something-else husband, isn’t she forbidden to remarry?  Isn’t raising her children as a single mother the Catholic thing to do, if you’re abandoned by your spouse?

    Not only were the people running the assembly being cruel to children, they were being utter fools about their own Church’s policies.

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