Thanks for the tag, Jim. I hadn’t heard the Chicago story. Your excellent piece clearly exposes Catholic homophobia in all its incidious forms.
Before my grandchildren moved away, they attended a Catholic school. My daughter’s choice. I was conflicted. The school is small, highly rated, and proved to be a good fit for the kids, especially when they were quite young. The principal, teachers, and staff knew ALL the children by name. In many ways it was a unique and special place.
I spent all their years in that school counteracting what the kids were taught in the name of religion. My daughter doesn’t agree with much of the church’s teachings, especially in regards to sexuality, but she either didn’t have the inclination to actively disavow those teachings except by example, or she figured I would do it. Fortunately, she never disagreed with my unteachings.
Until third grade my grandson was extremely dogmatic, accepting the church’s teachings without question. My unteachings seemed to be useless with him. I feared he might one day be a priest.
Much of this had to do with the children’s father who claimed to be a devout Catholic while living his life far outside the church’s dictates. He conveniently handpicked the canons to follow. He was rabidly homophobic and preached his hate to the kids. My grandson listened and repeated what his father, and all his father’s family, believed. My granddaughter was oblivious. She’s always been a free thinker. In second grade, my grandson dutifully and piously went through the first communion process.
Their father lived elsewhere and only saw the children a few times a year but his influence on my grandson was absolute. As his visits decreased due to a pregnant girlfriend and his fear of arrest in our county for not paying child support, my grandson’s mind opened like a flower. He became inquisitive. He slowly began questioning what his father and the church were teaching him.
By the time my granddaughter was in first communion classes, my grandson was no longer a mindless Catholic. He was mulling and chewing on what he was taught, what I and his grandfather said, and what he saw in life around him.
Mind you, during those years of his unquestioning faith, my grandson still walked in the gay pride parade and attended the pride festival with us and his sister each year, and he socialized with our LGBTQ friends.
When my granddaughter sat through her weekly communion classes, my grandson, daughter and her new husband sat quietly in the back of the room. After each session, the teacher would open the floor to questions about that day’s lesson, welcoming parents and siblings to participate.
After the class on marriage, the students asked a few innocuous questions while the audience remained silent until my shy grandson raised his hand. He questioned why the Catholic Church doesn’t allow men to marry men and women to marry women. He countered the teacher’s response that God commands marriage is between a man and a woman by asking why and following with, Isn’t God all about love? He wants us to love one another, right? So, how can it be wrong for a man to love a man and a woman to love a woman?
The teacher predictably gave the same rote, dogmatic answers becoming increasingly agitated by my grandson’s whys until she abruptly dismissed class and fled before my grandson could corner her for a personal discussion on same sex marriage.
When my daughter told me the story of that day, I finally and confidently realized my grandchildren would survive Catholic school and emerge as free thinking adults. As fate would have it, they are not attending parochial school in their new location.
During their Catholic school days, I made my own silent statements by taking them to and from school and attending school functions wearing t-shirts that proudly expressed my decidedly liberal political and social views.
Most of my life I fought for change like a soldier in battle, and often that is the necessary approach. But, sometimes change comes quietly, secretly, one child at a time. For it is always the next generation that will pick up the banner or trample it under foot. I feel confident my grandchildren will raise the banner of justice and I know they’ve spoken their truths boldly to other children and adults. They must accept the challenge of making this world, or even their small corner of the world, a better place for all people.