How would this be handled in a Catholic School?

I am very intrigued by this story in today’s edition of The Age: School the most dangerous place for young gays.

I wonder how such situations are handled in our Catholic schools?

First, let me say a couple of things:

1) I abhore violence, persecution and victimisation toward anyone, including those who self-identify as homosexuals. Paragraph 2358 of the Catechism says: “[M]en and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies…do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

2) I affirm with the Church (always thinking with the Church on this blog!) that (in the words of the Catechism again in the prior paragraph): “Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity [cf. Gen 19:1-29; Rom 124-27; 1 Cor 6:10; I Tim 1:10], tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered”141 [CDF, Persona humana 8]. They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.”

3) I am surprised that a boy in Year 6 (aged 11 or 12) could already be so sexually aware and mature as to be able to identify himself as “gay”.

4) I myself received distressing victimisation and name calling in later primary school and early secondary school in a country school, being called a “poof” simply because I acted differently from most of the other country boys my age with reference to matters of taste and culture. (I did not, at any stage, however, self-identify as “gay” – I would not have imagined such a thing).

So, given all that, how would the situation of this young man be handled in a Catholic School today? What would be the appropriate pastoral response?

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15 Comments

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15 responses to “How would this be handled in a Catholic School?

  1. Paul

    First of all, I also find it hard to believe that an 11 year old in year 6 would identify himself as gay. I teach a couple of year 5 and year 6 classes and I haven’t yet seen any boy interested in girls, let alone anything else.

    As a preliminary disclaimer, I am no expert in this area, and I self-diagnose myself as being insensitive.

    In my own school, (40 years ago!!!) there were 2 of my classmates who now say they are gay, but only made the claim after leaving school. During our school days, the only thing untypical about them was their lack of interest in sport (a lack of interest I shared myself). Looking back, they were sometimes mocked because of this, by classmates and (God help him) by a teacher. I didn’t think of this as serious mockery at the time, but it might have been distressing to the 2 boys involved.
    My (perhaps insensitive) observation is that in some (maybe many) cases, identifying oneself as gay might be psychologically comforting if you are a 13 year old who doesn’t fit into the blokey society of an Australian school. This might be comforting even if it were not true, after all football isn’t really any proof of manliness, even if schoolboys might think so. The fact that gay orientation is discussed so much in the media and sometimes by friends and teachers at school could easily confuse a child who is already unhappy about his identity at school. After all, identifying as gay is a pretty imprecise science, considering the number of men with wives and children who then decide they are gay.
    I hope the boy in the Age article has someone he can talk to who can be realistic about his worries at school and help him to understand that there is more to the world than silly school children who are annoying him.

  2. David I havent read the article but I would be very surprised if at that age the child would be mature enough to self identify as a lifelong inclination his own sexuality. My thought would be either attention seeking behaviour because today homosexuality is espoused or more concerning
    that this child has been or is being molested by an older male individual. My inclination is to this thought.
    A child of this age is usually not interested in sex they are interested in friendships especially friendships with mates and maybe someone has suggested that he must be “gay” because he likes being with his mates. this is when good friendships are begun. A girl in these years child is only interested in “girlfriends.”
    It was very irrespeonsbile of the press to run with such a story because it labels the child who is still in formation.
    This is called the “latency period” the time of “quietness” when past learning is strengthned before the next period of development the hormone fuelled years of teenagehood.
    Again, I would say he might be molested. Or he has been labelled “gay” because playing and being with is mates but this is the stage of development of these years.
    I smell a rat behind this story.
    Anne

    • I should point out that, as the story makes clear, the boy in question is now finished school and working with a local charity group to assist other students who experienced what he did. He is not 11 years old any more.

    • Paul

      I like the description of year 6 as the time of quietness. I (half jokingly) say that the peak of maturity seems to be year 6. They are mostly on top of everything that happens at primary school, but haven’t yet struck the teenage issues. From year 7 it all gets more complicated and mature behaviour starts to evaporate. I’m in my late 50’s myself now, and I think I am now again approaching the maturity of an 11 year old!!!! (at least I hope so)

  3. Clara

    Very interesting. I agree with most contributors, that homosexuality is unlikely to be the fundamental issue, especially at age 12. It is more likely that the boy has some adjustment issues, or other personality factor in relation to his identity.

    I was recently at a conference on Asperger syndrome with two world experts in the field – Tony Attwood and Isabelle Henault. Isabelle is Canadian and specializes in sexuality issues with Asperger patients. She was very non-judgmental in her presentation, but commented that a higher percentage of Asperger sufferers identify as bi-sexual – she said that many of these patients told her they fell in love with the person, rather than being focused on the gender of that person.
    The other interesting point she made was that she had been working with a group of transexuals in the US and every one of them had an Asperger’s diagnosis. She was not going to generalise about all transexuals but she thought this was a fascinating aspect about this particular group.

    Isabelle also spoke of some of her Asperger patients who had shown interest in cross-dressing – one of these was a teenage boy- she found that the reason for this was that he had only ever found acceptance of his Asperger condition from women, that his father had abandoned the family because he could not accept the diagnosis, and subsequently the boy wanted to be like the people who understood him.

    In all these scenarios, there is one constant – Asperger’s sufferers feel out of place in mainstream society – many of them also feel uncomfortable in themselves. This would be true of a child in grade six. They seek acceptance and perhaps they find it more readily amongst others who have similar adjustment issues.

    After the conference I was speaking with a friend who has a child with Asperger syndrome. My friend is also completing a PhD in education aimed at improving the school retention rate and services for adolescents with psychological issues. When I mentioned the transexual group, her eyes lit up. She has a brother-in-law who has had a sex re-assignment. He went from being Bradley to Brenda (not his/her real name) but remains married to his wife. He does not appear to be any more settled or happy with his new sexual identity. My friend has long maintained that he probably suffers from Asperger syndrome, but diagnosis with Aspergers is a relatively new phenomenon of the last twenty years. Many older people are being diagnosed, but previously many of these had been wrongly diagnosed as bi-polar.

  4. jules

    Well, it does get “handled” by the school very well . Most developmental issues about sexuality are left to the children and sometimes to the parents. However, there is a very strong anti bullying policy in place in all schools, regardless of what the target of the bullying is. Catholic schools, even so need to be an anchor for homosexually-inclined students, because they do suffer a”dis-integration” during their experience at Catholic high schools. Most suffer a disconnection from their families, their classmates, and their school, and even find themselves rejecting the very faith that should sustain them. The difficulties experienced by those students and the Church and school’s failure to help or direct them in the authentic catholic view ,is a reality, mostly because no one wants to be labelled or sued for sexual vilification or “homophobia” and unfortunately many catholic teachers do not understand or have rejected the church’s teaching on the issue. So everyone develops “truthaphobia” surrounding the issue or it’s swept under the carpet or worse authentic catholic teachings are misrepresented by teachers .

  5. jules

    correction to the above

    …..it doesn’t get “handled”

  6. Kyle

    I finished at a Catholic highschool two years. From my own experiences, I can say that these kinds of issues tend to be well handled. The brother at my school had put up a large poster ‘No to homophobia’. One of the senior students openly identified as gay and the staff stamped out any teasing whenever they saw it. Overall, I can’t see that homophobia was ever a problem.

    Of course, any Catholic school has to decide to draw the line of tolerance somewhere. I remember that the English faculty at my school once set Tim Winton’s collection of short stories as a compulsory text for year 11s. One of these stories however contained a story about a lesbian and the message of the story seemed to be that homosexuality is a legitimate alternative to an abusive relationship. The principal obviously had to intervene and force the faculty to drop the book. A Catholic school, while it must be tolerant, cannot be permissive.

    I agree with Jules too. Catholic schools do have very well-developed bullying policies. And if anything Catholic schools fail to offer firm moral advice to homosexual students, for fear of reprisals and accusations of intolerance. I remember once in a biology class, the teacher (not a religious) started discussing homosexuality and said that the students would be stupid if they had homosexual sex and did not use a condom. I think this teacher crossed the line of ordinary tolerance and ‘respect, compassion, and sensitivity’ which homosexuals are entitled to.

  7. Recall our previous discussion of how teenagers these days use “gay” to mean daggy, weak and lame?

  8. Tom

    I still think this issue represents a depraved ideology. Since people want to use the labels ‘gay’ ‘straight’ etc. and they’re labels that have built up such presence in our communities, they become used thoughtlessly.

    The assessment of a child (even by himself) identifying as being ‘gay’ at 11 or 12 is such utter nonsense, that as Anne said, he’s either been abused by someone which has reinforced that image of himself, or he has a parent who thinks that this is the case and kept telling him so.

    It all links back to philosophies that say the consequence of the action is what is important. If you wish to define sexuality by it’s object of desire, then terms like ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ make some sense, but they are still terms that are radically confused.

    Sexuality is gender, it’s not the object of desire. It is entirely possible for humans to sexually desire all sorts of terrible things: trees, shoes, animals, even children. Any true and appropriate definition must ultimately end up being defined by the true object of sexuality, which is unity and procreation.

    Men are not ‘gay’ or ‘straight’, they are men. Women are not ‘gay’ or ‘straight’, they are women. What’s more, children know this, better than most adults. There are some idea’s that are so amazingly stupid, you have to have a PhD to believe them (such as, reality does not exist). There are some idea’s that, being only slightly less stupid, you have to at least be an adult to believe (such as, sex and procreation are not intrinsically linked.)

    No child thinks in terms of gay or straight, they think in terms of boy and girl. There seems to be two kinds of people, boys and girls. Mum is a big girl, Dad is a big boy. An 11/12 year old making a distinction of the kind that is entirely against what his whole nature leans towards? I, like Anne, smell a rat.

    I shudder to think how a Catholic school might handle this issue. Are they going to try and be ‘liberal’ and say ‘that’s okay, we support you and your choices, and your rights’? Or, are they going to take a genuine path that attempts to help the child with what they know to be true, and risk being attacked by the media with vitriol and abuse. Either way, it is unfortunately not something the school should deal with. Sexuality should be taught at home, with direction by the Church.

    A friend was telling me, his younger brothers and sisters are now getting taught sexual education at year 5 and 6. So each time one of his siblings gets taught this, on Sunday morning, during morning prayer, their father gives a Catechesis about sexuality to their whole family. It is a tragic example of how schools and society no longer compliment the job of parents, but contradict it, and make it harder.

    This is unfortunately a product of my hoped for profession. People don’t realise that questions (and answers) about sexuality and gender rest on a certain philosophical interpretation of the human person.

  9. The issue is straightforward enough. Bullying is unacceptable altogether.

    Secularist propaganda is equally unacceptable.