I feel it is important to start this musing with a disclaimer. I lost my faith when I was young. I watched my Methodist church punish my parents for something that was A) none of their business and B) completely false. I saw my parents become ostracized in our own little community due to gossip and a heavy-handed preacher. This treatment deeply affected my views of the church and led me to wander, lost in my faith of people and Christ for decades. In college I wasn’t a very nice person and though I felt I was having “fun” in my sinful ways, there was always something missing. Of course, that hole in my life was my faith—a true, grounded faith built for centuries upon a guideline of teachings from the beginning of Christianity.
As God would have it, I found such faith in 2010 when I was flooded in downtown Nashville. My girlfriend at the time allowed me to stay with her (in a separate room) for what turned out to be a few months as I dealt with the mess. I remember her telling me she was going to Mass (never inviting me, mind you), and how she went every Sunday during that time. It wasn’t long before I invited myself to go with her, and a few weeks later I enrolled in RCIA.
A fire lit in my soul, and I devoured all I could to learn of the faith. I wasn’t naive enough not to understand that the church was still run by men who were not infallible, but the history, reason and facts of the faith could not be denied. Becoming Catholic is the single most important moment in my life, and I cannot imagine where I would be without it—without Christ. That same girlfriend and I are engaged and are currently working toward her annulment. Her daughter is the bright light in my world, and there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for her. She may not be my child by birth, but she is my daughter.
Do you remember as a child how, when your father told you to do something and you asked why, he told you “Because I said so!”?
Consider that for a moment if you will. Of course it worked for a time, until you became older and grew more confident in your life. If your father was one who allowed you to grow, try and fail, he was most likely the type of man who learned how to work with you as you grew up. After a while, the “because I told you” line began to no longer hold water. As you matured, you learned not only to ask questions but to reason the answers as well. When this happened, your father either adapted or you would be lost to him for many years to come.
And so here we are with a school and diocese where I live. You see, we have a school that, after one month of attendance, has decided it knows what’s best for our daughter. It has been decreed that she shall attend a theology-sex class, and there’s not a damn thing we can do about it. How do I know? Well, I’ve watched new friends, people of incredible faith, be singled out by this administration, shoved in the unruly student corner, and given the choice of signing over their God-given parental rights or be kicked out of the school. What? “No way!”, you say? Yep—see (here) and (here).
I can tell you these families did their due diligence; they took the proper route only to have the Diocese fully support the school and administration of Father Ryan High School. I’ve watched the administration take on the “bully in the schoolyard” approach in the quietest of ways, like sending emails telling them their student probably no longer feels welcome, so they should leave, or calling the parents into their offices and shoving the “sign your faith away” documents in their faces with the “sign now or opt out of this school” line. How does this even happen given the fact that our faith and church documents stand 100% behind parental rights when it comes to the education of our children? See (here) for that info tidbit.
Yet Father Ryan, on its own website states:
“Father Ryan recognizes that parents are the first educators of their children. As such, your role in the education of your children cannot be underestimated. When you entrust your child to the Father Ryan Catholic community, you become partners with us in the formation of your child spiritually, academically and in every other way.
We understand that this is truly a partnership; you don’t leave your children at the front door, you instead become part of a larger family with its roots back from 1925, back to the Gospel message of Christ.”
Uh oh…. Now who put that in there? If we are the first educators, as you claim, then why all the hubbub, bud? Why the cloak and dagger email stuff, and the “Come see me in my office because you’ve been a bad parent” jazz? Words…. Sadly, these seem to be only words, and not worth the web page they were typed on.
I can also tell you the reason for these parents to be upset is real. I bought the book being taught, and downloaded the supplemental material as well. Professionals in the field have even stated that this course may do harm to the children—especially in a co-ed setting—yet the school is busy tamping out this little brush-fire to protect their small inner circle. The Diocese seems to have completely turned their backs on these children and forgotten church doctrine. I’m no prude, I can promise you. Heck, I’m an artist who has drawn more nude figures than many doctors have seen in their practice, and I know when something stops being “Theology” or “Sex-Ed” and becomes something unholy. Don’t believe me? Check (here) and (here.) Go ahead—I’ll wait.
Now that I have your attention…….
Where should we go? Many tell us “pull your child out.” That time may surely come, but does it solve the issue for all the other children receiving this? Does it change the fact that a 14-year-old girl gets to see that “waxed crotch-shot”, learn the average size of a penis (flaccid and erect, mind you), as well as learn the important lesson on “Aphrodisiacs, Drugs and Sex” found in chapter 13 of the book, all while sitting next to her male counterpart? Awesomeness, isn’t it? Before I go further, there is another aspect to this portion of the discussion. While it might not seem so, there are many wonderful, redeeming things about Father Ryan, and it was our choice based on the guidance of middle school staff that our daughter attend. The credentials seemed in place, and in other ways our daughter has loved being at Father Ryan. She has started to grow as a young teen, but there is no room for negotiating our child’s safety. All we have asked is for our voice to be heard and the option of not being forced to attend a class we deem harmful to our child. Remember……
– “Whoever causes one of these little ones* who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of things that cause sin! Such things must come, but woe to the one through whom they come!” Matthew 18: 6-7
What do you do about such a situation? There is a Canon Lawyer involved; paperwork is off to Rome, there have been TV interviews, multiple writings from the press on this, and still the “Father Ryan Mafia” marches on. To whom does one turn in order to stop this madness?
Did you know we have been told that they have taught this lesson for 30 years? Seriously? Since 1986 they taught this and didn’t change a thing? First, if that’s true, we have a big issue. Life in 1986 isn’t anything like life in 2016, so if you haven’t changed the curriculum, then “Houston, we have a problem.” If you have changed it—and we have proof that you have—then why the untruths? Why be untruthful in such a way? Isn’t that a “big one” to God, and who in the world approved this material? Was there a board you went to? Did you involve the parents?
Did you know that other Catholic schools actually allow the children to opt out of such classes?
Did you know even the public schools do as well?
So why not Father Ryan? Could it be a long pattern of darkness that has followed this school for decades? (here)
It has been stated that there were only one or two families who disagreed with this material. I can tell you that that is untrue and that all parties involved know it. I remember being told “There were a couple of families who raised concerns but they have been addressed” at our group parent teacher meetings before school started. For the sake of argument, let’s say I am wrong and it was just one family. What was it Jesus said… hmmm let me see….
– “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?
And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.” Luke 15: 4-6
And what happens to those children who are forced to leave a school that, in many aspects, they love? Where do they go, and has anyone even considered how painful and shameful it must feel for a teenager to go through this? To be known in a school of faith as “the kids whose parents are crazy”, and then uprooted mid-term to a completely different cultural environment? Many of these kids have only gone to Catholic schools and have now lost all friendships they have garnered since kindergarten. Oh, but the FRHS machine must roll on!
For the record, I do know our child shall be the next to be removed from this school. Why? Because just like when Sir Thomas More refused King Henry the VIII’s request, “bad times are a comin’” to this household. For surely those in power at Father Ryan shall not allow such an uprising from the peasants (you know, those parents who spend $14,000 to $19,000 per year for the privilege to send their children there) because their unflappable command is at stake. All they’ve worked for their entire lives rests on not budging one inch on this subject. And the rest be damned to protect their name, careers and pocket books.
Ain’t that just the way we were taught through the Catechism?
In closing, please understand that we love our faith, our brothers and sisters in Christ, and all that the church is. As for myself, I am so grateful to be Catholic. It’s a choice I made without an ounce of regret, and I know I am closer to the Lord as a result of becoming Catholic. However, I hold great disdain for those in power who wield it in such a manner as to cause pain, distress and harm. It is not tolerable and shall be met with the strongest, loving force of opposition that can be mustered. In the end………
“The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.” Winston Churchill
God’s Blessings to you