CHARLOTTE, NC, April 7, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The bishop of Charlotte is backing a Dominican nun who has been at the center of a fiery controversy since last month when she gave a speech promoting Catholic teaching on sexuality to students at Charlotte Catholic High School.
After a public meeting with diocesan and school officials turned ugly, with parents and students alike shouting at administrators over what they perceived as “hateful” remarks criticizing homosexual behavior, divorce and extra-marital sex, a spokesman for the diocese told LifeSiteNews that the nun in question, Sr. Jane Dominic Laurel, did nothing wrong and will be welcome to speak on the issue again if she chooses.
Sr. Jane Dominic Laurel
“Nothing in Sister’s talk opposed Church teaching,” Diocese of Charlotte Communications Director David Hains told LifeSiteNews in an email. “Sister would be welcomed to speak in the diocese in the future.”
Hains said Bishop Peter Jugis is expected to make further public comment on the situation soon.
Sr. Laurel’s critics have complained about a section of her talk in which she discussed scientific findings related to the causes of homosexuality. According to the Charlotte Observer, she was accused of using “suspect anecdotes, antiquated data and broad generalizations to demonize gays and lesbians as well as divorced and single parents.”
But one Catholic scientist says he recently heard the sister give the exact same speech she delivered to the students, and in his opinion, there is nothing in it to which a practicing Catholic could possibly object.
“I was in attendance at the same presentation when given on Long Island, NY a few months ago,” Dr. Gerard Nadal told LifeSiteNews. “In that meeting, Sister Jane gave medical and scientific data that came from reputable sources and were presented as examples of the consequences for human behavior that contravenes the moral magisterium of the Church. As a Ph.D. in medical science, and as a Catholic schooled extensively in my faith, I saw no contradictions, but rather a seamless presentation.”
Still, in light of all the controversy, Aquinas College announced in a press release Friday that Sr. Laurel has asked to take a sabbatical from her teaching and speaking duties for an indefinite amount of time.
After the sister’s speech at a school assembly last month, students at the school launched an internet petition drive demanding an apology from everyone involved with arranging the speech, which quickly garnered thousands of signatures. Some parents also initiated a letter-writing campaign to the school’s chaplain, the bishop and even the Vatican, to complain.
Last week, school and diocesan officials held a public meeting to address the issue. The meeting attracted nearly 1,000 people, most of them offended by the nun’s remarks.
The Diocese of Charlotte’s newspaper, the Catholic News-Herald, reported that the meeting was acrimonious, with those who dared to speak out in support of Sr. Laurel or the Church being shouted down by an angry mob. The paper’s sources called the atmosphere “disrespectful” and “hate-filled.”
“Where was the trust? Where was the communication?” one parent said to school chaplain Fr. Matthew Kauth, who arranged to bring Sr. Laurel to the school. “It is trust. It is respect. It is confidence. I have lost confidence. I do not trust your judgment and I do not respect you.”
Another said, “You have divided parents, you have divided students, and we’ve lost respect for you."
“You don’t know best for our children,” said another. “What are you planning on doing for the healing? We want our children to remain Catholic, but we are being pushed away by the climate of what is going on here.”
The Catholic News-Herald reported that the angry remarks were met with thunderous applause.
Fr. Kauth said he brought Sr. Laurel to the school because he felt students at Charlotte Catholic had been poorly catechized and were suffering from spiritual darkness, particularly around the issue of sexuality.
“When I came here, I experienced to an increasing degree the suffering that comes to our children and the blackness they feel inside,” Kauth told the meeting. “They are taught by nearly every form of media that Christ’s teachings in His Church are restrictive bars, medieval torture chambers to keep them from happiness. When they have ‘broken free’ I get to see their agony.”
“I desire with a father’s heart to protect them [from] harm and the false notions of freedom to be able to live in the true freedom which chastity brings - free to love as we were made to love. This is where Sister comes in,” Fr. Kauth explained. “I heard Sister speak in the fall at St Patrick’s. While I had given so many talks on this topic in so many different ways I found her approach just different enough - a new voice and the added perspective coming from a woman. I decided to bring her here.”
“Sister and I are both quite aware of the biblical admonition from our Lord about what happens if one leads a little one astray and I am not fond of the mixture of millstone and water,” Kauth said. “The intent is and has only been to shine so as to set them free. However to hide Christ’s saving teaching is also a means to lead them astray by allowing them to be led away by another- and as you know as parents, there are many who would take your children where you do not want them to go.”
“Christ is light and in Him there is no darkness. His light sets us free to love as we were made to love-in the full dignity and beauty of the sons and daughters of God. His light also exposes and that can be painful. But that same light radiates the beauty of what we were made to be and can be if we would but receive it and assist each other in love to receive it. That is why it is Good News.”
“Darkness has fallen upon us with all of the attendant confusion which it brings,” Kauth continued. “Our Lord can speak to this darkness just as He did in the beginning and say, let there be light.”
To read Fr. Kauth’s full statement regarding Sr. Laurel’s presentation click here.
Diocese of Charlotte
Phone: (704) 370-6299