“It’s a Catholic priest speaking at a Catholic school. It’s touchy,” said Tym Moss of the Bronx LGBTQ Center.
Linger over that. A Catholic priest speaking at a Catholic school is touchy? You’d think that priests speak at Catholic schools every day and it would be completely unremarkable. But you don’t live in gay world.
Well, actually you do. You just don’t know it yet.
The prestigious Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx, created precisely to teach inner-city kids whose parents fight to keep them out of the disastrous New York Public School system, is under fire for inviting a Catholic priest to speak on Catholic teaching.
A Spellman parents’ group invited Reverend Donald Timone to talk about Church teaching on homosexuality and a Church-sanctioned program for gays who want to live in accordance with Church teaching. The program is called Courage, and has chapters all over the country, and overseas.
You would have thought Hitler was coming to town rather than a kindly octogenarian priest. The New York Daily News headline screamed, “Rev. Donald Timone – who advocates ‘pray away the gay’ – will speak at Cardinal Spellman High School.”
The reporter never revealed exactly where Father Timone advocates something called “pray away the gay.” That’s a slur used by gay activists against those who would help men and women with unwanted sexual attractions. Most of the news reports on this controversy repeated some version of what Courage does not do, so-called “conversion therapy.”
ABCLocal used “pray away the gay” and called it a twelve-step program, which it’s not. “Opposingviews.com” said that Courage and its allied group, Encourage, which helps friends and relatives of gays, does “reparative therapy.” Also false.
Opposingviews.com offered an example of Timone’s “anti-gay bias”: “Courage claims that ‘by developing an interior life of chastity, which is the universal call to all Christians, one can move beyond the confines of the homosexual label to a more complete identity in Christ.’”
Oddly, the New York Times got it near right in describing Courage’s work as encouraging “men and women with same-sex attraction to remain celibate.” Nothing about “praying away the gay” or “reparative therapy” or “conversion therapy.”
What does the scary Courage actually do? Through group meetings, online support groups, and retreats, Courage has five goals for its members:
- to live chastely according to Church teaching;
- to dedicate their lives to Christ through service to others and a regular regimen of religious activities;
- to foster a spirit of fellowship;
- to be mindful of the truth of chaste spiritual friendships;
- and to live lives that may serve as good examples to others.
Cardinal Spellman High School
The Post reporter somehow found an alum – a drag queen going by the name Miss Coco Peru – who is apparently “incensed” that the priest is coming. “They’re trying to shame these kids,” he said.
An online petition was launched. A Facebook page was started. There was going to be a candlelight procession outside when the priest spoke.
Clearly, the students have not been very well catechized on Church teaching, or the parents for that matter. Parent Leanne Arena said, “I think God made everyone and everyone deserves to be who they are and there’s no person that can change that.” Tell that to Augustine who rolled in briars to change himself.
Seventeen-year old student Aneesa Alli said her “Theology of the Body” teachers explained that being gay was a type of sexuality and nothing more.
The student body president, Jamie Crowther, said perhaps the most sensible thing, “Some people it may offend and some it doesn’t and some don’t even care. At the end of the day it’s his own belief and your own belief and you don’t have to take it.” Note, however, that he referred to Catholic teaching as the priest’s “own belief.”
The event likely would have gone off without a hitch except for a claque of gay alums who watch and wait to impose their views on Spellman. How else did this local story break out into the most important newspaper in the world?
How did the newspaper reporters, a notoriously lazy lot, find not one but two and perhaps many more former students who are gay activists, including the drag queen and someone named Gypsy Guillen Kaiser, who the Times identified as “an independent advocacy strategist.” Of course, Gypsy and Miss Coco Peru alerted the media to latest offense against their sensibilities and the media obediently lapped it up.
Besides yet another uncatechized generation, the bigger problem in the immediate situation is with the Board of Trustees, which postponed Fr. Timone’s talk. That board includes at least one person, probably more, who would be highly sensitive to any whiff of “homophobia,” even in Church teaching.
Paula Madison, a long-time print and broadcast journalist, retired a few years ago as the first “chief diversity officer” of NBCUniversal in Los Angeles. Diversity means privileging, protecting and promoting anyone other than white males unless a white male is gay.
Madison spoke at a 2000 conference of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association at which an MSNBC producer complained about the idea of balance in reporting, and compared talking to critics of homosexuality with talking to the Klan about black issues: “I don’t see why we would seek out. . .the absurd, inane point of view just to get another point of view.”
At the Jefferson Lecture a few years ago, Harvard Professor Harvey Mansfield said, “You can tell who is in charge of a society by noticing who is allowed to get angry and for what cause.”
Indeed, you can tell who is in charge these days. The gays and their allies are allowed to get really angry, any time and over practically nothing. The Church, however, must tippy-toe.
What was the N. Y. Archdiocese’s response to the Spellman kerfuffle? Of course. No comment.*
*After this column was published it came for our attention that the Archdiocese of New York did comment: in a column by Caridinal Timothy Dolan himself.