Vocations classes host speakers from the Archdiocese
The hype turned out to be more than the actual event.
In November the Archdiocese announced plans to have speakers on marriage visit all of the Minneapolis/St. Paul Catholic Schools, and what students expected to be a controversial discussion––after reading about the heated question and answer session at DeLaSalle––ended up being an uneventful, controlled lecture.
Seniors in Vocation classes during periods three, five, and seven heard from Our Lady of Grace parishoners Dan and Sheryl Moran and either Father John Paul Erickson or Father Erich Rutten who preached on the topic of chastity and the value of faith in a marriage. “All of the Archdiocesan high schools are participating in the bishops’ program that involves married couples and priests who discuss the Catholic teaching about the sacramental nature and sanctity of marriage,” said Dr. Sue Skinner, Benilde-St. Margaret’s Senior High Principal, in a statement issued regarding the presentation. Dr. Skinner declined to be further interviewed about the presentation.
The Archdiocese sent the speakers to educate Catholic School students on the church’s beliefs on marriage and all it involves. “The presentation follows the themes and outline of [the Bishops’ pastoral letter of 2009 titled, ‘Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan,’] and is intended to assist the 13 archdiocesan Catholic high schools with an overview of the Church’s sacramental understanding of marriage,” said Eric Pederson, Assistant Superintendent for Religious Education for the Archdiocese’s Office of Catholic Schools.
While the content of the presentation is similar to the content of the Christian Vocations class at BSM, students seemed to be impressed with the way the presentation was handled, especially in regards to what many consider the most controversial topic of Catholic marriage: homosexuality. “I thought it went really well since they stayed away completely from homosexuality, and they just talked about marriage and the couple talked about their own experiences,” said Anna Cron, a senior Vocations student.
Prior to the speakers’ appearance at BSM, Catholic schools DeLaSalle and Holy Family witnessed less agreeable presentations. “The actual talk itself was good, it was neutral, it didn’t cross any boundaries. It was after the talk…we all got paper and pens to write down questions for them, and that’s how we got into the talk about gay marriage. The hostility was already there, so when it came time for the Q&A session there were a lot of questions about gay marriage in the church. That’s when it got more interesting,” said Katie Singsank, a senior at Holy Family.
Despite the generally positive reactions to the presentation at BSM, some students felt that the presentation was unoriginal and failed to address topics that are more relevant to this generation. “A lot of people were disappointed that they didn’t even talk about sexuality, but I think they were just trying to avoid something like De La Salle,” said Cron.
Despite such reactions, the Archdiocese believes that student reactions have been largely positive. “The responses from the overwhelming majority of the students who have attended the marriage presentations have been positive, as they found them informative and very much in accord with the courses in which they’re currently enrolled,” said Pederson.
However, the news of this event has led to some students questioning the intent of the presentations, and even subdued protests at other schools. “We all wore rainbow accessories so whatever it was hair bands, socks, bracelets…and we just tried to get the message out as much as possible to wear rainbow accessories if you supported it,” said Singsank.
Much of the controversy regarding the marriage presentation is connected to the media portrayal, which the Archdiocese regards as inaccurate. “In fact, in response to a question, the priest pointed out that while studies have shown being raised in a biological family with a mom and dad is the ideal, this doesn’t mean that children raised in single or adoptive families are less loved or secure,” said Pederson.
The one major difference that was noticed between the presentations at other schools and those at BSM was the absence of a question and answer session––the component of the presentation that caused the most backlash at other schools. At BSM, students compiled a list of questions prior to the presentation that was reviewed by teachers and then sent to the Archdiocese. “I thought it was going to be more back and forth with the asking questions, but they basically read them off and answered them,” said Levi Caffes, a senior Vocations student.
Some believe that this adjustment was made with the intention of avoiding conflict, in light of events at other schools. “BSM has a reputation for being really liberal as far as Catholic schools go, so I think they were afraid that they were going to get some kind of fight from the students, obviously they got that at other schools…but I wasn’t surprised that they toned it down,” Emily Herrmann, a senior Vocations student.
Perhaps the most controversial issue that arose among BSM students was the timing in relation to the Marriage Amendment––which would ban gay marriage in Minnesota––that seniors will be able to vote on this coming fall. “I thought it was really inappropriate. Because they sent out a DVD right before people were voting in 2010, and now they were only talking to seniors, who will be allowed to vote,” said Caffes.
However, this is not the first presentation of its kind, and the Archdiocese does not recognize any relation to the Marriage Amendment. “The Archdiocese has sponsored a number of presentations in our Catholic high schools over the years, including Jason and Crystalina Evert, a nationally recognized married couple who speak on chastity, sexuality and Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body,” said Pederson.
School administrators from DeLaSalle did not respond to requests for interviews for this story.