Tuesday, May 10, 2016

As U.S. Attorney General Defends LGBT Rights, Some U.S. Catholic Institutions Continue Attacks on LGBT People: Gender-Policing at Catholic School Prom in Pennsylvania

In writing a moment ago about Loretta Lynch's clear, impassioned, morally cogent defense of the humanity and rights of transgender human beings — and of the obligation of a democratic society to protect these rights — I noted that some Christian communities appear intent on throwing away their moral authority by handsful at this point in history. Some Christian communities have, in fact, abdicated their responsibility to take compassionate and courageous moral leadership in an historic struggle for human rights and to combat the oppression of a viciously maligned minority group — and these Christian communities will, I predict, pay a very high price down the road for that evacuation of moral authority at this important juncture of history, after the dust has settled and the "debate" about the full humanity of LGBT people is over and done with. 

A case in point, a case illustrating in spades the self-evisceration of the moral authority of a Christian community: read Bob Shine's account of how school officials at Bishop McDevitt Catholic high school in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, behaved when student Aniya Wolf, a lesbian, showed up at the school's recent prom wearing a suit rather than a dress. As Shine reports, a school official grabbed Wolf when she tried to enter the prom and threatened to call the police. She was then evicted from the premises.

Aniya Wolf's family have reported that the school informed prom attendees of a dress code requiring female students to wear dresses only on the eve of the event, after students had made their preparations for the prom. Aniya Wolf routinely dresses in "masculine" clothes and has done so throughout her years at this Catholic high school. She had already made preparations to attend the prom wearing a suit, and saw no reason to make a last-minute change in her attire.

And so this is the hill on which Catholic moral leaders want to die now — whether male and female high school students wear "gender-appropriate" attire to proms?! This is the best the Catholic church can offer contemporary culture as it negotiates shifting attitudes about gender roles right now — Catholic gender police poised at the doorways of Catholic school events ready to pounce and yank misbehaving students out of the events and threatening to sic the police on them?

This is a church embodying mercy and welcome? 

It sounds as if Bishop McDevitt might want to team up with Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina as a feeder school, as that Catholic college brands itself with its "right-to-discriminate" exemption from the federal government permitting it to discriminate against transgender students, faculty, and staff in the name of fidelity to Catholic values. And as the Catholic diocese of Charlotte, North Carolina, teams up with Belmont Abbey College to start a diocesan minor seminary . . . .

As all this plays out, I suspect not a few people who once looked to the Catholic church for moral guidance premised on values of mercy and welcome will look elsewhere for inspiration, and will find more Christian inspiration — by far — in statements like the statement Loretta Lynch issued yesterday than in reams of exhortations about mercy and family values from the current leaders of many Catholic institutions.

The photo of Aniya Wolf from ABC27 is by way of Alanna Vagianos at Huffington Post.

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