Catholic Culture and the Burlington Free Press (here and here) report that a diversity awareness event scheduled at a Catholic school in Vermont was cancelled because someone remotely involved with the event is pro-choice and pro-gay marriage. The event was to be held by Reading to End Racism, a national organization that combats racism through in-school programming.
The organization itself has nothing to do with reproductive or gay rights—it’s an anti-racism group. But it’s affiliated with the Vermont Anti-Racist Action Team, whose director apparently supports abortion rights and gay rights. One parent noticed, complained, and prevented all the students of Mater Christi from learning about racial tolerance.
This kind of vetting by Catholic schools has a serious cost. They’re denying their students valuable exposure to ideas and experiences—denying them the chance to become good stewards. This is not the first time a Catholic individual or organization has allowed intolerance to interfere with the Church’s message on loving our (black, gay, poor) neighbors, but it’s particularly embarrassing in this case.
What kind of a message does this send to the students of Mater Christi? Do they need to vet their friends, as well? What about their friends’ parents? Or their friends’ parents’ employers? (This could make for dysfunctional citizens in a state where gay marriage is legal.) Diversity of viewpoint, of course, is fine; Vermonters should not all be expected to have the same position on gay rights. But to silence a discourse on racism because of an undesirable “association” (as the superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Burlington, seeming pained, puts it) is antithetical to the spirit of education, parochial or public.
The head of VARAT, Paij Wadley-Bailey, embraces her “association”:
“VARAT also realizes that all of the oppressions are connected, whether it’s racism or sexism or homophobism or the right for a woman to choose. They are all connected, and how can you endorse one issue and not appreciate that oppression by any other name is oppression.”
Unfortunately, Mater Christi’s decision is part of a trend in the Catholic Church. By letting a few issues—namely those related to sex—trump all others, the Church is increasingly siding with the oppressor over the oppressed. It is, increasingly, a predictably reactionary force, and its schools, once renowned for educational excellence, risk losing credibility with this type of xenophobia.