By Gibbons Cooney

On March 7, I was contacted by the mother of a student at Presentation High School in the diocese of San Jose. She had a disturbing story.  She wrote “For years I had heard of the phenomenal education girls receive at Presentation, and I so far have not been disappointed with the high level academics… However, what I have come to find has been extremely upsetting and it is where this school is heading as far as the Catholic faith is concerned.”  She told us that last month,  Presentation “…celebrated ‘Community Development Week’  focused on Diversity.”  One day was entirely devoted to guest speakers and panels, which  included Intersectionality, Identity and Inclusion and  TRANSformed Gender & Sexuality – Knowing Thyself.

“My daughter did not get her first session choices, rather she was placed in two sessions, one on ‘Activism’ and the second on ‘Bi-Sexuality’.  The day began with Dr. Sandra (Chap) Chapman who gave a talk on Racial-Ethnic Identity Development and Racial Anxiety.  At one point she asked the entire student body if whoever felt part of the LGBTQ community to stand up.  According to my daughter, MANY girls stood up and Dr. Chapman told those that were still seated to applaud for the ones standing.  Afterwards my daughter’s afternoon was filled with what bi-sexuality is, how to identify it and how to keep bi-sexuals from being bullied.  My husband and I were absolutely dumbfounded since we knew little to nothing about what the day would entail.  To our knowledge, we did not have the choice to have our daughters opt out of these sessions.”

The mother, who had already contacted the diocese of San Jose “to no avail,” closed with a plea for help:  “I know we are not the only parents and students who feel threatened and know that our school and our faith are being tested.  In fact, one of my daughter’s religion teachers has said statements such as ‘this is what the Church teaches, however, I disagree with it’.  How can we teach our kids to grow in faith when they are faced, daily with everything that goes against it?”

It is difficult to imagine the diocese of San Jose taking any corrective action against Presentation, because it is difficult to imagine they see anything that needs to be corrected. The ‘Family Diversity’ page on the webpage of the diocese of San Jose contains six links. Five of the six links go to external sites:  Catholic Divorced MinistryCatholic Military FamiliesRaising Children with Special NeedsNational Catholic Office of the Deaf, and National Catholic Partnership on Disability. The “Raising Children with Special Needs” links to the website of the San Jose Public Library.

The only one of the six that links to an actual program of the diocese is titled “Pastoral Guidelines”.  But that title takes you to the document “Diocese of San Jose Guidelines for the Catholic LGBT Ministry Council, Patrick J. McGrath Bishop of San Jose.”

In contrast to the dismissive ’help’ supplied to parents of Children with Special Needs, the Guidelines for Catholic LGBT Ministry is four pages long, with clearly enunciated instructions:  “The bishop will appoint the chaplain and the members of The Catholic LGBT Ministry Council comprising no fewer than seven nor more than fifteen members, qualified and experienced in the pastoral and professional areas required by this ministry. The Council will establish its own organization and procedures to address its principal tasks….the Catholic LGBT Ministry Council meets monthly at the Offices of the Diocese of San Jose. To contact Members of the Committee, to volunteer service on its subcommittees and to seek assistance relative to this ministry, please contact The Catholic LGBT Ministry Council.”

Ironically, the “Family Life” webpage of the diocese also has an attached “Sex Education” page, which informs Catholic parents of public school students that “Parents DO have a say in what, whether, and how public schools teach THEIR CHILDREN about sex. Parents of children in California public schools have these rights:  To be notified about planned sexual education instruction; To review those materials in advance of the instruction taking place; To “opt-out” or excuse their child from attending — in part or all — sex and HIV-prevention education programs.”