Travis Rowley: Hendricken, Progressives, and Homosexuality

Saturday, May 19, 2012


Bishop Hendricken High School president John Jackson set off somewhat of a Facebook firestorm this week when he penned a letter to the Providence Journal that criticized President Obama for “favor[ing] same-sex marriage,” and for essentially recapitulating the Catholic Church’s position concerning homosexuality.

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Most notably, a coalition of Hendricken graduates began to accumulate on Facebook, a group whose members signed on to an official letter intended to hold Jackson “accountable for his reckless comments,” and chide him for putting gay “students at further risk of abuse.” The group’s activism became highly responsible for Bishop Hendricken’s own Facebook page being bombarded with statements of disapproval, many of them mocking Jackson’s letter while others called it “embarrassing,” “disappointing, “pathetic,” “derogatory,” “incendiary,” “sickening,” “inflammatory,” “irresponsible,” “hateful,” “hurtful,” and “crap.” With one former student writing, “I always hated that guy anyway,” Jackson was excoriated as a “demented old crank,” an “example of a Catholic ghetto educator's…intolerance,” a “made man within the…Church's Band of Bigots,” and a “fascist puppet [of] an outmoded child-raping organized crime enterprise.”

This is what’s known in progressive circles as “liberal tolerance.”

And perhaps that’s the best reason to be skeptical of gay marriage – because the issue is largely advanced by members of the progressive Left, a political sect made up of people who are dedicated to extreme and secular deviations from traditional American life. At its worst, the Left is directed by a body of radicals who have proven themselves willing to go to extreme and unethical measures in order to advance their desires. And at the very least, the Left is responsible for promulgating a shallow subculture of political correctness that ultimately results in people engaging in discussions in the manner witnessed above.

Here’s why this is relevant in the case of John Jackson: Most Americans are rather conservative, and the Left knows it. Responding to Jackson’s letter, one of his alumni detractors expressed “fear that this kind of thing might turn into a net gain for the school when you consider that so many alumni identify very strongly with the underlying message that Jackson puts forward.”

What else are a bunch of political die-hards to do other than allow deception, intimidation, hard-core organizing, political correctness, and anti-intellectualism to become their political culture?

How else would they be able to thrust something like gay marriage past the objecting masses?

An Oddly Disproportionate Reaction

The uproar over John Jackson’s letter should be seen for what it is: A standard exercise in progressive politics. The ferocity of Jackson’s critics has a direct purpose – to paint the impression that Jackson has little support, to punish and silence him, and to communicate a clear lesson to all other potential opponents of gay marriage.

Why else would so many Hendricken graduates exhibit so much horror over the president of a leading Catholic high school confronting the issue of homosexuality? As a former Hendricken student, I can say with certainty that Hendricken alumni understand full-well that their alma mater’s mission includes “strengthen[ing] the relationship of all members of the community with our God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit,” and ensuring the “spiritual growth of our young men.” (BHHS website)

If the president of Bishop Hendricken isn’t allowed to defend Catholic values, then who can?

This is how we know that many of Hendricken’s progressive graduates aren’t being entirely genuine. They won’t even tolerate a debate sparked by something as tame as having a Catholic leader call homosexuality “immoral,” “disordered,” and “wrong on so many levels” – Jackson’s “choice of words” that these Hendricken activists found most disturbing.

But what alternative impression were these people under in regards to Catholic teaching?

In fact, when Jackson’s critics discovered (and incidentally admitted on Facebook) that “disordered” is the precise “word used in the Catholic Catechism,” and that their own theology teachers likely “used the word” during class, the only thing they were left to complain about was Jackson’s rather boring summary of the Church’s stance on homosexuality – that it’s “immoral” and “wrong.”

Oh, stop the presses!

The reaction by these Hendricken progressives has been oddly out of proportion. Only when we understand their learned leftist aversion to debate and open discourse can we see their behavior for what it truly is – the exercise of a dumbed-down subculture that represents the “internal moral decay” that Jackson mentioned in his letter.

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“Father, Forgive Them; For They Know Not What They Do”

It cannot be misunderstood that, within their letter, Hendricken alumni unmistakably call for truth to be trumped by political correctness. According to them, Jackson should have curbed his “right to voice his political views and advocate his spiritual beliefs.” Even though “none of the moral assertions you make conflict with the Church’s stance on homosexual activity,” the “real world repercussions” are that Jackson has “put these students at further risk of abuse.”

I wonder, are these activists (many of them Catholic) concerned with the “real world repercussions” of regulating dialogue? How about when the teachings of the Catholic Church are forced to be sidelined?

Or are these former Hendricken students now full-blown participants of a post-Christian society, secular-progressives who are happy to have their Bibles and Catechisms collecting dust during the decades to come? Do they now worship political correctness above all else, the protection of people’s feelings at the expense of truth and Rome’s mission?

When this group of alumni argue that they “sat through hundreds of some very well-taught theology classes and never once did an instructor describe homosexuality or homosexual activity as ‘wrong on so many levels,’” are they not attempting to protect the society of silence that has left Christians without the knowledge and ability to defend their own faith, and the conditions that likely led to their own progressive development?

Posts during this week’s Facebook activity asked, “Why is it morally bad to be gay?” and “Can someone please explain to me the reasoning behind the ‘homosexuality is immoral’ argument? I honestly don't understand.”

They really don’t know. As is the mark of faux intellectuals, they are incapable of articulating precisely what it is their scholarly rivals actually believe. So they lazily assume a position of moral superiority, and simply decide that they are engaged in a battle against bigotry, hatred, and hypocrisy.

The graduate who admitted that he had “yet to see a logical argument that does not have to do with faith whereby the conclusion of the argument is opposed to gays getting married” was only left to conclude that people who are “guided only by their bigotry and hatred for all things different…sadly [make] up the majority of those opposed to allowing homosexuals to get married.” Another decides, “Our church is extremely hypocritical. Priests molest children, people divorce, miss church, and sin all the time. How is gay marriage any less or more a sin than what 90% of Catholics do everyday?”
This is the end-game of our philosophical retreat – Christian hatred for the Christian religion.

And this is the ignorance that has resulted from the Left having beaten Christian teachings out of the public eye for years. This is the absence of a Cranston school prayer. This is the removal of a Woonsocket Cross. This is the secular totality the Left aims for.

Doing my small part to enhance the debate, I continuously posted two articles on Facebook this week that I believed to be helpful to the few people who even seemed interested in becoming more educated on the matter. They can be found here and here.

In typical leftist fashion, however, one Facebook participant responded, “i would never read that BS.”

Disingenuous Liberals

Admittedly, there are multiple values at play. One is open discourse, which leads to discovery and truth – not only a vital Catholic principle, but a primary aim of education as well. Another is the willingness to stand up for what one believes in – precisely why I labeled Mr. Jackson’s letter “brave” and “fortunate” this week, in that it allowed Hendricken students to witness one of their role models defend Catholic values in a world that is increasingly hostile to their Church.

And, certainly, a competing concern in regards to the current issue is compassion for homosexual students.

But why would Hendricken alumni pretend as if their alma mater is incapable of balancing a community of principles, and act as if Hendricken ever taught us anything other than love and patience for all God’s children? All of this comes after they learned that the word “disordered” has been employed at Hendricken for years. So why would Hendricken’s homosexual students suddenly be subject to abuse after Jackson’s letter simply added that homosexuality was “wrong?”

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As I’ve stated on several occasions, “all liberal ire is ironic and/or phony.”

Certainly, some of Jackson’s detractors are guided by their soft-bellied sensibilities that instruct them to over-protect certain classes of people. But for most of them, this is about gay marriage – and nothing else. They believe this portion of the Catechism to be rooted in bigotry, and they’re seeking reform.

This is about ensuring that Catholic students graduate without the Catholic values.

As this is the Catechism’s official teaching – “[Homosexuals] must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” – I informed one of my former classmates this week that if Hendricken continues to teach good Catholic values, there will continue to be no safer place for a homosexual student. Of course, to this, Catholic-bashing emerged from an individual who never attended Hendricken: “How many of those boys…wouldn't chastise a boy that might be gay?...eing taught gays are immoral and will burn in hell will supersede the Catholic values you speak so highly of.”

The Left’s blindness to its own ignorance and bigotry never ceases to amaze.

But now I had to wonder if my former classmates were prepared to agree with this individual. Unfortunately, I witnessed only silence from several of them during this week’s Facebook activity when a woman stated that she finds it “distressing” when her “lefty friends…choose to send their children to Catholic school” because it puts “their kids in a position to learn to hate my kid,” that a Catholic education puts children “in the path of learning homophobia,” and that the “Catholic official stance” is “hateful.”

None of my former classmates found it necessary to correct this woman, defend Bishop Hendricken, or defend the Church. That’s how much intellectual honesty progressives bring to the table when their progressive agenda hangs in the balance.

Bishop Hendricken and the Culture War

Several weeks ago I wrote that “liberalism has the capacity to infiltrate any organization, no matter how sound or sacred.” This includes Bishop Hendricken High School, and the Church as a whole. And it has been sad to discover that so many Hendricken graduates have surrendered their allegiance to the truth, and the terms of a higher culture.

With hundreds of Hendricken graduates organizing against their alma mater this week, perhaps we should consider the possibility that this entire episode represents a failure on Hendricken’s part. But perhaps Hendricken never stood a chance against the secular college campuses they release their students to every year. Or perhaps things aren’t as bad as they seem. Either way, I’ll always attempt to live up to the words of John Jackson: “Count me in on the side of those who say enough is enough.”

Travis Rowley ( is chairman of the RI Young Republicans and author of The Rhode Island Left: An Indictment of the RI Left.


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