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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.

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.

“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?”

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 (TravisRowley.com) is chairman of the RI Young Republicans and author of The Rhode Island Left: An Indictment of the RI Left.


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Very nicely done, Mr. Rowley. The pursuit of the truth is an ideal that is under direct assault these days.

Comment #1 by William Suffik on 2012 05 19

Liberals just don't care what they destroy on their way to their Earthly paradise. These people should be ashamed of themselves for trying to ruin John Jackson's reputation. This is a man who has dedicated decades of his life to Hendricken High School.

Comment #2 by Bryan Sullivan on 2012 05 19

Wow. Sit down, progressives. Rowley just "schooled" you.

Nice work, Travis.

Comment #3 by Jared D on 2012 05 19

Travis, how do make the jump from Hendricken graduates to progressives? Is anybody who supports same-sex marriage suddenly progressive, or even liberal at that? If I'm not mistaken, don't libertarians as well as log-cabin Republicans also for same-sex marriage? Is it possible that these Hendricken graduates are libertarians? Maybe they are centrists? Some centrists support same-sex marriage. My point is that I think you made a poor assumption.

Comment #4 by John T on 2012 05 19

well done.

Comment #5 by Kevin O'Connor on 2012 05 19

John T., Good point, but I think this is the point: "the issue is largely advanced by members of the progressive Left".

"Largely" is the key word. Plus, judging from the comments that Travis cites, these graduates seem to have adopted progressive politics. I would say that Travis makes a safe assumption.

Comment #6 by Bryan Sullivan on 2012 05 19

As a Hendricken grad , Travis , you are spot on . About time someone stood up for their beliefs without being afraid of not being politically correct . You can ask me to be tolerant of the homosexual lifestyle , don't ask me to endorse it .

Comment #7 by george grossi on 2012 05 19

It does bother me that many liberals seek to stifle opposing opinions. I am a firm believer in free speech and defend the right to express any and all opinions. To do otherwise leads us on the road to fascism.

Comment #8 by Peter Cassels on 2012 05 19

Travis Rowley's article is a self-pitying collection of insincere half-truths which serve to reinforce religious conservatives' un-American hatred for freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

Liberals in Cranston and Woonsocket -- most of them Christian or Jewish -- are practicing freedom of speech while defending their own freedom of religion, in particular the U.S. Constitution's prohibition against state sponsorship of one specific sectarian religion. It's important to note that liberal-bashers in Cranston and Woonsocket are unwilling to allow Jews, Muslims, and other non-Christians to air their own prayers and religious symbols on the same taxpayer-owned properties.

The liberals who criticized John Jackson generally did not seek to silence his religious viewpoint. They did employ their own freedom of speech and freedom of religion to counter his defamatory falsehoods and his immorality. Freedom of speech cuts both ways: It allows Jackson to speak, and it defends the right of others to criticize Jackson. Too many religious conservatives hate that: They hate it when other people of faith exercise freedoms that religious conservatives seek to reserve solely for themselves.

Rowley's article might have seemed at least marginally sincere if it had fully quoted what Jackson was actually criticized for saying:

"If we do not turn this immoral tide around, this nation will follow all of the other great civilizations of the past that collapsed, not through outside invasion, but from internal moral decay."

There is no truthful historical basis for such an incendiary and false claim about gay people -- a falsehood that is intended to rationalize and justify antigay violence as a required act to save civilization.

So let's recap: Jackson used his authority as a school president to tell a historical lie and to commit blasphemy by presuming to know the mind of God ("I assure you he is not happy") -- the sort of megalomaniacal claim usually left to the most corrupt televangelists, not people of genuine faith and integrity.

And now Rowley condemns anyone who employs their own freedom of speech to teach historical accuracy and rebuke Jackson's sin against God and His people.

History's great nations have been felled by military overextension, geographic overexpansion, overspending, religious conflict, reckless consumption and exhaustion of domestic resources, and conquest by rivals that were not so overextended and divided.

Nations have also been felled by inflexible and arrogant political forces that commit selfish and reckless nation-destroying activities -- runaway spending, selling off national resources to foreign interests, oppression and genocide against domestic minorities, civil wars -- all while claiming that God is on their side.

Jackson's statements, and Rowley's defense of them, reflect a selfish, blasphemous, and divisive spirit that is tearing away at this nation's freedoms -- and its social cohesion.

Comment #9 by Michael Airhart on 2012 05 19

For the naysayers (those who oppose Jackson's commentary) I am continuously amazed at what appears to be a pretentious intellectualization of the subject of same sex marriage, indicating a recent discovery that semantics is a useful tool in the redefinition of timeless truths to advance new legions of "squared circles" to protest (it seems too much)about their recently found reformulation of the nature itself. Mr Jackson is to be commended for his defense of this accelerating tortured agenda as is Mr. Rowley for giving it proper exposition. Please allow me to add the content of an e-mail I shared with friends recently on the same topic:
Dear Friends:
Now that our governor and General Assembly have become experts in addiction disorders and chronic pain by placing their clinical stamp of approval on
legalization of marijuana, they turn their attention to redefinition of the human race. I would hope they would give some attention to this devolution ,
which has been enhanced by our president and other like minded theologians in Washington, D.C.
Please take the time to read this well written exposition of the folly and distortion of this thinking before our Judaeo Christian heritage is further
debased by this lemming activity, helping to abuse the minds of our children and further debase RI society. Please share with your colleagues:

Comment #10 by Donald Galamaga on 2012 05 19

Sigh. Religious conservatives keep redefining marriage. The only marriages in the Bible that are acceptable are:

1) arranged marriage between strangers
2) polygamous marriages for King David and other royalty

No matter how much liberals try to domesticate marriage, make it moral in the modern era, and leave it for individuals to live out the details in peace... there will always be religious conservatives who debase marriage with Big Government and Megachurch regulations, taxes, and handouts.

Comment #11 by Michael Airhart on 2012 05 19

Too many religious conservatives debase society with defamation against dissent among the faithful; with graceless efforts to take away the liberties of others; with falsifications of history; and with emphatically anti-Christian attempts to sacrifice the lives and families of others for personal gain -- exactly the opposite of the life of Christ.

Here are recent Christian cases for gay marriage:
Here are recent Jewish cases for gay marriage:

Comment #12 by Michael Airhart on 2012 05 19

Small government***... Freedom***.... Individual Liberty*** the pursuit of happiness***
*** offer only applies... when consistent with our religious superstitions

~ Social Conservatives~

Comment #13 by Sammy Arizona on 2012 05 20

Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war....the truth is the truth. You can't change it by popular decree or political correctness.

Comment #14 by Dave Barry on 2012 05 21

This from ProJo story: “I am certain that our school remains a community where all boys will feel welcome and safe, regardless ... of their race, creed, religion or sexual orientation,” Jackson wrote [on the school's Facebook page]. Though he did not recant his previous statements on homosexuality, the school’s president wrote: “I may have used the wrong tone to communicate that message.”

Comment #15 by Peter Cassels on 2012 05 21

"This is what’s known in progressive circles as 'liberal tolerance.'"

Yes, those people are surprisinginly intolerant of intolerance. The nerve of them!

Comment #16 by Russ C on 2012 05 21

Okay, so, this was the best thing I've ever read. Very, very nice work.

Comment #17 by Chris O. on 2012 05 21

The facts are these.. Yes Marriage was a religious term but the moment it was intertwined with our government, at the whim of the Catholics no doubt, they lost that distinction. We live in a country founded on religious freedom, so if you are going to use references to the “American way of life” remember this… You cannot reference just the parts you like and forego the rest… That is hypocrisy..
The days of second class citizenship are over and people will fight for their rights… and at this point personal rights are tied to the term “Marriage”. Sure Hendricken has the right to have and post any views they wish but they also have the responsibility to not make false claims to be a tolerant place, as they do. At this point none of this shocks me as the Catholics and their institutions are little more than a neo-nazi hate organization…. As a Christian (member of UCC) I can tell you haters… God is perfect, he doesn’t make junk, he made us all the way he wanted us to be, and he DOESN’T hate any group of people…
As for the conservative media that seems to be everywhere propagating this hate, or at least supporting the haters… I really need to choose my news sources more closely.

Comment #18 by D Salera on 2012 05 21

D Salera, "personal rights" are tied to a whole bunch of human activities, simply because the government sticks its nose into everything. By its very nature, the government discriminates. This is why your "second class citizenship" argument holds no water. The government gives tax breaks to men and women who marry. The government also gives tax breaks to business owners. That discriminates against me, a W2 employee. Am I a second class citizen?

You'd have more credibility it you 1) didn't call everyone who disagrees with you a "hater" (that's just silly), and 2) argued that the government should get out of marriage altogether, rather than simply subsidize (discriminate against) another form of "marriage"

Comment #19 by Chris O. on 2012 05 21

Nice job Travis. A logical argument, as opposed to the ad-hominem filled rants posted by many of the the anti-intellectuals above. Reminds me of the old addage--better to be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt . . .

Comment #20 by Mike Govern on 2012 05 22

You contradict yourself in your own essay. You make the blanket statement (one of many) that the left has an inherent "aversion to debate and open discourse", while later in the article you ridicule them for opening the floor to opposing viewpoints, asking such questions as "Why is it morally bad to be gay?” and “Can someone please explain to me the reasoning behind the ‘homosexuality is immoral’ argument?" You might want to address that.

Indeed, it appears as though you yourself are blind to the ignorance and bigotry that runs rampant in the halls of Hendricken. The very Facebook page that you so selectively quote frequently throughout your article is full of first-hand accounts written by homosexuals of the bigotry they faced daily, from both teachers and fellow students. Teachers and students who need not fear punitive action, because the bigotry starts at the top. For you to make the statement: "if Hendricken continues to teach good Catholic values, there will continue to be no safer place for a homosexual student." implies that you chose to ignore those accounts. Why is that? The question asked by the non-Hendricken alumni: "How many of those boys…wouldn't chastise a boy that might be gay?..." is a valid one, and for you to dismiss it as bigotry shows that you are naive to the ways of the world. Were YOU likely to chastise? No, perhaps not. Can you say the same about your classmates? I don't see how you could.

Comment #21 by Ed Bednarcik on 2012 05 30

A Hendricken alum and writer, I commend Rowley heavily (his bro was my classmate). In all honesty, though. Too much rambling here. How many times is "political correctness" and "politically correct" defined and re-defined, over and over? It doesn't help the argument, that's for sure.

It could all be said in one-third or less of this.

Comment #22 by Jeffrey Jackson on 2012 08 20

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