I posted a story yesterday about Benilde-St. Margaret’s School in Minnesota. High school senior Sean Simonson had written an article about the difficulty of life as a gay teen — it was published on the paper’s website, but then removed by administration because the comments were creating an “unsafe environment” for children. (They could’ve just removed the comments while leaving the article intact, but that’d make too much sense…)
Anyway, I received an email from a graduate of that school that deserves to be shared:
I was a student at that school, Benilde-St. Margaret’s, in the last decade, and it was during my time there that I left Catholicism.
To its credit, the religion teachers at the school were relatively liberal in their views (indeed, one taught a kind of undercover sex ed to fill in for the gap left by Diocese-mandated abstinence-only education), but the administration seemed to be more or less forced by the parents(/donors) to teach and enforce a quite conservative version of Catholicism.
I know that the students at the school routinely come out of there recognizing the hollowness of the dogma. Responses vary; while many of my friends are either no longer Catholic or have moved to a much less dogmatic version of Christianity, another went on to professionally plan services at a local Catholic church even though he is gay and was/is forced to conceal it.
Regardless, Benilde was a useful lesson in a particular way: seeing how religion is used as a tool to exclude and control. The youth minister at the school was fantastic, as were the religion teachers, but the students who were most openly religious were also the least faithful to the spirit of the faith, and the constant tension between the conservative donors and the liberal teachers was key to understanding that the further one moved from the dogma the better one’s life would be.
Even now, though, I cannot be open about my beliefs because I had to hide them for so long there. In fact, it was especially bad because I was something of a model student there — got along well with the teachers, got good grades, and led a variety of organizations. For somebody like that to openly diverge from the accepted norm would have been… problematic, to say the least, and would have made my teenage life there dramatically harder.
I think the email is a testament to the level of courage Simonson must have had when he wrote the original article.