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Priest says sins were committed in Charlotte Catholic High School 'fight'

By Tim Funk
tfunk@charlotteobserver.com

The controversy over a recent speaker at Charlotte Catholic High School continues to churn, with the pastor at St. Ann Catholic Church in Charlotte telling parishioners that sins were committed by some parents and students for their "utter lack of charity and vicious disrespect . . . in this fight."

In his Sunday homily, or sermon, the Rev. Timothy Reid had a lot to say about the uproar over a March 21 address by Sister Jane Dominic Laurel, who angered some students and parents with her comments about homosexuality, single parent homes and divorce.

The priest, known for his traditionalist views and for bringing the Latin Mass back to St. Ann, called on his flock to offer up additional penance during Lent as "reparation for the terrible sins against charity that have been committed in this sad situation."

He suggested a trip to the confessional for those on both sides of the debate who let their anger morph into "hate-filled tirades and malicious and calumnious accusations."

Some students offended by Laurel's remarks -- including that children raised by single-parents had a greater chance of becoming gay or lesbian -- launched an online petition. Some parents disturbed about the nun's speech and the high school's failure to alert them ahead of time urged a letter-writing campaign. Those actions prompted other parents and supporters of Laurel to begin a counter-petition, saying the nun was only upholding traditional Catholic teachings.

Then, last Wednesday night, diocese and high school officials met with nearly 1,000 parents. Some rose to question and seek an apology from the Rev. Matthew Kauth, the high school chaplain who invited Laurel to speak and did not notify parents that she would be speaking about sexuality.

Reid acknowledged that parents "have a right to know beforehand when such delicate matters are going to be discussed in such great detail."

And "while (Laurel) spoke of nothing contrary to our faith and actually upheld the teachings of the church," he added, "certainly there are legitimate reasons to criticize Sister's talk."

Specifically, Reid said he would have preferred that boys and girls hear about sexuality in separate assemblies.

But Reid's strongest criticisms in his homily appeared directed at students and parents angry with Kauth and Laurel.

"Many of you have told me that numerous people launched venomous and malicious attacks upon the school's high school chaplain, Father Kauth, at Wednesday night's parents' meeting," he said.

Reid also addressed homosexuality during last Sunday's Mass. While those "who suffer from same-sex attraction" must be treated with respect, compassion and sensitivity, he said, the church teaches that homosexual acts are always wrong and that gays and lesbians are called to lives of chastity.

The Charlotte Catholic High School controversy, he said, "has revealed that a large number of . . . our students and parents either do not know the Church's teaching on homosexuality or, worse yet, they reject it outright -- even misusing papal comments to do so."

Reid said it's now time for healing, and invited parishioners -- especially students at Charlotte Catholic High School and their parents -- to come to the church's Holy Hour of Reparation at 6 p.m. Friday. The hour of prayers, he said, "will be offered for all the sins committed in this situation" at the high school.

Read or listen to Reid's entire homily here.

Laurel, meanwhile, has canceled all of her upcoming speaking engagements and will take a sabbatical from her teaching post at Aquinas College in Nashville, Tenn.

The college's president, Sister Mary Sarah, wrote in a statement on the Aquinas web site that Laurel had veered from "the scope of her expertise" during parts of her speech at Charlotte Catholic High School.

Laurel is a sister, or nun, in a Dominican order.

The storm caused by the nun's speech has attracted national media attention. And local Catholics have turned in higher-than-usual numbers to the reports about it on the diocese's Catholic News Herald web site.

The site usually gets 12,000 to 14,000 hits, or reader visits, per month, said diocese spokesman David Hains.

By April 7, Hains said, the site had already gotten 19,000 hits.

The Charlotte Catholic High School story, he said, "has generated quite a bit of interest and traffic."

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