Nearly 1,000 parents gathered at Charlotte Catholic High School on Wednesday night to air complaints about a recent speech to students by a nun who made what many considered inflammatory comments about gays and lesbians, divorce and single parenthood.
So many parents lined up to speak that the meeting with high school officials, the school’s chaplain and the Diocese of Charlotte’s vicar of education lasted more than an hour longer than scheduled.
Though the gathering was closed to the media, texts and tweets from parents inside the school gym cast the meeting as often heated, with emotions running high on both sides.
Diocese spokesman David Hains acknowledged after the meeting that the Rev. Matthew Kauth, the school’s chaplain, apologized to the parents for a March 21 speech by Sister Jane Dominic Laurel that was not the one he expected her to give.
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Hains also said the high school committed to developing new policies that would better scrutinize visiting speakers in the future. He said the school also wants to do a better job of communicating with parents ahead of time when such speeches will deal with sensitive subjects such as sexuality.
“Parents should have been better informed,” Hains said.
During her speech, Laurel quoted studies that said gays and lesbians are not born with same-sex attractions, and that children in single-parent homes have a greater chance of becoming homosexual, Hains and others said.
Susan Traynor of Matthews, whose son is a sophomore, said he is usually pretty quiet when she picks him up from Charlotte Catholic High.
But on the day Laurel spoke to the assembly, she said, he spoke right up when he got in the car.
“He said, ‘We had the worst assembly today,’ ” Traynor recalled. “He said he tried to leave with some others, but they were made to sit down. There are students in this school who are openly gay and some who are not out yet. Obviously, they felt bullied.”
Parents who spoke Wednesday night got up to three minutes at the microphone. The meeting started at 7 p.m. and ended just after 9:30.
Some defended Laurel, saying she was presenting traditional Catholic teachings. But Hains and others said the majority of parents who spoke did not agree with the nun or many of her comments.
And some expressed anger at the school for inviting her, for not stopping her when she veered off script, and for not telling parents ahead of time what she would talk about.
“You asked us to trust you. You betrayed our trust,” one parent told the gathering, according to a text to the Observer.
Though the Observer and local TV stations were told to leave the campus during the meeting, a reporter from the Catholic News Herald, the diocese’s newspaper, was allowed in the meeting to cover it.
Before being ordered off the high school property, some Charlotte Catholic High School alumni and parents of former students passed out wristbands critical of the nun’s remarks on gays and lesbians. The wristbands read “We are all God’s children.”