22 May 2014

Role models for Catholic children.

So this is making the rounds on my Facebook page: Catholic School Apologizes For Picture of "Poor Role Model" Ellen DeGeneres On Dance Invitation. It's been shared by several of my "friends," probably because Newtown, PA, is where I went to high school (I lived one town over). 

Some background: The school sent out invitations to the eighth grade dance with the tag like "Live from the Red Carpet" and a picture of Ellen holding an Oscar statue. When some parents complained, the principal apologized ("I was obviously NOT thinking.") and requested (or, according to BuzzFeed -- ugh -- "demanded") that the invitations be returned so that they could be destroyed, and new invitations sent out. The principal, without referring to Ellen's sexual orientation, said that Ellen is not a good role model because she doesn't live her life in alignment with the principles of the Catholic Church. 

Follow me so far? Good. Because the apology and the rescinding of the offending invitations are exactly right. It would have been better if the incident hadn't happened at all, but as that ship has sailed an apology was in order.

Now. If people I know were just posting this story, I wouldn't have much to say about it. But, naturally, they're posting with some of the most bigoted commentary I can imagine: 

"These bougie, over-privileged, low-life white moms and dads of Newtown don't have anything better to do than call the principal of their kid's Catholic school and say they don't like Ellen because she's gay?"

"Priest's [sic] are raping Children [sic] whom [sic] attend the Church." [The young lady who wrote this comment might have benefitted from some Catholic schooling, by the way, as her grammar is atrocious.]

... And more, but let's just deal with these two, shall we?

First: Those "bougie, over-privileged, low-life white moms and dads" -- because their race is relevant here, according to the over-privileged white guy I know who posted said comment -- are paying a premium for a Catholic education. Newtown, PA, is in one of the top school districts in the state of Pennsylvania. Unlike some places, a Catholic education is not the only alternative to failing schools, but a sacrifice that parents make so that their children can receive a Catholic education. A Catholic school has an obligation to present good role models to the children under their care. Ellen DeGeneres is an outspoken lesbian with a wife. She is not the person you put on your eighth grade dance invitation. I bet that some of the moms who complain watch and enjoy Ellen's talk show, but that doesn't make Ellen an appropriate role model for eighth graders. If I enjoy watching Modern Family, but I complain that my child's Catholic school showed it to my child, I am not hypocrite. I am a parent who recognizes that children and adults are not the same thing. I am unlikely to be influenced by the depiction of a gay couple in a way a prepubescent child might. We spend most of our time as parents deciding what is age appropriate for our children. 

I guess that makes me a bougie (ugh, that word appears here three times and it just makes me cringe!), over-privileged, low-life white mom. Because I would have called to complain.

Secondly: Can we cool it already "priests are raping children" meme? No priests were even mentioned in this story. I did a little Googling -- because for a hot second I entertained the notion of wading into the fray, only to decide not to argue with idiots, especially as it got uglier -- and in two seconds discovered that Catholic priests commit sexual abuse at a rate that is less than 100 times that of public school teachers. Furthermore, the Catholic Church did more to report and combat the abuse than did the school districts in question. The same 2004 Department of Education -- you know, that right-wing think tank -- report that is linked to above tells of 225 admitted cases of educator abuse in one year in New York. How many were reported to police? All of zero. ZERO. More facts about priest sexual abuse here.

To sum up: good for the parents who complained. Good for the principal for apologizing. And I should maybe think about pruning my Facebook friends list.

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