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By all accounts, Sister Jane Dominic Laurel is an accomplished theologian and teacher. She is a graduate of the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, a university under the direct authority of the Holy See. Sister Laurel has been on the faculty of Aquinas College in Nashville, Tennessee, for some time, and is a widely respected theologian, particularly in Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body. Sister’s website features a number of free video courses on family and sexuality. In those presentations Sister is kind, prayerful, and patient. She is obviously an excellent scholar and teacher.
But woe to Sister Laurel. She has crossed swords with what Michael Voris calls the “Church of Nice,” and a firestorm has erupted.
Here is how this all happened. Sister was invited to give a talk entitled “Masculinity and Femininity: Difference and Gift,” at a student assembly at Charlotte Catholic High School on March 23. The Catholic News Herald reports that Sister spent about half her time on homosexuality and its effects on children raised by same-sex parents. The talk was not recorded and no transcript is available. But, but, but: Boom!
Some students and parents were incensed, nay outraged. Sister apparently said, in line with Catholic teaching, that homosexual acts are gravely sinful. That was just too much for sensitive students and their sensitive parents. So up went the online petition demanding the school and Diocese apologize.
Well, according to the petition, Sister’s words were “offensive and unnecessarily derogative.” There are, however, no references to these offensive words. As per usual, the petition is limited to hyperbole: “We are incensed that you (the school) knew the content of this speech and allowed these ideas to be expressed in a school that should be preaching a message of love and acceptance.” Translated from the Newspeak, that sentence means, “how dare you speak the truth if it hurts our feelings?”
It gets worse, naturally: “We resent the fact that a schoolwide assembly became a stage to blast the issue of homosexuality after Pope Francis said in an interview this past Fall that ‘we cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage, and the use of contraceptives methods.'”
In short, Sr. Laurel has committed heresy by deciding she “knew better than our Holy Father.” Evidently, the Holy Father has abolished the Church’s ancient teachings on sexual morality so now we should all make nice. It doesn’t matter that the Holy Father has repeatedly affirmed the Church’s teachings on these matters. It does not matter that the Catechism declares these actions to be deeply—gravely—sinful. The Holy Father says be nice.
If your bologna meter is beeping wildly that is because this is all nonsense.
No one has been able to identify Sister’s alleged insensitivity, because there is no evidence to prove it. Since the talk was not taped, and no transcript made available, the claims made in the petition are, at best, mere assertions. But that is all that is required nowadays.
No one has challenged, or can challenge, Sister’s orthodoxy. No one has challenged her commitment to the truth. But she is called hateful and intolerant. So suddenly she is gone. Sr. Laurel has cancelled her other speaking engagements, apparently at the request of her Mother Superior. Like all Dominican Sisters, Sr. Laurel owes a vow of obedience to her Mother Superior. Fine. Mother Superior is under no obligation to explain herself to the broader audience, nor should she.
But Sister Laurel has also taken a sabbatical from teaching at Aquinas College. This was voluntary, of course. Yea, sure.
On April 4, Sister Mary Sarah Galbraith, President of Aquinas College, issued a statement about the mess. The statement is illuminating — mostly for its abject sophistry. Just a quick look at paragraph one is enough:
“The events around the recent talk by Sister Jane Dominic Laurel have produced a great deal of speculation from many sides. Among the commentators, there are few who were actually present to hear the talk, which was not recorded.”
That means there is no evidence that Sister Laurel said or did anything to violate her duties as a Catholic teacher.
However, that didn’t stop the College from reaching the conclusion that while “Sister Jane Dominic spoke clearly on matters of faith and morals [note that: clearly, i.e., consistent with the truth]…her deviation into realms of sociology and anthropology was beyond the scope of her expertise.” Ah, the irony. The College President’s statement includes the following: “The College’s patron, St. Thomas Aquinas, was known for his ability to thoughtfully consider all things and retain what is true, regardless of the source of that truth.” Interesting. Sister Laurel went outside her area of expertise, by citing sources in sociology and anthropology, but she, unlike St. Thomas, had no business seeking truth from other “sources of the truth.”
It gets worse.
According to the Statement, “There are no words to reverse the harm that has been caused by these comments.” I guess I’m a bit dense, but what comments? What harms? A few brats and their numbskull parents have hurt feelings? They should avoid the Confessional like the plague, and probably do.
The dissembling goes on: “The community of Aquinas College is saddened by this extreme outcome [Translation: we don’t know what Sister said but, what with all the wailing, it must have been extreme] and wishes to reiterate that this is not something the College condones or desires to create.”[Translation: we sure wish Sister would put sensitivity above truth so that we wouldn’t have to engage in this sort of dishonesty].
The local Church and the Diocese have largely stood up for Sister Laurel. Tim Reid, the pastor at St. Ann Catholic Church, sent a mass email stating: “The Church has already lost too many generations of Catholic students to…the very muddled and watered down faith.” Which really means that the Church of Nice has sold the young into damnation.
Father Roger Arnsparger, diocesan vicar for education stated, “Our students are bombarded with confusing messages about sexuality.” That means that if Sister Laurel was blunt … well, it’s time to be blunt. Unfortunately Sister has felt the blunt force trauma of the College’s niceness. The College is under the authority of the Dominican Sisters, so the diocese cannot interfere with its decisions. So Sister is out.
It’s hard to say where Sister Laurel may go from here. The Church of Nice has long tentacles, and now that Sister has been so mean, the doors may slam in her face. Sister Laurel is humble and will doubtless take her persecution as a call from God to bear all evils for Christ’s sake and the sake of His Church. Sister’s departure from Aquinas College, and the losses she has endured, may be just the sort of suffering needed to spark a renewal of truth. May God Bless Sr. Laurel.