Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
June 3, 2002
Dance into Catholic adulthood
The Durham (Ont.) Catholic District School Board was within its rights in trying to prevent one of its students from bringing a homosexual date to the Grade 12 prom at one of its high schools on May 10. The school board's rationale was that to permit homosexual dating at school events would undermine the Catholic character of its schools.
The right to Catholic schools is not simply a right to teach Catholic religious beliefs, but a right to have those beliefs shape every activity of the school. Indeed, the moral education provided by schools is probably accomplished more by what they do than by what they say. It would be hypocritical of the school system to teach that homosexual activity is immoral but to countenance such activity at its social events. The same could also be said of heterosexual activity outside of marriage. The school has a responsibility to be even-handed in its reaction to both forms of immoral activity.
The Edmonton Journal account of the Durham prom began like this: "A gay Ontario teen put on a gleaming white tuxedo, took his boyfriend's hand and together they headed off in a limo to his Catholic high school prom."
This ought to raise some much wider issues about proms at Catholic high schools than those of sexual behaviour. One might ask whether students' attending the prom in a limousine is an action in accord with Catholic values. Should Catholic school districts make as big an issue over the opulence frequently associated with proms as the Durham Catholic Board made over homosexuality?
Should Catholic high schools, for example, hold fashion shows with student models wearing prom dresses worth several hundred dollars? Does this not encourage a view of the prom as not just a celebration, but a highly materialistic one as well? How does this symbolize the Son of Man who had no place to lay his head?
And what of the parties after the prom? Schools tend to wash their hands of any responsibility for these parties. In one sense this is only fitting. It is fitting that, if such parties are to be held, that they be arranged and chaperoned by parents, not teachers. They are not a school function. Yet, does not the Catholic school system, by virtue of being both Catholic and educational, have a duty to raise questions with students over matters that are not a direct responsibility of the school?
This raises another issue - the responsibility of parents in providing Catholic education. Parents, after all, are the primary educators of their children in the faith. Most post-grad parties are chaperoned and buses are used to transport students, some of them far too drunk to drive, safely to and from such events. But surely parental responsibility goes further than ensuring the physical safety of their children.
In short, there is a mentality that needs to be broken, if, as the Durham Catholic School Board rightly argued, the prom is part of Catholic education and that Catholic values should prevail.
Grade 12 grad should be a grand celebration. It should be a public affair that marks the successful completion of the initial part of a person's education. It is a rite of passage. But that should not mean a cost of over $1,000 per (female) student with limos, expensive gowns and hairdos, expensive hotels and drunken debauchery. This is a horrible prescription for a Catholic celebration.
By all means have a party. But if it is a Catholic celebration, a liturgy must be the centrepiece. And if it is a rite of passage to adulthood, then the new adults must be called to act like adults, not as children with adult toys.
None of this will happen without leadership from Catholic schools and a changed attitude by Catholic parents. The Durham Catholic School Board was right in arguing the Grade 12 prom expresses values dear to Catholic education. What they missed was the fact those values extend far beyond the issue of homosexuality.
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.