Catholic Culture Dedication
Catholic Culture Dedication

What Bishop Jugis did NOT say about Sister Jane Dominic's talk

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Apr 10, 2014

Charlotte’s Bishop Peter Jugis has finally issued a statement regarding the unseemly controversy at Charlotte Catholic High School. In that statement the bishop clearly affirms the teachings of the Catholic Church. But he does not affirm Sister Jane Dominic Laurel, whose presentation of those teachings provoked so much bitter criticism.

”Different viewpoints regarding Sr. Jane Dominic Laurel’s presentation to students on March 21, 2014, have been discussed in a variety of venues,” the bishop says. He does not indicate what viewpoint, if any, he holds on that presentation. He does not even mention, anywhere in his statement, the subject matter of her presentation. If your only source of information about this affair is the bishop’s statement, you have no idea what the ruckus is about.

Bishop Jugis does make two points clearly. First he says that some parents at Charlotte Catholic were concerned about the lack of prior notice about Sister Jane Dominic’s presentation, and he notes that the school apologized for this failure. Second he observes that he has heard “disturbing reports of a lack of charity” at a subsequent meeting at the school. You could probably safely infer that this rebuke was aimed at angry students and parents who criticized Sister Jane Dominic and the school officials who had arranged her talk.

However, on the actual substance of the controversy, the bishop’s statement is neutral. The relevant paragraph reads:

The content of the Church’s moral teaching was not raised as a matter of contention at the parent meeting. All of our Catholic schools are committed to hold and teach the Catholic faith in its fullness and with integrity. The Catechism of the Catholic Church contains an explanation of our faith and is accessible to all.

It would be an understatement to say that those three sentences raise more questions than they answer, because the truth is that the statement answers no questions at all. But here are some of the questions that one might raise:

  • What is the Church’s moral teaching regarding the subject at hand?
  • For that matter, what is the subject at hand?
  • Why not use the opportunity to reiterate or at least summarize Church teaching, rather than refer interested parties to the Catechism? And how could one consult the Catechism without knowing what subject is in question?
  • Did Sister Jane Dominic present Church teachings accurately? If not, where did she go wrong?
  • If she did present the Church’s moral teachings accurately, and if those moral teachings were not contested during the meeting with parents, what was the basis for this entire dispute?

Angry students and parents at Charlotte Catholic have insisted that they were not unhappy with the presentation of orthodox Catholic views on homosexuality, but with the tone of Sister Jane Dominic’s presentation and/or with her introduction of certain sociological data. But there is good reason to believe that some actually did have a problem with Church teachings, and objected to Sister Jane Dominic’s uncompromising defense of those teachings. By saying that the Church’s moral teachings were not in question, Bishop Jugis appears to side with those who protested the presentation—to accept their argument that they could reject her approach without calling into question the Church’s moral authority.

No doubt Bishop Jugis chose his words carefully, with an eye to restoring calm and tranquility. But in pursuit of serenity, he may have missed an opportunity for instruction. The dispute in Charlotte seemed to be a clear indication that parents and students disagreed about the content of Church teaching on the question of homosexuality. That dispute remains unresolved.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: fenton1015153 - Apr. 23, 2014 9:31 PM ET USA

    Why do we have a bishop who will not defend the faith? This will surely result in little ones being wound. It would be better for weak bishops if they had not been made a bishop. Perhaps a mill stone hung around their neck would wake them up.

  • Posted by: bruno - Apr. 23, 2014 8:20 PM ET USA

    To paraphrase Pope Francis' comment to the seminarians, "If you want to become a good bureaucrat, quit now." I'm sure it is the Holy Father's frustration with the old guard and their political wrangling in the place of authentic charity that emboldened him to say this. Such sly diplomacy seems to be the good bishop Jugis' tactic in this case. One might admire his savvy way of avoiding criticism while leaving the parties to duke it out as before, if there weren't souls that needed saving.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 21, 2014 1:54 PM ET USA

    How is it we have so many waffling bishops? It is the office of the bishop to teach the faith! Not the CTSA. The waffling has gone on for decades. People are pouring out of the Church. A church that won’t teach its people will lose its people. We have learned nothing from PEW research.

  • Posted by: frjpharrington3912 - Apr. 11, 2014 10:39 PM ET USA

    In his encyclical "On Human Life" Pope Paul VI warned us about the danger of ignoring the natural moral law particularly in regard to contraception. He warned that amoral public authorities, who are concerned with practical results and not the precepts of the moral law, could impose their will by forcing people to adopt contraceptive methods. Now we have Obamacare and the H&HS Mandate. The people who have criticized Sr. Jane's warnings would do very well to read Humanae Vitae.

  • Posted by: extremeCatholic - Apr. 11, 2014 10:14 PM ET USA

    The bishop, of course, knows Catholic teaching on homosexual acts: They are gravely depraved and intrinsically disordered. It becomes a matter of prudence to teach and profess this. I think Phil and I would agree this incident called for a moment of clarity. By refraining to do so, the bishop confirms on people who dispute this teaching not only a hecklers veto but the power to banish anyone bold enough to repeat the constant teaching of the Church on this matter. I feel a chill.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 11, 2014 7:41 PM ET USA

    Bishop Jugis most certainly DID miss a great opportunity to teach. His defense is so bland that one can tell he is hoping this all just goes away so that he can go back to sleep. Sweet dreams!

  • Posted by: - Apr. 11, 2014 4:57 PM ET USA

    Phil - Good commentary. When he finally came out from under his desk, the bishop's statement was a disappointing waffle. Yet another lost opportunity by a bishop to do some catch-up work with respect to badly needed catechesis.

  • Posted by: jacquebquique5708 - Apr. 11, 2014 10:59 AM ET USA

    The bishops in America are very nervous about statements made by the pope in regard to these issues. The rebels in question quoted the "compassionate" views of the pontiff on the subject. Church issues are at risk with ambiguous statements coming from the Vatican. It is obvious that the new apostolic delegate, Carlo Maria Vigano, is evaluating American bishops using an unknown agenda and sending reports back to Italy. There will be a restructuring and the bishops know it.

  • Posted by: filioque - Apr. 10, 2014 10:53 PM ET USA

    Right on, Phil. This is a huge lost teaching opportunity. It is ludicrous to think that anyone could have objected merely to the subject matter, when the topics of same-sex marriage, homosexuality, abortion, and contraception flood the news and cultural media. It had to be the substance of what was presented, not some perhaps debatable sociological data. The reaction was way too vehement to be anything else. The bishop appears to be whistling past the graveyard.

  • Posted by: jg23753479 - Apr. 10, 2014 6:24 PM ET USA

    Once again the greatest scandal in the Church today raises its ugly head here. Many have said the silence and even acquiescence of prelates during the homosexual predators' mess was the real scandal. It wasn't that we lacked brave leaders then, which would have been bad enough; we lacked anything even resembling leaders at all. Bishop Jugis makes it painfully evident that this problem persists, at least in his diocese.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 10, 2014 6:18 PM ET USA

    Its a Catholic school, the parents know this aforehand, there's simply no need to inform them, in the sense of fearing their disapproval, every time Catholic subjects are discussed. If a heretic were to be invited, then the parents should be advised so they can make plans for their child to do something more worthwhile with his time, like shooting pool or going bowling.