Last week, five nuns, teachers at Marin Catholic High School, walked off their jobs for the day after students brought in literature from an LGBT education organization.
The stickers and fliers were from GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network), a New York-based organization whose goal is to prevent bullying and harassment of sexual minority students in schools. April 17 was GLSEN's National Day of Silence, meant to bring attention to bullying of LGBT youth.
"GLSEN is a notoriously anti-Catholic organization that makes no attempt to hide its aversion to Church teaching," wrote Sr. Teresa Benedicta, one of the teachers, in an email to faculty and staff. "When we arrived at school to find fliers and stickers being passed out supporting this, we felt that our Catholic faith and the school's mission were being compromised."
Marin Catholic High School is in Kentfield, Calif., part of the San Francisco archdiocese. The five teachers who walked out are members of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.
Juan Martinez, chief communications officer with GLSEN, said schools of all varieties, including St. Ignatius High School in San Francisco, have participated in the Day of Silence since it started in 1996.
"We are aware of many Catholic schools that have participated in GLSEN's Day of Silence, partnering with us on our shared value of striving to create a supportive and loving community of learners across lines of difference," Martinez said.
Marin Catholic's president, Tim Navone, and principal, Chris Valdez, sent a message to parents about the incident. "Our intention was not to take part in a day of silence, but rather take a moment in the morning to pray together as a school community, in Christ's message, remembering that we must be inclusive, accepting, and loving if we are to be an authentic Catholic community."
Noting that the school is not affiliated with GLSEN, Navone and Valdez said the sisters "had to make a decision in real time to leave campus until this issue could be resolved." They added, "We are trying to find our way to support people who are marginalized for any reason."
[Mandy Erickson is a freelance writer based in the Bay Area.]