Sister Jane Dominic Laurel withdraws from all speaking engagements, takes leave from teaching at Aquinas College
CHARLOTTE — The Dominican sister who gave a presentation on sexuality to students at Charlotte Catholic High School that sparked controversy among students and parents last month is taking a sabbatical from teaching and cancelling her other speaking engagements.
The presentation March 21 by Dominican Sister Jane Dominic Laurel of Nashville, Tenn., entitled “Masculinity and Femininity: Difference and Gift,” drew the ire of hundreds of students and parents over the past two weeks, and their emotions boiled over during a parents meeting with school and diocesan leaders Wednesday night.
Sister Jane has a doctorate in sacred theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, and her presentation at Charlotte Catholic was based on a series of instructional videos she created for Aquinas College in Nashville where she is an associate professor. She gave similar talks to youths and parents at St. Mark Church in Huntersville on March 23 and gave a related talk at Charlotte Catholic High School last fall.
In an April 4 statement, the president of Aquinas College defended the school’s curriculum and Sister Jane’s credentials as a theologian, but acknowledged that the portion of Sister Jane’s presentation of social science data about the alleged causes of same-sex attraction – which prompted many of the concerns from parents and students – was outside the scope of her academic background.
Sister Mary Sarah Galbraith’s statement reads, in full:
“The events around the recent talk by Sister Jane Dominic Laurel, O.P. in Charlotte, NC 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.
“It is the firm belief of Aquinas College that all men and women are created in God’s image and likeness and are made with a capacity to love and be loved. The College supports the Catholic Church’s teachings which are open to the diverse needs and desires of all, which must be considered in light of eternal truths.
“We support and affirm that every man and woman, regardless of his or her state in life, deserve respect, and that the health of any culture is gauged according to the capacity of its members to uphold their own beliefs while respecting the beliefs of others. 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.
“We believe it is our privilege to bring the best aspects of our faith tradition to bear on the moral and cultural questions of the present age. In her presentation, Sister Jane Dominic spoke clearly on matters of faith and morals. Her deviation into realms of sociology and anthropology was beyond the scope of her expertise. Sister is a trained theologian from a Pontifical University and has the credentials to contribute to scholarly bodies of work. This she has done in the past with distinction. The unfortunate events at Charlotte Catholic High School are not representative of the quality of Sister’s academic contributions or the positive influence that she has had on her students. The students at Charlotte Catholic were unprepared, as were their parents, for the topic that Sister was asked to deliver. The consequence was a complete misrepresentation of the school’s intention to bring a message that would enlighten and bring freedom and peace.
“There are no words that are able to reverse the harm that has been caused by these comments. The community of Aquinas College is saddened by this extreme outcome and wishes to reiterate that this is not something the College condones or desires to create. There is division where there should be unity. The events and discussions that have transpired over the last two weeks reflect that there is something in this that surpasses an ordinary high school assembly.
“Sister Jane Dominic has cancelled her speaking engagements and, at her request, is preparing to begin a sabbatical from teaching at Aquinas College. It is our sincere hope that the community of Charlotte Catholic High School will soon begin a process of healing and renewal, and that all who have been affected by this event will be drawn into profound reconciliation as we approach this great season that commemorates the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
Among the speaking dates she has cancelled, Sister Jane has withdrawn from speaking at the 2014 Diocesan Youth Conference at the Ridgecrest Conference Center near Asheville in May.
— Patricia L. Guilfoyle, editor
The original author of this blog passed away in July of 2016. RIP Father Carota.