Thursday, April 09, 2015

Bishops, LGBTQ kids, parents & scholarships

Cole Fox (KCJ Photography)

It's been an interesting week so far for a couple of Iowa's parochial schools, Dowling Catholic High School in the Diocese of Des Moines and Don Bosco of Gilbertville, in the Archdiocese of Dubuque. All of it caused by those pesky gays --- one of whom aspired to a teaching job and the other, a highly accomplished student who came out in a very public way.

At Dowling, there was a planned walk-out yesterday by students, parents and alumni to protest the school's descision to rescind the offer of a full-time teaching job to substitute teacher Tyler McCubbin after its administrators (and/or the bishop) caught wind of the fact McCubbin, who is gay, also is engaged and plans to marry.

Up in tiny Gilbertville --- right next to Waterloo --- Don Bosco senior Cole Fox (above), an academic and wrestling standout, was named a Matthew Shepard Scholar by the Des Moines-based Eychaner Foundation and was featured almost consecutively on, a major sports-entertainment provider and media watchdog that focuses on gay athletes. It's not clear how Don Bosco will react, but it earned a black eye in some circles 10 years ago when another of its seniors was named a Matthew Shepard Scholar.

I'm guessing the issue here is not so much what the schools, the diocese and the archdiocese actually do as it is how the students and their contemporaries elsewhere --- young people generally recognized in all religious denominations as their hope for the future --- perceive it.


Parochial schools, of course, are exempt from the non-discrimination rules that govern public schools and can do what they want so far as hiring, enrollment and student governance are concerned. And in all fairness, I'm guessing that the staff and administrators of most Iowa Catholic parochial schools have the best interests of all their student at heart and if left to their own devices would not apply sexual orientation litmus tests and would be fully supportive of their gay students.

But the administrators of those schools must answer to bishops, of whom the same cannot be said.

Des Moines Bishop Richard Pates, in a statement pointing out that the Catholic church's official stance is that "marriage is a sacrament between a man and a woman" allowed, a little grudgingly it would seem, that the church also "calls for us to accept those with same-sex tendencies." Most LGBTQ students in his diocese, I'm guessing, consider sexual orientation to be a bit more than a "tendency" and might consider his words a trifle patronizing.


Ten years ago, when a gay kid last embarrassed the Don Bosco system by excelling, senior Kristin Langner was named a Matthew Shepard Scholar. In that instance, the bishop ruled that the scholarship could not be presented publicly because to do so would promote homosexuality. Of course it's not clear how the Archidiocese will react this year --- although it will be interesting and informative to watch.

Cole Fox seems like a great kid and if you read the Outsports story about him here, you'll discover another interesting twist to his story.

Cole hadn't until last month told his father, Ray Fox, also Don Bosco assistant wrestling coach, that he was gay. "He had always made homophobic comments," Cole said, "and I could tell that the comments even made my mom uncomfortable at times."

That part of the coming out process seems to have turned out relatively well, since his father assured him he still was loved.


I'm thinking there are a couple of things to carry away from Cole's story.

First, here you have a kid who not only loves his sport and his school --- but also is church. Now how often these days do you run into a young person who actively loves his church and seems to want nothing more than to be affirmed by it and the opportunity to live and work within it? So will the church throw that away?

And then, here's a kid too scared to talk to his dad in large part because of the big guy's big mouth. It would be useful, too, if every parent could absorb the fact that one of his or her kids might be gay --- behave accordingly and lessen the risk of throwing away a mutually fulfilling lifelong relationship.


Rich Eychaner's Eychaner Foundation has given away hundreds of thousands of dollars in Matthew Shepard scholarship funds since 2000 to LGBTQ seniors in Iowa's public and private schools. Here are the rest of the 2015 Matthew Shepard scholars: Alex Bare, North Scott High School; Alexandra Moad, West Burlington High School; Anna Ferris, Urbandale High School; Aspen Olsen, West Fork High School (Rockwell); Brody Hall, H-L-V High School (Victor); Cecelia Martinez, Marshalltown High School; Jonathan Galbreath, Central Lee High School (Montrose); Lukas Monico, Logan Magnolia High School; Paxton Gillespie, Van Meter High School; Rosie Cook, Des Moines Roosevelt High School; and Ryan Hansen, Iowa City West High School.

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