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Some thoughts on Fr. Salmon’s letter re the McQuaid High prom

April 1, 2013

In Lawrence of Arabia (1962) the diplomat Dryden quips (I’m quoting from memory): “If we’ve told lies, you’ve told half-lies. A man who tells lies merely hides the truth, but a man who tells half-lies has forgotten where he put it.” I thought of that line re ‘half-lies’ when I read Fr. Edward Salmon’s letter announcing his decision to allow two male students to attend the McQuaid Jesuit High School 2013 prom as a couple.

Catholics who were mercifully spared the “Church of the 70’s” might find illuminating Salmon’s letter; it’s vintage what so many of us were force-fed for ten dark years: condescending, platitudinistic, partial quotes of Church  documents used to justify the exact opposite of what the Church wants her members to know about Christ and his Gospel. Folks may read the letter for themselves and reach their own conclusions on it.  Here I address only one assertion by Salmon: “I am not encouraging nor am I condoning homosexual activity just as I do not encourage or condone heterosexual activity at a dance.”

What on earth is Salmon talking about? He does not “encourage or condone heterosexual activity at a dance.” Of course he does! And he should!

The whole point of a high school dance, in America, over the last century or so, was precisely to encourage “heterosexual activity” in a relatively controlled environment where men and women who were moving toward making selections for life-long partnerships of the whole of life (Canon 1055 on the definition of marriage, anyone?) could interact publicly as part of the dating/courtship sequence. The formal prom was just a more grown-up version of the mixer, conducted in recognition of the fact that the youth were approaching adulthood and should know how to dress the part.

And no, the point of a prom was not as prelude to “doing it” under some title of special dispensation for fornication (some schools don’t sponsor proms anymore because of this and related abuses), so if that’s what Salmon meant by not ‘condoning heterosexual activity’ at a dance, well, let’s just say he expressed himself very badly. But, school dances and proms are precisely about human coupling in ways tending ultimately toward adult relationships that will include sexual expression. And everyone knows it, including, I have to believe, Salmon, who is now formally authorizing that exact message to be given to two young men and to the McQuaid Jesuit High School community.

Update, 23 April 2013: Fr. Peter Stravinskas has some good thoughts here.

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