Tuesday, October 13, 2009

SF Outrage of the Day: Condom-promoting play in four Catholic High Schools

This story (disclosure: we wrote it) is from today's California Catholic Daily. We've added some comments. Original story in blue, our additional comments in black.

"Four Catholic High Schools in the Archdiocese of San Francisco are scheduled to host a performance of the condom-endorsing sex-education play Secrets. The play was written by openly lesbian playwright Patricia Loughrey. Secrets will be performed on October 14, 2009 at Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory High School in San Francisco; on November 5, 2009 at Sacred Heart High School in Atherton; on January 19, 2010 at Mercy High School in Burlingame, and on February 9, 2010 at St. Ignatius College Preparatory High School in San Francisco.

The play depicts a teenager who is HIV positive. Some content in Secrets was considered, by the Fremont, California Unified School District, to be sufficiently graphic to require that a permission slip be signed by parents before their child would be allowed to see it. The Fremont Unified School District also posts an online flyer (in English and Chinese) for parents, informing them of the performance, and inviting them to watch a video of Secrets before giving their permission. The flyer also describes two of the scenes: “A character dumps dozens of brightly wrapped condoms on the floor with a discussion about which type of condoms are the best to use and how to use them effectively.” Another scene is a “Discussion about contraceptives and a visual display of them.” The production of Secrets in the San Francisco Archdiocese is sponsored by the Educational Theater Programs division of the Kaiser Permanente HMO."

So while the Holy Father, backed by some observers on the ground, opposes condom use not only because it can be contraceptive, but also because it contributes to the underlying behaviors which spread HIV, Catholic Schools in San Francisco are promoting condom use. To continue:

"Secrets author Patricia Loughrey is currently the coordinator of the play reading series Queer Theatre – Taking Center Stage at San Diego’s Diversionary Theatre, which bills itself as “the nations third-oldest LGBT theater.” Ms. Loughrey is author of The Daddy Machine, a play about children with two lesbian mothers, and most recently, Dear Harvey, a celebration of the life of the openly homosexual San Francisco politician Harvey Milk. Dear Harvey was first performed at San Diego State University. San Diego News Online reported: “The piece, about Harvey Milk, was commissioned by Diversionary as its own tribute to the civil rights activist, and it was conceived long before the film, Milk, was released. The small-cast production made for compelling theater, and the piece is now making the rounds in various locales. There’s even talk of touring the SDSU production to local high schools….The play is a remembrance and a touching tribute, based on Loughrey’s interviews with people who knew Harvey, from activists to politicians.”

Does no one at our Archdiocese vet these people? It took us about 2 minutes to discover Ms. Loughrey's affiliations. (That's also about how long it took us to find out that the "Young Workers United," who were supposed to be vetted by our Archdiocese before they could recieve a grant from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, publicly opposed Propositions 4 & 8 in the last election). To continue:

"Oddly, the entry for Secrets on the Sacred Heart High of Atherton’s online calendar is found under the heading Sophomore Class Liturgy. At San Francisco’s St. Ignatius High School, Secrets is intended to be an annual event. From the school’s May 2009 Health & Wellness webpage: “The freshmen class also witnessed an award winning health education program sponsored by Kaiser Permanente called Secrets. Secrets is a live theatre production which educates youth on the topic of HIV and AIDS. This production was viewed by the entire Student Body two years ago and each year the freshmen will have the opportunity to see it in order to be up to speed with the rest of the school.”

Well, in California, since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, 76% of HIV cases were among men who have "sex" with other men (MSM). In San Francisco the rate is 89%. And that 89% is from a group that constitutes only about 8.3% of the city's population. (1) In Africa, according to "The Lancet," one of the three top peer-reviewed medical journals in the world, MSM also contract HIV at a rate 10 times greater than the rest of the population. Other STD's rates are similar trends. For instance, in San Francisco in 2006, the rate of syphilis was 19 times higher among MSM than among the rest of the city's population. (2) Simply said, the single greatest risk factor for HIV and syphilis is being a man who has "sex" with other men. I wonder if those facts are part of St. Ignatius' "Health and Wellness" curriculum? If not, they are not only failing as teachers of Catholic sexual morality, they are also failing in teaching "health and wellness."

To continue:

"While the content of Secrets may be acceptable to some San Francisco Catholic high schools, Fremont is not the only public school district to harbor reservations. In 1994, officials of the Glendale, California public school district cancelled a performance of Secrets because the play conflicted with the district’s policy of promoting abstinence. In addition to requiring a permission slip, the Fremont Public School District offers parents the option of having their child either view an abstinence-promoting video called Sex Appeal, or the option of not viewing either program."

So some public schools are doing a better job of teaching Catholic sexual morality than these four Catholic schools.


(1) San Francisco Department of Public Health "2008 HIV/AIDS Annual Epidemiology Report." page 1.

(2) San Francisco Department of Public Health " 2006 HIV/AIDS Annual Epidemiology Report." pages 38 & 57.


Anonymous said...

There's nothing in Church teaching which speaks against gay men using condoms. The teaching is against them having sex with other men. Perhaps for some, condom use may be associated with increased risk taking, but that is not true of all gay men. For many if not most, it's associated with reduced incidence of HIV transmission. The use of condoms has saved many lives.

Dietrich said...

Dear Anonymous,

There's nothing in Church teaching which speaks against a man murdering his wife with a lawnmower either.