News-making school sticks to Church line

by NZ CATHOLIC staff
WHANGAREI — A Catholic college, from which a teacher lost his job after supporting a protest about same-sex marriage, has emphasised the need for adherence to Catholic teaching.
A media storm erupted after teacher Nigel Studdart was suspended from, and then left, his job as a science teacher at Pompallier College in Whangarei after reportedly encouraging students to wear wrist bands supporting gay rights.
The wrist bands were part of a protest against comments by principal Richard Stanton in the August 24 school newsletter, in an article titled “Keeping Marriage Sacred”. Mr Stanton wrote that same-sex couples might be more disposed to a mindset that sees children as an entitlement or right, and therefore as commodities or possessions, rather than gifts. He acknowledged in the newsletter that possessive parents are not exclusively found in same-sex relationships.
Some students at the school reacted by setting up a Facebook page called “Support Gay Rights at Pom”.
After a four hour meeting on September 18, the college’s Board of Trustees reportedly issued the following statement: “The Pompallier Catholic College BOT advises the school community that Nigel Studdart will not be returning to the College as a teacher. We wish him well for the future.”
It was widely reported that Mr Studdart was dismissed.
NZ Catholic asked the board about the Catholic special character aspects of employment contracts and job descriptions that staff sign up to, as well as the school’s media policy, its pastoral practice for students who have same-sex attraction and the level of community support it has.
The board did not supply answers.
In a newsletter dated September 21, Mr Stanton did not mention Mr Studdart, but did discuss the implications of the school’s motto: “Diligere Verum, Love the Truth.”
“Our college motto presents a clear challenge to all who are associated with our college. It is an admonition to parents in their guidance of children, to staff in their ethical conduct and academic pursuit, and to students in their learning,” Mr Stanton wrote.
“I have little doubt that it was carefully chosen to guide and nurture the on-going life of our college.”
After discussing the difficulties of living in accordance with truth and how the Church’s understanding of, and search for, truth is done in community and not through individual revelation, Mr Stanton wrote that as a Catholic college, “we give allegiance to the truth as discerned by our Catholic community and endorsed by its designated authority (bishops)”.
“Our students, staff and parents need to be both aware of and open to this truth.”
Mr Stanton discussed the development of doctrine and the use of informed intellect in decision making.
Referring to ethical codes within professions, Mr Stanton wrote that they represent what is understood to be true for “that particular body of people”.
“If an individual finds adherence to a code to be problematic, they would need to evaluate the relative merits of remaining within that fraternity, whether it be a profession, a religious body or a college with designated special character.”
Mr Studdart is reportedly considering taking legal action against the school.

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NZ Catholic Staff

Reader Interactions


  1. Nigel Studdart says

    I was dismissed and I will be taking legal action against the school for unjustified suspension and unfair dismissal. Mediation hearings start on the 19th. I am not in the least anti Catholic in any way. I simply cannot and will not support Prejudice Kind regards Nigel Studdart

  2. Steve Marshall says

    The Pompallier Principal, Richard Stanton, bases his argument on Catholic doctrine, as you would expect. But I’m not convinced that Richard has much doctrinal backing for his discrimination against gay parents of children at the school. That was a step too far, and it appears to be the step that Nigel Studdart objected to.

    “2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.”
    (Catechism of the Catholic Church)

    For me, the sentence, “Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided” is key.

    I would boil that down to “don’t discriminate against gays”.

    I admit that I’m purposefully ignoring some of the language in the catechism, such as “objectively disordered”, that mirrors some of the sentiments expressed in Richard’s original school newspaper article.

    However, my point is that both Richard’s view and Nigel’s view are reflected in the catechism. Neither should be painted as bringing the school into disrepute or as failing to reflect Catholic (or indeed catholic) values. I think there should be room for both views within a Catholic school. But clearly there wasn’t. The loser is the school and the church.

    Gay rights seems to be moving from being a moral issue to being a human rights issue — with religious organisations dragging the chain, and feeling somewhat embarrassed at finding themselves on the wrong side of a human rights issue.

  3. Aaron Samuels Chang says

    I was raised a Catholic and spent the vast majority of my school years going though the Catholic school system.

    Coming to terms with my sexuality as a teenager was extremely stressfull. I felt isolated and alone. I didn’t know anybody else who was queer. As I came out at 15 plenty of my teachers knew. I was clearly having trouble coping emotionally, and some of my teachers were kind to me. The kindness shown to me by one paticular teacher is probably what gave me hope and prevented me from commiting suicide. But they never spoke to me about my sexuality. Because as Mr Studdarts case clearly show, it could have meant their job.

    As someone who has worked with and knows a lot of queer youth, I’m telling you, that Mr Studdarts support of his students has made an impact. Not just of his students, but students nationwide and those of us who have been previous students of the Catholic school system. His support let them know that he respects them. I would not be the least suprised if his support has saved lives.

    Every friend of mine who has commited suicide has been from a Christian (frequently Catholic) family and have been in the closet, too scared of their parents reaction to come out to them.

    The question that needs to be asked is what is the priority for students within the Catholic education system? Is it to teach them catholicism, or to let them know that they are valuable human beings that are loved and respected and have a place in this world?

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