Earlier this month, Georgetown Visitation Prep, an all-girls preparatory school in Washington D.C., announced that it would begin publishing same-sex union news in its alumnae magazine. That’s not the only change taking place though.

The president of the school, Sister Mary Berchmans Hannan, VHM, began her announcement with a quote from St. Francis de Sales, who would have advised her to announce just the opposite. Nonetheless, she cherry picked a quote from St. Francis de Sales and used it to mislead, since she herself is apparently so misled:

“The Church is a garden patterned with unlimited flowers; it is necessary that they should be of various sizes, various colors, various odors, and, to sum it up, different perfections … all of them provide a beauty most pleasing and perfect.”

Apparently Sister isn’t a gardener, otherwise she would know that a garden can have some weeds as well, and unless you tend to the garden by dealing with the weeds, the weeds will overtake it. Mind you, this does not always entail pulling up the weeds.

Additionally, if you read this quote in context, St. Francis de Sales was talking about God’s creation, not the distortions of God’s creation caused by sin. He writes, “If someone should ask why God made melons bigger than strawberries or lilies larger than violets… ‘each one has his own gift, one in this way and another in that’, says the Holy Ghost“. One has to wonder if Sister is saying that fornication and homosexual sex are gifts. Is that what you are saying Sister?

Interestingly, when read in context, this quote references St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 7) in which St. Paul explains chastity and references his own celibacy. Fascinating how Sister overlooked that. 

Sister’s first paragraph after her terrible misuse of the above quote states:

“For many of us, Visitation is so much more than a school. It is our spiritual home. It is where we mature as women of faith, vision, and purpose; where we meet the friends who will shape our lives, support us along our journeys, challenge us, and lift us up; and where we learn to Live Jesus.”

News bulletin #1. If a high school is your spiritual home, you are a pagan. You graduate from high school for a reason. You need to mature and move on with your life. The Church is your spiritual home on earth, preferably your parish church serving as a physical home for your spiritual growth and the Eucharist serving as the nourishment. If you “Live Jesus” solely because of your high school, then you are likely living as an immature and undeveloped disciple… possibly a version of Jesus as a social justice warrior?

Sister continues:

“Recently, a Visitation friend invited me to reflect upon what it means to Live Jesus in relationship with our LGBTQ alumnae.”

It appears that Sister’s reflection was like the reflection off of the surface of a still body of water. In other words, it did not go very deep. But I’ll defer to Sister to tell you how her “reflection” went.

“As a professed Sister of the Visitation for 67 years, I have devoted my life in service to the Catholic Church. The Church is clear in its teaching on same-sex marriages. But, it is equally clear in its teaching that we are all children of God, that we each have dignity and are worthy of respect and love. I have been blessed to live my vocation here at Visitation, where I have welcomed and come to know, respect, and love thousands of unique, intelligent, passionate, and faithful women, each made in the image and likeness of God.”

Thanks for your vocation Sister, but it seems you may have tried to stay in the game a little too long. Your type of service is not needed by the Church. Maybe you were a faithful servant at one time and possibly you still serve well in some ways, but leading others to accept immoral choices and behaviors is not service to the Church, it is service to Satan. More on this later. Sister continues…

“As I have prayed over this contradiction, I keep returning to this choice: we can focus on Church teaching on gay marriage or we can focus on Church teaching on the Gospel commandment of love. We know from history – including very recent history – that the Church, in its humanity, makes mistakes. Yet, through the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, it learns and grows. And so, we choose the Gospel commandment of love.”

Contradiction? If Sister is saying that the Church’s teaching on sexuality contradicts its teaching on love, then she’s simply highlighting her absolute ignorance of both teachings. Authentic love, and authentic respect for the dignity of the person, is only achieved through truth. There is no way to authentically love someone by lying to them. One can honestly say, and one should say, “even though you experience same-sex attraction, you are made in the image and likeness of God and you are loved by God”. But we cannot then pat them on the back and tell them that sex outside of marriage is okay, or that sex outside of God’s design for man and woman is okay. God, the supreme biologist, made men and women in a very specific way, both very different and at the same time very complimentary. God teaches us that science and biology matter. When we cooperate with this, good things happen. When we reject the way we were made, we reject God. 

Of course, I’m talking about a homosexual relationship which is not chaste. Not every same-sex attracted person engages in sex with the person to whom he or she is attracted. Daniel Mattson and Paul Darrow write and speak about this quite eloquently.

However, Sister seems to be talking about two people who do engage in homosexual sex. To blur the Christian teaching on this is to teach error. 

So here is Sister’s grand announcement:

“Beginning with the fall issue of our alumnae magazine, we will publish news of our alumnae’s same-sex unions, along with all updates our alums choose to share with their classmates.”

You can almost feel her exhilaration. She can almost see her popularity soar. I had been told that the Catholic enrollment at Visitation Prep is over 90% of the student body but when I spoke with the communications director at Visitation she said she wasn’t sure if they shared that number publicly. I wondered how many of Visitation Prep’s instructors and coaches are Catholic but the communications director said she did not know if they tracked that number. 

If the student body is over 90% Catholic, why would the school publicize same-sex unions?

The Church does not recognize same-sex “marriage”. Therefore, same-sex unions are nothing more than two people “shacking up”. Is the school magazine going to publish those announcements too? Not that anyone would want to publicize that, but the logical conclusion of Sister’s grand announcement would require the school to do so. Nice work Sister. Maybe they can start a new category: “Fornication Announcements!”

Continuing in this line of thought, I wonder how many families and staff members of Visitation Prep actually practice the Catholic faith. In “practice” I mean: Do they fulfill the five precepts of the Church (the absolute bare minimum to consider yourself a “practicing Catholic”. Do they attend Mass each holy day of obligation; do they receive the Eucharist at least once during the Easter season; do they receive the sacrament of reconciliation at least once per year; do they fast and abstain according to the requirements of the Church; and do they support the Church? 

Sister then explains more on her discernment process:

“We reached this decision as a school and Monastery leadership after much prayerful consideration and thoughtful dialogue. We welcomed – as we always do – the respectful, earnest, faith-filled comments of several community members who contacted us directly. We encourage each of you to reach out to us when you have a question or concern. We all can grow through these courageous conversations.”

Apparently, they did not consult the Holy Spirit, any faithful Catholics, the Bible, or the Catechism of the Catholic Church. However, I do have some questions in addition to the questions I asked above:

  1. How does publicly recognizing same-sex unions, which are not marriages, much less sacramental marriages, glorify God?
  2. How does publicly recognizing same-sex unions match up with Matthew 19 in which Jesus stated: “Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (By the way, if you simply read this as a prohibition of divorce, I encourage you to go back and read Genesis 2:20-25. Context is a wonderful thing.)
  3. Mothers who have children out of wedlock certainly love their child. Does the school magazine publish the announcements of fatherless children?
  4. When are men going to be allowed to enroll at Visitation Prep? Isn’t it a bit discriminatory to only allow females in your school?
  5. How many Visitation Prep students and faculty made it to the March for Life in January?

I suppose those are enough questions for now. Sister begins the wrap on her grand announcement:

“As a Salesian school, it is our mission and ministry to understand the value of diversity and respect the dignity of each person. Our faculty and staff, along with the Board, Parents Association, and newly formed Alumnae Diversity & Inclusion Committees strive daily to ensure that Visitation is welcoming to all members of our community, including LGBTQ students, alumnae, and families. This change is an important part of ensuring that every individual is respected.”

Sister, you are failing in this effort to understand. A garden of flowers does not value the diversity of weeds, nor does it respect the dignity of the weeds by letting them overrun the garden. Over the centuries, skilled gardeners  (horticulturists) have taken weeds and through very hard work, have turned some of them into beautiful plants and flavorful foods. Lazy gardeners simply let the weeds choke out the garden, and eventually, they stop gardening. It appears Visitation Prep is in the process of abandoning the garden. 

Romans 1:18-32

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; 21 for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools; 23 and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.
28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. 29 They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them.

Is it any surprise that Visitation Prep has a newly formed Alumnae Diversity & Inclusion Committee? I suspect we now know who advised Sister on the proper way to “Live Jesus”. 

There is an enormous difference between condemning a person and encouraging them to amend their behaviors and choices. Jesus teaches us this in John 5 and John 8, as well as many other places in Scripture. There is also an enormous difference between authentic love and inclusion. Authentic love requires truth, whereas inclusion is heavily based in feelings regardless of truth. 

Affirming a person’s sin is not love. Ignoring a person’s sin is not love. If you want to “Live Jesus”, then do as Jesus did, love them, but do not forget to tell them to “go and do not sin any more”. (John 5:14 and John 8:11) 

Here’s a novel thought: How about “Living Jesus” by living in a way which is faithful to the Church Jesus founded? How about living in a way which is not simply mirroring the secular culture? Sister Mary Berchmans Hannan, VHM, has veered from the faith. May she wake up, correct this error (repent), and make amends to God.