‘Fired for Quoting a Saint’ — Revisited

News: Commentary
by Kyle Kopy  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  November 10, 2022   

Too 'culturally insensitive' for today's students

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After the release of a recent Mic'd Up and the subsequent Vortex that recounted the story of how I was fired from a Catholic school for basically quoting a saint, many of our faithful Church Militant supporters have reached out to me and expressed their outrage at what happened. Some have asked me to tell the story in more detail, which I'm happy to do. 

The North American Martyrs

In 2021, on the Feast of the North American Martyrs, De La Salle Collegiate High School administrators summoned me to a meeting as I was leaving for the day. I sat down in a conference room across from the stern-faced administrators. They asked me to explain why the terms "pagans" and "savages" were used in my class that day to describe the Native Americans of colonial times.

In no uncertain terms, I told them that it was because these terms were used to accurately describe certain theological and historical situations. Our modern politically correct culture may not like the terms, but they're perfectly fine to use — because they convey the truth. Did I not have the academic freedom to express the truth to my students? The administration became aware of this so-called grievous incident because a student who apparently took offense at what I said and recorded the class without my knowledge reported it to them. The administration kept threatening to "watch the video," but I was fine with that. And I didn't mind telling them exactly what I said to all six of my classes that day. 

As I often did, I started my classes going over the saint for that particular day. Many students are interested and even inspired by the lives of the heroes of our Faith. It happened to be the Feast of St. John de Brébeuf, St. Isaac Jogues and the North American Martyrs. I showed a short video in which some of these saintly Jesuit martyrs referred to the natives as "pagans" and "savages." This raised a few eyebrows among the students, but most were satisfied when I explained that these terms described historical and theological realities.

Were the American natives not pagan? Did they not worship false gods? This is precisely the reason why the Catholic missionaries came to this country — to tell them about the one true God. If the natives were not in need, then these priests ought to have stayed home!

One administrator interjected, strangely attempting to compare the Jesuit missions in the Americas to the Crusades. This Ivy League–educated man mistakenly thought that the point of the Crusades was to force people to convert to Christianity!

I dutifully informed him that the exact opposite was true: The Crusades began as Christendom's defensive response to Muslim aggression. "Then why did Pope John Paul II apologize for the Crusades?" the administrator asked. After explaining to him the limits of papal infallibility, I added that I didn't think the pope actually said that.

Indeed, I was right. In 2005, The Washington Post falsely reported that the pope apologized to Muslims for the Crusades, a claim that was flatly debunked by Robert Spencer.

Did I not have the academic freedom to express the truth to my students? 

But what about the term "savage"? Surely, using this term is something akin to committing genocide, right? Actually, this term comes from an old French word for "uncivilized" people "of the woods," which accurately describes not only the living situation but the backward ways and immorality of the American natives.

As Christopher Check explains in his lecture "Saving the Americas," the Jesuit missionaries observed widespread promiscuity among the natives, along with ritual torture, lack of hygiene, appalling diet, sorcery and feces-filled longhouses. Most of us would be grateful to have been saved from such conditions. It's reminiscent of Native American playwright Tomson Highway expressing his gratitude for having attended a residential school, where he learned how to speak English and play the piano, setting him up for a prosperous future career. 

As you can imagine, my apologia fell upon deaf ears in this contentious meeting. I was asked to recant and apologize, but I refused — I had done nothing wrong. My only fault was apparently offending one of our Native American students. The administration claimed I had already "apologized" to this particular student after I showed the video, which, they say, proved that I knew that what I said was wrong. In reality, I simply pulled the student aside to tell him that I didn't consider him (a baptized Catholic) to be a pagan savage, but that he needed to accept this hard truth about his ancestors.

Relating this to our culture's obsession with woke terminology, I argue that the terms pagan and savage are actually very "diverse" and "inclusive" because they describe the state of all pre-evangelized people. This includes my own ancestors, the Slavic people, who were indeed plagued by paganism and savagery before SS. Cyril and Methodius brought them the light of the gospel. In addition, any faithful Catholic knows that our secular culture is devolving into one that fosters paganism and savagery once again.

The school's scandalous new motto

Before leaving, I asked the administration if I would be supported if someone were to take offense when I presented the Church's clear teaching on the immorality of homosexuality. Unfortunately, they could not give me a straight answer. They wildly claimed that we "shouldn't judge who someone loves" and that only homosexual acts were disordered — not the attraction.

Just consider the logic of that last claim. If same-sex attraction is not disordered, then it must be God-ordained. Why would God command, through His Church, that one ought not to act on such an attraction? It's like saying one ought not to cheat on his wife, but claiming the temptation to do so is perfectly fine. The administration falsely claimed that the Catechism of the Catholic Church doesn't teach that the attraction is disordered, that it only speaks of the "acts" (§2357). But if they'd bothered to read the next paragraph, they would've discovered that the "inclination" to commit those acts is also "objectively disordered" (§2358).

In the end, I was put on a three-day suspension, during which I was told that I needed to "reflect" on the situation. I was also told that we would continue the conversation when I returned. But this wasn't to be; I was emailed a letter of termination two days into my suspension. The letter charged me with being "culturally insensitive."

Interestingly, the letter stated that the administration's conversation with me was "going in circles." I agree. This tends to happen when one party is clearly wrong but won't admit it. As to the claim that I didn't provide "quality lesson plans" in my absence, this is demonstrably false. I did the best I could given the circumstances (the sudden suspension and the inability to teach virtually). Plus, wasn't I supposed to be using this time for "reflection"?

While on suspension, I even received a message from one of the secretaries saying that kids were "leaving my classroom" because they allegedly didn't have anything to do. Couldn't an adult have kept them in the room? Besides, anyone who's ever subbed at that school knows that it's basically just babysitting. My reply received no response, besides the letter of termination.

Regardless of my objections, I had to come to terms with my termination. A father of multiple children who had faithfully served the school for the better part of a decade — and who was virtually the only faculty member there qualified to teach theology — would lose his income and benefits almost immediately. They even fought against paying my unemployment while I scrambled to search for a new job. On top of that, some of my former students reported to me that a member of the administration visited all my classes the following week and labeled me a racist.

While my termination was heavy-handed and abrupt, it wasn't a surprise to me. For years, I would tell students, colleagues and friends that, given the direction that our school was headed in, I would probably be fired one day for simply teaching the truth. Like most run-of-the-mill Catholic schools, my former institution suffered from the problems resulting from moving away from its once-strong Catholic identity.

Sadly, this plague has infected many of our Catholic schools. I recently talked to a faculty member from another Catholic school in my area who said that his goal in teaching theology was merely to not leave the students with "a bad experience" of the Faith. Really? Can we aim for something a little higher, like the salvation of their souls?

One ought not to have faith in anything other than God.

During my last year at DLS, the school hired a non-Catholic consulting firm to help the school understand its mission and identity — talk about a conflict of interest. With the help of this firm, our school came up with the new motto of "Faith in You." Yes, you read that right. Not faith in God or Christ, but in some created thing.

In an effort to compile a list, the school asked students to identify things that they had faith in. Thanks be to God that some actually said God, but you also got generic things like family, friends, etc. All of this ignores the fact that our Church teaches that one ought not to have faith in anything other than God. This flies in the face of the school's subtitle to the new slogan, which states "Our faith extends far beyond religion." 

The school also had a full-time director of "justice, equity, diversity and inclusion," a woman who was paid an administrator's salary to basically sit in her office and read books about critical race theory. The faculty members were also forced to listen to public school diversity gurus like Jay Marks drone on about how we had to be "culturally competent educators" and recognize our "implicit biases." I recall one session in which Marks told one of our Hispanic female teachers that she didn't have to identify with her race or biological sex. 

If one compares my firing with the school's treatment of one of its pro-abort English teachers a year before, he'll find there's a bit of a double standard. Knowing that I was virtually the only bastion of orthodoxy at the school, several students informed me that an English teacher was extolling the "merits" of abortion in her classes. I brought this to the administration, and the teacher merely received a slap on the wrist (thankfully, she quit at the end of the year).

This, coupled with the laundry list of other issues, should make any faithful Catholic cringe. Some other abuses worth mentioning are a teacher openly celebrating winning a radio contest that paid for his wife to undergo in vitro fertilization, a teacher running after-school Protestant church services in her classroom and the school allowing an openly gay teacher to still be employed there. To top it off, previous administrators made me interview non-Catholics to teach theology. Thankfully, none of those teachers made it through, and this is one reason I made my teachers take an oath of fidelity to the Magisterium.       

DLS students displaying posters in protest

My former institution is still run by the De La Salle Brothers, despite their rapidly dwindling vocations. And despite being founded by the great St. John Baptist de la Salle, the order is presently in a dire state (think of the modern-day Jesuits). I could write a book on the rot therein, but suffice it to say that the order was involved in pushing Eastern spiritual "healing" techniques like Reiki (a practice that even the USCCB condemns) and in sending teachers to help illegal immigrants cross the border by leaving them water jugs.

Maryann Donohue-Lynch, the associate executive director for mission and ministry for the Lasallians, would fawn over dissident priests like Fr. James Martin, and she was overjoyed at the prospect of a Lasallian school supporting one of their students who was "transitioning." It's no wonder why young men aren't beating down their doors to join.

Even though I was mistreated by the school administration, I received overwhelming support from the school community: Students created petitions and posters, people reached out offering to help me find another job and parents voiced their concerns to the school administration. Recently, one alumnus informed me that he had a meeting with the school administration in which they repeated the falsehood about homosexual attraction not being disordered. They also even admitted that the supposed controversial phrases I used were actually OK, but the real problem was that I kept repeating them throughout the day. How does that work? If what I said was fine, then shouldn't I be allowed to say it as much as I want? I taught the same lesson six times a day; was I only supposed to use the phrases in one of those classes?

Perhaps it's foolish to advertise for a barely Catholic school, but I still occasionally don the school's colors (clothing for a working-class man with four kids is hard to come by). When I'm asked why I do this, I say that I'm proud of the time I spent there spreading the Faith to many young people over the years. Plus, it's a great conversation starter. And no, I'm not on some crusade to destroy the school; any retribution that they receive is of their own doing. I have benefitted from and appreciate the history of the school and the Lasallian religious order, and I ask for St. La Salle's intercession every day. I didn't pursue any legal action against the school and remained publicly tight-lipped about the whole thing for almost a year. But I discerned that it was time to share my experience.

Although I greatly miss classroom teaching and interacting with students, I've turned down several offers from schools to re-enter the classroom. I think God has me right where he wants me. I'm blessed to have employment at a faithful Catholic apostolate and also the opportunity to teach some classes through an online institute — perhaps I might even convert a few pagan savages in the process. 

Kyle Kopy has over 15 years of experience in Catholic lay ministry, serving in various parish roles, including catechist and coordinator of youth and young adult ministry. Mr. Kopy holds seminary degrees in philosophy and dogmatic theology. He is a diocesan-certified catechist and high school religion teacher and is also a certificated classical educator. He recently held the theology department chair at a large all-boys high school in southeast Michigan — where he taught theology and philosophy for many years. He's an associate copy editor at Church Militant and an instructor at the St. Clement Catechetical Institute


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