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Prout principal will not resign after controversial assembly

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Posted: Thursday, April 10, 2014 9:30 am | Updated: 9:58 am, Fri Apr 11, 2014.

SOUTH KINGSTOWN — Kathleen Schlenz of Peace Dale knew something was wrong when her daughter, Anna, arrived home from school Friday.

The Rev. Francis “Rocky” Hoffman, a priest of Opus Dei, an orthodox division of the Roman Catholic Church, and executive director and radio host of Relevant Radio, a Catholic radio network that broadcasts on 33 stations in 13 states and online, had spoken to a school-wide assembly at The Prout School, where Anna is a junior. The speech was being taped to be broadcast on Relevant Radio at a later date.

“She was most upset about the divisive and offensive language regarding divorce, homosexuality and even adoption,” Kathleen Schlenz said. “None of the parents or faculty knew it was being taped to be aired. They were essentially held hostage and told to clap after this man’s responses to questions, even when they didn’t agree with them.”

Father Hoffman was on retreat and unavailable for comment before the Independent went to press Wednesday.

On April 10, parents received a letter of apology from Principal David Carradini since Friday. In the new letter, Carradini announced he would not resign.

“People in our community are calling for my resignation, seeing in this event the culmination of frustration with my leadership,” Carradini wrote in the April 10 letter. ”I have taken this call very seriously, deliberating with myself for days and seeking counsel from others. I sincerely believe that my resignation as Principal is not in the best interests of The Prout School. I have this discussed this option with diocesan officials and they, too, believe that I should continue in my position as the leader of our School.”

“Many have questioned why I did not stop Fr. Hoffman when I sensed things were going badly,” Carradini wrote. “I have offered three explanations to various audiences; the truth is I do not know why I did not stop him:. Though I sensed, and shared, the distress of your daughters and sons, and of the faculty, I did not see its depth, as I was in the front of the auditorium. I desperately hoped that things might right-end themselves, and in that hope I did not stop him. Parents who are crisis management professionals have instructed me after the fact in what I ought to have done. I am grateful for their guidance.”

Students discussed staging protests and pickets in response to the speech. On Monday, fliers that read “Homosexuals are bullied because of apathy. Divorced people are bullied because of apathy. Adoptive children are bullied because of apathy. Are you apathetic?” appeared around the school.

Several Prout students and alumni tweeted about the matter.

“Prout is now an unvibrant uncatholic community,” one said.

“All the good things built up by The Prout School today just came crashing down around us with that assembly,” read another.

Posts to Hoffman’s Facebook page appeared briefly, but were removed.

In an email to Carradini, Kathleen Schlenz characterized Hoffman’s comments as “cruel, condemnatory, and wholly un-Christian.” Beginning Friday, a number of parents, including Schlenz, went to Carradini with questions: Why was Hoffman asked to speak? Who approved it? Was he paid? Would the speech be aired?

Carradini referred a request for comment to the Diocese of Providence.

Friday evening, parents received an email from the school.

“My intention in inviting him here was to have a priest articulate Church teaching in a manner that was pastorally appropriate, doctrinally sound, and deeply respectful of the trust the students showed in bringing these questions forward for answer. My prior knowledge of Fr. Hoffman and his program gave every reason to expect this outcome,” Carradini wrote. “My expectations, and those of the faculty and staff, were not met, and for that I am deeply sorry. Several of the answers provided were not entirely representative of the full breadth of Church teaching on a number of complex and sensitive issues. Several members of the student body, faculty, and staff – including me – were personally offended by his manner of presentation.”

In the email, Carradini said he would “address these matters with the entire school and to apologize for the offenses caused.”

That occurred Monday, in another school-wide assembly, during which school chaplain Rev. Joseph Upton, offered an address with a more welcoming message.

“You can imagine how very upset I was on Friday morning as I watched and heard Fr. Rocky’s presentation unfold,” Upton said, according to an email regarding Hoffman’s address sent to parents. “We know that many young people in particular struggle with participation in the life of the Church. And now a presentation seemed to provide more of a reason to give up on the Church? I was angry and I was sad.”

Approximately 50 parents appeared at the assembly uninvited and met with Carradini after it finished. Schlenz was among them.

When she reached Carradini by phone Saturday, she asked what he was doing to ensure the speech would not be broadcast and was told he had spoken to a board member of Relevant Radio.

During Monday’s meeting, she asked him which board member.

“I am not prepared to answer,” Carradini reportedly said. “Why do you want to know?”

When she pressed him, Schlenz said he told the parents the board member was his brother-in-law, Joseph Cavangh Jr. of Warwick, also an Opus Dei member.

“I wanted to see how transparent he would be,” Schlenz said.

Schlenz and other parents contend Carradini knew Hoffman’s views were outside the mainstream of Catholic teaching and reflect a movement to make The Prout School, which has had a reputation for being accepting, into one that is less than tolerant. The Prout School has been a school of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence since 1981, and enrolls approximately 605 students in grades 9 through 12.

“I really thought [Carradini] thought if he got to one or two of the students, he would be happy,” she said.

A letter obtained by the Independent written by Mark O’Connor, the parent of a Prout student, called Carradini’s leadership into question following the incident. O’Connor wrote that he found it “staggering” that Carradini did not stop the controversial presentation as it was occurring. O’Connor’s letter was addressed to Diocese of Providence Catholic School Superintendent Dan Ferris and was circulated among Prout parents. O’Connor did not respond to a request for an interview from the Independent.

“Since the fall I have heard rumblings from parents and students about Mr. Carradini and his leadership of the school,” O’Connor wrote in the letter. “I have not paid much attention to it simply because I could see that our child was doing well in her classes, made some good friends and was overall happy. However, this past Friday changed my mind entirely and I have decided to become much more of a voice about Mr. Carradini and his leadership of The Prout School.”

In his letter, O’Connor said he questions whether to keep his daughter enrolled and would not send his other two children to the school if Carradini remained its principal.

Schlenz said other parents expressed similar sentiments during the after-assembly meeting, and at that time, Carradini said he would consider resigning.

“I am all for instilling the values and teachings of the church to our children, but this Fr. Rocky took it too far and Mr. Carradini allowed it to happen,” O’Connor wrote. “There was an auditorium full of adolescents who may be gay, may think they’re gay or may be a child of divorce. That is not how we should be addressing these issues with our children. This has left many of them baffled, shamed and perplexed.”

Ferris issued the following statement regarding the incident: “The Diocese of Providence had every reason to believe that a school-wide assembly at The Prout School on Friday featuring nationally known speaker Father Francis ‘Rocky’ Hoffman of Relevant Radio would be nothing less than informative and appropriate. However, it turned out to be quite the opposite. Father Rocky’s responses to a number of particularly sensitive topics were disappointing and pastorally insensitive to church teachings.”

Schlenz said that while she was “furious” over this incident, she was proud of the students. “The seniors in particular were acting out their Christian values against this administration.”

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12 comments:

  • RIteach posted at 4:16 pm on Fri, Jun 13, 2014.

    RIteach Posts: 1

    I think the comment by the student who was there, below, is the most poignant.

    Kathleen Schlenz sends her child to private Catholic school, subscribes to Catholicism, and then is surprised by the often oppressive words of a Catholic leader. Don't send your child to such a school if you are so offended by the long standing views on social issues of the church. She then comments on Christian values. She herself hardly showed such values in this self-serving tirade to the press. As her student is on her way out of the school, this is intended to hurt the administration moving forward.

     
  • oldsterone posted at 2:29 pm on Thu, Apr 17, 2014.

    oldsterone Posts: 1

    The students of this high school who are unable to hear the truth of Church teaching on these social issues are being influenced by the demonic.

    satan is attacking everything and everyone, because he knows Our Lady of Fatima is about to triumph. he hates Catholic schools, and is doing everything he can to attack their ethos and values.

    To push back against a priest like Father Rocky, and all others like him is sinful.

     
  • LawyerandMom posted at 12:46 pm on Wed, Apr 16, 2014.

    LawyerandMom Posts: 1

    Was this supposed to be a news story? Or another "DaVinci Code" in the making? From the article: "Schlenz said he told the parents the board member was his brother-in-law, Joseph Cavangh Jr. of Warwick, also an Opus Dei member." So -- it seems that the problem here is that a woman with an extended family member in Opus Dei is hopping mad that a priest of Opus Dei was (gasp!) invited to speak (double gasp!) at a Catholic school -- about what the Catholic faith teaches! It is one thing for a parent of a Catholic school student to disagree with what the Church teaches (which they are certainly entitled to do) and quite another for them to then demand that the Church's teachings not be presented in school, lest they seem less than "inclusive." Curious about all this fuss, I turned in to Relevant Radio last night, and Fr. Rocky happened to be on, giving a talk on marriage. He said things like, "Spouses have to defend each other, espcially if they are criticized by an in-law" and "Husbands and wives need to get away by themselves at least once a week to talk" and "be careful about protecting yourself from those who might wish to undermine your commitment to your spouse." Yeah, pretty "right wing" stuff. It seems to be some of these parents who complained might be more comfortable in an Episcoplian setting -- they would have a Sacramental theology without all of the Catholic Church's moral teachings.

     
  • Ezekiel_2517 posted at 6:31 pm on Tue, Apr 15, 2014.

    Ezekiel_2517 Posts: 1

    "The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee."
    -Ezekiel

     
  • JorgeSouth posted at 4:20 pm on Tue, Apr 15, 2014.

    JorgeSouth Posts: 1

    LWC: do you have any evidence that sexual orientation is genetic? And even if it were, one thing is the same-sex attraction, another thing is the same-sex sexual _behavior_.

    A man is not culpable for how he was born, but he can choose how to _behave_.

     
  • Practicing Catholic posted at 1:28 pm on Tue, Apr 15, 2014.

    Practicing Catholic Posts: 1

    I agree with stpetric--the article never tells us what the priest actually said. We only know that a few disgruntled parents and students didn't like what the priest said. The official position of the Catholic Church is that engaging in homosexual activity is a sin, just like engaging in heterosexual sex (outside of marriage) is a sin. And certainly the Church frowns upon divorce and believes that the ideal environment for a child is to be brought up by the two loving parents (male and female) who created that child within the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. If the priest did nothing more than state the above and quote from the Catholic Catechism, then he did absolutely nothing wrong! The real problem is with "cafeteria-style" liberal Catholics who never read the Catechism or are under the mistaken belief that they're allowed to pick and choose what to believe while still calling themselves "Catholic." To be Catholic is to believe the tenets of the Church---there's no picking and choosing allowed. It's sad when radical leftists send their kids to a nominally Catholic school and then get angry when their kids are taught accurate Catholic doctrine. If you don't like what the Church teaches, then send your kids to a secular private school or a public school. Of course, I'm open to the possibility that the particular priest who was invited may have been "over the top" as stpetric notes below, but we'll never know because the reporter didn't report the words that the priest actually spoke. Unlike the leftist parent quoted in the article (who wasn't present when the priest spoke), I'm willing to give the priest and the principal the benefit of the doubt.

     
  • stpetric posted at 5:24 pm on Sun, Apr 13, 2014.

    stpetric Posts: 1

    Conspicuously missing from this story is any account of what the visiting priest said that was so controversial. Unfortunately, it's entirely possible that all he did was accurately report Church teaching on moral questions...in which case, he's not the problem, the outraged parents are. Imagine, a Catholic school teaching Catholic doctrine!

    And yes, of course it's also possible that he was completely over-the-top, but we don't know because the reporter doesn't tell us!

     
  • LWC posted at 3:21 pm on Sun, Apr 13, 2014.

    LWC Posts: 1

    I'm still awaiting what exact scientific evidence any of these speakers cited. Asserting the homosexual orientation is not rooted in genetics is pure alchemy. You could no more pay or intimidate one into being gay than you could pay or intimidate one into being straight. Instilling blue contacts onto brown eyes no more transforms eye color than one acting counter to one's orientation transforms sexual orientation.

     
  • Gary Lockhart posted at 11:19 am on Sun, Apr 13, 2014.

    Gary Lockhart Posts: 1

    "Schlenz and other parents contend Carradini knew Hoffman’s views were outside the mainstream of Catholic teaching and reflect a movement to make The Prout School, which has had a reputation for being accepting, into one that is less than tolerant."

    So says the magisterium of relativists. I doubt that Schlenz or any of the other "concerned" parents have ever read a single section of the Catechism or most of Scripture for that matter. This is simply another manifestation of the lousy catechesis that many Catholics have received in the last 50 years. Schlenz and her cabal would most likely ensure that Christ, St. Peter, all of the other Apostles, with the exception of St. John, and St. Paul would receive the same fates that they met nearly two millenia ago were they teaching today at the oh so "enlightened" The Proutt School.

     
  • hikingmani posted at 8:47 pm on Fri, Apr 11, 2014.

    hikingmani Posts: 1

    So I go to Prout and was at the assembly. First off, we knew that this was a radio broadcast (IDK what this article is talking about), that was made perfectly clear to us, in fact, we were supposed to ask questions to Fr. Hoffman. Students whose questions were chosen, would get to ask them on the radio station. Questions were asked about gay marriage, abortion, and other theological issues. Fr. Rocky answered them all the way you'd expect him to. The problem was that for entertainment purposes, he said some dumb things: atheism is just a phase, gay people need to get with it (something to that affect), parents need to grow up and not get divorced (even though marriage is about love).......the way he said somethings didn't fit in with the idea of a loving and open Church. Aside from that, a lot of students that go hear don't believe in a lot of stuff the church teachers. There's a good amount of atheists.

    But to be totally and 100% honest, I felt that everyone completely over-reacted. I think that because the opinion was unanimous everyone just vilified Fr. Rocky more than they should have. In other words, it was bad, but not even close to the reaction of parents and students.

    Another reason why people overreacted, was because there is a lot of disapproval of Mr. Carradini among students and teachers especially. Sometimes Mr. Carradini has trouble communicating with students...for example one time in his welcome back to school speech, he said that because everyone in the audience was sitting, he'd sit down too...and he sat on the stage and talked to us (unusual). The other thing is that lately, a lot of teachers have been leaving - last year in to this year, almost 15 teachers left...and teachers don't seem too impressed with him. Overall, he has done nothing to affect me in a negative way. In fact, he's done a lot of good things such as expanding the course selection process and he's been very open to student opinions. For example, when students told him that they didn't want to hear the mission statement everyday, he stopped doing it.

    Furthermore, there is no reason to blame Mr. Carradini for Fr. Rocky's performance. It would've been too awkward to stop him midway and the priest wasn't that terrible. In fact a lot of kids were still clapping for him when he signaled them too. There was definitely some questioning in the audience - if they expected him to stop the assembly, why were they still clapping.

    I think that this is just hype and overreaction. I know that my comment here is long, but I just feel that this article (which I first saw on a newsstand) is just going with the hear-say...and I don't like that.

     
  • gracie4309 posted at 3:17 pm on Fri, Apr 11, 2014.

    gracie4309 Posts: 1

    Where in the article does it say what Father Rocky actually said in his presentation? I couldn't find any of the actual content anywhere. What is meant by "mainstream Catholic teaching"? It sounds like Father Rocky was speaking the Truth of the Catholic Church in a Catholic (supposedly) school. Not sure what all the hoopla is about. Also, how can the teachings of the Catholic Church be "taken too far"? and what does it mean to "act out Christian values against" someone? Christian values aren't meant to be acted out against other people. This article really makes no sense.

     
  • Heart posted at 6:05 am on Fri, Apr 11, 2014.

    Heart Posts: 1

     

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