This is Brother Joshua’s 34th year as director of student activities at St. Anthony’s, his 34th year doing prom. According to Brother Joshua, the higher price for singles was set many years ago, not to discriminate against gay students—or, for that matter, students unable or unwilling to bring a date—but due to the increased difficulty presented by “single” students when creating a seating chart and table arrangement.
“It’s a whole magilla,” says Brother Joshua. However, he says, after seeing Angelina’s petition and hearing her argument, he and Brother Gary decided to change the old pricing structure, so that singles and couples paid the same price: $145 for a single ticket, $290 for a couples ticket.
According to Angelina, this is partially accurate: Yes, she says, Brother Joshua did indeed inform her that he would be slashing the price of singles tickets, but those changes were never put into practice, and she and all single students paid the full $165. Furthermore, he made it known he would not be discussing or considering any other potential changes to policy. There would be no same-sex dates at St. Anthony’s senior prom.
According to both Brothers Gary and Joshua, that point is non-negotiable. Brother Gary says that’s not because the school disapproves of gay students, but because the Church disapproves of gay marriage.
“Our Catholic understanding of the sacrament of marriage is between a man and a woman,” says the St. Anthony’s principal. “Every decision we make on the high school level has to reflect that teaching. Following then, logically, from that, if we were to approve of a same-sex couple coming to the prom, it would in a sense appear that we are approving same-sex marriage.”
Brother Joshua echoes Brother Gary’s take almost to the word. He says that no petition could ever change the school’s policy on allowing same-sex dates to attend prom together: “It gets too close to Catholic teaching,” he says, “and whether there’s a petition or not, I can’t answer it and say, ‘Yes, we’re now going to change an [aspect of] Catholic teaching.’”
Still, there does seem to be some degree of hypocrisy—or, at best, ethical inconsistencies—wrapped into that policy, which can be boiled down to three essential questions:
1. The school admits and includes among its student body Jewish and Muslim kids. Is this at odds with the prom policy, that “Every decision we make on the high school level has to reflect [Catholic] teaching”?
“No, not at all,” says Brother Gary. As far as he’s concerned, if the student can meet St. Anthony’s rigorous academic qualifications, it matters not what God she worships, or whether she worships at all. He notes, too, that the school admits and includes among its student body—yes—gay students. “We don’t have a litmus test in the building,” he says. “Just as much as I would be loath to have a qualified Jewish boy or girl be barred because of our philosophical approach, if somebody was to inappropriately indicate that they are homosexual, I wouldn’t bar them [from admission to St. Anthony’s]. That would be totally incorrect.”
2. If allowing same-sex couples to attend prom together gives the appearance of approving of same-sex marriage, on some level does that not also imply that allowing unmarried couples to attend prom together gives the appearance of approving of premarital sex?
“That is the obligation we put on the parents,” says Brother Joshua. Though he doesn’t address directly the question of the potentially mixed signals being sent out or received, Brother Joshua does explain that the school goes to great lengths to condemn post-prom sexual activity among its students: He meets with parents before prom to warn them about the moral and physical dangers students may face and the estimable safeguards put in place by St. Anthony’s. He discourages parents from allowing their kids to rent post-prom hotel rooms; he knows where that leads. He says there are 40 teachers serving as prom supervisors, and 20 security guards who patrol the event. “The prom is like [POW camp] Stalag 13,” he says. “It’s highly, highly structured, and we really have little or no problems.”
3. Why should a prom date be considered (or assumed to be) a potential sexual or romantic partner anyway? Why not state that all pairs of attendees are not considered “couples” or “dates” but just “friends,” and have the rules reflect that terminology, so that everyone can bring their “friend” of choice?
“I haven’t thought about it in those terms,” says Brother Joshua. “Just bringing a friend—what would that open up if we said, ‘Just bring a friend?’ It becomes a much larger scope of kids that we’re talking about, and we already have 750 kids coming to the prom, so if we open it up and say anybody can bring friends as well…well, I think that opens it up too far.
Tags: Angelina Lange, Brother Gary Cregan, Brother Joshua DiMauro, California Supreme Court, Catholic Church, Constance McMillen, Cover Story, David Kilmnick, featured, featured-scroll, Itawamba Agricultural High School, Long Island Gay and Lesbian Youth, Long Island Schools, Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, NYCLU, prom, seinor prom, Sister M. Ambrose Wozniak, St. Anthony’s, St. Anthony’s High School, Unruh Civil Rights Act, Villa Maria Academy