That image above is of a handout Catholic high school teacher Gavin Ahern passed out to his students at Xavier College Prep, an elite girls’ school in Phoenix. Imagine that: a Catholic teacher giving out a flyer saying that abortion disproportionately harms African-Americans, that even Unborn Black Lives Matter. Whoever heard of such a thing?!
Then all hell broke loose from SJWs within the school and its alumnae network. From a local TV report:
A controversial handout given to students looks like something from the 1960’s; it references the KKK, abortion, and black genocide. Believe it or not, it’s being handed out to students at Xavier College Preparatory School in Phoenix. And parents and alumni are furious. They’ve started a petition to get rid of the teacher using the material in his classroom.
Gavin Ahern has taught theology classes at Xavier College Prep since 2002 and has been a moderator for the schools “Right to Life” club. But he’s found himself at the center of a growing controversy after handing out an anti-abortion flier to students titled “Black Genocide” which some Xavier alumni say was out of bounds.
“It immediately struck me as racist and sexist and completely out of line with anything a teacher in a position of authority should be dealing with in class,” said Peg Perl.
Perl graduated from Xavier in 1993 and over the weekend started a petition calling for Ahern to be fired. The petition has over 4,000 signatures with many current and former students leaving comments.
Here’s a link to the anti-Ahern petition. It has close to 7,000 signatures — but note that only a small fraction of them are from Arizona. The petition has received coverage from the SJW feminist shriek site Jezebel, which means the story has gone national.
Xavier alumnae & supporters (including some who are now XCP parents) have seen and heard about a handout given to students in class last week by Theology teacher Gavin Ahern. We feel the handout is hateful, racist, sexist and goes against everything we hope our young women to be. The handout is filled with racist and anti-women language based on alleged “facts” that are neither true, nor citing any references. Unsubstantiated hate speech is not appropriate in the classroom, and it is in stark contrast to the academic excellence and love for community we associate with our experience at Xavier. Women-shaming and and race-baiting such as this by a teacher in a classroom of young women is an abuse of the authority and trust placed in Mr. Ahern.
We further understand this indefensible handout is merely the latest manifestation of Mr. Ahern’s misogynistic rhetoric against women and their “proper place” in society as stay-at-home wives and mothers supposedly backed up by Catholic theological pedagogy. We are appalled these sexist ideas are put forth by someone entrusted with the education of young women at an institution we believe to have the mission of challenging stereotypes and empowering Xavier graduates as they go forth into our world.
Perhaps the most disheartening part of this situation is learning that many past and current students, parents, alumnae have been afraid to speak up about Mr. Ahern’s behavior because of fear of retaliation. We understand students have experienced grade demotion for speaking up and heard stories of similar retaliation from other students. Parents and alumnae have expressed fear of raising the issue or adding their name to a call to stop this type of hate-based rhetoric in the classroom because of possible boycotts of small businesses or loss of jobs which may be are at risk from like-minded vocal forces in the Valley that may agree with Mr. Ahern’s statements.
These are certainly not the lessons we learned from Xavier–or your leadership. We demand you take swift action to remove Mr. Ahern from the classroom immediately and take whatever steps are necessary to permanently remove him from the Xavier community.
From those of us united in the Xavier Sisterhood, and allies committed to supporting the current and future young women of Xavier.
There has arisen a counterpetition, started by some students at the school:
This competing petition is being set forth against the petition urging the firing of Gavin Ahern. We and many of our peers feel that the initial petition is unfair and that the other side of the story needs to be heard.
Many of the people who signed the petition do not even know Gavin Ahern and certainly have not attended his classes. The worksheet posted, which was part of a theology class exercise, was not explained correctly in the opposing petition and made it seem as though Mr. Ahern wrote the worksheet himself. As Xavier students (in his class (JP) or in a comparable theology class (ST)), we can agree there are some topics that are disheartening and hard to deal with, but the purpose of this exercise was to expose the students to unpopular and unacceptable views from the past. Mr. Ahern has never been racist in class and actually has a very large understanding and big heart toward multiple views and opinions. He has never just stated a fact and told us to deal with it; he has always explained and answered questions relating to the topic under discussion. Mr. Ahern has been one of the few theology teachers who have ever made sense to me (JP) in class and taught me that the Catholic faith is accepting of all people. He has taught about love and acceptance in class. It is unfair for people to be so immature as to start a petition of hate against him when most of them do not know him as a person. The petition is extremely hateful and against all that Xavier teaches us as a community. Xavier teaches us to be women of excellence and mature adults. Creating something as petty as this is not what we stand for. Gavin Ahern is an amazing teacher and it is unfair to treat him like this. Please before voting and hating someone understand who they are and understand that distribution of the worksheet was taken out of context. Signing this petition indicates that you agree that Mr. Ahern should not be fired.
Well. For starters, let me say that I think the “Black Genocide” material is overwrought propaganda, to say the very least. It is true that a disproportionate number of abortions are of unborn black children, and there’s nothing wrong with pointing that out, and talking about it. But presenting a serious issue in that shrill way does more to discredit the pro-life cause than advance it. That’s my view, anyway. For all I know, Mr. Ahern presented it in class for the sake of having his students analyze its claims.
But let’s not pretend that this handout is what this controversy is about. It’s not remotely what this controversy is about. Here’s what anti-Ahern petition organizer Peg Perl told Phoenix New Times:
Though the Roman Catholic Church is zealously pro-life, Perl thinks distributing the literature does not befit her alma mater.
“Single-sex education is supposed to be empowering for women,” says Perl, adding that the anti-abortion tract “is not in keeping at all with the goals and mission of the school, and the education of young women.”
OK, let’s review. Peg Perl believes that the point of a Catholic school for girls is to “empower women,” not to teach them Catholic theology and morality along with their standard education. Well, according to the school’s website, its “philosophy” is as follows:
We, the community of Xavier College Preparatory, are committed to a belief in God according to the tenets of the Catholic faith enlightened by the Second Vatican Council. In that spirit, we believe in providing opportunities for all to contribute to the community of faith.
We fully believe in the ideals of democracy, integrity, tolerance, and respect in harmony with the love of God, of self, and humankind, and we affirm the fundamental roles of parents and families as primary instruments of faith and education.
We also believe in conscientiously reviewing and improving our college preparatory curriculum, educational goals, and performance objectives, in order to sustain a learning process that encourages personal growth, faith development and community involvement for the young women entrusted to our care.
That’s pretty squishy, but it clearly says that the school is committed to “the tenets of the Catholic faith. The “enlightened by the Second Vatican Council” modifier is the “spirit of Vatican II” codicil that allows Catholic individuals and institutions who have no intention of teaching or living by certain hard Catholic teachings to claim that they’re still good Catholics. One trusts that the Xavier community is not among them. In any case, it is normal for a Catholic teacher to hand out pro-life material as part of a theology class exercise.
Let’s say you were a student in that class. You could have said, “Mr. Ahern, I think this handout is wrong, and here’s why.” Etc. This is what people do in class. In fact, the students who support Ahern say his critics are taking this out of context.
Are they ever! Lawyer Peg Perl’s verbiage is screaming-meemie Social Justice Warrior hysterics worthy of a Maoist mob. “Hateful, racist, sexist”. “Racist and anti-women language”. “Unsubtantiated hate speech.” “Women-shaming and race-baiting” — this, for a handout that criticizes abortion as racist.
Peg Perl and the mob she has whipped up want Gavin Ahern sacked. They don’t just want him disciplined; they want his career ended for his blasphemy.
So, what is this controversy really about? It’s about de-Catholicizing Xavier College Prep, and frog-marching it toward secular liberalism. More broadly, it’s about demonizing any Catholic content in Catholic education, and making teachers and administrators afraid to present anything that offends SJW dogma, for fear of being put on trial for blasphemy. One of my readers, an untenured professor at a Catholic university, told me that he would be afraid to present the Catholic Church’s teaching on sexuality to his students, for fear that he would be denounced to the administration for hate speech. That is a post-Catholic college, trading on its Catholic name and reputation. Peg Perl and her ilk want all Catholic schools to be this way. Some of them are eager to capitulate, but not all. If there’s any fight left in them, they must fight.
On an earlier thread here, a reader who teaches in a university said the older scholars in his department are fair-minded liberals, while his younger colleagues are fanatically intolerant SJW robots. Easy to tell which one of these Peg Perl is. Look at the kind of supporters she’s getting. This is from the comments page of her petition (all caps in the original):
OLIVIA DE JAVELINA
4 hours ago
THIS IS AN OUTRAGE. I AM BECOMING MORE OF A SUPPORTER OF REIGNING IN FREE SPEECH AS THEY DID IN GERMANY. IT IS DISGUSTING THAT THIS COUNTY ALLOWS RACIST, HOMOPHOBIC, SEXIST AND ESPECIALLY KLAN LITERATURE TO BE PRINTED AND DISSEMINATED. FOR IT TO BE DONE IN A PLACE OF LEARNING IS SHAMEFUL AND CERTAINLY NOT ANYTHING SUPPORTABLE IN A RELIGIOUS SCHOOL. I AM NOT CHRISTIAN, BUT IT IS PEOPLE LIKE THIS AND ESPECIALLY A “TEACHER” THAT GIVE ALL CHRISTIANS AN INCREASINGLY BAD NAME. FIRE HIM NOW. IT IS AN EMBARRASSMENT TO LIVE IN ARIZONA AND THIS IS JUST ONE MORE EXAMPLE OF THE DISTURBING RACISM AND RIGHT WING WRONG THINKING.
The comments section is like something from another planet. Non-Catholics are calling for Ahern’s head. Despicable.
I hope the Xavier community rallies behind Gavin Ahern. This attempt at anti-Catholic, left-wing ideological bullying must be resisted firmly, and must be resisted everywhere it is attempted. They are going to keep coming, and keep coming, and keep coming. I hope too that the larger Phoenix Catholic community rallies to Gavin Ahern’s side. His fight is not his alone, nor is it merely Xavier’s.