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Students at Catholic high school in San Francisco stage walkout protest of pro-life assembly

Jonah McKeownKate Olivera   By Jonah McKeownKate Olivera for CNA

null / Ryan Tyler Smith via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

San Francisco, Calif., Nov 3, 2021 / 11:19 am (CNA).

Students at a Catholic high school in San Francisco staged a walkout last month to protest an all-school assembly which featured a pro-life speaker.

Despite the students’ actions, the school’s president defended the talk as “an opportunity to come together in order to learn more about the dignity of human life.”

Archbishop Riordan High School, which is administered by the Society of Mary, hosted an all-school assembly Oct. 22 featuring pro-life speaker Megan Almon.

Almon tours the country with the Life Training Institute, a Christian pro-life organization whose talks aim to “empower others with the knowledge and conviction necessary to make a case for life that changes hearts and minds.”

According to an account of the incident by the San Francisco Chronicle, students began to exit the auditorium and file into an adjacent gym about “five minutes” into the presentation, leaving “a few dozen of the school’s more than 800 students” in the auditorium for the entire talk.

The walkout has since gained media attention after a video of the walkout went viral, with several hundred thousand views on TikTok.

“My school tried to hold a pro-life assembly,” on-screen text on the video of a throng of masked students reads, “So we walked out.”

The Chronicle interviewed several students who identified themselves as pro-choice and found the pro-life talk “frustrating,” especially, they said, Almon’s comparison of the number of babies killed in abortions to the number of Jews who died in the Holocaust.

Tim Reardon, the school’s interim president, told CNA in an email that he has since received “many notes from those in the community who appreciate that we are providing the Catholic position [on] this highly polarizing topic.”

“Many of the parents sent their kids to Catholic school so that the kids could learn about Catholic social teaching. To avoid these topics would be a failure to serve these individuals,” Reardon wrote in the email to CNA.

One student interviewed by the Chronicle, who stayed for the presentation but asked not to be identified, said she was “happy to hear a perspective that she does not often get in her social circles.”

Riordan High School became a coed institution beginning in the 2020-2021 school year, after previously being an all-boys school.

According to the Chronicle, the school wrote in an email to parents preceding the talk: “The administration is aware that not all Riordan students are Catholic. We understand that we live in a society in which people have strong, disparate opinions about all the categories ascribed to this theme… Our speaker will be here simply to explain the Catholic position, primarily with regard to abortion. We ask that all students listen respectfully to the speaker, who is nationally recognized for her work on this subject.”

Reardon, the school president, told CNA that he sent a video message to the students Oct. 25 “emphasizing the importance of listening to and considering both sides of important issues.”

Catholic teaching on abortion is presented in the school’s Religious Studies curriculum, Reardon said, “so there has been further discussion in the classrooms.”

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  1. In California, it might behoove the pro-life movement to limit the discussion to minority LGBTQ babies.

    Who are registered Democrats.


    • Aside from that, the students should be punished by requiring them to read and write about Archbishop Cordileone’s recent pastoral letter on abortion.

  2. It sounds like Archbishop Cordileone should be more concerned about his own flock rather than a USCCB letter that will never see the light of day and which Bergoglio has effectively rendered meaningless.

  3. Multiple generations of pseudo-Catholicism. Why should we expect the children of the latest generation to not be, well, charitably speaking, airheads?

  4. You had to guess it happened in California. Lemming behavior is all they have. A private Catholic school is not a place for this sort of behavior….it was rude, childish and unchristian for the students to walk out on a speaker. Since most left, it has the feel of a planned political action. One would suspect the ring -leaders among the newly admitted girls. Students do not run the school or make the decisions on speakers. In a catholic school one would think that learning aspects of catholic morality would be part of the expectation. The students who walked out should be disciplined with several weeks of detention and a long essay assignment about why their behavior was inappropriate, and their parents should be informed. Those who decline to cooperate should be expelled. .

  5. Their parents are pro-abortion “catholics” who vote Democrat, so this cannot be a surprise. The Catholic Church in America is mission territory, and the USCCB is merely a self-promoting welfare agency of the Federal Government. This is why I now support the SSPX without reservation.

    • Accepting that their parents are politically Democrats, there is also the propaganda the students are exposed to due to the ubiquitous presence of their cell phones. The world of the woke and progressives is always at the tips of their fingers.

  6. Further evidence of the extraordinary catechetics in place for the last fifty-five years. The new evangelization has so many success stories. Given the locale one can only imagine the other moral issues held in mid-air by the next generation of katholics. Maybe they should be at the synod on synods…
    But we don’t want to make them too rigid.
    Ah, but these are difficult times they say.
    One is left to wonder how less difficult they might be if we had not sold out to the world, the flesh and the devil while we were opening all the windows…

  7. A couple of points. First of all, I graduated from the school in question in 1971. Secondly, the Society of Mary has not been at the school for a number of years. Frankly, I don’t know if they have any role in administering the school. Thirdly, I was disturbed at the idea of the girl who stayed for the assembly, but did not want to be quoted by name. I wrote to the CHRONICLE reporter to point that out. She replied that the girl did not want to be quoted because she wasn’t sure how her parents would feel about her talking to a reporter and that the reporter had witnessed an open discussion among that girl and classmates who felt differently about the issue.

  8. Did Nancy lead the walkout?

    Whomever is the spiritual leader of the Catholic kids in the school need to have a serious conversation with them. I, for one, will not be attending their graduation ceremonies.

  9. “We ask that all students listen respectfully to the speaker, who is nationally recognized for her work on this subject.”

    Before we even get into the topic of abortion the issue to be addressed is the protester’s lack of respect for and unwillingness to hear an opposing viewpoint. Who empowered them to take such an action? They come across as a bunch of spoiled ignorant lemmings who think that the world revolves around them and their precious opinion, all other viewpoints be damned. There should be profound attention-getting consequences for their action and if they don’t like it then “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.” Clearly Catholic doctrine is lost on them.

    Returning to the topic of abortion, ultimately what a sad statement they make of the condition of their soul. So young to be so poisoned.

  10. Of course, I don’t know what has been going on in the school prior to this incident, but it appears there is not much about the school that is Catholic. How Catholic can these young people be or how Catholic do they perceive they are supposed to be, and then betray a fundamental teaching of the church.

    I don’t have a problem making efforts to help them better understand why the church teachers what She teachers, but if there is continued resistance they need to be expelled. If the entire school is infected with compromise, then it might be time to close the school until A proper foundation is established allowing it to reopen as an authentic Catholic institution.

    • I think your comment could apply to a number of Catholic high schools, and even more so to a great number of the Catholic colleges and universities in this country.

  11. So very sad. Very sad. These students at a CATHOLIC SCHOOL not only did not want to hear about the value of life and why we, as CATHOLICS, believe every life is sacred, they did not want to value the educational ideal of listening to what amounts to a “philosopher” speaking. Like walking out on Plato, for example, because he espoused a Republic. Closing their minds, let alone their spirits, to ideas they don’t want to hear about, so young, so sad. Better to keep an open mind and spirit to the wisdom of others, throughout life.

  12. And their ability to protest a pro-life speaker was guaranteed by a mother who respect their right to life from conception.

  13. It’s very difficult to be a principal or president of a Catholic high school these days. That said, I believe the interim president of this school made two mistakes in this matter. First, he should not have, in effect, apologized to parents for programming authentic Catholic teaching on the protection of life from conception to natural death. The teaching is only “polarizing” in the sense that radical dissenters and apostates do not accept it, and it is relativistic to acknowledge any legitimacy in their positions. Second, the event should not have been a mandatory assembly, but rather an optional lecture during school hours. The walk-out, which was foreseeable, has caused scandal. Yes, it is sad that many people think they can claim to be Catholic and also pro-“choice”, but offering them opportunities like this to cause scandal only wounds the Church. My opinions on this matter are informed by the comparatively successful approaches taken by leaders of Catholic high schools where I have worked or sent my children.

  14. This is happening in a lot of Catholic schools where parents send their children primarily for academic and less of religious studies of learning the Catholic faith. These are children of parents who failed to lay a good solid moral foundation prior to their children getting indoctrinated by the secular society. “… do not weep for me, but for yourselves and for your children.” Lk 23:28

  15. If only Catholic schools weren’t concerned with filling seats in order to stay in business…

    As mass population centers continue to lose Catholics more schools will close.

  16. The church has not “led” on this issue, even In the beginning. They left it to grass routes as a way of messaging truth. But too many changes accompanied the decades and for myriad reasons, we lost the young. Morality must be organic for it to be lived. Mixed messages from a video of the Pope and the President lockedin a seemingly harmonious handclaps all but adds a final period to the efficacy of the Church’s teaching authority.

  17. We have been warned about being in the last battle against family and marriage ;
    one has to wonder if Christianity is beeing seen by many any more just as a ‘nice , nice ‘ wimpy and effeminate , impractical faith and the related contempt against same .
    The Way of the marvelous spiritual warfare in a bloodless manner that we have been blessed with – more focus on same could be one means . There is the occasion of Elisha, the mocking ‘kids’ and and the bears – invoking The Lord to bind and command away the spiritual bears in the lives of the mockers and to heal their wounds can be one good exercise in warfare for all involved –

    Similarly , St.Joseph , from the Line of David who tore up lions and bears , to be invoked to help protect the ‘sheep ‘ – the inner thought life and purity of the hearts – being there to tear up all seductive spirits , to restore blessed thoughts and prayers as the saintly children in Fatima , to live in holy and good relatioships .
    The Holy Father reminding us to focus on The Cross where in all evils get burned up in the Flames of Love , to bless us with New Life – as the Most Powerful in the warfare – thank God that families too have easy access to these truths and occasions in the Holy Mass and Sacraments .

    May The Spirit help to burn away all lukewarmness in many hearts to keep us too from walking away from Life Giving Blessings and protection in The Precious Blood !

  18. The pro- life lecture should not have been mandatory. The school administrators could have turned it into a “pro-choice” moment in which students are told they’ll have a choice, either attend the pro-life presentation or go downtown and work at the soup kitchen feeding the homeless and washing dishes.

  19. As a Catholic high school theology teacher, I would not be too hard on the students or the leadership. Most of the students who walked out were probably just ignorant. The leadership did well to bring in this speaker.

    I’d suggest a way forward is to schedule a debate between two competent speakers on each side of the issue.

  20. Kudos to the school for teaching the pro-life stance.

    Shame on the students who walked out thus demonstrating they—the woke—cannot tolerate differing opinions. God save us from them. They, terrifyingly, are the future.

  21. Sad commentary on the state of Catholic schools, but great comments except for the suggestions of “choice of activity” and debate. A wise spiritual director once amended my thinking, as he asserted there is no argument for abortion—there is no “pro” position that withstands the objective truth that induced abortion is always murder. How to help women in crisis pregnancies or what society can do to turn around faulty rationale are open to dialogue and debate. As for providing students the option of a corporeal work of mercy is rather than listen to this speaker still misses the larger objective: education. This is obviously sorely needed, as these students—by their demonstration—expressed their lack of a yi comprehensive understanding of abortion—not just as evil—but all of the realities of the procedures and aftermath—lifelong consequences. Yet, an option might have been individual library research that demonstrated a better grasp of those risks, spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Finally, that this walk out caused scandal—for whom? Jesus Christ experienced numerous walk always but still affirmed truth. At least we know who needs our prayers.

  22. Why all this “tolerance” of people protesting on Church property, in support of murder. Please, stop this acceptance of things divisive, destructive, and evil. This is the Church we are talking about! Defend Her, Protect Her, Boldly make our Biblical stand. Expel these students. Closet smokers don’t get as much tolerance.

  23. Abortion is certainly one of the great spiritual battles of our time, and the devil seems to be winning many to his side.
    In Ephesians 6:12,St. Paul writes: “For we are not contending with flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places.”
    In John 8:42-47 Jesus said this to a group who opposed Him: 42  “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”
    And in St. Faustina’s Dairy (#1276) there is this:
    “At eight o’clock, I was seized with such violent pains that I had to go to bed at once. I was convulsed with pain for three hours; that is, until eleven o’clock at night. At times, the pains that caused me to lose consciousness.
    “Jesus had me realize that in this way, I took part in His Agony in the garden, and that He Himself allowed these sufferings in order to offer reparation to God for the souls murdered in the wombs of mothers.”
    “If only I could save even one soul from murder by means of these sufferings!”

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