Jamming another Catholic story into the Covington media mold: Flashback to the gay valedictorian

I continue to be stunned and depressed, at the same time, by the never-ending “news coverage” of the Covington Catholic High School story, which is now a week old.

Stop and think about that wording for a second.

Why isn’t this the “Black Hebrew Israelites story”? Why isn’t this conflict defined in terms of the actions of Nathan Phillips and his Native American followers, especially in light of what we now know about events that followed at the National Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. What story was that? Well, readers may need to click here for details, because I’m not seeing that story — uninvited activist drummers try to march into a Mass in DC’s most symbolic Catholic sanctuary — getting mainstream ink.

Then we have a strange NBCNews.com story. Surely it needs to receive an award for stretching the furthest to drive the square peg of one controversial Catholic story into the round hole of the Covington coverage.

The headline: “Gay valedictorian banned from speaking at Covington graduation 'not surprised' by D.C. controversy.

The problem, right up front, is the phrase “Covington graduation.”

How many readers read that and assumed this “Out News” feature was about a graduation ceremony at Covington Catholic High School?

Wait more it. Let’s look at the overture:

Video of white students from Covington Catholic High School confronting a Native American elder at the Indigenous Peoples March in Washington, D.C., last Friday went viral this past week. However, this is not the first time a school overseen by the Diocese of Covington in Kentucky has come under national media scrutiny.

OK, ignore the reference to the Covington kids “confronting” an elderly Native American, since the longer videos showed that Phillips marched toward the students — who were being harassed by obscene, often homophobic chants from the Black Hebrews

The hint at what this story is about is contained in the words “a school.” Let’s read on:

In May of last year, the Catholic diocese ruled just hours before Holy Cross High School's graduation that the openly gay valedictorian and the student council president could not give their planned speeches at the Covington school's official graduation ceremony.

Determined to make their voices heard, the valedictorian, Christian Bales, and the student council president decided to give their speeches anyway. After the official ceremony, the pair grabbed a megaphone and spoke to a crowd of students and families on the school’s lawn. Bales' speech, which was posted to social media, quickly went viral.

So what did Bales have to say? Was his speech that he delivered with the megaphone the same text as the one he turned into school authorities? Bales said his speech was normal Catholicism, since “what I've been taught about the Catholic faith is that it's about love and tolerance and acceptance of all people.”

Hold that thought.

Here’s the part readers need to let sink in. This earlier controversy is worth news coverage again because this student from a nearby Catholic high school is the perfect source for information about student life in this rival student body.

Does he have new information? New sources of facts that are relevant?

No, what readers get is this:

“I was not surprised at all,” Bales plainly told NBC News when asked for his reaction to last week's D.C. confrontation. “It was only a matter of time that something this school community did would blow up to this degree, and I think they need to be held accountable.”

There’s more:

Bales claims Covington Catholic is "notorious for being a not-well-disciplined school," and he described the Diocese of Covington as "archaic." …

After viewing additional footage of the incident, which some viewers have claimed adds context that vindicates the Covington Catholic students who surrounded and allegedly taunted a Native American man, Bales maintained the students "were not blameless."

That’s “the students,” which seems to mean all of them. Not one or two who did tomahawk chops, not a few individuals who may or may not have said rowdy stuff that some people hear on the tapes. Not individual students are to blame for this firestorm, but all the Covington students?

Why is this a story?

Oh, right. Back to that banned graduation story. Way down in the NBC “Out News” story there is this flashback (not a new interview linked to current news):

… A spokesperson for the Diocese of Covington said the students' speeches were not submitted on time and "were political and inconsistent with the teaching of the Catholic Church," assertions Bales denies.

So what are the facts there? What did Bales say or claim in his speech?

Oh, never mind. What matters is that this is linked to the Covington High School media storm — somehow or another.

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