Cardinal O’Hara Student Rips School Over “Modesty” Assembly for Girls

The seminar was led by former Miss Georgia USA Brenda Sharman, national spokesperson for Pure Fashion, which describes itself as "an international faith based program designed for girls 14-18 to help young women re-discover and re-affirm their innate value and authentic femininity."

Right: Former Miss Georgia USA Brenda Sharman, who led the girls-only assembly at Cardinal O'Hara High School, in a Pure Fashion publicity photo.

Right: Former Miss Georgia USA Brenda Sharman, who led the girls-only assembly at Cardinal O’Hara High School, in a Pure Fashion publicity photo.

Colette Scorzetti is a senior at Delaware County Catholic school Cardinal O’Hara, and she’s not afraid of speaking her mind. Back in June 2015, upon learning of the Supreme Court decision that legalized gay marriage, Scorzetti posted on Facebook a “Celebrate Pride” rainbow-colored photo of her and one of her female friends wearing rings on their fourth fingers. And now, with graduation just around the corner, she’s taking aim at an assembly that Cardinal O’Hara recently held for girls.

Administrators at Cardinal O’Hara divided the high school students into two groups, boys and girls, for two separate assemblies. As Scorzetti tells it in her public Facebook post about the events, “the boys had a dance party, while the girls were given a disturbing talk about ‘modesty.'” (More on that “dance party” later.)

“I understand that we are a Catholic school,” she writes. “I understand that there are certain moral guidelines that we are expected to follow. I understand that modesty is not nearly as relative to the church as it is to the rest of the world… But let me get one thing straight. This does not give anyone the right to tell you that you shouldn’t be in charge of your own body. YOUR body. Sitting in that auditorium today, I was infuriated by what I heard.”

What follows is Scorzetti’s version of the lessons the girls were taught that day:

1.) we were told that girls need to dress appropriately so as not to stimulate the boys. This is promoting RAPE CULTURE. It is destroying the self esteem of girls across the world and replacing it with fear and hatred of our own bodies.

2.) we were told that our bodies and appearances don’t make us who we are, by a woman who was in fact wearing makeup and had her hair done, and modeled professionally for several years.

3.) we were taught to treat our virginity as a gift to our future husband. Not to do it for yourself, but a gift for your future husband … We were given the analogy of a birthday present that had already been used and was therefore worthless.

4.) apparently learning to love yourself for who you are and helping others do the same is a crime against God, because “Lady Gaga went to a good Catholic school and she had such a beautiful voice, but she’s using it for the wrong reasons!” — side note, she was BULLIED in that “good catholic school”, no wonder she wanted to forget it.

“I understand that the talk was coming from a place of good intentions,” she continues, “but it was wildly inappropriate and frankly absurd. As someone who believes in a God that loves everyone, no matter how you dress or who you are as long as you spread love and compassion, this talk was as far from what God wants from us as it could be.”

Scorzetti mentions that a speaker at the girls-only assembly quoted Saint Francis de Sales, the 17th Century bishop for whom a Catholic church and school in Philadelphia are named.

“Well, I’d like to quote him as well,” she says. “But in a positive, non-shaming manner. ‘Be who you are and be that well.'”

Her post was shared several hundred times, and commenters on her feed reacted to her description of the contents of the assembly with remarks like “appalling” and “disgusting.” The comments on the shared versions of her post were overwhelmingly positive, with the only real criticisms we could find boiling down to: You go to a Catholic school. What do you expect?

Colette did not respond to a request to comment further on her post, but her mother, Mary Scorzetti, says, “I am very proud that my daughter has an opinion and that she is not afraid to speak it.”

We asked Cardinal O’Hara president Thomas Fertal to respond to Scorzetti’s post.

Fertal tells Philadelphia magazine that his office did hear from a small number of students and parents about the assembly.

“Those students and parents communicated with school administrators in an open and productive way,” says Fertal. “Their questions have been answered and any potential concerns resolved.”

Fertal explains that the woman who addressed the girls was Brenda Sharman, a former Miss Georgia USA and national spokesperson for Pure Fashion, an organization that describes itself as “an international faith based program designed for girls 14-18 to help young women re-discover and re-affirm their innate value and authentic femininity.”

Girls who take part in Pure Fashion’s “Training Program” conclude the training by walking down a catwalk in a fashion runway show, dressed modestly, of course. Pure Fashion was once featured in a Nightline segment, “Girls Gone Mild,” and the organization’s approach was questioned in this article by Catholic blogger Sharon Rayner.

As for the boys’ assembly, that was led by Marty Rotella of the Pennsylvania music ministry Spirit Power. Rotella laughed when we told him of the characterization of his meeting as a “dance party,” saying that he only played two songs and that most of the time was spent with him giving his personal testimony and talking about his relationship with God. He says he did touch on the issue of respecting women. He once had an offer to write music for pornographic films, he tells us, an offer he declined because of the importance of respecting women, as they are, as he put it, “a gift from God.” He briefly shared that story with the boys, though he agrees that the focus of his event was much different than that of the girls’ assembly.

“As with any guest invited to speak to our students,” says Fertal,” our goal is to find relevant topics presented by individuals who provide an informative and enriching experience that resonates with church teaching and upholds our values as a Catholic school.”

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