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WEBSTER GROVES, MO (KTVI) – The president of Nerinx Hall Catholic High School admitted Tuesday he misunderstood the Archdiocese of St. Louis’ position on the formation of LGBTQ clubs in Catholic schools, sparking backlash from alumni.

The confusion started after students at the all-girls high school asked—and were denied—permission to start a gay-straight alliance club.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, an alumna reached out to school president John Gabriel, who responded with an email claiming the archdiocese does not allow for any LGBTQ clubs unless such a club included conversion therapy.

Conversion therapy is designed to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of an individual through counseling or psychological treatment. Many mainstream mental health organizations have long denounced conversion therapy as ineffective and dangerous.

The Post-Dispatch reported the Archdiocese of St. Louis denied requiring conversion therapy be a part of any LGBTQ organization.

The archdiocese does not operate or provide funds to Nerinx Hall, which was founded in 1924 by the Sisters of Loretto.

You can read the letter from President John Gabriel to parents below:

Dear Nerinx Hall Parents,

Many of you may already be aware of an article published this evening on I wanted to reach out to you directly to provide additional information.

Concerns about inclusion for all are prevalent in today’s society. As a school community, Nerinx Hall is focused on caring for our students’ needs while recognizing the teachings of the Catholic Church. Over the last several months, students have requested the creation of an LGBTQ+ club at Nerinx. Faculty, administration, and students have continued to discuss how we might best serve our students in all areas of inclusion.

Last week an alumna reached out to us to ask a question regarding the formation of an LGBTQ+ club. I responded to her via email. My response was shared with others via Facebook and attracted interest from Nerinx alumnae, and in turn, the Post-Dispatch.

Today, a Post-Dispatch reporter reached out to Nerinx Hall and the Archdiocese. In preparing my response to the reporter, I also spoke with Archdiocesan Superintendent Dr. Kurt Nelson. It was during my conversation with him that I realized I had misunderstood the Archdiocesan position on conversion therapy within school LGBTQ+ groups.

Moving forward, tomorrow I will contact Dr. Nelson in the Office of Catholic Education regarding Archdiocesan guidelines. We will keep you informed of our progress in this area.

As always, educating and ministering to the needs of your daughters academically, spiritually, and emotionally is Nerinx Hall’s top priority. We remain grounded in the belief that educated, caring, empowered young women are essential to our world.


John Gabriel