A Catholic school in Boulder, Colo., has refused to re-enroll a child in its preschool program because the student's parent are lesbians.
Officials at Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic School
, acting at the direction of the Archdiocese of Denver, last week told faculty members that the child would not be readmitted to the church school because of the sexual orientation of the child's parents. Neither the child nor the parents have been identified.
Anger spread as word of the child's rejection became public. According to KUSA-TV
, which first reported the story, school staff members said they were "disgusted" by the decision. One employee told the TV station that she could not believe a student would have to suffer because of his or her parents' sexual orientation.
At Mass on Sunday, several demonstrators gathered outside the church to protest the decision. "God and Jesus would not allow discrimination in that way," Joellen Raderstorf, one of about two dozen protesters, told reporters
. One woman leaving Mass said she disagreed with the decision as well. "I just feel the Catholic Church is a church that should be teaching acceptance and tolerance," Juli Aderman-Hagerty said. "I just don't think this is an example of that."
Church officials have not responded to requests for comment, but the pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus parish, Father
Bill Breslin, offered a feisty defense of the decision in his online column
If a child of gay parents comes to our school, and we teach that gay marriage is against the will of God, then the child will think that we are saying their parents are bad. We don't want to put any child in that tough position -- nor do we want to put the parents, or the teachers, at odds with the teachings of the Catholic Church. Why would good parents want their children to learn something they don't believe in? It doesn't make sense. There are so many schools in Boulder that see the meaning of sexuality in an entirely different way than the Catholic Church does. Why not send their child there?
The Archdiocese of Denver also released a statement
clarifying its rationale for rejecting the child:
To preserve the mission of our schools, and to respect the faith of wider Catholic community, we expect all families who enroll students to live in accord with Catholic teaching. Our admission policy states clearly, "No person shall be admitted as a student in any Catholic school unless that person and his/her parent(s) subscribe to the school's philosophy and agree to abide by the educational policies and regulations of the school and Archdiocese."
Parents living in open discord with Catholic teaching in areas of faith and morals unfortunately choose by their actions to disqualify their children from enrollment. To allow children in these circumstances to continue in our school would be a cause of confusion for the student in that what they are being taught in school conflicts with what they experience in the home.
Still, critics wondered why any child should be singled out for rejection because of his or her parents, but also why a gay couple was being singled out given that many parents of students at Catholic schools are divorced or remarried or unmarried, or using birth control or living lifestyles that church teaching would also consider sinful.
Moreover, many Catholic schools across the country gladly enroll non-Catholic students, and in some urban areas the percentage of non-Catholic students reaches upward of 90 percent. How such families would fit into the rigorous definition offered by the Denver archdiocese was unclear.
Apart from public protests, there is little legal recourse should the two mothers try that route. As a private religious institution, a Catholic school can decide whom it wants to admit and whom it wants to reject.
How this kind of thing will strike Catholics themselves -- and the Americans the church says it wants to evangelize -- is another question.
Surveys show that for Americans, and especially young adults, equality for gays is increasingly a non-issue. Americans support civil unions by a wide margin, according to the latest research
from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, and among 18- to 29-year-olds, support for gay marriage outpolls opposition by 58 percent to 37 percent.
More ominous for the churches is that the attitudes of young people, even churchgoers, is increasingly coloring their view toward Christianity, in part because many leading denominations -- notably Roman Catholics and evangelical Christians -- are becoming increasingly outspoken against equal treatment for homosexuals.
A Barna survey
of 16- to 29-year-olds found that "the most common perception is that present-day Christianity is 'anti-homosexual.' " The survey found that 91 percent of young non-Christians and 80 percent of young churchgoers say this phrase describes Christianity. Both groups said that "Christians show excessive contempt and unloving attitudes towards gays and lesbians," and the respondents frequently said the church has made homosexuality a "bigger sin" than other issues.