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Mothers of Girls Excluded from Catholic School Speak Out: You Are No Longer Accepted Here

Earlier this week, National Catholic Reporter published an interview by Tom Fox with the two women who were recently informed that their children are no longer welcome at a Catholic school in Boulder, Colorado.  This is an exclusive interview.  Subsequently, the couple issued a press release through Boulder Pride adding more of the details of their story in their own voice.  In what follows, I’m relying primarily on their initial NCR interview with Tom Fox.

As the two mothers explained to Fox, they have sought to do everything possible to shield their daughters (it turns out there are two girls, not one son as some media outlets had reported) from media scrutiny and damaging culture-war battles.  And so they have been reluctant to seek media attention, now that they’ve been told that their three-year old and five-year old daughters are unwelcome at Sacred Heart of Jesus elementary school in Boulder.

They’re going public now with NCR because a teacher at the school contacted the media immediately after the couple were informed that their children were no longer welcome in the school.  And because much that is being said, particularly in some Catholic circles, about the situation and the women’s motivation is flatly wrong.  They want to set the record straight.

The women are both physicians.  They’re Catholic by birth and belong to the parish in which their children were going to school.  They attend Mass weekly with their children in the parish.  Though they have not hidden the fact that they are a lesbian couple, they have also not sought to make an issue of this.  They are not activists, and have not wanted their children caught in the crossfire of the culture war.

Their daughters had been attending the school, happily so and seemingly with acceptance on the part of classmates, teachers, the school administration, and the parish administrators.  And so the couple were blindsided when, a few weeks ago, the school’s principal called one of the mothers into her office and the following happened:

“She sat me down and told me we were no longer accepted here any more.”

And that, in a nutshell, is the story.

It’s not, as many Catholics who are gloriously happy about Archbishop Chaput’s courageous stand for Catholic values have been proposing, a situation in which a politically aggressive gay couple decided to send their children to a Catholic church just to make waves.  It’s not, as these Catholics have been suggesting, a matter of an activist gay couple who aren’t even interested in Catholicism pushing their children on a Catholic institution.

It’s a situation of two professional Catholic women who attend Mass regularly and have been quietly raising their children in a parish in the faith in which they themselves were raised, and are suddenly told:

You are no longer accepted here any more.

Precisely what the church has been telling all of its gay and lesbian members for some time now, in other words.  A shameful, profoundly unChristian message that cannot be justified as holding the line against sin, until the church decides to treat its non-gay and lesbian sinners the same way it is treating its gay and lesbian members.

Until, as the church informs those sinners and their children,

You are no longer accepted here any more,

it is impossible to conclude anything but this about the church’s attitude towards and treatment of its LGBT members at this point in history: that attitude and treatment are driven by prejudice.  And by hate.

And as with any social movement of hate, the ultimate agenda is to give this message to an entire class of human beings already susceptible to discrimination and hate in society at large:

You are no longer accepted here any more.

In continuing down this path, the church undercuts the most fundamental affirmations it makes about itself, as an institution that is about healing, love, justice, salvation, and communion.  And the current strategy of some apologists, a strategy of blaming those who insist on discussing the implications of stories such as this rather than the institution engaged in this indefensible and abhorrent behavior, is not going to help the church be what it is called to be: an effective sacramental sign of God’s loving, salvific presence in the world.

The graphic is a sign from a German village in 1935 informing Jews that they are not wanted in this village.

Cross-posted from Bilgrimage, 16 March 2010.

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10 Responses

  1. Bill, what horrifies me is that in a separate post at NCR, the priest says he is doing more than just enforcing church teaching – he claims to be following the teaching of Jesus.

    But his teaching had nothing at all to do with sexual orientation. On the contrary, he was openly accepting of sexual minorities. He quite explicitly stated that “eunuchs” (which some scholars believe was the closest term in Biblical times to the modern word “homosexual”) were welcome in the kingdom of heaven. More interesting, in every Mass we hear words that are a direct reminder of Jesus’ willingness to treat male same sex couple on the same terms as any other: “Lord I am not worthy to receive you”, before Communion, is a direct adaptation of the words of the Roman centurion, asking for the Lord to heal his (male) lover. How do we know that they were lovers? It’s plain from the context and the Greek words used. See “The Gay Centurion

    • Terry, you’re right, Fr. Breslin, pastor of the parish this family attends, has published two (I think) defenses of his decision to bar these girls from his school, claiming that Jesus sometimes turned people away. And Archbishop Chaput has published a defense of the decision, which ultimately comes to his doorstep, saying this is all for the good of the two little girls.

      Vis-a-vis the bizarre attempt to ground this behavior in the gospels and the example of Jesus: I posted a note at NCR’s discussion of Fr. Breslin’s reading of scripture, stating that, in my view, two currents come together in this story. Both are currents in American Catholicism that have become significant in recent years. And both are proving noxious for our church.

      One is the dumbing down of the priesthood and episcopacy from the JPII period forward. Sadly, many of our pastors don’t do better pastorally nowadays, because they don’t know better.

      The other current comes from the decision of the U.S. hierarchy to ally itself with the religious right (the evangelical right) over family issues in the final part of the 20th century. Many American Catholics are now adopting theological ideas from the religious right which not only have nothing to do with Catholicism, but which are antithetical to everything Catholicism stands for.

      Put those two pieces together, and you have some very disturbing currents influencing American Catholicism at this point in its history.

  2. I forget, please help me: What did Jesus say? “Suffer the little children to come unto me…” Or “Let the little children suffer….?” sjs

    • You put your finger on the central point here, Steve.

      Some of us are having a great deal of difficulty these days remembering exactly what Jesus really did say, and do.

  3. I read this articles and also the articles mentioned. I was very moved. The statement that these women made was so beautiful. They are true Christians. I wasn’t aware that the two children were a 3 year old and 5 year old girl. So what are a 3 year old and a five year old girl to a priest and an Archbishop? These men should be ashamed. What is happening to our Church that children are treated like this?

  4. An interesting feature of the way NCR is treating this story, is that this is just one post in a series of three. This was first, then yesterday they published a self-defence by the priest concerned. They have promised to follow-up with a third, to give the reactions from parishioners and other parents.

    The responses in the comments threads to both posts so far have been overwhelmingly sympathetic to the family, and critical of the priest and bishop. The thoughts of the people on the ground should be fascinating. I am looking forward to this one.

  5. It is not at all surprising wat has happened to this family. These innocent children are deprived because they have two moms that happen to be Lesbian.

    The institution must be protected from such evil immoral types….after all to allow them to continue attending the scholl would send the message the church approves of the moms relationship.

    HMMMMMMMMM!

    For centuries the church as covered up abuse of children, why stop now? get it?

    • Excellent point, which you make with powerful irony, Vincent: the men throwing stones against these women and their children–the men who now run the Catholic church in general, I mean–are the very men whose sins are now being revealed, over and over, through the abuse stories in Germany, Ireland, the U.S., and elsewhere.

      As Nicole Soleto says in a wonderful article at National Catholic Reporter today, you’d think, wouldn’t you, that those men would be less eager to throw stones (at lesbian couples and their children, at nuns, etc.), now that we know what has been going on inside their own rectories and bishops’ palaces. As Nicole Soleto reminds us, Jesus has something to say about such stone-throwing by those whose own houses aren’t in order.

  6. I have seriously come to the conclusion the unstated fear is that the laity will wake up from the whole fantasy of the spiritually superior sacramental priesthood.

    I suspect this is why John Allen is now calling for the Munich Archdiocese to come clean. Call this crisis a global reality check for the laity.

    • I agree, Colleen. And the German revelations are making the American hired guns (the highly placed journalists and bloggers that predictably try to exonerate Benedict) very nervous for two reasons.

      First, this is a non-American story and their ability to spin in another cultural context is much more limited than in the American context, where they have much right-wing money behind them.

      And second, layfolks in both Ireland and Germany are proving to be less . . . well, malleable and sheeplike . . . than the American laity, who let ourselves be hoodwinked by all the little lies told to exonerate the hierarchy when the abuse crisis hit here. We were all too quick, many of us, to listen to those who told us this was really just a big old plot of angry gays and other disaffected Catholics to beat up the church. And those hired guns were adroit at knowing how to seed that meme in mainstream Catholic media coverage of the abuse crisis, to defuse criticism of the hierarchy’s handling of the situation.

      In Ireland and Germany, the Catholic laity are proving far less gullible. And perhaps more Catholic and less swayed by ideas that derive from the American evangelical right rather than traditional Catholic thought.

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