Right or Wrong? Archbishop Chaput to Lesbians: Your Kids Must Leave Catholic School.

It’s an inflammatory decision, for sure.  In his weekly column, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver reaffirmed the Diocesan decision not to allow a lesbian couple to re-enroll their two children in a parish school. (One of the children would be in kindergarten, the other in preschool, at Sacred Heart of Jesus School in Boulder.)  While he acknowledged the “human side of a painful situation,” the Archbishop stated that letting the children attend would compromise the school’s mission and its ability to offer coherent moral teaching; it would create untenable stress for the children, the lesbian couple, the staff, and parents of other students as well.

Was it the right decision? His critics include Catholic parents plus the expected contingent of gay rights supporters. They’ve not been kind, hurling harsh accusations towards the Archbishop and the Church in general.  Some see the decision as hypocritical,    given the sexual disorder in the Church’s own clerical households. Others question how the Diocese can distinguish between parents who disregard Church teachings on contraception and divorce (and whose children remain enrolled) and a lesbian couple in violation of Church teachings on chastity and marriage (whose children were rejected for admission).  They frame the issue as one of sexual privacy, casting the specter of sexual inquisitions before parents can enroll their children in Catholic school. (One cynic mocked Archbishop Chaput’s decision saying, “I think in the interest of consistency, they should have someone stationed at the church doors doing cavity checks to determine if contraceptive devices are being used by the parents.”  And many, many goodhearted people worry that the “sins of the parents” are being visited upon the children, inflicting a “punishment” that the children do not deserve.

No Ambiguity on Lesbian Relationships

While my heart goes out to the children, the lesbian partners, not Archbishop Chaput, have created this difficulty. The Archbishop notes that the school’s Catholic mission, which it shares with parents, is to provide “an education shaped by Catholic faith and moral formation.” He points out that there’s nothing ambiguous about the Church’s teachings on marriage and sexuality: “[S]exual intimacy by anyone outside marriage is wrong… marriage is a sacramental covenant [that] can only occur between a man and a woman.  These beliefs are central to a Catholic understanding of human nature, family and happiness, and the organization of society.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church gets more specific: sexual expression and marriage depend on “physical, moral, and spiritual difference and complementarity.” Citing Scripture and tradition, the Church insists that, “‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life.…Under no circumstances can they be approved.”

The lesbian couple’s mere presence in the school community creates ambiguity about moral truth and risks silencing the Church’s voice—within that community–on marriage and sexuality. The lesbians expect to be treated just like the married parents of other children–showing up together at school assemblies, helping on the lunch line, or visiting the classroom, a situation sure to create confusion among other children.  What should a teacher say when a student asks why the lesbians’ child has two mommies but everyone else has only one? No one wants to offend the twosome or hurt their feelings or the children’s. And teachers and parents certainly don’t want to explain lesbian coupling before they have to, either. Yet saying nothing and pretending that this couple is just like any other set of parents sends an erroneous message to the entire school community: it suggests that their sexual relationship is normal, moral, and equivalent to marriage. The Church teaches otherwise.

A silent Church is a Church unfaithful to its mission. School officials and the Archbishop acknowledge the problem, saying that kind-hearted teachers will not feel free to teach the truth if they “worry about wounding the feelings of their students or about alienating students from their parents.  That isn’t fair to anyone—including the wider school community.”  Archbishop Chaput’s gutsy decision to refuse enrollment to the children takes the muzzle off his teachers and “protect[s] all parties involved, including the children of homosexual couples and the couples themselves.”

What about the suggestion that gay couples are singled out for exclusion while contracepting or divorced couples are not? Here’s the difference as I see it.  It’s likely that other parents at the school have failed to live up to their marriage vows (and the Church’s teachings) in some way or another.  They may be divorced and remarried outside the Church, contracepting or sterilized, perusing pornography or having an affair.  And certainly most of them—all of us in fact–are at times self-centered, unforgiving, unkind, lazy or irresponsible in our family duties. We can fail to live the truth of marriage in endless ways.  But however much we fall short, we are still attempting to live marriage as the Church understands it.   Not so with the lesbian couple. Gay sexual relationships, lived publicly and asserting a moral equivalence with marriage, turn the truth about marriage on its head.  They attempt to rebrand a disordered sexual relationship as “marriage” and themselves as otherwise-typical parents. As such, they are a “serious counter-witness” to the Church’s mission to educate in light of the truths of Catholic faith and morality.

Archbishop Chaput was right.  Enrolling the children elsewhere is the best solution for all concerned.

(c) 2010 Mary Rice Hasson

Read more at Phases of Womanhood

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3 thoughts on “Right or Wrong? Archbishop Chaput to Lesbians: Your Kids Must Leave Catholic School.

  1. Clearly and charitably stated, Mary. The point is whether parents are causing a public scandal, not that they are sinners, which you so gently explained.
    The truth is that homosexual couples sometimes use events like attending a Catholic school to try and influence public opinion on gay unions.
    Such was the case at the White House Easter Egg Roll four years ago when advocacy groups encouraged gay couples with children to attend to create a sensation.
    They must know that the Church has never changed it’s moral teachings as a result of public opinion.

  2. Dear Mary ~ Just ran cross this from a year ago. All I can say is 1) That our Church is afraid of little children shows how weak and insecure we, especally the American bishops part of “we” are. 2) As I recall Tony and Carmela Soprano sent thier children t Catholic school 3) The idea of denying baptised (?) Catholic children thier right to a Catholic education because “some lesbian parants ….” doesnt make any rational sense and finally 4) On my judgement day I’ll have LOTS of things to answer for. If Archbishop Chaput has to answer to the Lord fro anything, it will be this ~ Best regards

    Greg Smith

    • I just ran across this, Greg.

      The Church respects our right as adults to choose our path. We must understand that our choices have consequences, and be willing to accept them. That’s all that’s going on here. The Archbishop is not pronouncing judgment on the status of souls, he’s merely responding to the choice made by consenting adults.

      I was divorced years ago. I made the choice not to seek annulment, feeling that I was called to the single state. Had I remarried absent annulment, that would have been my choice, too. I would have willfully cut myself off from receiving the Blessed Sacrament.

      Allow these women the respect to make choices and accept consequences.

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