Missouri Diocese Issues Guidelines on Accepting Students from ‘Non-traditional’ Families

The Diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri, has issued a set of guidelines which encourage its Catholic schools to be open to accepting students from “non-traditional” families, including those with LGBT members.  At the same time, the guidelines require all parents to make a pledge of loyalty to church doctrine.

In what may be the first set of such policies in the U.S. church which stress conversation, the Jefferson City diocese has established the guideline that “Wherever possible, enrollment is the goal,”  according to a news report in The Fulton Sun.

op-story-lgbt-safety-300x250The guidelines were issued by Sister Elizabeth Youngs, diocesan superintendent of schools, and were approved by Bishop John Gaydos, the diocesan bishop.

While the guidelines emphasize conversation and acceptance, they also offer the requirement of parents signing a “Covenant of Trust,”  which the news report describes as enumerating:

“. . . a school’s expectations regarding how parents are to validate the church’s teachings at home.

” ‘We are not going to change what it is that we teach in compliance with our church to make somebody else comfortable, Youngs said.

Another goal of the guidelines is to emphasize evaluation of the situation.  The guidelines offer the following recommendations:

” . . . ‘[S]pecial needs’ of students — which include being a member of the LGBT community or having parents who are — are to be evaluated in the same manner as learning, physical and psychiatric disabilities: A Catholic school is willing to make accommodations up to a point, but past that, students from non-traditional families are probably better served elsewhere. The documents provide frameworks for pastors and principals to lead those conversations with parents.”

If it is found that a parent has violated the “Covenant of Trust,” then the student may be expelled from the school.  The newspaper reported:

“If it becomes clear through a student’s conduct that the partnership parents agreed to in the covenant is not going to work out, Youngs said, schools may ask parents to withdraw their student. The same is already true of discipline issues and of students outgrowing the resources a school is able to provide for needs like learning disabilities.”

The good news here is that the Diocese of Jefferson City appears to be willing to dialogue with parents, rather than rejecting students outright because of LGBT issues.  Dialogue and conversation are always beneficial.  It is interesting to note that The Fulton Sun reported that some critics of the policy would like an outright ban on LGBT students or students whose parents are LGBT.  The diocese has not chosen to do this, so the new policy is at least a first step.

In fact, one diocesan administrator sees that dialogue will be important not even for working with nontraditional families, but with the Catholics who oppose support for non-traditional families.  The news article stated:

“[Associate Superintendent of Schools Sister Julie] Brandt said any bridges that can be built with opponents of the diocese’s guidance can use the same processes the documents lay out: encouragement of dialogue and conversations about questions.

” ‘By being able to engage in some civil conversation, and not just accusatory conversation, I think we all grow,’ she said.

” ‘I really believe the Holy Spirit is active in our church,’ she added. Through prayer, ‘the Spirit is guiding us in this, even in the midst of what at times seems to be challenges and disagreements.’ “

The bad news is that asking parents to sign a “Covenant of Trust” already singles them out as people who are suspect, treating them as people who are accepted only under certain conditions.  Will other families whose lives, beliefs, and actions violate other areas of church teaching face the same penalties as non-traditional families or are only sexual and gender matters singled out?

Another negative is that it seems that school officials will be monitoring students from nontraditional families to see if the parents are violating the “Covenant of Trust.” The news article reported:

“As for fears of whether parents will abide by the agreements they sign on to, ‘how can we monitor anything that we ask parents to do?’ Youngs said.

” ‘We’re not living in the houses with families,’ Brandt said. They do make observations of the students’ actions, though, like a student saying, “‘Well, my mom says this isn’t right.'” “

The Diocese of Jefferson City’s policies have value as a transitional step toward full acceptance of families with LGBT members.  It is a step forward, much better than the more draconian policies instituted in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 2015.

The Jefferson City policy can be successful if it is used as a genuine tool of welcome, instead of a tool for suspicion.  Perhaps the experience of conversations with so many families of very different compositions will help to move towards a new policy where all will truly be welcome.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, June 15, 2017

Related article:

Jefferson City News Tribune:  “Diocese schools get advice on ‘non-traditional’ families”







11 replies
  1. Annette Grande Magjuka
    Annette Grande Magjuka says:

    Signing the pledge is a big no, for families and/or teachers.. This is in place so that people can be rejected with impunity. It is discriminatory from the get-go. Is this the assumption before conversation even begins? No.

  2. Tom Bower
    Tom Bower says:

    So a same sex couple must refrain from sex and say their life together is “objectively disordered”, sign a document and lie or not have their children attend the school. Not great choices, but an easy way for the diocese to say it tried. Why doesn’t the diocese ask straight parents to sign a pledge that they won’t use birth control options? Good for the goose, good for the gander.

  3. Don Siegal
    Don Siegal says:

    Missouri Diocese Issues Guidelines on Accepting Students from ‘Non-traditional’ Families

    “The Covenant is used only for non-traditional families.” (New Ways Ministry)

    “The diocese’s plan is to have parents of all students sign two documents. The first is a “covenant of trust” that spells out a school’s expectations regarding how parents are to validate the church’s teachings at home.” ((Fulton Sun)

    We need clarification on the intended meaning of the quote from the Fulton Sun. As it stands it’s meaning is vague.

    Does it mean all parents have to sign the “covenant of trust?” Or, does it mean only the parents who are in “Non-traditional Families” need to sign it?”

  4. Ned Flaherty
    Ned Flaherty says:

    The Jefferson City, Missouri guidelines are nowhere near the good news that some people are thinking.
    Sister Youngs and Bishop Gaydos just announced that students or parents who are LGBT must be “evaluated in the same manner as learning, physical and psychiatric disabilities.”
    Classifying all LGBT people this way is just a repetition of the superstition — still reflected in the official Roman Catholic Catechism — that LGBT people are destabilized, defective, disordered, distorted, deviant, diseased, depraved, demonic, and doomed.
    Sister Youngs and Bishop Gaydos claim that while they used to reject these disabled worshipers, they now accept some (but not all) of them. In so doing, they launched a whole new brand of harm: telling LGBT people that their faith requires accepting the false medical diagnosis of “disabled.”
    This Diocese does not classify people who divorce and remarry — or who commit dozens of other imperfections — as “disabled,” so it is stunning that it does this only to LGBT people.
    This is not acceptance at all.
    This is just an insidious way to pretend to accept LGBT people while profoundly rejecting them, and banishing them to misery.

    • Loretta
      Loretta says:

      That jumped out to me as well, i.e., disabilities reference. I feel ambivalent but the analogy that is in my mind is using lethal injection instead of electrocution, it’s more humane but still deadly.

  5. Larry
    Larry says:

    This is a step backwards dressed up to look like compassion but is far from Christ. Vote with your feet and find another school that does not require a loyalty oath and encourages spying [and other students and parents ratting on you?] to make sure you conform. Prresident T would love this. Plus, the lawyers are in here too since anyone who is expelled has no grounds to sue if they agreed to abide by certain rules and did not. That is what this is all about. Do not be fooled.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] In June, we reported on the Diocese of Jefferson City’s new guidelines on admitting students from non-traditional families to its Catholic schools. In a news article, The National Catholic Reporter explores the controversy that these guidelines provoked, having pleased neither conservatives nor progressives in the Church.  New Ways Ministry’s Francis DeBernardo calls the guidelines “a double-edged sword.” […]

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