Parishioners at a small Catholic community in Kansas are protesting after their parish’s elementary school denied admission to the young student of a same-gender couple.
Fr. Craig Maxim, the pastor at St. Ann Catholic Church in Prairie Village, Kansas, announced in an email to parishioners that the parish school had denied admission to a kindergarten-aged child based on the relationship status of the child’s parents. Maxim acknowledged that people’s concerns “come from a place of love and compassion for the family,” but fell back on the Archdiocese of Kansas City’s instructions. He explained in the email, reported CBS News:
“To summarize, the Archdiocese states that since same-sex unions are not in conformance with the Church’s teaching on sacramental marriage and these unions have no current ability to bring their relationship into conformity, the parents cannot model behaviors and attitudes consistent with the Church’s teachings. This creates a conflict for those children and what is experienced at home. It also could become a source of confusion for other school children. For these reasons, the Archdiocese advised against admission.”
Maxim concluded by stating his intentions to dialogue given his distress “over the division this sensitive and complex issue has caused within our school and church.”
More than 1,000 Catholics have signed a petition protesting the admissions denial, according to the Shawnee Mission Post. Addressed to Archbishop Joseph Naumann and the Archdiocese’s Superintendent, Kathy O’Hara, the petition stated:
“Respectfully, we believe that the decision to deny a child of God access to such a wonderful community and education, based on the notion that his or her parent’s union in not in accordance with the Church’s teaching in Sacramental marriage, lacks the compassion and mercy of Christ’s message. We ask you to consider the many ways that other modern marriages may be inconsistent with the Church’s teaching on Sacramental marriage (i.e. vasectomy, IVF, divorce, and remarriage without approved annulment). Further, St. Ann does accept non-Catholic children and families into our school. Presumably these families are not in marriages that are conformant to the teachings of the Church. We respectfully, ask you to consider why non-conformity to some of the Church’s teachings rise to the level of refusing admission to children, while others do not.”
Opining on the decision, the editorial board of the The Kansas City Star said discriminating against an LGBTQ couple was “playing favorites among sinners.” It wrote of the incident:
“Trust us: Kids of today are not confused by gay adults in the types of loving, mature relationships that lead parents to seek out the academic excellence — and yes, the moral instruction — offered by private Catholic schools. The same-sex parents turned down at St. Ann are thus far anonymous, and it’s quite possible that one or both of them could be lifelong Catholics. . .A private school can decide whom it wants to do business with. And a church’s members shouldn’t get to steer the ship away from liturgy and doctrine by popular vote. But so long as St. Ann Catholic School isn’t making surprise home checks for sacramental rectitude, how could anyone dispute that with this decision, it’s playing favorites among sinners?”
As is often the case, Catholics in the pews are standing firm against injustice. The petitioners are clear that such decisions target LGBTQ people unfairly and are unacceptable. Helpfully, the pastor seems willing to dialogue with the faithful who are concerned and hurting. Constructive progress can sometimes come from wounding situations like this incident. But will the petitioners be listened to in an archdiocese where the archbishop is on record supporting dangerous “ex-gay” therapies?
The situation at St. Ann is simple discrimination that, even if legally justified, is morally wrong. Archbishop Naumann should do what is right by apologizing to the family involved and to the wider community. Then the St. Ann community can open wide the school’s doors and echo Jesus’ inclusive words, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the [kin-dom] of heaven belongs.”
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, March 8, 2019