A major Catholic newspaper has opined against banning the children of LGBTQ parents from Catholic schools as tensions over one such denial escalate.
The National Catholic Reporter published a March 12, 2019 editorial in response to a Kansas priest’s decision, backed by the Archdiocese of Kansas City, to reject a kindergarten-aged child from St. Ann parish school because that child’s parents were a same-gender couple. The editorial begins:
“Somewhere in Prairie Village in eastern Kansas is a youngster of kindergarten age whose first experience of Roman Catholicism was one of rejection. The child recently was refused admission to a Catholic school because the leader of that archdiocese holds that something is so wrong with the child’s parents that the church is compelled to turn the child away. . .
“Such a rejection may not loom large in the imagination of a kindergarten-aged child. He or she may not even know what happened. But what about us? The community? Are we OK with it? We, who have LGBT sons and daughters, aunts and uncles, friends, nieces, nephews?”
The editorial notes that life is more complicated and messy than “the purist, who hangs his faith on the faux orthodoxy that has sprung up as a peculiarity of U.S. Catholicism during the past 35 years” wishes or believes. It points out that alternative paths besides rejecting such children and their families have been practiced, as when Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston welcomed such a child to Catholic schools in 2010 (for a listing of other school enrollment denials, click here). NCR’s editors conclude:
“One view [which would discriminate] rests on two presumptions: First, that the leader of a small archdiocese in mid-America is so absolutely certain of the mind of God on this issue that he knows God would be forced to ban one of his most innocent from the community; and, second, that the Catholic community there is so fragile it is highly vulnerable to being knocked off course by life’s inconsistencies.
“The other view [that is more LGBT-inclusive] allows God some room for divine judgment in good time, doesn’t put limits on God’s graciousness or mercy and can’t imagine Jesus ever turning a child away from the community because of his or her parents. The approach demonstrates a confidence that the community today can tolerate not having all of the answers absolutely and that a child’s contact with it is far less threatening to its life and character than turning a child away.”
To read the full editorial, click here.
Fr. Craig Maxim’s decision to reject the young child from St. Ann’s parish school prompted resistance from the parish community and from surrounding Catholics, nearly 2,000 of whom signed a letter calling for the denial to be reversed. In addition, Fr. James Martin, SJ, offered his criticism in a series of tweets:
“This is baloney. There are all sorts of parents who do not conform to Catholic teaching and whose children are enrolled in Catholic schools. . .who do not conform to the deeper Catholic teachings of following the Gospels overall, and who fail to forgive, fail to love their enemies and fail to give to the poor. The only Catholic teachings that seem to matter are those applying to LGBT people and their sexual morality. In this case, these rules are being applied selectively and used to target LGBT people specifically, as well as punishing the child. They are an example of what the Catechism calls ‘unjust discrimination’ against LGBT people.”
But Church officials have remained firm. In a column for the diocesan newspaper, The Leaven, Archbishop Joseph Naumann doubled down on rejecting LGBT families . He stated that it was not “merciful or helpful” to a child to welcome them into Catholic education, in part because “there are real life and death consequences when we use our bodies in a manner for which they were not designed.” His column echoed the Archdiocese’s previous statement that “the [LGBTQ] parents cannot model behaviors and attitudes consistent with the Church’s teachings.” Naumann is on record championing dangerous “ex-gay” therapies.
The Kansas City Star reported that a petition supporting the Archdiocese’s position has gained 7,000 signatures, though noted that while the LGBT-supportive petitioners were nearly all local Catholics, the conservative petition did not make clear from where it had drawn signers.
In cases of discrimination, the focus is rightly on those people most directly impacted, and so too in the situation with St. Ann School. But NCR’s editorial also rightly expands the conversation to the responsibility that communities and the People of God collectively have to respond when discrimination happens, lest it is thought to be acceptable.
Even better, though, is to be proactive in stymieing incidents of discrimination before they even start. Catholic schools should publish inclusive admissions policies, explicitly stating that the children of non-heterosexual parents are more than welcome and will be supported like any other child. And that should be just the start in building schools where all are truly welcome.
For more information on incidents where children of LGBT parents have been denied admission to Catholic schools, click here. For resources on how to make Catholic education more LGBT-inclusive, see New Ways Ministry’s “Back to School” page by clicking here.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, March 19, 2019
The New York Times, “Catholic School in Kansas Faces a Revolt for Rejecting a Same-Sex Couple’s Child”
National Catholic Reporter, “Kansas parishioners fight enrollment denial of student with same-sex parent“