Catholics got a tiny bit of good news in Cardinal Sean O’Malley’s carefully-worded and pastorally-sensitive blog post about the Hingham school situation, but some very troubling implications remain in what he wrote, so there is much to still be concerned with. This post reflects initial reactions to the Cardinal’s statement, from a newcomer to the blogging team here.
First of all, the good news in his post is that he supported Fr. Rafferty, the faithful Catholic priest at St. Paul School in Hingham who decided to not admit the son of a lesbian couple to Catholic elementary school because of concerns for the impact to the child. After Jack Connors, Mary Grassa O’Neill and Michael Reardon threw Fr. Rafferty under the bus, the Cardinal in effect, finally rolled the bus off him. He talked about “ensuring the moral theology and teachings of the Church are not compromised,” and “regardless of the circumstances involved, we maintain our responsibility to teach the truths of our faith, including those concerning sexual morality and marriage. “ He also acknowledged the Denver archdiocese’s precedent from his friend and classmate, Archbishop Charles Chaput, of refusing admission to children of gay parents because of concerns about the ability to educate them in the true moral teachings of the church.
It is clear that all of their school policies are intended to foster the welfare of the children and fidelity to the mission of the Church. Their positions and rationale must be seriously considered.”
The archdiocese is going to work on developing policies. But that’s where the good news ends and the concerns begin.
The Cardinal wrote, “Going forward, we will be consulting on these issues with a wide-range of people including the Presbyteral Council and Archdiocesan Pastoral Council.” Would that be the same Archdiocesan Pastoral Council that had no problem with Fr. Bryan Hehir’s first social justice conference in 2006, for which they all were given a flyer promoting the conference with a speaker who had led a Newton Catholic church’s participation in Boston’s Gay Pride Parade and funded by the morally-questionable “Catholic” Campaign for Human Development (CCHD). See our March 31 blog post. The speaker talked about how to create a parish-based social justice program, and beyond that, the CCHD has funded pro-abortion and pro-gay organizations, ACORN, and a range of Saul Allinsky-modeled radical, left-wing political organizations. If no one on the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council raised questions about that, why should we trust their judgment and insights on something like this? And would that be the same Presbyteral Council whose meeting minutes of several years ago reflect a request by a priest to get Voice of the Faithful items on their meeting agenda (we are not making this up!), and also reflect objections to orthodoxy in St. John’s seminary, and objections to the Vatican’s documents on homosexuals in the priesthood and seminaries? Check back later for links to these documents. We’d feel much better if the Cardinal said he was consulting with the Vatican and not with these organizations and an unspecified “wide range of people.”
Is Michael Reardon, who called Fr. Rafferty’s decision and actions “disturbing” still going to remain in a leadership position in the archdiocese where he can threaten parishes with a cut off of funding whenever they defend Church teachings? What about Mary Grassa O’Neill, who also threw Fr. Rafferty under the bus? What about Terry Donilon, who said all kids are welcome at Catholic schools, somehow misunderstanding that Catholic schools are “private schools” where there is typically some admission or selection criteria, and it’s instead “public schools” where all kids are welcome?
Should schools admit some kids whose parents are homosexuals if the parents are low-key and agree they will accept teachings of the truths of Catholicism on marriage and sexuality, but then deny admission to other kids if their parents are publicly insistent on getting watered-down teachings so that the education of all kids is no longer consistent with Church teachings? Once a kid is admitted, what if the parents later complain about the teachings being offensive, troublesome, and discriminatory to their child and their family? You wanted to do a good thing for the child, but then it becomes problematic down the road. How do you prevent books like “Heather Has Two Mommies” and “King and King” that normalize same-sex-parent families from being introduced in the schools to make everyone feel comfortable (for the good of the child of the gay couple) but it has a negative impact on the education of all kids? If the policy says kids of gay couples are OK, then how do you defend not having openly gay teachers, and then insurance benefits for them?
If you think there is not a slippery slip, just look at how Employment Non-Discrimination Acts (ENDA) that would absolutely positively never result in “same-sex marriages” resulted in exactly that over time. In A Gay-Protection Forum, (Boston Globe, Oct. 15, 1989) the Globe denied that Massachusetts new sexual orientation nondiscrimination law put Massachusetts on a slippery slope to same-sex Marriage or domestic partnership benefits. In the SJC’s 2003 Goodridge v. Dep’t of Pub. Health decision that the law banning gay couples from marrying was unconstitutional, part of the court’s reasoning rested on the legislature’s previous decision to ban sexual orientation discrimination. There is simply no denying the slippery slope is a reality.
Many people also seem to get confused because they are putting homosexual couples on the same playing field as parents who are divorced, remarried without an annulment, drug addicts, watching pornography, co-habitating outside of marriage, or engaged in some behavior considered sinful by the church. They ask, is the Church somehow grading sins. If the Church were to exclude kids of gay couples from Catholic schools, then why does the Church allow kids whose parents are in other imperfect situations. That’s like comparing apples and cars. Kids of divorced couples were born of what was once a valid marriage in the eyes of the Church, and there remains hope and possibility that the parent(s) will enter a valid marriage in the future. The same principle holds with these other situations. As we all know, the Catholic Church only recognizes as valid the marriage between a man and woman. Period. A homosexual couple with children—especially one in a state-recognized “marriage” or civil union—has made a decision that permanently and legally denies that child to their natural law right to have both a mother and father. More importantly, that homosexual couple’s relationship can never be valid in the eyes of the church. There’s a fundamental difference that the media and most people seem to not understand or be acknowledging.
The risk here is that people who say and honestly believe they are working to improve Catholic education will inadvertently mess up in the interest of being open to everyone. With the finest of intentions, by turning private Catholic schools–intended first and foremost to educate and form Catholic kids in the core tenets of our faith and morality—into a “big tent,” the Catholic identity and values of that Catholic education will be compromised. There’s no way to avoid it, and history is our guide. So, that same Catholic school education they want to preserve will lose its distinctive identity, and will be gone for generations in the future. We urge readers concerned about this situation to visit our Take Action page and start sending letters to all of the people listed. Despite the Cardinal’s well-written post and support in principle for maintaining the values of a Catholic education, the policy discussions will be moving quickly, and this is a matter of grave urgency.
Cardinal O’Malley, Jack Connors, Mary Grassa O’Neill, Michael Reardon, and others—please be careful with the final decision. Please.
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