Archbishop Chaput: no Catholic education for the children of gay couples [UPDATED]
As blogged by Paul Moses here, a Catholic school in Boulder, Colorado, has told a lesbian couple that their children cannot re-enroll next year. Yesterday, in a column posted to the Web site of the Archdiocese of Denver, Archbishop Charles Chaput tried to explain that decision.
First, Archbishop Chaput says that the children–one in preschool and the other in kindergarten–are not being sent packing immediately. They’ve been invited not to return next year. So there’s that. And: “the policy applies to all Archdiocese of Denver schools.” Now we know: the children of same-sex couples are not welcome in schools run by the Archdiocese of Denver.
[Update: The archbishop's spokeswoman Jeanette DeMelo has informed me that "The policy doesn’t apply exclusively to homosexual couples. He does say that parents are meant to be partners in faith. 'If parents don’t respect the belief of the Church or live in a manner that openly rejects those beliefs, then partnering with those parents becomes very difficult if not impossible.' That is what the school decision was nothing more, nothing less." I've put some follow-up questions to Ms. DeMelo, and will post her reply.]
Then, after a brief detour into the history of Catholic education and a reminder of the fact that Catholic parents “pay twice” to educate their children in Catholic schools (presumably the archbishop recognizes that all parents who send their kids to private school “pay twice”), Chaput acknowledges that Catholic schools admit the children of divorced parents (even non-Catholics). “These students are always welcome so long as their parents support the Catholic mission of the school and do not offer a serious counter-witness to that mission in their actions.” The archbishop does not explain how he or his Catholic-school administrators are supposed to verify that their students’ parents are tilting the right end of the scale. He continues: “The idea that Catholic schools should require support for Catholic teaching for admission and a serious effort from school families to live their Catholic identity faithfully, is reasonable and just.” Again, he does not define “serious effort.”
The Church never looks for reasons to turn anyone away from a Catholic education. But the Church can’t change her moral beliefs without undermining her mission and failing to serve the many families who believe in that mission. If Catholics take their faith seriously, they naturally follow the teachings of the Church in matters of faith and morals; otherwise they take themselves outside the believing community.
No one is confused about church teaching on marriage. (Some Catholics may, however, be lost as to why the seriousness with which they take their faith doesn’t always naturally lead to morally pure behavior.) What many Catholics find perplexing is the way some bishops translate that teaching into policy positions–both internal and external to the church.
Chaput acknowledges that the church does not teach that gays and lesbians are “bad,” or that “their children are less loved by God. Quite the opposite.” (More loved by God?) But the church does teach against divorce and against sex outside of marriage. “The Church cannot change these teachings because, in the faith of Catholics, they are the teachings of Jesus Christ.” A curious observation, given that no one has reported that the parents of these kids had been lobbying the church to change its teachings.
Finally, Archbishop Chaput argues that this policy is really for everyone’s own good–parents and students alike. If parents don’t respect the beliefs of the church, or live in open rejection of them, he writes, they don’t have a place in the Catholic school system. After all, how can Catholic schools fully teach the faith ”if teachers need to worry about wounding the feelings of their students or about alienating students from their parents”?
This is about more than hurt feelings of course. This is about the nature of the church’s educational mission. If the Archbishop of Denver truly believes that the children of parents who fail to adequately support church teaching cannot be educated at Catholic schools, then he has more explaining to do. To the children of parents who are divorced and remarried (without going through the annulment process–at which point the church needs to explain that process to the children of annulled marriages). To the children of parents who practice and even recommend birth control. To the children of non-Catholic parents–especially those who do not support the central dogmas of Catholicism, such as, say, the Incarnation. Is there no place in Catholic education for the children of those kinds of parents? Or is there no place for the children of gay couples? And if so, why doesn’t the archbishop want such children to encounter the truths of Catholic teaching? If it’s merely to avoid upsetting the children of straight, non-divorced, non-contracepting, non-racist, anti-torture, pro-life parents, then I’m afraid he’ll have to do better.