‘We value what a Catholic education can do for our kids.’
NCR‘s Tom Fox has an exclusive interview with the lesbian couple whose children are no longer welcome in the Archdiocese of Denver’s Catholic schools.
What happened? It all began two weeks ago:
“I went in to turn in our daughter’s kindergarten application and was called into the principal’s office. That’s when, she said, she got “blind sided.”
“She sat me down and told me we were no longer accepted here any more. She said it was not going to be a good fit for our child and that she would encourage us to look elsewhere,” Martha went on, explaining the principal said she was worried there could be confusion when the teachers teach about the family unit.
“Her main point was she was concerned about our child, about her well-being. She never came out and said we were not welcomed to stay. But she pretty much told us it was time for us to move on.”
That evening the women discussed what was said adding they were upset and so they decided they wanted clarification because the principal had stopped short of saying their daughter could not enroll, just that it would not be wise to do so.
Mary said she called the principal and asked for clarification. She recalls asking: “Are you just worried about how this is going to be for my child because of the church’s stance on homosexuality?” She said she told the principal that if that was the case the women could handle it. I told her we did not expect any accommodations for our children based on our family situation. She then asked directly: “Are you telling us we are not allowed?”
At that point, Mary said, the principal replied that she needed to call the archdiocese. The next day, with the principal and the pastor of Sacred Heart parish, Fr. William Breslin, on the line, the women were told that their daughters could stay one more year in school and after that they would be out.
That came as a shock because for the past three years the nature of their relationship had never been an issue. “When we first enrolled our daughter in pre-school we told the school administrators our daughter had two moms. We asked if this was going to be a problem. We said that if it was going to be a problem we could go else where. We were very open and they said it would not be a problem.”
Who went to the press? Apparently a Sacred Heart teacher. “It didn’t come from us.”
Are they on a mission to change the church’s teaching on marriage and homosexuality? No. “We did not feel then and we still don’t feel now that pushing the church to change its mind would be in our children’s best interests.” They don’t consider themselves gay activists: “You have never seen us at protests or marching in parades. We never intended to pave the way for gays in the Catholic church. We just wanted to be a normal family.”
Why would a lesbian couple want to send their kids to a Catholic school? They’re Catholic. They were raised Catholic. One of them attended Catholic schools from preschool through high school. The other is a Domer. One of them has a mother who taught in Catholic school for twenty-five years. The other’s aunt was a Catholic-school teacher for decades. “We have a lot of history with the Catholic school system. It is what we are familiar with. It is what we are comfortable with. We value what a Catholic education can do for our kids.”
Why Sacred Heart? They’re Mass-going parishioners. They value the moral foundation provided by a Sacred Heart education. “We want our kids to learn about religion. We feel religion is really important. And they love it. They love God. They love their school. They love their friends. They love their teachers.”
The children were baptized Catholic. They go to Sunday school and Mass. And a local priest suggested they raise the kids Episcopalian. “We are trying to live up to the promises we make to raise our kids as Catholics and now the church we made the promise to is sort of undermining our attempts to do so.”
Their pastor explained that the family could remain in the parish and that the children could still attend CCD. Tom Fox writes: “’Isn’t the doctrine the same?’ they asked. They felt Breslin was not able to provide an understandable answer.”
And so they will find another school for their kids. A non-Catholic one. But they worry what their children will lose as a result of Archbishop Chaput’s decision:
Last week they were driving home from school having just picked up their children in the car. Recalled Martha: “In the car, our older daughter was helping our younger daughter with words from the “Our Father.” They were both trying to get the words right. Then they began the “Hail Mary” and we listened we had tears in our eyes.”
Read all of Tom Fox’s report right here.