A Cardinal, a child of gay parents, and the power of narrative
Cardinal Sean O’Malley, having returned stateside from a trip to Fatima with the pope, on Wednesday wrote a blog post reaffirming the decision by his Boston archdiocese to welcome to a Catholic school the 8-year-old son of lesbian parents. The pastor of a Hingham parish and parochial school, Father James Rafferty, last week had rescinded the boy’s enrollment for the third grade in September, citing the status of his mothers’ relationship, the good of the child, and the difficulty his presence would have created for the school — as detailed in our earlier post.
School and archdiocesan officials, with O’Malley’s long-distance blessing, said the pastor’s decision was not in accord with archdiocesan policy and said they would find another school for the child.
Now back in Boston, O’Malley in his follow-up blog post praised Father Rafferty, saying he was doing what he thought best for the child and that he is “one of our finest pastors.” And he noted that Archbishop Chaput of Denver made a quite different decision of his own under similar circumstances last March, and that the “positions and rationale [of Chaput and the Denver archdiocese] must be seriously considered.”
But he also seemed clear on his own view, which is markedly different:
“Catholic schools exist for the good of the children and our admission standards must reflect that,” he wrote. “We have never had categories of people who were excluded.”
What struck me, however, was the story O’Malley recounted at the top of his column to illustrate his view of the situation — the kind of episode that I have heard him tell on the handful of occasions I have heard him preach:
As a young bishop in the West Indies I once celebrated a memorial Mass for a local “madame” who ran a brothel near my Cathedral. It was said she smuggled women in from other islands in oil barrels for her business. Some women suffocated in the crossing. She herself was murdered by her lover.
At the Mass I met the woman’s daughter, a lovely little girl. I asked her what grade she was in. She replied that she didn’t go to school. I sent a stern glance to her grandmother, who said: “Her name is the same as that of the brothel. The other children were so cruel to her, she left the public school.” I told her grandmother, “Take her to the Catholic school tomorrow.”
Nothing like the power of a story, and a willingness to let such human experience inform one’s decisions.