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'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 daughters kindergarten application and was called into the principals office. Thats 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 churchs 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 dont feel now that pushing the church to change its mind would be in our childrens 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: 'Isnt 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.

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Grant Gallicho is an associate editor of Commonweal. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.



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Not OK to sit with other kids in parochial school religion class.But perfectly OK to sit with other kids in parish CCD class.Um, I can't see the logic here.Maybe His Excellency Chaput can educate us on the difference?(Really, folks, you can't make this stuff up:)

It's interesting to note that every conjecture about the lesbian couple made by those defending the decision of the Archdiocese of Denver turns out to be false. Why would they enroll children in a Catholic school? It had to be a "publicity stunt" so they could bring a "frivolous lawsuit." They must have precipitated the dismissal of their children by complaining to the school about it curriculum on homosexuality -- for preschoolers! They must have alerted the press. They're just out to embarrass the Church. Their same-sex marriage is a public statement in contempt of the Church (except there is no same-sex marriage in Colorado and they are not in fact legally married).

From Tom Foxs article about the Denver couple:Each of the children was baptized by local priests, one who is in a neighboring parish and another who has been reassigned outside the area. The baptisms followed by months the publication of a 2006 statement issued by the U.S. bishops offering guidelines to ministers and parents of gay and lesbian children. The outlines suggest baptism for children of gays and lesbians, the women say, as long as there is a reasonable assumption that the children will be raised as Catholics. They asked if we would raise our children in the Catholic faith and we said we would and we have really tried to live up to that commitment, Martha said. We take them to church every week. We switched to the Sacred Hear parish when our kids starting going to the school. We signed up and our money goes into the basket every week. Our kids go to Sunday school. We are making the effort. The Church is not living-up to its promise, the promise made at the children's baptism. The promise I have made many times during the baptism of children in my parish.

"We value our privacy.Yes, that's why they expressed no anger at those who leaked it to the TV news--in fact, they had nothing but praise for the teachers at the school. That's why, instead of letting the spectacle die a natural death, they decided to keep the fanfare alive by agreeing in to be interviewed in the national press. That's why, get this, they're now working on a press statement.Really, you can't make this stuff up!BTW, what's a Domer?

"BTW, whats a Domer?"A Catholic who understands irony.

Mark, what is your problem with publicity? Why aren't you happy the Church is getting a chance to put gays in their place? Why aren't you crowing that this is an example of the Church triumphant validating its doctrine? I mean that seriously: why do you care whether it is public or not? How does it matter?

BarbaraYou raise a valid question. I had actually replied but the response was buried at the bottom of an earlier thread, so I repeat it here:The publicity is a negative thing because of the disruption it is causing in the lives of the children. Children change schools all the time, so citing the change in school as the source of the disruption misses the point. The disruption is due to the childrens privacy having been violated by the news being plastered all over the newspapers. And the blame for that, based on the citation several comments above, rests at the feet of the parents who were miffed by the pastors decision, and leaked this private information to the press. It would be nice if the children could seek legal action against the leakers, but thats probably a long shot. Based on the recent response to Grants helpful request, its clear that the archdiocese was quite respectful of privacy concerns.

Are their names Martha and Mary?

She sat me down and told me we were no longer accepted here any more."That line speaks volumes to me.This is the message that the church seems intent on giving its gay and lesbian members over and over at this point in history.No longer accepted here any more.

Booting two baptized, mass-attending children out of Catholic school seems weird and not Catholic.

A Domer, dear girls and boys, is a grad of that hotbed of heterodoxy, Notre Dame.Ergo, that person is doomed to perdition and understandably exerting execrable influence on the poor deluded children who actually have the termerity of thinking her to be one of their moms.10 years in Opus Dei are the minimum necessary to ensure that these children have properly formed Catholic consciences.

Oh dear. Have you read the latest epistle from the pastor of Sacred Heart?He has taken to proof-texting to justify his decision:"Actually Jesus did turn people away. In Mark 5 Jesus healed the demoniac, and after the healing the man wanted to become a disciple. Jesus said, No, go back to your own people and tell them all that the Lord in His mercy has done for you. And when the rich young man wanted to follow Jesus, He told him, Go first and sell what you have and give it to the poor and then come follow me."No word yet on whether the other parents in the school will be required to sell all their possessions...

The passage Eric quotes above ends with "He [Jesus] did not soften His message so as to win them back." But Jesus did not turn back the tax collectors and the sinners while not softening His message. The Archdiocese could try doing the same!

The Church, "expert in humanity" (John Paul II9, sure knows how to handle children. Cardinal Brady still does not see the inhumanity of forcing a raped girl to promise silence under pain of excommunication. The clericalist mindset runs deep. The same Cardinal proclaims that civil partnership legislation undercuts the sacredness of marriage. The episcopal caste are incapable of conversion, for it would demand a systemic reflection that would undercut the values on which their lives have been built. My new-found hero the multiply excommunicated Ernesto Buonaiuti urged a century ago that the Church must recover its nature as a movement of people (la vita associata) inspired by a message and a spirit going against the cold calculations of the world. His memory and writings haunted John XXIII who prayed for him every day and was reading him on the eve of the Council.We need another council in which the many sterling Catholic voices scattered throughout the world are allowed to come together and reposition the Church and its message as the last council tried to in Gaudium et Spes. Those sterling voices include hardly any bishops -- because of the way bishops are appointed -- in a process that has never before in history been so Rome-centralizes -- in starkest contradiction to Vatican II.

Since the women were up front about their situation from the start, the children should have been allowed to continue on in the school. Any change in admissions policy should apply only to new students going forward. This family has been badly treated on so many levels.

So let's see now. Divorced and remarried cannot have the sacraments. Lesbians and gays cannot either. Yet a convicted abuser of children can celebrate Mass for the rest of his life. And be allowed to minister to Children to boot.

Unbelievable. Embarrassing. Ridiculous.

One of the points in the story that I find troubling is that the Church has sanctioned the baptism of children of homosexual couples if the priest believes there is a likelihood of the children being raised Catholic.If it is likely that these children will be raised Catholic, then the Church must assume they will receive instruction in Church teaching and somewhere along the line homosexual behavior will come up. So why can't the children hear about it in a school where they are known, loved and can be reassured that whatever the Church thinks of their parents, they themselves are accepted as innocent children of God?I suppose I identify with the gay parents here. My own life has not squared with Church teaching, and I voluntarily removed myself from the communion line some time ago. People in a small town tend to notice and ask why. I explained (it was a birth control issue). The priest knows I'm not going to push the communion issue, or interfere with my son's being raised a Catholic. People are somewhat distant but courteous to the sinner in their midst.This Sunday I attended my kid's Confirmation. With joy and hope that he will be a better Catholic than I have been. During his instruction in the faith, he came to understand where my life doesn't square with Church teaching and why I am not in the communion line. Yes, it was somewhat embarrassing and painful. But it was also something of a relief to have it on the table.I hope he appreciates that I respect the sacraments enough not to be a hypocrite about receiving. I'm pretty sure he doesn't judge me. It has not affected his obligation to abide by my house rules, which includes limitations on his computer and video game time, compulsory homework completion, and regular Mass attendance.

It would be interesting to know if this new class of people created by the Archdiocese of Denver -- that is, those who may be baptized but may not obtain a Catholic education -- is marked for life, or if the restrictions apply only to preschool, kindergarten, and elementary school. Are they barred from Catholic high schools and colleges, too?

I'm glad that this became a thread after a number of posters tried to blame the victims as publicity seekers and manipulaters - and continue to do so here.The defenders of Chapu tare the defenders of the loyalty syndrome which we've talked about a lot lately and continues to hurt those who think the Church should first and foremost try to emulate Christlike behavior and worry less about its (presumed) doctrinal authority.

Watching this tragedy unfold I have been finding myself being led by the Holy Spirit to think about the nature of sin; its source and its effects. Sin begins as human judgment. It begins as a purity code established to ensure control and power. If the sin (the judgment) is ugly enough it will feed on itself consuming more and more victims. The evil one uses your sin to require that you find innocent victims, in this case two little girls.If you begin with the judgment that human adult, consensual, lifetime love can be disordered then you are forced into certain decisions and actions. You must use Church money to politically destroy established relationships, you must banish people from the community, and you must set neighbor against neighbor. Its inevitable, because if you dont then you are left with the nagging feeling that The Holy Spirit is calling you to a conversion that will set you - yourself alone and apart from the community that you seek to control. And for this reason conversion, real conversion can be frightening.But what if we stop for moment and sacrifice our need to see easy answers in every human question? What if we say for a second that maybe we havent seen everything that we need to see to fully understand what God is revealing to us?I would like to hear from someone who thinks that homosexuality is disordered who actually has a long, close, and deep relationship with someone who is gay. If you have ever loved someone who is gay then you cant help but realize the absolute tragedy and absurdity of our Churchs position on homosexuality. If you have been blessed to enjoy this kind of relationship then you know the conversion that must happen in you. You move through stages: ickiness, fear, inquiry, tolerance, acceptance, affirmation and, finally, love. As a Christian I am called to be patient. I know how many years that it took me to work through the stages so I have sympathy for those of you who are struggling with these steps and may be still stuck on the first one. I was there for a long time and I realize that it may very well take my Church more than my lifetime to get there. I accept that with humility and love, but I worry about how many more victims our judgments will hurt along the way.

In the glory days of American Roman Catholicism my parents enrolled me in Catholic elementary school because they thought I would be too soft to survive Evander Childs High School. Many of my classmates were enrolled in Catholic school to sequester them from "the element."Due to the work of the Holy Spirit in conjunction with the Presentation Sisters, a foundation was laid for an authentic spiritual life. Sometimes to my parents dismay, I went on to practice what was preached. I think that many of my classmates that were sent to Catholic school for social reasons experienced the same phenomenon.I think that every child should have this spiritual opportunity. If the lifestyles of all parents of Catholic schoolchildren were scrutinized for "sin" before admitting the child, enrollment would be nil.

This kind of piece is why I no longer subscribe to NCR. I'm sorry to keep harping on this, so I'll just say it one more time and then disappear from the discussion. It is the nature of the women's relationship that is the issue here. Not a word about it in the NCR piece - and it is the core issue!These women, who seem like wonderful people, are involved in a relationship that, by its very nature, constitutes public witness against what the church teaches about marriage. Why doesn't NCR right an article about that?I'm glad to hear that the children have been baptized. After all, "the Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude." But infant baptism places a grave responsibility on the parents - it presupposes that the parents will pass the faith along to the children as they grow and mature. Yet the parents, by virtue of the nature of their relationship, are contradicting an important tenet of that faith. Their life is saying the opposite of their words. Please don't think I am vilifying these women or their children in any way. As I say, they seem very likeable - I'd love to have them as neighbors and friends. But their public witness is what it is, and it should not surprise us that there may be consequences to it.

Jim, do you think NCR's readers need to be reminded that the church is against sex outside of marriage? I don't understand your objection. Also: define public witness. It's being bandied about as though we all agree on its definition. I don't think we do.

Jean--Thoughtful and thought-provoking, thanks for sharing.

Id love to have them as neighbors and friends.Jim,You'd love to have them as neighbors and friends, but you wouldn't let their kids go to school with your kids. What kind of neighbor and friend would you be? Yet the parents, by virtue of the nature of their relationship, are contradicting an important tenet of that faith.Yes, but they are trying to raise their baptized daughters as Catholics, and no matter what their behavior says about their own personal beliefs, they were sending their kids to Catholic school with the full expectation that the school would teach what the Catholic Church teaches about homosexuality. Also, what are the important tenets of the faith. What about parents who don't go to church every Sunday? What about parents who are divorced and remarried? What about parents who use birth control? (The public may not know that a woman takes the pill, but it is not necessarily a secret from the children.) And it seems to me that by so vociferously defending the policies of the Archdiocese of Denver, you are basically calling for them to be standard operating procedure for all Catholic schools. Let the purge begin now.It seems to me that Catholics who are gay and who are trying to work things out should be treated with at least as much patience and understanding as divorced and remarried Catholics. It seems to me that Archbishop Chaput is not approaching this pastorally but politically. The parish priest said the lesbian mothers are being treated differently from divorced and remarried Catholics because there are no pro-divorce parades. So these two lesbian mothers and their children are being punished because there are gay pride parades and gay rights advocates. It is not really because of what they have done. It's because of what they are and the movement they have been associated with. Of course, as I have already argued, there are no pro-divorce parades because you don't have to march for something you already have. Please dont think I am vilifying these women or their children in any way.Why in the world would anyone think that? They're just "public witnesses" against what the church teaches about marriage. What do you want them to do? Live in a cave in Afghanistan? It seems to me these women should be embraced by Catholics for not giving up on a Church that wants to give up on them.

I don't understand Jim's comment either I thought it cast light on some terrible decision making - I guess it's part of that loyalty to "magisterial authority" and what comes down that drives behavior.I'm still thinking about the Rigali comment to Weakland I noted in another thread -that absolute loyalty is what matters and is to be inculcated.This kind of "Philadelphia catholicism" (curial Catholicism), I submit, is an infection in Catholic behavior and practice whether notions about gay relationships, divorced and remarriecd Catholics or other putative sinners.While I deeply respect Jean's honesty and wanting to play by the rules, it's the by the book Catholicism that creates the issues she raises and I think should not be reinforced.And, on "public witness", whatever that means, the folks in Chicago should look at CNN's last night's depiction of how leadership handled and is handling a startling molestation matter.For the average gay couple or divorced remarriec couple, I guess I'd judge their witness by how well they conduct their lives towards others, if I was asked. By there is only one just Judge....In short, proclamation by enforcement of codes seems rather pharasaical.

What we are witnessing is nothing short of doctrine "in the making", i.e., doctrinal development.Even canon law --- 212, 749, 750 --- acknowledges (in so many words) the sense of the faithful.If anything, recent times remind us that the official teachers can learn from us as much as we can learn from them.Catholic doctrine about homosexuality is changing for the better, and all the little Chaputs in the world are not going to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

The text of the parents press release/letter can be found here: is worth a good read.

I think the lesbian couple are giving good witness to the values of love, sex and marriage, certainly better witness than Benedict XVI has ever given. Benedict has made a mess of every job he ever held -- Tubingen, Regensburg, Munich, the CDF -- yet he touted himself as the best man for his current job. Where does he run to now? He is much the same kind of mediocrity as Cardinal Law. And of course it is totally absurd that divorcees are turned away from the communion table when the distributor of the communion may be a known rapist of children.

Best quote from the press release . . . .

When we were allowed to have our children baptized (as recommended by the 2006 document Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care), we made a promise to raise our children in the Catholic faith. We now feel like our attempts at fulfilling this promise are being undermined by the Church itself.

The Catholic Church currently has its poorest episcopal personnel in centuries. This is because they are chosen by Rome on the basis of such criteria as whether they have given sermons defending Humanae Vitae. They are Yes-men. They look meekly to Rome for help and Rome leaves them floundering. Time for a Council, for the Church as communion, not dysfunctional hierarchy.

"Youd love to have them as neighbors and friends, but you wouldnt let their kids go to school with your kids. What kind of neighbor and friend would you be? "Inasmuch as my children now go to public schools, I wouldn't have any say in the matter. But if I did have a say, I would have no objection to the children being in school with my children. (For that matter, if I were the principal of the Catholic school, my sympathy would most likely be with the two parents and the teachers. That might be a sign that I'd be a bad principal. Leaders have to be able to rise above their sympathies to do the right thing - otherwise, the result is arbitrariness and cronyism).And if I can't say what I think - especially about truly important things - to my friends, then what kind of friend would I be?

Jim,I can see defending the right of the Archdiocese of Denver to set its own policy. But your defense of the policy itself is so vigorous, it appears you would endorse it throughout all of Catholic education. How would you answer the lesbian couple's remark that in order to have their children baptized, they promised to raise them as Catholic, and yet now they are being told their children can't attend Catholic school and they should go find some other school for the children that accepts same-sex marriage?How do you tell people on the one hand to raise their children Catholic, and on the other hand tell them the children are ineligible to go to Catholic school? How is that not a contradiction? Why would it not be a scandal for you -- feeling as you do -- to be seen to be friendly with a same-sex couple who "by virtue of the nature of their relationship, are contradicting an important tenet of that faith"? Would you only visit with them furtively? Or would you somehow broadcast to anyone who might know of your friendship that it did not imply in any way that you approved of their immoral behavior? I am not trying to be sarcastic here. Obviously if, say, a priest and a rabbi become good friends, it would not be considered reasonable to to accuse the priest of causing scandal by fraternizing with someone who denied the divinity of Christ. Mary Matalin and James Carville are married, and neither is considered a traitor to their respective political parties. I am just trying to figure out what the unstated rules are for associating with same-sex couples. If Catholic schools are not supposed to accept their children, how are faithful Catholics supposed to treat them as individuals? And if I cant say what I think especially about truly important things to my friends, then what kind of friend would I be?I think many, many families agree to avoid areas of major conflict, including religious beliefs, in order for family gatherings to go smoothly.

David and Grant, forgive me if I don't answer all your questions, at least not immediately, as I'm extremely busy with real life right now. I'll do my best to answer all of them at some point, albeit in the spirit of not rehashing the hundreds of previous comments on this topic."Why would it not be a scandal for you feeling as you do to be seen to be friendly with a same-sex couple who by virtue of the nature of their relationship, are contradicting an important tenet of that faith "Because I don't live in a Catholic bubble, and should be able to be on an amicable basis with all sorts of people who don't see everything the way I do. As a matter of fact, I (and the rest of us) give a sort of public witness to Catholicism when we do that, although hopefully we're not continually conscious of that fact - I know I'm not, anyway.

"Jim, do you think NCRs readers need to be reminded that the church is against sex outside of marriage? "No, but wouldn't it have fleshed out the story a little bit? Readers are left wondering why it is that the archdiocese would possibly keep this nice family out of its schools."Also: define public witness. Its being bandied about as though we all agree on its definition. I dont think we do."I gave my thoughts previously on thiis - in this case, it's intrinsic to married and family life. There is a social dimension to both. By living in this quasi-married relationship, the two women are "saying" something about marriage to the community in which they live.

I agree with this ..."Yes, but they are trying to raise their baptized daughters as Catholics, and no matter what their behavior says about their own personal beliefs, they were sending their kids to Catholic school with the full expectation that the school would teach what the Catholic Church teaches about homosexuality. "... and this ..."It seems to me that Catholics who are gay and who are trying to work things out should be treated with at least as much patience and understanding as divorced and remarried Catholics"

"I think many, many families agree to avoid areas of major conflict, including religious beliefs, in order for family gatherings to go smoothly."Yes; I'm sure our extended families do this, too. At some point, though, families need to figure out a healthy way to talk seriously and respectfully about these potential divisions in their midst. Otherwise, it spills out eventually in dysfunctional behavior - that's been my observation, anyway.

Jim, with all due respect, this action is directed at children, even if the adults are the catalyst. My father was an apostate of the first order and would tell anyone what he thought of the Church. I was informed routinely by my friends that he would be going to Hell. The Church I remember from that time WANTED kids like me in Catholic school so that it might do whatever it could to save us from our reprobate parents. I guess things have changed.

The issue is not that the parents are in a relationship the church does not accept. It is that the behaviour of the parents is made a criterion for the not admitting the children. I don't see how this can be defended at all. As mentioned by Barbara, it would keep a lot of other children out of this school.Would I be right in assuming that the Obama children would not be welcome in this school?

I'd like to note that NCR is continuing coverage of this story - today an interview with Fr. Breslin.He argues about the "secularization" of things that must be fought - a kind of easy argument to my mind, but he must defend the action.NCR will folow up by some parents who disagree and see their school threatened.It continues to strike me that the curren tapproach of some, like Chaput, to proclaimingb the gospel continues to tear the Church apart.

"Would I be right in assuming that the Obama children would not be welcome in this school?"Sunil - why would that be? Is there something "irregular" about the Obama's marriage?

An authoritarian pope made bunches of little authoritarian bishops.And institutional Catholicism seems to be on a one-way track to hell, and most pew sitters don't even bother looking out the windows."And Jesus wept."

Jim: Abp Chaput writes: "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."I suspect that this rules out pro-choice politicians as well as the people who publicly support them.

"Sunil why would that be? Is there something irregular about the Obamas marriage?"Not with his marriage. From what I've heard, he is pro choice and favours gay rights. Isn't that being openly against the Church teachings?

tom Fox at nCr has yet more interviews beside the couple. The pastor and a parent who's been involved but in a "bad marriage" is at their site.It's too bad this thread died but it shows the tension between the magistrio/canonical and pastoral approach in real life!

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