Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, Colo. has stepped in to support a Boulder Catholic grade school who told a lesbian couple told they would no longer be able to enroll their children.
The parish school of Sacred Heart Church in Boulder had informed a lesbian couple that their two children — one in kindergarten and another in pre-school – would be allowed to complete the year, but could not re-enroll, citing Archdiocesan policy requiring children’s families to practice Christian values.
Chaput addressed the controversy in his Wednesday column for the Denver Catholic Register, saying that “archdiocesan policy was followed faithfully in this matter, and the policy applies to all Archdiocese of Denver schools.”
“Most parents who send their children to Catholic schools want an environment where the Catholic faith is fully taught and practiced. That simply can’t be done if teachers need to worry about wounding the feelings of their students or about alienating students from their parents,” said Chaput.
“That isn’t fair to anyone — including the wider school community.”
The Archdiocese of Denver’s admission policy states that “no person shall be admitted as a student in any Catholic school unless that person and his/her parent(s) subscribe to the school’s philosophy and agree to abide by the educational policies and regulations of the school and Archdiocese.”
The lesbian “couple,” who have remained anonymous, had already enrolled the children under their care in the Sacred Heart of Jesus School for the current school year when their relationship came to light.
Father William Breslin of Sacred Heart Church said that the decision not to allow the child to re-enroll was “the most difficult decision of my life,” but that his priestly vows of obedience to his bishop required him to follow the Archdiocese’s policy.
“It is not about punishing the child for the sins of his or her parents,” he said. “It is simply that the lesbian couple is saying that their relationship is a good one that should be accepted by everyone; and the Church cannot agree to that.”
In his column, Chaput agreed with Breslin’s decision, saying that “the main purpose of Catholic schools is religious; in other words, to form students in Catholic faith, Catholic morality and Catholic social values.”
He explained that while many archdiocesan schools “accept students of other faiths and no faith, and from single parent and divorced parent families,” they have welcomed them so long as they “support the Catholic mission of the school and do not offer a serious counter-witness to that mission in their actions.”
Although he recognized the “painful situation” situation between the lesbian couple and Sacred Heart, Chaput explained that “the Church can’t change her moral beliefs without undermining her mission and failing to serve the many families who believe in that mission.”
“The Church does not claim that people with a homosexual orientation are ‘bad,’ or that their children are less loved by God. Quite the opposite,” said Chaput.
“But what the Church does teach is that sexual intimacy by anyone outside marriage is wrong; that marriage is a sacramental covenant; and that marriage can only occur between a man and a woman,” he said. “These beliefs are central to a Catholic understanding of human nature, family and happiness, and the organization of society.”
Chaput further illustrated that the archdiocesan policy was meant for the good of all parties involved: the couple, the children, and the school.
Because the parents reject or fail to respect the Church’s teachings, he explained, the situation puts “unfair stress on the children, who find themselves caught in the middle, and on their teachers, who have an obligation to teach the authentic faith of the Church.”