And Justice for Katelyn?

From her Catholic high school, that is. As the article explained, she “was expelled from Loretto High School in Sacramento at the end of October, two weeks after [a] teacher, who was found to be an abortion clinic escort, was dismissed at the behest of the local Bishop William Weigand…. Katelyn informed her mother after she recognized Marie Bain, one of the teachers at Loretto, as an escort at a Planned Parenthood abortuary where Katelyn and her family had regularly taken part in pro-life rallies.” Please check out Katelyn’s blog at

Now the public perception given by the Loretto sisters is clear. If the intended victim is a child in the womb, then aborting her life is permissible. If the intended victim is a young lady seeking spiritual and intellectual growth, then aborting her education is similarly permissible. Yet Thou Shalt Not Abort an old feminist from a position in which she exercises authority over impressionable adolescent girls.

Yet what I find most discouraging about Katelyn’s situation, as reported on Lifesite, is the following: “The diocese says it is unable to act on the matter of Katelyn's expulsion. Rev. Charles S. McDermott, S.T.D., Chancellor and Vicar Episcopal for Theological Affairs for the Diocese of Sacramento, explained to that the school is run by an order of nuns popularly known as the Loretto Sisters. Rev. McDermott described the order as ‘A religious institute in the Church which is of pontifical right,’ explaining that ‘they are subject in their internal affairs directly to the Holy See and not to the local bishop.’”

Bishop Weigand enjoys a solid reputation when it comes to defending the Culture of Life. The fact that His Excellency ordered a pro-abortion teacher dismissed from a Catholic school clearly demonstrates his willingness to shoulder his episcopal duties. My sources in both the pro-life movement and the canon law world hold Fr. McDermott in similarly high esteem. You can safely assume these two churchmen would only draw such a heart-wrenching conclusion after long and careful thought. Thus it is with trepidation that I ask the Diocese of Sacramento to please reconsider whether or not it may canonically intervene in this sordid affair.

Canon 806, §1 is clear: “The diocesan bishop has the right to watch over and visit the Catholic schools in his territory, even those which members of religious institutes have founded or direct. He also issues prescripts which pertain to the general regulation of Catholic schools; these prescripts are valid also for schools which these religious direct, without prejudice, however, to their autonomy regarding the internal direction of their schools.”

Does Katelyn’s expulsion concern the internal direction of the school? As an aside, I would not fight this injustice too strenuously if Katelyn were my daughter. Rather, I would seek out another Catholic high school that presented the Church’s teaching on faith and morals more fully.

Nevertheless, is this really what the canon means when it speaks of “autonomy concerning the internal direction of their schools”? After all, a high-school student is neither a teacher, a uniform, nor a postulant interested in joining the Loretto sisters. She is a member of the Catholic public who falls under the care of the religious institute within the context of a public ministry.

More importantly, autonomy in certain administrative matters does not mean autonomy from the basic principles of justice or autonomy from the Catholic faith. Katelyn merely insisted that a school administered by a Catholic religious institute act in a manner consistent with the Catholic faith. This is a right enjoyed by every Catholic. For canon 217 upholds the right of every Catholic “to a Christian education, which genuinely teaches them to strive for the maturity of the human person and at the same time to know and live the mystery of salvation.”

Canon law offers a number of important protections to Christ’s faithful. There may be applications of canon law that can protect Katelyn. I submit them for consideration.

© Copyright 2005 Catholic Exchange

Pete Vere is a canon lawyer and a Catholic journalist. He recently co-authored Surprised by Canon Law: 150 Questions Catholics Ask About Canon Law (Servant Books) with Michael Trueman and More Catholic Than the Pope (Our Sunday Visitor) with Patrick Madrid. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Sault Ste. Marie, Canada.

Pete Vere


Pete Vere is a canon lawyer, author, and Byzantine Catholic from Northern Ontario, Canada. He and his wife Sonya have six children. In his few spare moments, when he is not cooking or camping with his family, he enjoys hunting, reading, video games and scotch.

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