Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver has weighed in on the decision of the Catholic elementary school in Boulder (part of the Denver archdiocese) that has refused readmission to the child of a lesbian couple, and about which we blogged here. This was posted on the archdiocesan website.
"The Church never looks for reasons to turn anyone away from a Catholic education. But the Church can’t change her moral beliefs without undermining her mission and failing to serve the many families who believe in that mission. If Catholics take their faith seriously, they naturally follow the teachings of the Church in matters of faith and morals; otherwise they take themselves outside the believing community.
'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. 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. These beliefs are central to a Catholic understanding of human nature, family and happiness, and the organization of society. The Church cannot change these teachings because, in the faith of Catholics, they are the teachings of Jesus Christ.
'The policies of our Catholic school system exist to protect all parties involved, including the children of homosexual couples and the couples themselves. Our schools are meant to be “partners in faith” with parents. If parents don’t respect the beliefs of the Church, or live in a manner that openly rejects those beliefs, then partnering with those parents becomes very difficult, if not impossible. It also places 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.
'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. That isn’t fair to anyone—including the wider school community. Persons who have an understanding of marriage and family life sharply different from Catholic belief are often people of sincerity and good will. They have other, excellent options for education and should see in them the better course for their children."
Grant Gallicho at Dotcommonweal responds:
No one is confused about church teaching on marriage. (Some Catholics may, however, be lost as to why the seriousness with which they take their faith doesn’t always naturally lead to morally pure behavior.) What many Catholics find perplexing is the way some bishops translate that teaching into policy positions–both internal and external to the church.
Chaput acknowledges that the church does not teach that gays and lesbians are “bad,” or that “their children are less loved by God. Quite the opposite.” (More loved by God?) But the church does teach against divorce and against sex outside of marriage. “The Church cannot change these teachings because, in the faith of Catholics, they are the teachings of Jesus Christ.” A curious observation, given that no one has reported that the parents of these kids had been lobbying the church to change its teachings.
Finally, Archbishop Chaput argues that this policy is really for everyone’s own good–parents and students alike. If parents don’t respect the beliefs of the church, or live in open rejection of them, he writes, they don’t have a place in the Catholic school system. After all, how can Catholic schools fully teach the faith ”if teachers need to worry about wounding the feelings of their students or about alienating students from their parents”?
This is about more than hurt feelings of course. This is about the nature of the church’s educational mission. If the Archbishop of Denver truly believes that the children of parents who fail to adequately support church teaching cannot be educated at Catholic schools, then he has more explaining to do. To the children of parents who are divorced and remarried (without going through the annulment process–at which point the church needs to explain that process to the children of annulled marriages). To the children of parents who practice and even recommend birth control. To the children of non-Catholic parents–especially those who do not support the central dogmas of Catholicism, such as, say, the Incarnation. Is there no place in Catholic education for the children of those kinds of parents? Or is there no place for the children of gay couples? And if so, why doesn’t the archbishop want such children to encounter the truths of Catholic teaching? If it’s merely to avoid upsetting the children of straight, non-divorced, non-contracepting, non-racist, anti-torture, pro-life parents, then I’m afraid he’ll have to do better.
James Martin, SJ