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James Martin, S.J.May 19, 2010

Sean Cardinal O'Malley, the archbishop of Boston, has now weighed in, at length, on the case of the same-sex couple in Hingham, Mass., whose child was prevented from attending a local Catholic parochial school there, and which I blogged about here.  Characteristically, Cardinal O'Malley takes care to respect the offices of Charles Chaput, the archbishop of Denver, who addressed the situation in his diocese differently, to praise the priest in Hingham, whom he calls "one of our finest pastors," and to support the beleaguered couple.  But then he weights in firmly on the side of the "good of the children."

Catholic schools exist for the good of the children and our admission standards must reflect that. We have never had categories of people who were excluded. We have often given preference to children from a parish where a school is located, siblings of children already enrolled at the school or Catholic children from nearby parishes. Sometimes we might not be able to accept children, because of behavioral problems or other circumstances that would be disruptive to a school community. While there are legitimate reasons that might lead to a decision not to admit a child, I believe all would agree that the good of the child must always be our primary concern.

As you might know, St. Paul School in Hingham has been at the center of a matter that was widely reported on recently, involving a child of same sex parents who wanted their child to attend the school. One of the very unfortunate results of the public reporting on the issue was undue criticism of Father James Rafferty who is pastor at St. Paul Parish, and who I consider one of our finest pastors. He made a decision about the admission of the child to St. Paul School based on his pastoral concern for the child. I can attest personally that Father Rafferty would never exclude a child to sanction the child’s parents. After consulting with the school principal, exercising his rights as pastor, he made a decision based on an assessment of what he felt would be in the best interest of the child. I have great admiration for Fr. Rafferty; he has my full confidence and support.

In Boston we are beginning to formulate policies and practices to deal with these complex pastoral matters. In all of our decision making, our first concern is the welfare of the children involved. With that in mind, the essence of what we are looking at is the question of how do we make Catholic schools available to children who come from diverse, often unconventional households, while ensuring the moral theology and teachings of the Church are not compromised? It is true that we welcome people from all walks of life. But we recognize that, regardless of the circumstances involved, we maintain our responsibility to teach the truths of our faith, including those concerning sexual morality and marriage. We need to present the Church’s teachings courageously and yet in a way that is compassionate and persuasive.

The rest of his post, in which he leads with a personal story, is here.  These are hard decisions, and I believe that Cardinal Sean, as his many in Boston call him, continues to make wise, compassionate and pastoral decisions on this matter.

James Martin, SJ 

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David Nickol
12 years 8 months ago
Two cheers (or maybe only one) for Cardinal O'Malley. He seemed to have had no problem at all accepting the daughter of the human-trafficking madame who was murdered by her lover. Are we to see some moral equivalence here between that woman and the same-sex parents of child attending St. Paul School? Is the message that the children of all people, no matter what scum they are, can be admitted to Catholic school? And why does he bend over backwards to imply that Father Rafferty and Archbishop Chaput are fine fellows whose approaches must be taken seriously? It just doesn't make any sense to me that the Church would baptize children and then deny them a Catholic education. 
12 years 8 months ago
In an earlier commentary on James Carroll’s comments regarding celibacy and the sexual abuse scandal, Fr. Martin rightly shows that Carroll exonerates celibacy as the cause for the sexual abuse of children, but turns around and says that it is the cause.  Unfortunately, Fr. Martin seems to show the same inconsistency when it comes to the question of allowing a child of a same sex union to attend a Catholic school. 
 While he seems to praise the way that the Archdiocese of Boston has handled this situation in comparison to the Archdiocese of Denver, both archdioceses have basically solved their “problem” in the very same way. 
 In the case of Denver, the pastor said that the children of a lesbian couple could enroll their child in the parish’s CCD program.  The children’s parents’ relationship was contrary to the church’s position on homosexual unions, and, therefore, their children could not attend the Catholic school.  However, the children would be allowed to enroll in the CCD program.  Apparently, and I say this with sarcasm, the lesbian relationship prohibits the children from attending the Catholic school, but doesn’t preclude these children from attending the CCD program.  Two questions:  is the same dogma, teachings of the church, taught in the Catholic school and the CCD program?  Secondly, is the pastor of the Denver parish and the Archdiocese of Denver implying that the CCD program is less than the Catholic school? 
This same contradiction is evident in the Archdiocese of Boston’s approach.  Fr. Martin praises the Archdiocese of Boston’s solution.  The child cannot attend St. Paul School in Hingham, but as the superintendent of schools says,” Earlier today I contacted the student’s parent and expressed my concern for the welfare of her child.  I offered to help enroll her child in another Catholic school in the Archdiocese.”  Like the CCD program in Denver, apparently, another parish school is acceptable. I fail to see the logic in Denver’s or Boston’s solutions to this “problem.” 
 The problem is that pastors and principals of Catholic schools have to make a “statement” at the expense of innocent children.  As a retired Catholic school principal, I can attest that many Catholic parents send their children to a Catholic school for the wrong reasons: discipline, academic excellence, caring and competent teachers.  Unfortunately, some, not all by any means, forget about the Catholic in Catholic schools. 
 According to the superintendent in Boston, “The Archdiocese does not prohibit children of same sex parents from attending Catholic schools.  We will work in the coming weeks to develop a policy to eliminate any misunderstandings in the future.”  Well, if the archdiocese doesn’t prohibit children of same sex parents from attending Catholic schools, why is it necessary to develop a policy to clear up misunderstandings in the future? 
 Why can’t Cardinal O’Malley and others stop dancing around issues and come down on what is right and Catholic?  Who sinned: the man or his parents?  Neither.  He was born blind so that the “works of God might be displayed in him.”  Stop quoting scripture, Father Martin, unless you are willing to accept what God is teaching.  It’s time for the church to return to Jesus whose wise and pastoral approach is evident except to those who are blind!
Robert Burke
12 years 8 months ago
I'm really puzzled about all this. Here's the chronology:
1. Local pastor bounces child living in household with two women in a sexual relationship - no word on whether they're married under Massachusetts law - from his Catholic school.
2. Rather than instructing his subordinate, the pastor, to accept the child in the school, Cardinal offers admission to any OTHER Catholic school in the archdiocese to the child.
3. Cardinal then offers ''full confidence and support'' to pastor who bounced the child, at the same time saying ''the good of the child must be always be our primary concern.''
This does not add up. How is it that the child can attend any school in the archdiocese - except the one where the pastor bounced him? Why not the previous school, which I'm guessing is the geographically closest one? Is the cardinal going to pay the student's new transportation costs? There is no consistent principle here. If the archdiocesan schools are open to this child, why not this one? Why not offer fraternal correction (or hierarchical service, as I heard it once described by a bishop) to the pastor? A looking-glass world.
And, who cares what one of the Republican bishops from another diocese thinks? Doesn't the cardinal outrank him?
James Lindsay
12 years 8 months ago
Two words "priestly collegiality" - which was the problem his predecessor got into on a different sexual issue. Also, he probably doesn't want to make an example of the offending priest - since the traditionalists would come out of the woodwork to support the priest if he does. Using discipline in this case could radicalize conservatives - something best avoided.
Stephen O'Brien
12 years 8 months ago
What is ultimately at stake in the Hingham controversy is not a “traditionalist” or a “conservative” view of same-sex conduct.  The Church’s official teaching on this subject (summarized in CCC 2357 as part of her overall teaching on marriage and chastity) is not “traditionalist” or “conservative,” but simply Catholic, and agreement with its truth is mandatory for anyone who wishes to be a Catholic.  Still, it does not follow from Catholic moral doctrine that children in the Hingham situation must be denied admission to parochial schools.  In fact, CCC 2358, which warns against subjecting homosexually oriented persons to unjust discrimination, can reasonably be cited in support of admitting children being raised by those persons.  We should uncompromisingly accept the validity of the Church’s teachings on same-gender issues and all other matters, but we should not draw unnecessary and imprudent conclusions from those teachings. 

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