Chaput Responds. Commonweal Answers

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

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Gregory Popcak
10 years 6 months ago
Grant makes some good points.
One thing Grant's argument obscures is the fact that there is not a widescale movement divorced and remarried Catholics, or pro-birth control Catholics to persecute the Church (and hinder its social justice work) for failing to capitulate to their agenda.  Ignoring Church teaching is one thing.  It's wrong, but it's personal and private, limiting the potential for confusion and scandal in the local faith community.    That said, persecuting the Church and attempting to bully it out of its teachings so that I can feel affirmed in my okayness is another thing altogether.  When secular culture pushes hard against the Church-for instance, attempting to force acceptance of gay ''marriage'' or force gay adoption on Catholic social service agencies-and the Church is forced to defend its boundaries and does so,  that's not an example of the Church being mean.  That's an example of the Church having integrity.
But I do agree with Grant that the Church needs to do a better job educating Catholics regarding why remarriage after divorce without the benefit of a declaration of nullity is seriously problematic, or why artificial birth control is unacceptable.  I agree with Grant that the Church underestimates the opportunity for confusion and scandal when the Church does not mount a more direct, consistent, and comprehensive defense of its teaching on sexual morality and require Catholic adults-especially Catholic adults with children in Catholic schools-to participate in ongoing faith formation classes on these important topics.
Which is why I am thrilled to know that Commonweal will be releasing its comprehensive faith formation program advocating traditional marriage and greater awareness of the use and blessings of NFP.  It is my understanding that the pub date on this new curriculum is... when hell freezes over.
Stephen SCHEWE
10 years 6 months ago
"But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not:  for of such is the kingdom of God."  Luke 18:16
John McCloskey
10 years 6 months ago
To respond to Greg: You write that the gay rights movement is "a widescale movement ... to persecute the Church (and hinder its social justice work) for failing to capitulate to their agenda," and that there is no such widescale movement on behalf of divorced and remarried Catholics, pro-birth control Cathoics, etc. This is a most amazing statement.
First, the movement of people who disagree with and practice opposition to the Church's sexual and marriage teachings is widespread, though not particularly organized. And it is powerful. Just suggest to a legislator that he should introduce a bill that forbids birth control, or remarriage after divorce, or any such thing. You would be laughed out of his office. The bishops have not made much fuss about this, either out of political prudence which counsels that one should not wage fights one cannot win, or out of cowardice.
In contrast, the gay rights movement is not powerful, nor particularly organized. It is vocal. But it is a safe movement to attack, isn't it? And the bishops do attack it, vehemently. Further, the bishops have refused to disassociate themselves with those who advocate or practice violence against gays. Now, this is either due to political expediency or bullying behavior, but has little to do with converting anyone to Christ.
Finally, there are certainly gay individuals who write and say hateful things against the Church, against all religion, or all traditional institutions. But most supporters of gay rights are not of that sort. Gay rights advocates do protest when their tax dollars are taken and used to support their opponents, and even to support their oppressors. No one has argued that the Church should not engage in social justice work. People have argued that if one uses tax dollars to engage in social justice work, that the rights and dignity of all peoples must be respected. If the legal rights of all people cannot be respected by the Catholic Church, then at least the Church should fund its own charities, and not expect others to do so.
Gregory Popcak
10 years 6 months ago
I don't care to participate in an extended conversation about this but I will respond to the particular questions that have been addressed to me and then I must move on.
Fr. John:  In part, you make my point for me.  Those who are opposed to the Church's teaching on marriage and sexuality are not as well-organized (well, they are, but they aren't as openly hostile).  The Church isn't being pushed as hard on these issues so she doesn't need to push back as hard in return.  That said, she is responding.  That's the whole purpose and motivation behind the National Pastoral Initiative on marriage.  It isn't enough, but its a start.
As for the gay rights movement not being organized.  Give me a break.  Its not only organized.  Its enshrined.  Three words for you DC City Council.  Three more: Boston Catholic Charities.  Four more:  San Fran Catholic Charities.  Wake up.  I resent your screed against "the bishops."  They "attack"  the gay rights movement how exactly?  How has a single bishop stopped a gay person from doing anything they want to do.  But there are babies who will not be adopted and families who will go without health insurance benefits because gay marraige advocated must be celebrated.  Your sympathies misguided and disappointing.
Ed:  No, they do not.  Thank you.
10 years 6 months ago
I wonder ..does Greg include in the gay 'wholesale movement' that wants to undermine the Church, the thousands of gay laity at Mass every Sunday and the thousands of gay priests and bishops that preside at the Masses?.
Mike Evans
10 years 6 months ago
What is our mission here? Education or forced conversion? I suggest both might come into play. The child is an innocent; the issue is with the 'couple' - how does that play out in the local church community - with acceptance or with public condemnation. Have to wonder about the Lord's admonition: 'He who is without sin should throw the first stone..." Unless there is some reason to make this situation into a big deal, why not just move on and let people do their best under difficult circumstances. Or does the bishop feel he needs to draw a line in the sand? (Jesus made some curious designs in the sand too while waiting for that first stone to fly...)
Marie Rehbein
10 years 6 months ago
I feel that Greg is rather presumptuous in concluding that the couple was using their children to pressure the Catholic Church.  Perhaps they wanted their children to learn that part of Catholic teaching that pertains to Jesus, maybe those children were even baptized Catholics whom they felt would be well served by a Catholic education.  Does one's status as a Catholic now depend upon how closely one's parents conform to the Catholic ideal for personal conduct?
John McCloskey
10 years 6 months ago
I, like Greg, do not care to participate in an extended conversation. However, I must respond to a few points that he has made. First, you write that ''the Church isn't being pushed hard'' on issues of marriage and family life. But it is. It is being pushed by the millions of lapsed Catholics, and the millions of Catholics who do not follow its teaching on these subjects. It is not being pushed either legislatively nor in the courts in these areas, only because it long ago lost the assistance of government in these areas, which for better or worse has gone its own way in its policies on marriage and family life. Second, the Church is responding, and you cite the National Pastoral Life Initiative on marriage. But that is ad intra. The Church's response to gay rights advocates has primarily been ad extra, and aimed at requiring all Americans to live according to Catholic doctrine on this topic. That is precisely the issue.
Third, you write: ''How has a single bishop stopped a gay person from doing anything they want to do?'' Well, in the Denver diocese they cannot send their children to Catholic schools. And in California and Maine they cannot get married, largely due to effective Catholic political campaigning, paid for largely by tax deductible contributions. 
Fourth, you write that babies will not be adopted because of gay rights advocates. That is untrue. The fact that Catholic Charities in a few jurisdictions does not participate any longer in adoptions does not mean that the children who would have been adopted through them will not be adopted. It just means that another group will handle the adoptions. In fact, the legal ability of gay individuals and couples to adopt children means that more children, not fewer, are likely to be adopted.
Fifth, you write that because of gay marriage families will go without health care. Again, quite the opposite. In San Francisco, the archdiocese's solution was to expand the class of persons who could be added to an employee's health care policy. It is true that in DC, the archdiocese has decided to eliminate spousal health care benefits for new hires, or newly married existing employees. That is unfortunate, and there were other ways that this situation could have been addressed. Gays are people too. And the establishment of gay civil marriage has vastly increased the availability of health care to the legal partners of employed gays, and to their dependents. Even the most staunch opponent of gay civil marriage must admit that gay marriage laws have promoted greater health care coverage for many, many people. It is the Catholic Church in DC that is responsible for the denial of health care coverage to the relatively smaller number of its employees, and in doing so, put itself at a competitive disadvantage when trying to recruit and retain staff.
James Lindsay
10 years 6 months ago
I agree with the Archibishop on one point: that sexual intimacy outside of marriage is wrong. This is all the more reason why the Church should support gay marriage, since homosexuality is natural for homosexuals and sexual expression is a gift of God.

I also agree with some priests who say that female altar servers lead girls to think they can be called to the altar as priests. Yes, this is true, which is why I favor investing altar girls.

Every generation decides on how the faith shall be expressed, either through action or inertia. Those who believe that any teaching is unreformable are whistling in the dark. Even orthodoxy needs ascent to be maintained - and I suspect some of it will not be in the very near future. One need not be a Sedevacantist to believe this - indeed, one must only believe that when the capital of the Roman Empire moved East, that the Holy See moved with it. Whether this is a traditional belief or not is beside the point. Truth is truth, whether the hierarchy accepts it or not.
Martin Gallagher
10 years 6 months ago
It would seem that if schools are financially supported by the (arch)diocese, or if enrollment were limited, then the diocese should give preference to students whose parents were Catholics in good standing.  Obviously, the only way they would know if the parents were not in good standing is if they were public about their actions.
Personally, aside from financial and enrollment considerations, I would be happy if all students could be admitted to Catholic schools.  I would expect that the teachers would instruct the students in all the truths of the faith - truths that challenge all of us, albeit in different ways.
Helena Loflin
10 years 6 months ago
My question to the archbishop: Where is the pro-life in the school's decision and the archbishop's support of that decision?  If, while the lesbian couple was pregnant, they decided to have an abortion, the archbishop would be all over them defending the rights of the unborn.  Nothing would be more important to the archbishop than the future of that child in the womb.  Well, archbishop, how about extending your concern to this already born child's future?  The innocent child did not ask to come into this world the offspring of lesbian parents.  The kid is sure getting an early lesson in bigotry and hypocrisy.
Craig McKee
10 years 6 months ago
Thank you, Archbishop Chaput, for TEACHING once again the veracity of those lyrics from the Broadway musical ''South Pacific:''
''You've got to be carefully taught''
You've got to be taught To hate and fear, You've got to be taught From year to year, It's got to be drummed In your dear little ear You've got to be carefully taught. You've got to be taught to be afraid Of people whose eyes are oddly made, And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade, You've got to be carefully taught. You've got to be taught before it's too late, Before you are six or seven or eight, To hate all the people your relatives hate, You've got to be carefully taught!
Joe Martin
10 years 6 months ago
Amazing posts. The clear and never altered teaching of the Church is that homosex is everywhere and always wrong and sinful. Gay marriage will not make it right. Can there at least be honest discussion here that those who disagree are disputing magisterial teaching. How much clearer can the Church be: Gay sex is disordered and gravely sinful. Do we have to repeat it one hundred times?  
Albert Opdenaker III
10 years 6 months ago
Rather than add more of the same comments, I would just like to say that it continues to amaze me every time I read through thee comments section how many individuals who not only call themselves "Catholics" but who are members of the Catholic clergy just cannot bring themselves to accept the most basic tenents of the Catholic faith.  It is no wonder that the people in the pews are so confused and thus fall away from their faith when even their priests are unable to support the Church's teachings on marriage, birth control, the male-only clergy and so on.  Month after month the comment sections following almost every article are populated by priests who cannot accept the teachings of the magisterium.  What is it about these men, these intelligent men, that forces them to cling to membership in an organization that they do not support and against which they feel the need to cry out?  What is to be gained by joining the Democratic party and then writing editorials week after week complaining about how their party supports the liberal agenda?  Would it not be better for all if they just joined the Republican party and wrote editorials about how correct their party is in supporting the conservative agenda?  It is not like the Church has suddenly up and changed its teachings on any one of the issues that are discussed, catching these men in the transition.  I pray for those who cannot find peace in their faith but only the need to fight against it month after month, that Christ will lead them to a place of peace and acceptance of where they find themselves.
John Stabeno
10 years 6 months ago
This takes everything to a new level . . . a new all time low.
As one who taught in the Catholic school system and as a Roman Catholic priest, I find this behavior of the Archbishop, the pastor, and all involved to be void of Christian values and human compassion. There are several points to consider.
1. From an evangelical standpoint, I believe many missionary catholic schools where founded and existed to bring the Christian (and yes, even Catholic) message to believers and non-believers alike. Schools,both in this country and throughout the world, many or most students were not Catholic. Because of the love of those who taught them and life skills that they instilled in them, many of those students and/or their families converted to the Catholic faith. Today in many of those same areas, the numbers of Catholics are exceeding the number of Catholics in the USA and Europe. Where would are Church be if we had only enrolled "True Catholics" into "our" schools throughout modern church history.
2. In many urban areas in the Northeastern part of the USA, many Catholic schools would be empty if it were not for the increase in the non-Catholic student population which has been able to populate what would have been empty and closed schools.
3. If we were to immediately dismiss every student whose parents were never married, students from single parent households, whose parents are divorces, practice birth control, eat meat on Fridays or violate any other Catholic Church teaching, the Catholic Education system would cease to exist in 24 hours.
4. This is representative of the "mustard seed" church of Ratzinger. The smaller, faithful, TRUE Church. Heavy on tradition and control, light on compassion and love.
5. Where would these children be raised if they weren't part this household of a same-sex couple? Would the Church raise these children? Would they provide them with love, shelter, education, food, etc. Shouldn't the Church be grateful these children were not aborted or orphaned and respect the choices the parents are making in selecting a Catholic school for the education of their children?
I could go on and on. This just sickens me. The arrogance and dismissive nature of these acts are par and parcel with the acts of bishops and priests who fostered and allowed the sex-abuse scandal to infect the Catholic Church. Despite my beliefs on this issue, I do have respect for Archbishop Chaput and this is not a personal attack on him or anyone else. All of us, Bishop, priest, layperson and non-believer alike continually need to examine our belief system and subsequent actions. I the Bishop reflects upon this.
robert hardesty
10 years 6 months ago
Here is a position to consider from someone close to the action. I am a lapsed married Catholic with the (sadly) dormant benefit of a wonderful Catholic upbringing and education, whose daughter will be legally married in September in our state in a same-sex marriage. My wife and I have agonized over her choices since she ''came out'' some years back. She is at once a caring, loving and devoted daughter, yet the product of an ''I gotta be me'' world which takes homosexual rights one step too far, in the opinion of my wife and myself. We have taken the painful step of rejecting the many entreaties to support her action. We have been, by others, proselytized regarding becoming less ''close-minded'' via attending PFLAG meetings (didn't), and watching ''Prayers for Bobby'' (did). We have been labeled homophobic, which we feel is unfair and inaccurate. We have accepted our daughter's partner in our home, and if we ''make it'' through September, would gladly do so again. For me, simplistically, however, it is the natural law principle man+woman+marriage=propagation of the species which is at play here, and allows me to keep my sanity, and marriage is still a sacrament. For my wife, it's the visual picture of two brides. Either way, we support Archbishop Chaput's position which does take the deepest essence of ''In All Things'' into account. Sometimes we all need to ask where is this all taking marriage, openness to bringing children into the world (in so many ways)in such a relationship, raising them, Catholic education of such kids good or bad, the list continues. I'm a lifelong moderately liberal Democrat, but like a ship, in nautical terms, an internal ''righting'' mechanism has brought me back on even keel. A re-read of appropriate catechetical passages can do that. When the archbishop summarized his pragmatic position, regarding persons with sharply differing views often being people of sincerity and good will, BUT with different education options, he spoke poignantly to my wife and me in the future shock which will quite possibly be ours to bear. We love our daughter dearly and do our best, in charity, to accept her partner. We believe the Archbishop is spot-on, and this coming from a man and a woman who have only perhaps through God's blessing somehow made it 32 years. Please say a prayer for our eventual return, and also our daughter's reconsideration of her life choices. I enjoyed immensely the give and take of this forum, and well-presented opinions of all people of conscience who contributed.


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