The Archdiocese of Boston released a new non-discrimination policy for Catholic schools last week.
The Boston Globe reports:
The Archdiocese of Boston, under fire from all sides after a parochial school withdrew an admissions offer to the child of a lesbian couple, yesterday released a new Catholic schools admissions policy that said parochial schools will not “discriminate against or exclude any categories of students.’’
However, the policy, which was distributed to pastors, parishes, and school administrators by e-mail, said school parents “must accept and understand that the teachings of the Catholic Church are an essential and required part of the curriculum.’’
The new guidelines were developed by a panel of clergy and lay school administrators at the direction of Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley in response to a widely publicized incident last year in which St. Paul School in Hingham rescinded the admissions offer to the 8-year-old boy. The archdiocese helped place the boy in a different Catholic school.
Particularly noteworthy is the role that Catholic philanthropists may have played in the creation of this policy:
The Hingham episode drew sharp criticism from prominent funders of Catholic education in Boston. The Catholic Schools Foundation, which gives millions in scholarships to low-income students, said it would not subsidize tuition at any school with a discriminatory admissions policy. Michael B. Reardon, executive director of the foundation, said yesterday his organization is pleased with the new policy’s “clear message of inclusiveness.’'
“From the perspective of the foundation, the key part of this is that it does not exclude any group of students, and it promotes what is essential to Catholic education, which is inclusivity,’’ he said.
Predictably, some right-wing blogs are lamenting the policy (here and here), while gay Catholic groups are expressing cautious optimism. The Archdiocese, for its part, seems to be trying to strike a compromise in the center, in the face of real-world challenges.
The Boston Pilot, the Archdiocese's newspaper, quotes Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia Father Richard Erikson, who said, "Catholic education is a treasure of the Church and we want to share that as broadly as we can. We will not exclude any category of child from our schools and we expect pastors will be in conformity with the decision." Further, Secretary for Education Mary Grassa O'Neill said, "Our schools welcome, and they don't discriminate against any categories of students. It covers all categories of students."
Passions are sure to be ignited on both sides of this difficult issue, and the Archdiocese seems to have struck a seemingly common sense compromise. The consternation of some Catholics who see this policy as further eroding the church's moral clarity is puzzling, as the policy states that all those who send children to Catholic schools must understand that the church will continue to teach its faith and morals to all students. And those who wish to see the church become more inclusive to gay and lesbian people are right to see this policy as only a small step forward, as church teaching regarding sexuality remains unchanged. The adoption of the policy, which still leaves admission choices to individual schools and therefore respecting the principle of subsidiarity, seems to be but a recognition that abstract policies and teachings must be lived out in a messy and complicated world, where real lives are affected by words on a page. The Archdiocese of Boston deserves commendation for attempting to live out the gospel message in a more compassionate and welcoming manner.