BY JIM LOCKWOOD
CARDINAL Seán O’Malley of Boston has defended a decision by a Catholic school not to accept a pupil whose mother was in a lesbian relationship.
The cardinal said archdiocesan officials would “develop policies and procedures” to guide schools on the issue.
In a blog post, he cited the schools’ policy of the Archdiocese of Denver which, he said, “calls into question the appropriateness of admitting the children of same-sex couples”. He added: “It is clear that all of their school policies are intended to foster the welfare of the children and fidelity to the mission of the Church. Their positions and rationale must be seriously considered.” In March the Archdiocese of Denver upheld a decision by a school in Boulder, Colorado, not to re-enrol the child of a same-sex couple.
Cardinal O’Malley’s remarks were posted about one week after St Paul School in Hingham, in the Boston archdiocese, withdrew its acceptance of a lesbian couple’s child. The cardinal was on a pilgrimage to Fatima when the news surfaced.
In his blog he said the primary issue was how to make Catholic schools available to children from “diverse, often unconventional households, while ensuring the moral theology and teachings of the Church are not compromised”.
The cardinal defended the school’s chaplain, Fr James Rafferty, saying that the priest’s actions were based on what he thought would be best for the child.
In a May 18 interview with The Pilot, Boston’s archdiocesan newspaper, the vicar -general of the archdiocese and its moderator of the curia also defended Fr Rafferty.
“In this [case], the decision he made had far-reaching consequences,” said Fr Richard Erikson, adding that the archdiocese does not have a specific policy that addresses whether children of same-sex parents should be admitted to Catholic schools.
Although the archdiocesan schools’ office is upholding St Paul’s decision, the archdiocese does not prohibit children of same-sex parents from attending Catholic schools and officials have promised to help the parents find another Catholic school for their child.
Mary Grassa O’Neill, archdiocesan school superintendent, said she met St Paul officials about the decision and told the applicant’s parent she would help her find another Catholic school for her son.
“She was gracious and appreciative of the suggestion and indicated that she would look forward to considering some other Catholic schools that would welcome her child for the next academic year,” she said.
Fr Frank Daley, pastor of Ss Martha and Mary Parish in Lakeville and a close friend of Fr Rafferty’s, said the Hingham priest has received numerous phone calls both supporting and criticising his decision. Since the incident occurred Fr Rafferty has declined media interviews and referred all inquiries to the archdiocese.
“He is very upset by the whole situation. It’s been a tough week and a half,” Fr Daley said.
The Catholic Schools Foundation, an independent organisation that provides scholarships to students at inner-city Catholic schools, waded into the row with a letter clarifying its funding requirements.
It said the organisation would not fund schools that had “an exclusionary admissions policy or practice” and that refuse to admit students of same-sex parents.
The letter was signed by the organisation’s executive director Mike Reardon and sent to the administrators of all elementary and high schools in the archdiocese.
“We believe a policy or practice that denies admission to students in such a manner as occurred at St Paul’s is at odds with our values as a foundation, the intentions of our donors, and ultimately with Gospel teaching,” the letter said.
Catholics United, a national Catholic organisation that promotes social justice, similarly objected to the decision and circulated a petition on its website calling for the archdiocese to allow the applicant to attend St Paul School and “allow all children to have access to a Catholic education”.
The group collected nearly 5,000 signatures, according to James Salt, director of organising.
Chris Korzen, executive director of Catholics United, said: “We humbly ask Cardinal O’Malley to intervene in this matter and allow this child to attend St Paul Elementary School.”