Nine months after Hingham Catholic school in Boston rescinded the application of a child of lesbian parents, the Archdiocese there has adopted a new admissions policy that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. The new policy comes at the direction of Cardinal Sean O’Malley and stands in sharp contrast to the position taken by Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput, who supported Sacred Heart Elementary School in Boulder last year in rejecting the applications of two students because their parents are gay.
The new admissions policy in Boston says archdiocese schools may not “discriminate against or exclude any categories of students.” O’Malley said that “Catholic schools exist for the good of the children and admission standards must reflect that.”
“I believe all would agree that the good of the child must always be our primary concern,” he wrote at his blog soon after news broke around the Hingham school.
The Boston and Denver stories came days apart from one another last May. All three of the students involved are children of lesbian moms. The student whose application was rescinded in Boston was 8 years old. The students whose applications were rescinded in Boulder were pre-school age.
Chaput defended his decision in support of Sacred Heart by asserting that Catholic schools were obliged to provide an environment where the faith is “fully taught and practiced.” He said concerns about offending students or engendering alienation between parents and children at home would hobble those efforts.
“The Church teaches 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,” Chaput said. “The Church does not claim that people with a homosexual orientation are ‘bad,’ or that their children are less loved by God.”
The Boston Pilot quoted Vicar General Richard Erikson, who had a different take than Chaput. “Catholic education is a treasure of the Church and we want to share that as broadly as we can,” he said.
The controversy and the conflicting Catholic policies in Massachusetts and Colorado will surely reignite discussion about the tensions between religious teachings on the sinfulness of homosexuality, on one side, and the U.S. Constitutional emphasis on equality and its safeguards against discrimination, on the other. In recent years, the Catholic Church has joined with other denominations in battling against hate-crimes statutes for fear that preachers and teachers might be subject to legal action for practicing discrimination against gays or for spreading anti-gay messages that encourage bias or bullying or worse.
O’Neill pointed out that his new admissions policy ensures that Catholic schools in Boston, at least, are in line with federal non-discrimination standards. Catholic schools across the nation are granted non-profit tax status, which requires administrators to sign non-discrimination agreements.[Image: Left: O’Malley; right: Chaput ]