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May 14, 2010

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Catholic Democrats Laments Ostracism of Child by St. Paul's School Because of Parents' Relationship

Calls on Pastor and Principal to Reconsider Decision for Child and the System of Catholic Education

Boston, Mass. - Catholic Democrats labeled as "lamentable" the actions of the pastor of St. Paul Parish and the principal of its school in Hingham, Massachusetts.  It was reported Wednesday that the school had informed the parents of an eight year old child that their son's acceptance to the school was being rescinded because the parents are gay and their relationship "was in discord with the teachings of the Catholic Church."

The Archdiocese of Boston said yesterday that it will help the parents find another Catholic school for the child.  Dr. Mary Grassa O'Neill, Superintendent of Catholic Schools, said that "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 misunderstanding in the future."

"At a time when our Catholic schools face a crisis of enrollment, this incident sends exactly the wrong message to children in the under-served communities that have benefited so much from Catholic primary education," said Dr. Patrick Whelan, president of Catholic Democrats.  "Like the boy targeted here, nearly a third of all kids in the U.S., and a greater percentage for some minority groups, do not live with two married parents.  The idea that a child might be punished because he does not live with his two biologic parents is antithetical to notions of Christian charity and Catholic social justice."

According to their Web site, "St. Paul School is a Catholic community in which love of God, neighbor, and self are foremost.  We provide a challenging curriculum promoting academic excellence infused with Catholic tradition and values."

This is the second time in recent weeks that a priest has refused to allow a child to attend a Catholic school because of the parents' sexual orientation.  In March, Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput praised the decision to ostracize a pre-school student at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic School in Boulder, Colorado because the parents of the child are in a same-sex relationship.  

"There are public policy implications to the actions that occurred in Boulder and Hingham that contradict the mission of the rich history of Catholic education," said Steve Krueger, national director of Catholic Democrats.  "For over 150 years, Catholic education has been a beacon for the importance of education to fully participate in society as well as the evangelization of the Church's message of tolerance and social justice.  Today, Catholic schools are the last best hope for many children to forge a better, more fruitful life, particularly those from the inner city.  The actions of these two Catholic schools undermine efforts to revitalize the system of Catholic schools in our country today."       

According to statistics from the National Catholic Educational Association, in the past ten years, the number of Catholic schools fell from 8,144 to 7,104, a decline of 13%.  Student enrollment declined 20%, from approximately 2.7 million to 2.1 million.  Catholic schools serve a significant population of non-Catholics, with 14.5% of children from outside the faith.  At 30%, minority students comprise a greater percentage of Catholic enrollment than is found in the general population. 

Increasingly, members of the laity are taking responsibility for the challenges that face Catholic education.  In the Archdiocese of Boston, the lay-led Campaign for Catholic Schools has raised $60 million for a major capital campaign and program improvements.  Boston is also home to one of the twenty-four Cristo Rey, Jesuit-inspired, Catholic secondary schools in the successful and growing Cristo Rey Network.  

While the relationship between the events in Boulder and Hingham are not known, Catholic Democrats is concerned that a narrative will develop that legitimizes the exclusion of children of same sex parents from Catholic schools.  The organization believes that this will serve neither the best interests of the child, the Church, nor society.  While it may be difficult for the child to now attend the St. Paul School, he should still be given that choice - particularly given the policy of the Archdiocese of Boston.  Catholic Democrats calls on the pastor and principal to reconsider their decision and give the child the option of attending the St. Paul School.

About Catholic Democrats
Catholic Democrats is an association of state-based groups representing a Catholic voice within the Democratic Party, and advancing a public understanding of the rich tradition of Catholic Social Teaching and its potential to help solve the broad range of problems confronting all Americans. For more information about Catholic Democrats please go to