Mass. Catholic school won't admit lesbians' son

By Jay Lindsay
Associated Press Writer / May 12, 2010

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BOSTON—A Roman Catholic school in Massachusetts has withdrawn its acceptance of an 8-year-old boy with lesbian parents, saying their relationship was "in discord" with church teachings, according to one of the boys' mothers.

It's at least the second time in recent months that students have not been allowed to attend a U.S. Catholic school because of their parents' sexual orientation, with the other instance occurring in Colorado.

The Massachusetts woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of concerns about the effect of publicity on her son, said she planned to send the boy to third grade at St. Paul Elementary School in Hingham in the fall. But she said she learned her son's acceptance was rescinded during a conference call Monday with Principal Cynthia Duggan and the parish priest, the Rev. James Rafferty.

"I'm accustomed to discrimination, I suppose, at my age and my experience as a gay woman," the mother said. "But I didn't expect it against my child."

Rafferty said her relationship "was in discord with the teachings of the Catholic Church," which holds marriage is only between a man and woman, the woman said.

She said Duggan told her teachers wouldn't be prepared to answer questions her son might have because the school's teachings about marriage conflict with what he sees in his family.

Rafferty and Duggan did not respond to requests for comment.

Terrence Donilon, a spokesman for the Boston Archdiocese, said it learned about the school's decision late Tuesday. He said the archdiocese is now in "consultation with the pastor and principal to gather more information."

Massachusetts was the first state to legalize gay marriage, in 2004, and the Catholic Church strongly opposed the decision. The woman, who is not married to her partner, said she didn't expect the church to approve of her relationship but didn't think it should affect her son's education.

The case mirrors a situation in Boulder, Colo., in which the Sacred Heart of Jesus school said two children of lesbian parents could not re-enroll because of their parents' sexual orientation. The Denver Archdiocese posted a statement in support of the school's decision.

Gay rights groups later took out full-page newspaper ads in protest.

The woman said she and her partner don't regularly attend church but are Christian and wanted their son to have a strong education that also emphasized Christian values, such as compassion and empathy. They also found the size of the small K-8 school appealing and saw it as entry into a strong Catholic schooling tradition that extends through college.

The church's stance against homosexual relationships was no shock, but the woman said she didn't think it was a deal-breaker, given the church's "many variations of tolerance," such as its inclusion of families of divorce, which the church doesn't recognize.

"There are many different non-traditional families that fall under the umbrella of the Catholic Church, and I guess we assumed we would fall under one of those," she said.

The woman and her partner filled out both their names during the application process -- which asked for the names of "parents" rather than mother and father -- and attended an open house together at the school in February.

"We weren't hiding," she said.

They paid their deposit and got uniform order forms, and last week the woman visited Rafferty to discuss their son's religious education. At that meeting, Rafferty started asking questions about her relationship with her partner, the woman said. A few days later, he and Duggan called with the decision.

Her son will likely be back in public school next year, since it may be too late to get into another private school, she said.

"I think overall, it's a missed opportunity," she said.

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