Archdiocese to help banned student

Fund-raisers rap exclusion over gay parents

‘I am disappointed that . . . this faith that I love seems to find new ways to shoot itself in the foot,’ Jack Connors said. ‘I am disappointed that . . . this faith that I love seems to find new ways to shoot itself in the foot,’ Jack Connors said.
By Lisa Wangsness
Globe Staff / May 14, 2010

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The Archdiocese of Boston said yesterday that it would help find a new Catholic school for a boy who was barred from a Catholic elementary school in Hingham because his parents are lesbians.

Leading fund-raisers for Catholic schools in Boston, meanwhile, strongly disavowed the decision by officials of St. Paul Elementary School to revoke the offer of admission to a new third-grade pupil after learning of his parents’ relationship.

The Catholic Schools Foundation, the leading provider of scholarships to low-income Catholic school students in Greater Boston, issued a letter to administrators of local Catholic schools yesterday warning that it would not subsidize tuition at any school with a discriminatory admissions policy.

Any such practice “is at odds with our values as a foundation, the intentions of our donors, and ultimately Gospel teaching,’’ said the letter . from the foundation, which relies on corporate executives to help raise millions each year. The letter was signed by the group’s executive director, Michael B. Reardon.

Jack Connors chairs the Campaign for Catholic Schools, which has raised nearly $60 million for major capital and program improvements in local Catholic schools. He called the incident an unfortunate aberration and said he was not concerned that it would discourage corporate donors.

“But,’’ he said, “I am disappointed that . . . this faith that I love seems to find new ways to shoot itself in the foot.’’

The archdiocese moved swiftly yesterday to clarify its policy and show support for the family. Mary Grassa O’Neill, superintendent of schools for the archdiocese, issued a statement saying that the church does not prohibit children of same-sex parents from attending Catholic schools and that the archdiocese will “work in the coming weeks to develop a policy to eliminate any misunderstandings in the future.’’

She added that she contacted one of the boy’s mothers yesterday morning to express concern and to offer to help place him in another Catholic school.

“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,’’ the statement said.

Grassa O’Neill did note, however, that Catholic schools “welcome children based on their parent’s understanding that the teachings of the Church are an important component of the curriculum and are part of the students’ educational experience.’’ The Catholic Church opposes homosexual marriage and considers the practice of homosexuality immoral; however, it supports the provision of pastoral care for gays and lesbians.

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley was in Portugal yesterday with Pope Benedict XVI, who decried same-sex marriage in a speech there. A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston said O’Malley was consulted about the Hingham school controversy and Grassa O’Neill’s statement.

The parents could not be reached for comment yesterday. One of the parents spoke to the Associated Press on Wednesday on the condition of anonymity because of concern about how the publicity would affect her son. The mother told the wire service that the pastor of St. Paul’s parish, the Rev. James F. Rafferty, and the principal of St. Paul’s School, Cynthia L. Duggan, rescinded their offer of admission to the child in a conference call Monday.

She told the AP that she and her partner had attended an open house at the school in February and that they had written both of their names on the application forms.

C.J. Doyle, executive director of Catholic Action League of Massachusetts, called upon the archdiocese to “vigorously defend’’ the school’s decision to revoke admission to the youngster.

“The real question here is why two people who radically repudiate the moral teachings of Catholicism would want their child educated in a Catholic school,’’ Doyle said in a statement.

“It would seem that they are either looking for an excuse to litigate or an opportunity to embarrass the church in the court of public opinion.’’

But Jarrett T. Barrios, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and a former state legislator, said he is very pleased with the Catholic school his son attends.

“I send my child to a Catholic school where they know that my son has two dads and where the principal told me the founding principle of this school is the central tenet of the teachings of Jesus Christ, and that is love,’’ he said.

Marianne Duddy-Burke — executive director of DignityUSA, a Boston-based advocacy group for gay Catholics — also praised the archdiocese for its actions yesterday, but she said she hoped that the church would revisit its position on homosexuality and gay marriage.

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