Denver news media have reported in recent days on the case of two
children of a lesbian couple in Boulder. The couple was informed by
Sacred Heart of Jesus parish school that the older child, whom they were
enrolling in kindergarten for next year, would be allowed to attend
kindergarten but would not be able to continue into first grade the year
after. Their younger child would be welcome to finish preschool, but not
continue into kindergarten. Many have wondered why. Sacred Heart of
Jesus parish has borne the difficult publicity surrounding this issue,
but archdiocesan policy was followed faithfully in this matter, and the
policy applies to all Archdiocese of Denver schools.
Some background is important. Then we’ll turn to the human realities
Catholic schools began in this country in the early 19th century.
Catholics started them as an alternative to the public schools of the
day, which taught a curriculum often hostile to Catholic belief. In many
ways times have changed, but the mission of Catholic schools has not.
The main purpose of Catholic schools is religious; in other words, to
form students in Catholic faith, Catholic morality and Catholic social
We take great pride in the academic excellence of our schools as well.
The reason is simple. A strong, well-rounded academic education helps to
create mature citizens who contribute to the wider community. It’s also
true that some of our schools exist as a service outreach in largely
non-Catholic communities. Many of our schools also accept students of
other faiths and no faith, and from single parent and divorced parent
families. These students are always welcome so long as their parents
support the Catholic mission of the school and do not offer a serious
counter-witness to that mission in their actions.
Our schools, however, exist primarily to serve Catholic families with an
education shaped by Catholic faith and moral formation. This is common
sense. Other religious traditions do the same according to their
beliefs, and at a heavy sacrifice. We need to remember that Catholic
families pay twice for a Catholic education: through their taxes, they
fund public education; then they pay again to send their children to a
Catholic school. The idea that Catholic schools should require support
for Catholic teaching for admission, and a serious effort from school
families to live their Catholic identity faithfully, is reasonable and
That’s the background. Now to the human side of a painful situation. The
Church never looks for reasons to turn anyone away from a Catholic
education. But the Church can’t change her moral beliefs without
undermining her mission and failing to serve the many families who
believe in that mission. If Catholics take their faith seriously, they
naturally follow the teachings of the Church in matters of faith and
morals; otherwise they take themselves outside the believing community.
The Church does not claim that people with a homosexual orientation are
“bad,” or that their children are less loved by God. Quite the opposite.
But what the Church does teach is 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. These beliefs are
central to a Catholic understanding of human nature, family and
happiness, and the organization of society. The Church cannot change
these teachings because, in the faith of Catholics, they are the
teachings of Jesus Christ.
The policies of our Catholic school system exist to protect all parties
involved, including the children of homosexual couples and the couples
themselves. Our schools are meant to be “partners in faith” with
parents. If parents don’t respect the beliefs of the Church, or live in
a manner that openly rejects those beliefs, then partnering with those
parents becomes very difficult, if not impossible. It also places unfair
stress on the children, who find themselves caught in the middle, and on
their teachers, who have an obligation to teach the authentic faith of
Most parents who send their children to Catholic schools want an
environment where the Catholic faith is fully taught and practiced. That
simply can’t be done if teachers need to worry about wounding the
feelings of their students or about alienating students from their
parents. That isn’t fair to anyone—including the wider school community.
Persons who have an understanding of marriage and family life sharply
different from Catholic belief are often people of sincerity and good
will. They have other, excellent options for education and should see in
them the better course for their children.
From the Archbishop's
Column, 10 March 2010, in the Denver Catholic Register
Used with permission from the Archdiocese of Denver