8-Year Old Boy Kicked Out of Catholic School Because He Has Lesbian Moms

By Dan Aiello, May, 17, 2010

An 8-year old Catholic boy became the latest casualty in his church's war against same-sex marriage when the third-grader was kicked out of his Massachusetts elementary school after administrators learned his parents are lesbians.

Administrators of St. Paul Elementary, a private Roman Diocese Catholic school in Hingham, Massachusetts, withdrew the student's admission this week after they learned the boy's parents are lesbians.

"We weren’t hiding," stated one of the mothers of the boy, who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect her son from further harm, according the Massachusetts LGBT publication, Bay Windows. She confirmed both parents listed their names on their son’s admission forms. "I’m accustomed to discrimination, I suppose, at my age and my experience as a gay woman, but I didn’t expect it against my child."

It is not the Church leadership's first act opposing marriage equality that involved children as collateral damage. According to the LGBT-equal rights organization, Human Rights Campaign, two pre-schoolers were expelled from another Catholic elementary school in Boulder, Colorado in March.

According to the Associated Press, in the Colorado case the Denver Archdiocese posted a statement in support of the Sacred Heart of Jesus school’s decision, prompting LGBT advocacy groups to take out a full-page ads in local newspapers in protest.

The lesbian parents in Colorado defended their faith, differentiating the more recent conservative actions of Church leadership from the core beliefs of the Catholic faith, including sanctity of human life, compassion towards others, forgiveness and redemption. 

In Washington, D.C., the Catholic Archdiocese made the decision to shut down the church's orphanage in protest over the city's Marriage Equality ordinance adopted early this year. The closure affected hundreds of adolescent, mostly minority, children.

Similar discrimination against children of gay parents is routine within the Boy Scouts of America organization.

On May 12, the Archdiocese of Boston, however, appeared to distance itself from the school's action with a public statement that school administrators were not following archdiocesan policy or any specific directive in expelling the boy. 

The boy's mothers confirmed their son already had been christened - a ritualized acceptance and indoctrination - into what Catholics often call, the 'Mother' church, or Catholic faith. 

Terrence Donilon, a spokesman for the Archdiocese, told the Associated Press that the archdiocese is now in "consultation with the pastor and principal to gather more information."

"Has the Church hierarchy apologized," asked Harry Knox, Director of HRC's Religion and Faith outreach program. "No. Have they come out and said it was wrong to target the children of LGBT families? No. Have they said that they won't discriminate against LGBT families in the future? Not one bit," stated Knox. 

"We understand that our constitution protects the right of religious institutions to make decisions that may be inconsistent with state nondiscrimination laws," said Knox, "but that doesn't make it right. The Golden Rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, should apply to us all." 

Massachusetts was the first state to afford legal marriage to same-sex couples and the state has had to endure multiple challenges to the law from fundamentalist religious organizations, though the primary source of the legal, political and social challenges have been from the Catholic and Mormon faiths. 

Catholics comprise 44 percent of the Massachusetts population, though the state's generally liberal politics often seem at odds with the Catholic Church's increasingly conservative social and political positions. 

CNN reported Friday that progressive Catholic groups are outraged.

"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," said Patrick Whelan, president of Catholic Democrats, in a statement Friday.

Laws affording protections to gay and lesbian Americans often provide immunity to religious organizations. In fact, many of the laws enacted to protect homosexuals from discrimination were passed only after compromise "religious right to discriminate" clauses were added to the law, effectively codifying the right of religious organizations to openly discriminate against homosexuals and marriage equality, an exception often unique to LGBT equality or anti-discrimination law.

During a conference call with parish priest Rev. James Rafferty and principal Cynthia Duggan, the third-grader’s parents learned that he would be denied admission because their relationship is "in discord" with church teachings.

Joe Frescatore, 47, an educator in one of California's public school systems who also claims identity as Catholic and a legally married California gay man, [Mr. Frescatore responded in a phone interview May 15th to California Progress Report in an interview regarding homosexuality and the Catholic Church, however, Frescatore noted that some of his comments are from his earlier phone interviews, which is not being disputed by the author, including what he sees as another misguided effort of Church leaders involving children.

"I don't necessarily love the church anymore, but I still love what I get from the church," he told California Progress Report. Frescatore says he still attends mass every Sunday morning at a parish "nearby" to his house.

"I was raised in the Catholic Church, it's what I know," said Frescatore. "I don't agree with a lot of the decisions made by the bishops, but the Church, at one time at least, did a lot of good for the poor in this country and that is the part of the church I still love." 

Much of Frescatore's affection for his faith is rooted in the selfless acts of priests and nuns during civil war in South America and Africa, he claims, though he admits such deeds seem to have been largely replaced by conservative political positions of the Church that he says he's "detached" from. 

"What a lot of people don't realize with this recent anti-gay direction of Church leaders," Frescatore told CPR, "is that the Catholic Church once embraced gay and lesbian Catholics." 

Frescatore confirmed that the gay and lesbian organization know called DignityUSA, was started "in the Church [in Los Angeles]," in 1969. The group was later expelled from the Church under the direction of Pope John Paul II in 1985.

Frescatore says that while he goes to mass every Sunday, he does not feel so welcome in the church that he would socialize in the parish. "It's why I go to the 7 a.m. mass," he said.

It was just last month that the decades-long sexual abuse scandal plaguing the Church appeared to indict the Church's current leader, Pope Benedict XVi. At the core of the Catholic faith is the belief in forgiveness and redemption, which many religious scholars believe helped direct, some believe misdirect, church policy toward pedophile priests.

The Roman Catholic Church of the United States has 68 million baptized members, representing 22 percent of the U.S. population. 

The U.S. branch of the worldwide Catholic church is centrally controlled through the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, located in Washington, D.C., while the Church's many parishes are overseen regionally by 195 Dioceses, none of which were claiming responsibility for the boy's expulsion last week.

(This article first appeared at California Progress Report )

Dan Aiello is a freelance writer for the California Progress Report, Outword, the Bay Area Reporter and other papers.


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