St. Paul Elementary School in Hingham, Mass. rescinded its acceptance of the 8-year-old son of lesbian parents , telling one of the child’s mothers that her relationship “was in discord with the teachings of the Catholic Church,” which holds marriage is only between a man and woman,” according to the New York Times . That’s not surprising to most of us and can’t have come as a shock to the mother receiving the news. But it stuck with me, not so much because of the school’s response, but because of the mother’s. Here was a person who’d decided that sending her son to a school that might tell him that his loving family was a sin against God would be somehow worth it. Who wouldn’t follow that up by asking why?
I assumed an activist stance and waited for a description of upcoming protests or news conferences along the lines of the protest and lawsuit that followed a similar refusal to admit a child in Eugene, Ore., but I was wrong. The mother retained her anonymity and that of her child and simply expressed her disappointment that what she’d seen as the best possible educational opportunity wouldn’t be available to her son. As far as the question of her sexuality, she said “There are many different nontraditional families that fall under the umbrella of the Catholic Church, and I guess we assumed we would fall under one of those.”
This wasn’t an activist parent but rather one who apparently thought this particular battle had already been fought to a draw. Her turning of the other cheek did seem to shame school officials, and the head of education for the Boston Archdiocese, Mary Grassa O’Neil, said that the diocese doesn’t bar children of same-sex parents from attending Catholic schools and offered to help find another Catholic school for the third-grader (whose mother is undecided). O’Neil did add that parents should understand that “the teachings of the Church are an important component of the curriculum and are part of the students’ educational experience.”
In other words, send your child-but don’t expect us to moderate our lessons on his behalf. That said, some teachers still might. Vienna cardinal Christoph Schonborn recently said that the Catholic Church needed to reexamine its position on divorced catholics and added that “lasting gay relationships deserve respect .” While he may appear to be in a minority, his words are a reminder that at every level, any church and any religion is composed of people, not doctrine-and people don’t always conform to their molds. One mother was willing to let her son observe how all of that plays out. More of us, caught up as we often are in the public posturing that sometimes surrounds religion and education in this country, should follow her example. Forget finding a school that precisely conforms to your personal philosophy of life and just find a school that will either teach-or force-your kid to think one out for himself.
Photograph by Jeff Fusco/Getty Images.