Children and Schools
Life is messy. Archbishop Chaput has made a federal case, to use an expression, out of a situation in a parish school. Supporters of the Archbishop have argued that scandal has been created by the school accepting the children of a lesbian couple as students. Critics have noted the real and publicly knowledgeable sins of other parents such as invalid marriages, at least in the abstract although neither I nor you as the reader should have doubt over their representation, and they have noted that the school accepts non-Catholic children. The lesbian parents have not spoken publicly at this point and have stated their intention not to do so.
To address one of the more peripheral issues first, I would like to see a case where people who claim to be scandalized are the ones staying quiet and refusing to participate in having their issue adjudicated in the media. That some lay person somewhere is stating or acting incorrectly isn’t a cause to run to the media or demand a pastor or a bishop run to a microphone or issue a press release. We should afterall be vigilant to not be scandal mongering. No, it isn’t just a matter of what the sinner did is wrong; it is the case that person’s confrontation with sin isn’t always your business. Addressing someone else’s sins is an exercise in prudence, not some absolute right. And the goal of such correction is not the edification of oneself, but the desire to see the one corrected become reformed. And while I don’t have personal knowledge of this particular case, I would place my bets that the reason this issue has become widely known is not the lesbian parents making demands or doing ostentatious actions, but rather some folks making it their business that everyone become aware of the fact the kids are in a household headed by lesbians. This kind of stuff doesn’t make the lives of parish and diocesan officials easier.
As to the substance, I’m not seeing the bright line others are seeing. I think the parish’s and ultimately Archbishop Chaput’s actions are defensible. If they would have gone the other way, their actions would have been defensible as well. Archbishop Chaput is certainly correct in stating that Catholic schools were primarily established for the benefit and enrichment of Catholic children. They also do have a secondary purpose as a missionary witness in the world. These purposes should not conflict, but if one is to suffer, the latter would be the one that must cede. I understand Archbishop Chaput to be arguing that providing this witness to children in gay households provides too great a harm to the primary mission of Catholic schools. Specifically, he notes the contradiction present with regard to children from single parent households and children from non-Catholic and even non-Christian households. I do not believe he makes the case convincingly that these households support the Catholic mission whereas a homosexual household cannot. This is not because I don’t believe any argument can be made supporting exclusion, because I do think such an argument could be made. Despite many protestations otherwise, there is nothing wrong with treating the children as if they lack their own agency. Traditionally, children could not be entered into the church against the will of their parents until they had reached the age of majority. Whether that age should be 12 or 18 doesn’t matter in this case, because it certainly isn’t 4 or 5. Jews that were protected during WWII were not allowed (with exceptions here and there) to enter the Church on their own volition until they had the competence to do so.
I think I grew tired of the cultural wars, because people never wanted to focus on real problems. They always wanted to focus on symptoms. Divorce has done far more harm to the institution of the family than any of the trifles we discuss now. While legitimate concerns, a decent chunk of the Same Sex Marriage debate seems to involve wills and estates and visitation rights. As I said, those concerns are certainly legitimate, even if the ultimate answer is to leave them to be addressed personally. This isn’t what the institution of the family is about though. When we look to Catholic schools, the problem is also much larger. The natural question arises, “Why would a parent send their children to be educated in a place that finds the parent’s values inimical?” While we can throw some window dressing up, the overwhelming conclusion should be that parents don’t actually see such a threat. In many Catholic schools, the only radical witness children will see is that of middle to upper class yuppie-dom. Thankfully, I’m impoverished enough that I don’t have to concern myself with that.