On May 15, the spokesperson for Visitation said that the school administration was "deeply troubled" by the concerns expressed by parents to CNA.
"It is offensive to us, it is not who were are at all." The spokes person told CNA that the school had an "open door policy" on the issue and "welcomed conversation."
"We have responded personally to every single individual who brought forth a concern."
The spokesperson also clarified that on "diversity day" students were encouraged to complete anonymously a survey about various aspects of their own identity and background.
The responses are redistributed to the students at random and they are asked as a body to stand up according to their randomly assigned answers to illustrate the diversity of the school community.
"Its a way of helping people understand how diverse our community is without anyone having to come forward and expose a vulnerable part of themselves," the spokesperson explained.
"No one at any time is asked to embody a persona of being homosexual."
The same parents were also quick to insist that much of the school’s religious education and other programs are faithful to Catholic teaching.
“My daughter was taught the Theology of the Body, sound pro-life teaching, exactly what you would want in a Catholic school,” one mother said. “I think there is a minority among the faculty and staff that have gradually taken over parts of the school community and are just really committed to a very politically progressive agenda.”
The Washington Post also reported May 13 that the Archdiocese of Washington said it had not been informed or consulted before Visitation’s decision was made and the email was sent.
While the school is not directly affiliated with the archdiocese, the archdiocese is responsible for ensuring independent Catholic schools maintain their Catholic identity, and is charged with providing advice and guidance on matters related to Church teaching.
An email circulated by school spokesperson Caroline Handorf to the school community May 13 said that representatives from the archdiocese had been informed of the decision.
“We have been in touch with several contacts in the Archdiocese, including Bishop Michael Fisher, to ensure that we are aligned as we move forward and they are assured of our continued commitment to our Catholic identity and to the teachings of the Church,” Handorf wrote.
An archdiocesan spokesman told CNA May 14 that the archdiocese “was not made aware of the discussion on Catholic identity or the recent decision of the school to communicate the change for their alumni publication until after the letter announcing the decision was distributed to the wider Georgetown Visitation community.”
The archdiocesan spokesman also told CNA that Bishop Fisher had not been contacted prior to the email’s circulation.
On May 15, Handorf told CNA that "I can't speak for the archdiocese, but I can say we have been in touch with them and our goal is to work with them as we move forward and remain committed to our Catholic identity."
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” are “objectively disordered” and constitute a trial for those who experience them.
People who experience same-sex attraction must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity, the Church says, and “every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”
Successive popes have condemned the move towards civil recognition of same-sex unions by the state and expressed their concern that the concept undermines the natural law of the family and marriage, which is between a man and a woman.
Pope Francis has spoken about a state of “critical confusion at the moment” regarding marriage and gender in the world, observing that the word “marriage” can never be used to describe same-sex unions.
Speaking about the essential nature of marriage as between a man and a woman, Francis said in 2017 that “we cannot change it.”
“This is the nature of things,” the pope said, while observing that “we do not joke around with truth.”
Georgetown Visitation was founded in 1799, and is the oldest Catholic high school for girls in the United States. Tuition is $30,100. Approximately 500 students are enrolled in the school.
This story was updated May 15 following responses recieved from a spokesperson for Georgetown Visitation.