Boston archdiocese releases non-discrimination policy after school admittance controversy

Boston archdiocese releases non-discrimination policy after school admittance controversy


The Archdiocese of Boston has created a new Catholic schools admission policy in the wake of a controversy over a homosexual couple who tried to register their child for a Catholic school and were denied. The policy says schools must not “discriminate or exclude any categories of students,” while acknowledging the autonomy of local parish and school officials.

The new policy does not define what is considered to be a category of students, The Boston Pilot reports.

Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley pledged to create a new policy after a May 2010 incident in which a Catholic school in Hingham rescinded the acceptance of the child of a lesbian couple.

St. Paul Elementary school principal Cynthia Duggen and parish priest Fr. James Rafferty told one of the child’s parents that the boy could not attend because the couple’s relationship was “in discord with the teachings of the Catholic Church” which state that marriage can only takes place between one man and one woman.

Archdiocesan officials reacted negatively to the decision but there was no specific policy covering the situation.

The archdiocese’s Secretary for Education Mary Grassa O’Neill commented on the new policy.

"Our schools welcome, and they don't discriminate against any categories of students," she said. "It covers all categories of students."

Fr. Richard Erikson, vicar general and moderator of the curia, said Catholic education is “a treasure of the Church.”

“We want to share that as broadly as we can,” he added. “We will not exclude any category of child from our schools and we expect pastors will be in conformity with the decision.”

The policy says that its designers were guided by previous remarks of Pope Benedict XVI, canon law, and the U.S. bishops’ conference. A team of archdiocesan officials developed the policy. The team included the Presbyteral and Pastoral Councils and principals and pastors, including Fr. Rafferty.

Based on the principle of subsidiarity, which holds that decisions should be made at the lowest practical organizational level, the policy also maintains the rights of pastors, principals and other staff to develop admissions policies for their schools. Admission is dependent both on academic qualifications and the desire to promote “the best interest of the student,” the policy reads.

The archdiocese is encouraging schools to place their own admission policies in their handbooks and to provide prospective applicants with policy information before registering the child.

O’Neill said the new archdiocesan policy ensures Catholic schools are in line with federal non-discrimination standards. As legally sanctioned non-profit organizations, many of the archdiocese’s Catholic schools must sign a non-discrimination clause each year.

Fr. Erikson said the policy means parents enroll their child with the understanding that he or she will be taught the Catholic faith and will be required to participate in religious services that are part of the school’s curriculum.

Parents who enroll their children in Catholic schools should expect that their children “will be taught fully the Catholic faith,” he added.

Fr. Rafferty told the Pilot he welcomed “a clear policy to guide us in the important work of Catholic education.”

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