A group of parents and parishioners has accused the Orange County, Calif., diocese of violating church doctrine by allowing a gay couple to enroll their children in a Catholic school. The group demanded last month that St. John the Baptist School in Costa Mesa accept only families that pledge to abide by Catholic teachings. That would likely bar the men's two adopted boys from attending the school's kindergarten because of church opposition to relationships and adoption by same-sex couples. "This is not a radical or mean-spirited approach to Catholic education," the group told the school in a letter reviewed by the Los Angeles Times. "It is a straightforward assurance to any prospective parent that their child will be taught the fullness of Roman Catholic doctrine."
School officials, however, rejected demands for a parental covenant last week and issued a new policy stating that a family's background "does not constitute an absolute obstacle to enrollment in the school." "I firmly believe that this policy is in line with the teaching of the Catholic Church," the Reverend Martin Benzoni, who oversees the 550-student elementary and middle school, told the Times.
The Reverend Gerald M. Horan, superintendent of schools operated by the diocese, suggested that hewing too closely to Catholic beliefs would mean barring children whose parents have divorced, used birth control, or married outside the church. "This is the quagmire that the parents' position represents," Horan said. "It's a slippery slope to go down." The boys' fathers, who enrolled their children at the beginning of the school year, declined to comment to the Times.
The decision outraged some parents, with several promising to ask the Vatican to intervene and threatening to switch schools. "The teachings of the church seem to have been abandoned," said parent John R. Nixon. "We send our children to a Catholic school because we expect and demand that the teachings of our church will be adhered to. If our Catholic school is no longer teaching and living Catholic doctrine, we might as well send our children to public schools." Others worried the boys' attendance would set a precedent, portraying it as part of a larger effort by the gay community to change church strictures. "The boys are being used as pawns by these men to further their agenda," said Monica Sii, who has four children at the school.
At least a handful of similar disputes have occurred around the country, according to the Reverend Jim Schexnayder of the National Association of Catholic Diocesan Lesbian and Gay Ministries. In Oregon, a lesbian couple has sued a Catholic school that rejected their daughter.
Some parents backed the school's position. "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone," said Katie Flores, whose daughter is a classmate of the boys. Even so, the group of parents planned to continue pressing their demands. "We're taking a stand for the faith," said parent Ken Stashik. "This is much
larger than what's going on in a small Catholic school in a small town."