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Philly Catholic Schools Ask Parents to Pledge Faithfulness

Philly Catholic Schools Ask Parents to Pledge Faithfulness

Archbishop Chaput

The archdiocese calls on parents to promise they'll uphold church doctrine — a potential problem for LGBT Catholics and allies.

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The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia is requiring parents of children in schools within the diocese to sign a document promising to support the schools' "Catholic identity" -- something that may conflict with parents' feelings about LGBT rights.

Catholic schools "are not simply private schools offering a positive moral code," reads the document, posted online by Philadelphia magazine. "Rather, they exist to advance the faith mission of the sponsoring Catholic parish(es), Archdiocese, or Catholic religious community." It emphasizes that attendance at Catholic schools is "a privilege, not a right," and that parents must uphold Catholic doctrine.

News of the document comes shortly after the firing of a lesbian teacher from a suburban Philly Catholic school, Waldron Mercy Academy. Margie Winters was a well-liked religion teacher who had been married to a woman for her entire eight-year tenure at the academy. Administrators knew of her marriage and instructed her not to discuss it with students or parents. She went along with that instruction, but some parents learned of her marriage and complained, and she was fired in June.

Archdiocesan spokesman Kenneth Gavin told Philadelphia's Inquirer the document was not a response to Winters's firing, as it was being developed long before. He also noted that Waldron Mercy is run by a Catholic religious order, the Sisters of Mercy, not by the archdiocese.

However, some of Winters's supporters have said they believe Archbishop Charles J. Chaput (pictured above) may have influenced school administrators' decision, something archdiocesan officials have denied.

Winters's supporters are numerous -- 23,000 of them signed a Faithful America petition calling for her reinstatement. Boxes containing the signed petitions were delivered to the archdiocese in August.

One parent, Cathy Davis, told The Inquirer all three of her daughters had attended Waldron Mercy and admired Winters. They "knew what a beautiful person she was, and I couldn't let them see she got fired because of her orientation," Davis said. She withdrew her youngest daughter from the school and is sending her to another Catholic school now.

Davis said she will most likely sign the pledge when her daughter's new school presents it, but she wants to see the school enforce all Catholic teachings equally. She said there were other gay teachers at Waldron Mercy as well as teachers who have been divorced -- something else the Catholic Church frowns on. "The anger can't be selective on what they are going to accept and not accept," she told the paper.

Gavin said he's not sure the Philadelphia archdiocese had ever required such a pledge before, but he noted that other Catholic dioceses around the nation have. The Diocese of Springfield, Ill., introduced one this year, partly in response to a gay couple's application to send a child to a diocesan school. The diocese's schools reportedly won't necessarily reject children of gay parents, but they may well teach the children their parents are sinful. Also, teachers in Catholic schools in various cities and states have been asked to sign similar pledges about adhering to church teachings, at a time when several teachers have been fired for entering into same-sex marriages.

News of the pledge also comes shortly before Pope Francis's visit to Philadelphia. The pontiff will be in Philly for the World Meeting of Families, to be held September 26-27.

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Trudy Ring

Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.
Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.