An eight-year-old boy’s acceptance to a Roman Catholic school in Hingham, Massachusetts was withdrawn this week after it was learned that his parents are lesbians.
The family learned their son’s acceptance to Saint Paul Elementary was rescinded during a conference call with Principal Cynthia Duggan and the parish priest, the Rev. James Rafferty on Monday.
Responding quickly to the growing controversy the Archdiocese of Boston said yesterday that the school administrators were not following archdiocesan policy in barring the boy from matriculating.
Terry Donilon, director of communications for the Archdiocese, told the press that the archdiocese is now in consultation with the pastor and principal to gather more information.
On Monday, Rev. Rafferty and the school’s principal Cynthia Duggan informed the third-grader’s parents that he would be denied admission because their relationship is in discord with church teachings.
‘We weren’t hiding our relationship,’ one of the boy’s mothers, who requested her anonymity be honored to protect the child, told the press. Both she and her partner had listed their names on their son’s admission forms. ‘I’m accustomed to discrimination, I suppose, at my age and my experience as a gay woman. But I didn’t expect it against my child.’
The woman added that both she and her partner had filled out their names during the application process, which asked for the names of parents rather than mother and father, and they had attended an open house together at the school in February.
In subsequent months they paid their deposit and received the school uniform order forms. But the process changed last week when the two women were visited by Rev. Rafferty to discuss their son’s religious education. At the meeting Rev. Rafferty asked searching questions about their relationship to each other.
A few days later, Rafferty and Duggan called with their decision. While Massachusetts does have laws barring discrimination based on sexual orientation in schools, these laws apply only to public schools.
State Representative Garrett J. Bradley, who grew up in the Saint Paul parish, was outraged by the school’s decision and told the press: ‘These parents thought enough of Saint Paul’s to want to send their child there; Saint Paul’s thought enough of their child to admit him,’ Bradley said.
‘For the school to then discriminate against him and withdraw his acceptance because of their sexual orientation is not only inappropriate, but mind-blowing, Shame on St. Paul’s, and shame on us as a community if we allow it.’
The school’s decision to refuse entry to the boy is not the first time this year a child has been turned away by a Catholic school when it was discovered their parents were gay. Last month in Boulder, Colorado the Sacred Heart of Jesus School denied entry to a prekindergarten student because the child’s parents were discovered to be lesbians.
After the Colorado decision was taken the Denver Archdiocese posted a strongly worded statement in support of the school, prompting an outcry from gay advocacy groups who took full-page ads in local newspapers in protest.
On Wednesday the Hingham boy’s mother said that her son might now attend public school in the fall, as it may be too late to get him admitted to another private school. Although she and her partner don’t regularly attend church, they do identify as Christians and wanted their child’s education to emphasize spiritual values, such as empathy and compassion, she said.
Massachusetts was the first state to legalize gay marriage in 2004, a move strongly opposed by the Church. The woman, who is not married to her partner, said she didn't expect the church to approve of her relationship but didn’t think it should affect her son’s education.
‘We’re not trying to change the way Saint Paul’s does their business, or change people’s beliefs,’ she said. ‘We wanted a good education for our child.’
Saint Paul’s School’s annual tuition is $3,975 for families who are members of St. Paul parish and $4,175 for non-members. Duggan and Rev. Rafferty couldn’t be reached for comment on the issue.