Saint Ann Catholic Church and School has reinvigorated debates about the relationship between the Catholic Church and the LGBTQ community after their leaders refused to admit an anonymous kindergartener because their parents are a same-sex couple.
The Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas released a statement defending the decision on the basis of adherence to the Catholic Church’s teachings.
“The challenge regarding same-sex couples and our Catholic schools is that same-sex parents cannot model behaviors and attitudes regarding marriage and sexual morality consistent with essential components of the Church’s teachings,” the Archdiocese expressed.
Contrary to popular belief, the Catechism of the Catholic Church does not teach that being gay or lesbian is a sin; they are considered beloved children of God like everyone else. However, the Catechism does determine sexual acts between people of the same gender to be “intrinsically disordered.”
“[T]he Archdiocese states that since same sex unions are not in conformance with the Church’s teachings on sacramental marriage and these unions have no current ability to bring their relationship into conformity, the parents cannot model behaviors and attitudes consistent with the Church’s teachings,” said St. Ann’s pastor, the Rev. Craig J. Maxim.
Maxim expressed unease about the family potentially causing confusion for Saint Ann’s students.
Angered families have expressed concern that this justification is a contradiction. They think that if the Catholic Church is most concerned with preaching love and morality, then surely a loving same-sex couple would set a better example than a troubled heterosexual one.
The Archdiocese’s statement was also criticized for not reflecting current scientific knowledge or even, arguably, the beliefs of the majority of its members.
“[Research] shows that children with gay and lesbian parents do not differ from children with heterosexual parents in their emotional development or in their relationships with peers and adults,” states a 2013 article from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
What does impact development is the quality of the relationship parents of any identity have with their child.
Little research has been done on how discrimination on the basis of familial sexual orientation may affect children, but according to UCLA, there is an observed relationship between discrimination in general and a higher risk of developing mental disorders. A child with a parent who suffers from a mental disorder is also more likely to exhibit symptoms of one themselves.
In the wake of the revelation of sexual abuse by clergy in Chile, one survivor who spoke of his sexuality was told by Pope Francis that God made him this way and loves him this way.
As of 2017, two-thirds of Catholics support same-sex marriage. Further support of the LGBTQ community is exhibited by an online petition started by Saint Ann families that has garnered over 1,000 signatures.
“Respectfully, we believe that the decision to deny a child of God access to such a wonderful community and education, based on the notion that his or her parent’s union is not in accordance with the Church’s teaching in Sacramental marriage, lacks the compassion and mercy of Christ’s message,” the petition states.
The letter further criticizes the Archdiocese’s statement by pointing out that the school has permitted students to attend Saint Ann’s if their parents are not Catholic or have strayed from its sacrament of marriage in other ways – including the practices of divorce, vasectomy and IVF treatments.
Allegedly, personal bias on the part of Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann is as much – or more – at fault for the exclusion of LGBTQ families as Catholic teachings. The Saint Ann decision also brings to light the bigger issue of the expansive power of bishops.
Bishops are the leaders of diocese and function in their relationship to the pope much like governors do the president. They control most funding, and schools and parishes must abide by their decisions. Consequently, if a priest were defy the bishop he would be excommunicated or defrocked.
The degree of this power means there is a high level of variance among different dioceses. According to New Ways Ministry, Kansas City, Missouri, is home to a number of LGBTQ friendly parishes and faith communities – including Guardian Angels, Holy Family, St. James and St. Francis Xavier.
Though Catholic schools are experiencing a decline in enrollment, they are still the most popular schools outside of the public system. Some Missouri Catholic schools have permitted students with same-sex parents to attend.
“There are some schools in our diocese in which there are kids from households with same-sex parents,” said Father Don Farnan, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish and School in the Northland. “And if I was made aware of that, to me it’s not something I would go and ask the Archdiocese, because I would view it a little bit differently. I would say it is our job to love. I mean, that’s the base of God… Welcoming is an important aspect of loving, having open arms, open hearts, open doors.”
There are 36 Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, but Farnan’s frankness is unique among his colleagues. When The Pitch reached out to local parishes to gauge other churches’ opinions, they were left without substantial responses. Instead, the reaction to Saint Ann’s admissions has come largely from media and members of the public.