A True Catholic Education (I'm Looking at You, Denver)

05/10/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A preschooler in Boulder, Colorado, has been refused re-admittance to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic School because the child's parents being a lesbian couple. The Archdiocese of Denver issued this statement amid the controversy:

To preserve the mission of our schools, and to respect the faith of the wider Catholic community, we expect all families who enroll students to live in accord with Catholic teaching. Parents living in open discord with Catholic teaching in areas of faith and morals unfortunately choose by their actions to disqualify their children from enrollment.

As a Catholic who attended Catholic schools at St. Augustine Elementary and Hackett Catholic Central High School in Kalamazoo, Michigan, I feel I'm qualified to throw my two cents into the situation, and I've noticed an alarming trend in Catholic education: the decline of tolerance and critical thinking skills as a focal point. At the Catholic schools I attended, the top priority was to teach students how to approach the world critically while simultaneously learning the tenants of the Catholic faith. In fact, the development of critical thinking skills was so important that it was one of the first things mentioned in my school's mission statement. We were taught to question - to believe with our hearts and minds, not simply to follow instruction blindly.

Throughout my Catholic educational career, our schools were also blessed with a wide range of diversity. We had a Muslim student who would routinely get up in the middle of class to pray facing east. We had a Jewish student who was very popular, and I often heard students jokingly ask for her help in our religion class considering she was an "expert on the Old Testament." One of my closer friends in high school was an atheist, as was the rest of his family. All of these students fit in, were well-respected, and were well-liked. No one ever once questioned their right to be a part of our school. In fact, our year-end religion project was to give a 45-minute presentation on another major world religion. Tolerance was just as much a part of my Catholic education as going to Mass every week.

The critical thinking skills we learned mean the world to me, though I'm sure the effort pained every teacher who taught at a Catholic school in Kalamazoo. The fruits of those lessons allowed me to see my fair share of the principal's office as a child. I learned that asking, "Who is Hosanna and why is she high?" wasn't a topic of importance in religion class. I learned that refusing to get down on one knee to kiss a visiting bishop's ring and calling your act of defiance your "American individualist spirit" wasn't enough to prevent you from getting into trouble. I learned that accusing your high school religion teacher of having an agenda for skipping over the World War II era in your Church History class, and not discussing the Vatican's blind eye toward the Holocaust, will lead to threats of demerits and a comment that he's "this close to falling off the wagon."

The Catholic education I received made me the person I am today, and I can never thank my parents enough for sacrificing their hard-earned money to send me to the best schools in all of Kalamazoo. And with that in mind, I have a message of my own to the Archdiocese of Denver: you're wrong. Dead wrong. Punishing a child for the "sin" of the parents is immoral, unethical, and flat-out childish, especially when the Vatican was recently hit with its own gay sex scandal less than a week ago. And I can say with confidence that you're wrong, thanks to the quality Catholic education I received.

It's a shame the preschooler in question will never get the same opportunity, though you at least provided the child with a crash-course on how cruel and unfair the world can be.