In my town, a preschool child has been expelled from Sacred Heart School, not for behavior or because payment is remiss, but because the child's parents are lesbian. This turns out to be the gravest offense, according to the Denver Archdiocese and the pastor of the church, Father Bill. "Same-sex attraction" is not in line with the teachings of the Catholic church, and therefore Father Bill has chosen to be a "disciple of the church" over being loving and accepting of a child parented by a same-sex couple. He further defends the decision as a means "to protect the child and his or her parents from the necessary conflict that their relationship would bring to a clear-seeing and committed Catholic community."
What about divorce -- also against Catholic teachings -- asked some church members? Father Bill justifies the acceptance of children of divorced parents because, "People who are divorced do not say divorce is good. There are no pro-divorce parades. Divorce is a tragedy for everybody." He says "There's no comparing other issues to the issue of gay marriage." He does not mention that being gay is not a choice while most other decisions like divorce are a choice. And while I do not know or speak for the couple, I'm quite sure there were only asking to send their child to a well-respected preschool, not launch a covert operation to change church doctrine on gay marriage.
As I sit in the church pew with dropped jaw, Father Bill mentions that the lesbian couple have traditionally come to the 10 o'clock mass and he is not sure if they are there today. Clearly, it's been okay for them to come to mass, but it is not okay for their child to get a Catholic education, a choice the parents made for the child. I envision Jesus stepping forward and interrupting Father Bill with a gentle hand on his shoulder saying, "With all due respect, you've gone too far."
When the sermon is finished, I leave the church with my companion who recognizes this rationalization for discrimination; he witnessed it first-hand growing up African American. We rejoin the crowd of about forty self-organized citizens who have been standing adjacent to the church holding a sign that reads, "Teach Acceptance, Celebrate All God's Children."
Others from the congregation begin to come up to us and speak of their sadness regarding the Archdiocese's decision. One parent is hoping to encourage fellow Sacred Heart families to withhold their Sunday donation in protest by placing a voided check in the church collection. A kind man chooses to stand with us. He broke into tears during the sermon and had to leave early, recounting his sister and her partner choosing to raise a child in a loving home, a child that was sadly abused by a heterosexual couple. One woman who came to express her support half-jokingly said, "I'll probably be excommunicated."
Not everyone was opposed to the decision to expel the child from preschool. One man told me that as a former Catholic, my opinion did not count here and that I would not be accepted into God's kingdom -- I would not be going to heaven. My only response: "God bless you."
To read Father Bill's Sunday sermon, visit his blog.