About 1,000 people have signed a petition asking a Roman Catholic elementary school in Kansas to “prayerfully reconsider” its decision to deny a kindergarten student with same-sex parents a place at the school.
“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 marriage,” the petition, dated March 1, states.
The petition was sent “on behalf of members of St. Ann Parish and School” in Prairie Village, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City, to the school’s superintendent, Kathy O’Hara, and Kansas City Archbishop Joseph Naumann. About half of the people who signed the petition are St. Ann members, The Associated Press reported.
Many St. Ann parents first learned of the enrollment decision last week, when the school’s pastor, the Rev. Craig J. Maxim, sent a letter home to families, according to The Kansas City Star.
In his letter, Maxim said he had sought the advice of the archdiocese regarding whether to admit the kindergartener with gay parents. The archdiocese, he explained, advised against it because “same-sex unions are not in conformance with the Church’s teaching on sacramental marriage,” and “the parents cannot model behaviors and attitudes consistent with the Church’s teachings.”
The Archdiocese of Kansas City, in a statement published by The Kansas City Star, noted that while same-sex marriage is now legal across the U.S., the church’s position has not changed.
“We do not feel it is respectful of such individuals, nor is it fair, loving or compassionate to place their children in an educational environment where the values of the parents and the core principles of the school conflict," the archdiocese said of same-sex couples.
The petition signatories, however, argue that St. Ann has already accepted students whose parents’ marriages are not consistent with the church’s ideas of traditional marriage. Such students include those born via in vitro fertilization and those whose parents are divorced. They also mention that St. Ann accepts non-Catholic students and their families.
“We recognize the complexities of morality, politics and theology in modern times,” the petition states. “We hope that you can recognize what may seem to be the shifting of values as actually the welcoming of tolerance, love, understanding and mercy.”
Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, a Catholic LGBTQ advocacy organization, said that while Catholic school policies vary throughout the U.S., St. Ann is not an outlier in rejecting students with same-sex parents.
Some schools welcome children with same-sex parents, some schools don’t and others have more nuanced policies, according to Duddy-Burke. She provided an example where a school mandates that parents — both gay and straight — “have to agree that if their children attend Catholic school, they’ll be taught that same-sex marriage is prohibited by the church.”
“They don’t outrightly ban those students,” she said of kids with same-sex parents,” but their parents have to sign a paper that their children will be taught their marriage is a sin.”
A 2017 Pew Research study found that 67 percent of U.S. Catholics support same-sex marriage. This data, Duddy-Burke said, underscores the growing divide between parishioners and church leaders.
“As millennials age, the majority of the people in the church are inclusive of all kinds of families,” Duddy-Burke said. “But church leaders are stuck in a mentality that’s not recognizable and outdated. If the church wants to continue to have viable ministries, it has to come to terms with how people, especially people of faith, are living.”
CORRECTION (March 7, 2019, 6 p.m.): A previous version of this story misstated the location of St. Ann's. It is in Prairie Village, Kansas, not Kansas City, Kansas.