Children Denied Catholic Schooling; Lesbian Couple Speaks Out: Mothers Talk with NCR in an Exclusive Interview

By Fox, Thomas C. | National Catholic Reporter, April 2, 2010 | Go to article overview

Children Denied Catholic Schooling; Lesbian Couple Speaks Out: Mothers Talk with NCR in an Exclusive Interview


Fox, Thomas C., National Catholic Reporter


BOULDER, COLO. Two women who have been at the center of a firestorm of media attention here since early March, when news broke that their daughters would no longer be welcome at the Sacred heart of Jesus Parish School because their mothers are lesbians, are still puzzled about why school officials had such a sudden change of heart.

Local media covered the story seemingly around the clock for about 10 days. Television crews visited the school. Articles, letters to the editor, and opinion pieces, including one by Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput in support of the expulsion, appeared. Protesters showed up outside the church with banners calling shame on parishioners. Police were called in to patrol the school grounds for the safety of the children. Division emerged within the parish, and many Catholics--and others--here ask themselves how this could possibly have occurred in their progressive, welcoming community.

Generally referred to as "the mothers," the women have avoided all media contacts and interviews--until now. They also asked that they not be photographed.

I sat down with the women, both physicians, to the living room of their-home here, walls covered with framed photographs of their 5-year-old and 3-year-old daughters. As we spoke for more than an hour, a longhaired dog playfully rolled on the living room carpet before us.

The couple explained they agreed to speak with NCR because they wanted to clear up misconceptions and specifically wanted Catholics to better understand their situation.

The women, members of Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish, describe themselves as practicing Catholics eager to raise their children to the faith of their parents and grandparents. They say they attend Mass weekly at the parish with their children and continue to believe that Sacred Heart of Jesus School, which includes preschool through eighth grade, excels to education and Catholic formation.

The women, meanwhile, said they have been overwhelmed by the media coverage and by the support they have received from friends and family. They said they are not political activists and have no agenda other than providing for the safety of their children. For this reason they asked not to be identified by name.

Following is their story, as they told it together. For the sake of clarity I distinguish between them when necessary, using the names Mary and Martha.

"People are making assumptions About us that are flat wrong, completely wrong, and we felt it was time to clear up some of these misconceptions," Mary said as we began the interview.

From the time they first enrolled at Sacred Heart three years ago, they've never hidden the fact that they are a lesbian couple, they said. "We decided for a number of reasons to send our children to Sacred Heart School," Mary said. "We have loved it there. Our children were thriving there. When we first enrolled our daughter in preschool, we told the school administrators our daughter had two moms. We asked if this was going to be a problem. We said that if it was going to be a problem we could go elsewhere. We were very open and they said it would not be a problem."

Never a 'big issue'

The women said they never made a "big issue" of their family situation. "We have never flaunted it or pushed any political agenda at the school at all," Mary continued. "The parents know; the teachers know. We've sat with the kindergarten teachers and have talked with them. We never had any indication that it would be a problem at all. We found it to be a very accepting environment for our child."

There were no problems until it came time recently for next year's enrollment, Martha recalled.

"I went in to turn in our daughter's kindergarten application and was called into the principal's office." That's when, Martha said, she got "blind-sided."

The principal "sat me down and told me we were no longer accepted here anymore. …

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