Colo. Catholic school rejects gay parents’ children

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DENVER | Tensions between the Catholic Church and the gay community have erupted in Colorado after a Catholic school’s decision to deny enrollment next year to the children of a lesbian couple.

The decision by Sacred Heart of Jesus School in Boulder, which comes while several Catholic dioceses are trimming their relationships with state agencies over gay marriage, has sparked public protests and criticism over the past few days in Colorado.

Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput came to the defense of the school, arguing in his weekly column that Catholic schools cannot fulfill their mission if they accept families based on an understanding of marriage contrary to the church’s moral teachings.

“Our schools are meant to be ‘partners in faith’ with parents,” said Archbishop Chaput in his March 8 column. “If parents don’t respect the beliefs of the church, or live in a manner that openly rejects those beliefs, then partnering with those parents becomes very difficult, if not impossible.”

The school came under fire last week after administrators informed a lesbian couple that their children would not be admitted for the 2010-11 school year. The couple’s two children, who are enrolled in kindergarten and preschool, will be allowed to finish the current school year, Archbishop Chaput said.

So far the lesbian couple has chosen to remain anonymous and hasn’t made a public statement, but others have rallied on their behalf.

A handful of students from the Iliff School of Theology in Denver held a demonstration Tuesday outside the archdiocese offices, holding a yellow banner that said, “Standing on the side of Love.”

Iliff protest organizer Sarah Raven said she objected to what she described as the church’s double standard. The school admits the children of divorced couples, even though the church frowns on divorce. The school also has children from non-Catholic families.

“They’re setting up a different standard. It’s not being applied equally,” Miss Raven said. “It’s more political than anything. They know they can get a lot more support for that than they can [by excluding] children whose parents are divorced.”

In his column, Archbishop Chaput said that children from divorced and non-Catholic families are welcome “so long as their parents support the Catholic mission of the school and do not offer a serious counter-witness to that mission in their actions.”

Still, critics accused the church of discriminating against homosexual couples and punishing children for the actions of their parents. Boulder Pride, a gay rights group, has received calls from Catholics who disagree with the school’s decision, according to executive director Ailica Lewis.

“I think this is a wake-up call that decisions like this aren’t going to be tolerated,” Ms. Lewis said. “We’re getting a lot of contacts from people who aren’t a part of the GLBT community who are upset by this decision.”

Some parents have reportedly launched a petition drive challenging the school’s actions. A few dozen protesters, including some parents of the school’s children, gathered outside Sacred Heart during Sunday services displaying signs with messages such as, “My Catholicism Does Not Discriminate.”

“I’ve had 16 years of Catholic education, and this just reached the core of my being as completely wrong and against the teachings of Jesus,” Colleen Scanlan Lyons, whose daughter attends Sacred Heart, told KUSA-TV, the local NBC-TV affiliate.

The Rev. Bill Breslin, who oversees the school as priest of the Boulder parish, has not made himself available for interviews in recent days.

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