It was widely reported this week that a Catholic elementary school in the Boston area withdrew its offer of admission to a third-grader upon discovering that his parents were lesbians. St. Paul Elementary in Hingham said the couple’s relationship was “in discord” with church teaching, and that teachers would not be able to answer the child’s questions about family life because they could not condone the values he was taught at home.
A similar incident occurred in March when the Sacred Heart of Jesus preschool in Boulder, Colorado expelled the child of another lesbian couple, with the approval of the Denver archdiocese.
I am a happily married heterosexual woman. I’ve achieved a stable home life in spite of the secrecy and shame I experienced as a child in a closeted family, not because of it. It makes me sick to see the proclamations on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website about “strengthening marriage and family life”. The USCCB makes it a “priority goal to Strengthen Marriage” (capital letters in the original). But what are these schools’ actions really teaching?
I remember what I learned, very early, as the daughter of two women who experienced employment discrimination and family ostracism for their relationship. Though I attended school in gay-friendly Greenwich Village and Brooklyn Heights, my parents still insisted I be discreet (and if necessary, deceptive) in case the truth got back to their non-affirming neighborhood and workplaces.
Every innocent question from other kids or teachers was a minefield for me, since I had to pretend that my two mothers didn’t live together, or that they were just friends. It was one reason we hardly ever invited people to our house. I had a painfully scrupulous personality as a child, and hated lying. As an introvert, I was also pretty bad at it. I wasn’t free to engage in ordinary small talk about family life without facing the awful choice between disloyalty and dishonesty–on top of which, I knew I was only making a fool of myself by denying what was obvious to outsiders.
Self-consciousness. Fear of getting close to people. Internal taboos against confiding in anyone about problems in your home. Such are the lessons a child learns in her parents’ closet.
Are these the relationship patterns that will produce happy marriages, heterosexual or otherwise, for gay couples’ children? I don’t think so.
Jesus came to bring us grace and forgiveness so we could love one another. He said, “The truth will set you free.” That’s the only foundation of a healthy marriage and family life.
Visit the Human Rights Campaign website to send a protest message to the USCCB.