US Catholic Faith in Real Life

When Heather has two mommies and goes to Catholic school

By Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

The story of the 5-year-old girl who will not be admitted to kindergarten at her Catholic elementary school because her parents are a lesbian couple is burning up the web, notably on the blog of the pastor, where the comments certainly lean against the decision. Setting aside whether you think the pastor and archdiocese made the right decision, the situation has exposed the chasm between the ideal of church teaching and pastoral practice, a chasm I commented on in my January column in US Catholic magazine.

There can be no doubt that church teaching condemns sex between members of the same gender, as well as civil recognition of same-sex relationships and parenting by same-sex couples. On the ground, however, many parishes practice an inclusion that is at odds with the teaching. Children of same-sex couples are baptized, they go to Catholic schools, their parents are involved in school and parish life. In effect they do everything a heterosexually-headed family does except get married.

This isn't the only issue of difference between church teaching and pastoral practice. The non-Catholic spouses of Catholics regularly go to communion. Couples seem capable of limiting their fertility to two children. Catholics divorce and remarry without excluding themselves from the sacraments. Some use fertility treatments frowned upon by the church, and so on. Catholics by and large don't seem overly concerned by the disconnect between the teachings and their lives.

These latter cases are, of course, a little less public than a family with two moms, and so now we have a crisis--and at least if the pastor's blog is any indication, some Catholics are recognizing that applying the church's ideal against two women and their child is inconsistent--and they're wondering who is next.