Earlier this month, an email was sent to all families connected with Washington’s elite Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School. The Catholic school’s president emerita, Sister Mary Berchmans, said that there would be a change beginning in the fall issue of the alumnae magazine.
Even though the Catholic Church opposes same-sex relationships, gay or lesbian marriage announcements will soon be included in its pages.
As I have prayed over this contradiction, I keep returning to this choice: we can focus on Church teaching on gay marriage or we can focus on Church teaching on the Gospel commandment of love. We know from history — including very recent history — that the Church, in its humanity, makes mistakes. Yet, through the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, it learns and grows. And so, we choose the Gospel commandment of love.
… This change is an important part of ensuring that every individual is respected.
On the surface, there’s nothing actually radical about this. Plenty of Catholic school graduates go on to successful careers that include opposing some aspect of Catholic doctrine. Would the school refuse to public an update about someone who heads up a non-profit group that promotes comprehensive sex education? Or fights for women’s rights? Or an attorney who helps victims of sex abuse?
Telling people that a graduate just got married is hardly an endorsement of all their current beliefs and opinions. It’s an update, pure and simple. The only difference is that this update is visible from a picture and/or name. People know that these graduates are violating Catholic doctrine. (But really, at this point, good luck finding any Catholic who’s not violating some Catholic belief.)
The reaction from students and graduates and their families, however, has been a mixed bag. Plenty of traditionalists are furious that this school is celebrating gay marriage… by which they mean the school is acknowledging the existence of gay couples.
The decision, which stands in contrast to official church teaching on same-sex marriage, was greeted with a mixture of responses by the school community. Some called it “beautiful” and “overdue.” Others labeled it a “great disappointment.” In some quarters, there was unhappiness it took so long for the school to reach this point, while a smaller number expressed anger that the school was veering from Catholic doctrine.
Take Father Carter Griffin, a priest in the Archdiocese of Washington. Writing for the National Catholic Register, he argues that this is a horrible decision.
… In today’s moral climate, however, this decision is anything but courageous or compassionate. It is far more comfortable to acquiesce in the wisdom of the age than to courageously rebel against it. And it is not compassionate to approve, even implicitly, sexual behavior that imperils the immortal souls of so many of our brothers and sisters.
As every parent knows, love sometimes hurts. Christian teachings on marriage and sexuality, so clearly taught by the Church from her earliest days, are challenging — even painful — to so many today.
And there’s nothing the Catholic Church loves more than inflicting pain upon people…
In any case, the school doesn’t deserve praise for doing the bare minimum to acknowledge a major milestone in the lives of some of their students.
The entire institution still treats homosexuality as a problem and considers homosexual acts as “intrinsically disordered.” People should have stopped supporting the Church with their money a long time ago, and if this creates a greater schism in the community, good. The more people who walk away from Catholic institutions, the better off we are as a society — even if, like in this case, they’re just upset the Church isn’t bigoted enough.
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