Mass. Cardinal responds to controversy over child of lesbians, says schools welcome all

BOSTON (AP) — Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley on Wednesday defended a priest who denied admission to a parish school to a gay couple's child, calling it a pastoral decision and saying the priest had his "full confidence and support."

O'Malley's comments on his blog were his first public remarks about the decision earlier this month by St. Paul Elementary School in Hingham to rescind the boy's acceptance because his parents are lesbians.

A parent of the boy said the Rev. James Rafferty, the parish priest at St. Paul's, said her relationship was "in discord" with church teachings, which sees marriage as only between a man and a woman. She said the principal told her teachers wouldn't be prepared to handle the boy's questions when he realized the church's view of family conflicted with what he saw at home. The parent spoke to The Associated Press but asked not to be named to protect the welfare of the child.

The decision prompted calls for O'Malley to intervene. The Catholic Schools Foundation, which O'Malley chairs, said the decision was at odds with Gospel teaching, and it wouldn't fund schools that made similar decisions.

The archdiocese's head of education later called the parent, apologized and offered to help the 8-year-old enroll in another Catholic school.

O'Malley said Rafferty had come under "undue criticism" for the decision.

"He made a decision about the admission of the child to St. Paul School based on his pastoral concern for the child," O'Malley wrote. "I can attest personally that Father Rafferty would never exclude a child to sanction the child's parents."

The archdiocese said it is creating a policy to clarify its schools don't bar children with same-sex parents.

"It is true that we welcome people from all walks of life," O'Malley wrote. "But we recognize that, regardless of the circumstances involved, we maintain our responsibility to teach the truths of our faith, including those concerning sexual morality and marriage."

O'Malley began his post with a recollection about meeting the young daughter of a murdered woman who had run a brothel while he was bishop in the West Indies. He said the woman's daughter had left public school because she was being badly taunted, and he immediately directed that the girl be admitted to the local Catholic school.

"Catholic schools exist for the good of the children and our admission standards must reflect that," he wrote. "We have never had categories of people who were excluded."

The Hingham case was similar to a situation in Boulder, Colo., in which a Catholic school said two children of lesbian parents could not re-enroll because of their parents' sexual orientation, and the Denver Archdiocese backed the decision.

"It is clear that all of their school policies (in Denver) are intended to foster the welfare of the children and fidelity to the mission of the Church," O'Malley wrote. "Their positions and rationale must be seriously considered."