Discrimination! In Hingham!

It’s not every day that our town on the South Shore of Boston makes the national news. But Hingham hit it pretty hard last week with news that the elementary school at the local Roman Catholic church rescinded its offer of admission to the 8-year-old boy of a lesbian couple. News trucks sat outside St. Paul’s; reporters stalked the pastor, the Rev. Jim Rafferty; “man on the street” interviews abounded.

My Junior Warden, who is also president of the PTO at the boys’ elementary school (yes, she’s amazing), received a call from a Boston Globe reporter trying to find out the name of the family involved. The couple was seeking to stay anonymous in order to protect their child — that didn’t stop this particular “intrepid” reporter. And for the record, my warden a) didn’t know and b) would never have shared this information.

I didn’t receive any media calls for comment; nor was I about to go parading around in front of St. Paul’s in a clerical collar. I’ve met Fr. Rafferty at a couple meetings of our local interfaith clergy association. He seems like a nice guy and he’s been at St. Paul’s for a number of years. I just don’t happen to agree with him in any way, shape, or form on this issue.

And neither, it seems, does the Archdiocese of Boston. Rather than coming to his defense, they pretty much left him hanging in the breeze. Spokesman Terry Donilon said the archdiocese has no prohibition against same-sex couples sending their children to Catholic schools. “We want kids to come to Catholic schools,’’ he said. This was very different from the reaction of the Archdiocese of Denver after a similar case in Boulder, Colorado, this past March. After a parochial school refused to allow a student in pre-kindergarten to re-enroll after discovering the child’s parents were lesbians, Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput defended the decision saying families with such lifestyles “have other, excellent options for education.’’ Nice.

My first reaction was to wish I had a school at St. John’s. I’d love to be able to offer this couple a space in a religious institution that took seriously Jesus’ call to radical inclusion. But I also started thinking about that pesky baptismal covenant of ours; the one that calls us to “respect the dignity of every human being.” Talk about a stumbling block to discrimination! If more people lived this out we’d be able to avoid news trucks in Hingham.

The folks at St. Paul’s are probably a bit gun shy on the news truck scene. The infamous Father Geoghan, poster boy for the pedophile priest scandal who was murdered in prison in 2003, was pastor there in the late 1960’s and early ’70’s. It’s a sad legacy and a sad saga that this current situation does nothing to help heal. Please keep everyone involved in your prayers — the unnamed family, the clergy and parishioners of St. Paul’s, and the town of Hingham. We could all use them.


One Comment on “Discrimination! In Hingham!”

  1. Thank you and bless you for this fine post, especially for calling your readers to pray for the healing of the St. Paul’s community. As you might imagine, I was comforted and relieved when the Archdiocese of Boston underscored that crazy Christian notion that *all* are welcome.

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