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The head of education for the Boston Archdiocese offered Thursday to help find a different Catholic school for a boy denied acceptance at a Hingham Catholic school because his parents are gay.
In a statement, superintendent Mary Grassa O'Neill said she spoke with a parent of the 8-year-old boy and "offered to help enroll her child in another Catholic school in the archdiocese."
"We believe that every parent who wishes to send their child to a Catholic school should have the opportunity to pursue that dream," O'Neill said.
The parent, who has remained anonymous to protect her child from publicity, called the archdiocese's response "compassionate" and said O'Neill apologized. But the woman said she was uncertain she would enroll her son in another Catholic school because she needed to learn more about their educational programs.
She added: "I will be a little bit more guarded in my questioning so I'll be able to have a real clear picture where they stand."
The boy was to enter third grade at St. Paul Elementary School in the fall. But the woman said the parish priest, the Rev. James Rafferty, began asking questions about her relationship during a meeting last week.
On Monday, she learned her son's acceptance had been rescinded during a conference call with Rafferty and the school's principal, Cynthia Duggan. She said Rafferty said that her relationship was "in discord" with church teachings. The Catholic church believes marriage is only between a man and a woman.
Rafferty and Duggan did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.
The Boston archdiocese said it learned of St. Paul's decision late Tuesday. In her statement, O'Neill said the archdiocese doesn't bar children of same-sex parents from attending Catholic schools, and that it will develop a policy in the coming weeks to make that clear. Terry Donilon, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said local pastors have autonomy to run their parishes within basic church rules, but the archdiocese can set new policy when something needs to be clarified - as in this case - and pastors are expected to follow it.
O'Neill also said the schools expect parents to understand "that the teachings of the Church are an important component of the curriculum and are part of the students' educational experience."
O'Neill's statement came as some Catholic groups criticized St. Paul's decision.
On Thursday, the Washington-based group Catholics United said it had collected 2,500 signatures on a petition asking Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley to ensure the archdiocese's schools would allow all children access to a Catholic education. Executive Director Chris Korzen said he welcomed O'Neill's statement and looked forward to the release of the archdiocese's promised new policy.
The Catholic Foundation, which is chaired by O'Malley and raises money for Catholic education, called St. Paul's decision "at odds with our values as a foundation, the intentions of our donors, and ultimately with Gospel teaching." The foundation said it would not fund any school that treats students and families in such a manner.
The foundation's executive director, Michael Reardon, said the foundation did not give money to St. Paul's.
The Massachusetts case is similar to a decision by a Catholic school in Boulder, Colo., the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which said two children of lesbian parents could not re-enroll because of their parents' sexual orientation. The Denver Archdiocese backed the school's decision.
This program aired on May 14, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.
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