Gay Parents Redux

by Jimmy Akin

in Homosexuality

A reader writes:

Dear Mr. AikinAkin (spell it "Aikin" and you won’t be able to get to the blog ;-) -

With the greatest respect and appreciation for everything that you do for the Catholic Faith and evangelization,

Thanks! I appreciate the compliment!

I respectfully disagree with your opinion regarding the Orange County school that has children with homosexual "parents." 

Okay. I operate on the principle that not everybody has to agree with me.

Please keep in mind that I can’t remember a time where I have ever previously disagreed with you.  Also keep in mind that I am a "conservative" Catholic that attempts to follow the Magisterium teaching completely without exception.   I am in avid opposition to same-sex unions or marriage and I have been active in my diocese prodding pastors to speak out against such unions.

Good for you!

Here are my thoughts on what you posted on your blog:

I don’t believe you should  draw a line on the children because of the sins of their parents – ever. It is not right. It is not just. It sets terrible precedent. It appears exclusive and unwelcoming. It is in opposition to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

For example, what if one of the children had a parent that had committed murder? That would certainly be number 20 or so on the scale. We could not visit the murderer in prison but refuse to  educate his child.  You can’t compromise the Gospel.

But – you can oppose the compromising of the Gospel by priests, sisters, and Bishops – that is where the problem is – go after the true problem.

I do understand that this situation is different in light of the promotion of the lifestyle by the homosexual couple and that they may be in teaching situations.  That is a problem – but it is a separate problem – it has to do with what is being taught, by whom, and how.  To me, it is the same problem that liberal, dissenting pastors provide.   In both cases, scandal is present and it must be remedied.  When I was faced with a severely dissenting pastor, I did not demand alll parishoners that agree with him vehemently leave.  I went to the Diocese and strongly made the case for truth being taught.

Once again, good for you.

I also believe in dealing with the problem where it is, but I think that in this case there is a problem not only with those in the Church who do not speak out against homosexuality but also a problem created in the classroom by the situation of having two homosexual "parents" putting a kid in a class of sexual innocents who shouldn’t be confronted with the existence of homosexuality at their age.

Let’s set the issue of homoexual parents aside and do a thought experiment involving a different and more extreme situation:

Suppose that there are two parents (male and female) who are nudists and who insist on walking around all day long–in public–buck nekkid. Suppose also that they live in Southern California and that the crazy laws of the state permit them to do so (as well as its warm climate). Is it their child’s fault that he has parents who are nudists? No. But, whenever he interacts with other children, he’s going to have a lot of them asking him about the fact that his parents are nudists.

As a result, he’s going to go back to his parents and ask them what to tell the other kids. They’ll tell him that being a nudist is an okay thing and that he should tell the other kids that. He thus, little by little, is going to become an apologist for public nudity, even though he may or may not be a nudist himself.

Now this family decides to put their kid in a Catholic school’s kindergarten class. What is the school to do? The other kids are going to become aware of the fact that the kid’s parents are nudists. They’re going to see it when they pick him up from school. They’re going to ask questions about his family and, kindergartners being terrible at keeping secrets, this fact is going to come out. The kid will then (a) be picked on and (b) be questioned and (c) respond by launching into nudism apologist mode.

Kids at this age level should not be faced with a knowledge of nudism, much less see people who insist on picking up kids from school while nude (or playing a role taking care of the class while nude). They should not have to deal with a nudist apologist in their midst at this age. They shouldn’t at this age even be aware of nudism.

It therefore seems to me that the school would not only be reasonable but required not to admit this kid under these circumstances. The basis for doing this is the fact that the school has to take into account the interests of all its students. It cannot allow the interest of a single student (having a Catholic education) to outweight the interests of all the other students (having a Catholic education and not being exposed to the reality of nudism and nudist apologists).

The thing to do would be to not admit the kid and to arrange for him to get instruction in the Catholic faith through some other means (e.g., private tutoring).

I think that if a school did make the mistake of admitting such a child then the parents who have kids there would be (a) entirely justified in protesting and (b) entirely justified in yanking their kids out of class to prevent them from being exposed to nudists and nudist apologists.

If you’re willing to go with me this far (leaving the above described conditions of the thought experiment in place) then it seems you should be willing to admit that there are at least some circumstances (and we can make the above conditions even more extreme  if needed; say, nudists who insist on engaging in the marital act in public when they are picking up their kid from school and who are allowed by the state to do this) in which the most prudent thing to do is to not admit the kid to school and to take care of his religious education in another way.

That’s not compromising the gospel. It’s upholding the gospel by not
allowing its message to be watered down for a whole class (or a whole
school) by the flagrant scandal of people living in open defiance of
basic gospel values.

If you agree to that principle it could be seen as a judgment call as to whether having two homosexual parents fall into that category.

In my opinion, it does.

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Polish Prince January 19, 2005 at 9:16 am

Your unfailing logic has convinced me once again. I now fall into your camp of preventing scandal while privately tutoring.

Eric Giunta January 19, 2005 at 9:51 am

I still disagree.
So long as the kids’ parents agree to keep their sexuality out of the classroom (i.e. only have one of them be seen publicly with the kid on campus), then I don’t see where they should be penalized.

Steve Galvanek January 19, 2005 at 10:01 am

Eric G.
How could you possibly enforce such a requirement? Would it even be legal for the school to ask the parents to abide by such a requirement. I can just see the ACLU jumping on that one.
Even if the parents aren’t seen, as Jimmy points out, the face will come out as part of the natural interactions between children of this age during talk about their ‘family’. How do you prevent that? Ask the child to agree to not talk about it?
On the surface your suggestion seems reasonable, but it is totally impracticle and probably illegal.

Polish Prince January 19, 2005 at 10:24 am

But, the line still has to be drawn somewhere. I mean, is it only gay and nudist parents that cannot have their children attend Catholic schooling? What about divorced and remarried Catholics kids…I could just as easily see one become an apologist for divorce in the classroom as for homosexual activity? Or how about the child who’s father is addicted to pornography…couldn’t you see a child say, “My daddy looks at pictures like that all the time and mommy says it is OK since he is just looking”? I think I agree with you, Jimmy, but how are we to draw the line here? Or are we just reacting this way because it is a hot button issue while divorce and remarriage is now commonplace (although destructive and scandalous as well)?

Mike Koenecke January 19, 2005 at 10:50 am

I think Polish Prince has a point, but I do think there’s a difference here. Homosexual parents, by being both of the same sex, will *naturally* bring up the subject of homosexuality without doing anything. In the other cases, you’re talking about private sins which are not apparent unless disclosed. We do not want kindergartners in Catholic school having any of these issues forced on them; in the cases you cited, they don’t have to be. In the “Cindy has two Dads” scenario, there is no way to avoid it.

Other Eric January 19, 2005 at 11:11 am

Hi Mr. Akin!
Your analogy is helpful but still falls far short of where it needs to be.
The presence of a nudist in front of a class of kindergarten-aged children necessarily calls attention to itself in a way that the presence of a homosexual may not. Unless you are prepared to define some physical characteristics that are endemic to homosexuality I fail to see how your analogy can be carried much further.
Let’s consider another analogy. Suppose we have a child that has been born out of wedlock and is at present only being taken care of by his mother. The situation of a child having no daddy is just as likely to become apparent to the rest of the student body as the case of a child having two. So should this child also be denied admission? Perhaps, in order to satisfy entry requirements for the child, the mother could be made to sign an affidavit expressing her remorse over her past actions and pledging not to contradict Church teaching. Maybe administering the sacrament of Reconciliation in front of the administration would be in order to remove any doubt of possible dissension. After all, the school has a primary obligation to all of its students and the inconvenience or potential embarrassment of one individual is inconsequential when viewed from that perspective.

Steve Galvanek January 19, 2005 at 11:53 am

Two points.
1) Unfortunately divorce is commonplace and children will likely be exposed to it no matter what the school policy is. Kids likeley can simply no longer be shielded form this (with a 50% divorce rates even among Catholics, it’s likely 1/2 the kids in the school have divorced parents). Fortunately, Homosexual Unions are not yet so widespread that this is the case. Children still can be shielded from this and should be. Under what you seem to be saying, because we can’t shield the from everything, we shouldn’t shield them from anything. Does that seem right? We (and the school in question) should do what we can, all the time realizing that we live in an imperfect world were our ability to do so will be limited by the sinful nature of all and that the lines we attempt to draw won’t be perfect.
2. While I can imagine a child saying what you describe, what is the likelihood compared to the situation being described. As part of natural class function the topics of who our parents are will come up. Not so with pornography. That subject would have to come up of it’s on accord as forced by the child. The classroom itself wouldn’t necessarily facilitate that topic coming up. There is a big difference here.

Suzanne January 19, 2005 at 11:55 am

You are going to run across many, many situations you have not already considered here that is going to occur in a school situation with various kids who have various backgrounds. And I am speaking as an educator who has taught in the public school system for 6 years and taught and volunteered in a Catholic school for 3 years. All I can say is homeschooling is now the only option for us.

Steven D. Greydanus January 19, 2005 at 12:27 pm

Not that Jimmy needs me to point this out, but his example wasn’t intended as a parallel analogous case that would demonstrate the unacceptability of admitting the child of gay “parents.” He was only establishing a principle, or rather refuting a proposed principle that the sins of the “parents” should NEVER bar a child from attending Catholic school. Having rejected that false option, the wherefores and whys of what situations are or aren’t sufficiciently detrimental to the goals of Catholic education remain to be discussed on their own merits.

jamie January 19, 2005 at 12:58 pm

I’m still not convinced it’s the role of the school to vett out immorality on the part of a kid’s parents.
But another question which, I think, does weigh in favor of Jimmy’s proposal is that of the school’s obligation to avoid scandal. Would the matriculation of a ‘child’ of homosexual parents imply a formal legitimization of his guardians as legitimate parents? Even sending the kid’s report card home to his ‘parent or guardian’ might be taken as a form of legitimization of the moral status of the ‘parents.’ A very rough parallel might be to imagine a pair of kidnappers who, long after the kidnapping, enroll the kidnapped child in a school. The school would, seemingly, be obliged not to accept him, because this would seem to morally legitimize the role of the kidnappers as the child’s rightful parents-guardians. Just a thought. Probably raises more questions than it answers.

Nick January 19, 2005 at 1:50 pm

Jimmy makes a fine argument that can include other classes of individual as well. While it may shock some that an organization still holds divorce as a moral crime, why should that shock a Catholic, *if he believes*?
There is a rule that is evidently written for the school. Instead of bending it so that it applies only to the current moral hot topic, enhance it so that it applies to all of the moral topics (illicit remariage, porn, homosexuality, organized crime, etc.).
Also, don’t leave the “parents” out in the cold. Remember that, “God scourges everyone whom he loves”. Use this as a point of instruction to bring *all* of the parents into line with the gospel rather than singling out a parent that lives at the cultural fringe.
Remember that we all have absolute moral freedom. Nothing is preventing these parents, all of them, from changing; nothing but themselves.

Other Eric January 19, 2005 at 2:26 pm

The thing about this case that I find especially galling is the attempt to establish homosexuality as a special sin deserving of unique consequences in a way that other sexual sins are not.
This is not about the sexual activity of the same-sex couple. It can’t be because they have declined to make any public comment and their personal situation is not known. Their apologetical moment came and they declined it. Nevertheless their reticence is still not good enough. After all, they are homosexuals. It’s not about what they do, it’s about what they are.

bremlar January 19, 2005 at 2:45 pm

The thing about this case that I find especially galling is the attempt to establish homosexuality as a special sin deserving of unique consequences in a way that other sexual sins are not.
From the Catechism:
The catechetical tradition also recalls that there are “sins that cry to heaven”: the blood of Abel, The sin of the Sodomites, The cry of the people oppressed in Egypt, The cry of the foreigner, the widow, and the orphan, injustice to the wage earner. (CCC 1867, emphasis added to clarify)
You can read it yourself to get the pertinent scripture quotes from the footnotes.

Matt C. Abbott January 19, 2005 at 2:59 pm

The fact is many homosexuals clamor for “rights” precisely for what they do; that is, they desire to have “sexual orientation” be a protected status when in fact it’s an implicit endorsement of homosexual activity. Such is why we must oppose all legislation that explicity or implicitly condones sexual acts and lifestyles that are contrary to the moral law.

Nick January 19, 2005 at 3:04 pm

Actually this is probably a good place to remember that the pain caused by divorce is also one of those things that calls out to heaven (effectively creating a widow(er)). That acting unfaithfully to your mate can cause interfere with your communion with God. I suggest a review of not only the Catechism, but also of Malachi chapter 2 which has a poingniant message for today’s state of affairs.

Michael January 19, 2005 at 4:16 pm

After all, they are homosexuals. It’s not about what they do, it’s about what they are.
And this, Other Eric, is precisely the problem. Imagine someone like David Morrison ( who claims to be a celibate man with same-sex attraction (SSA) and lives with another celibate man with SSA and who also claims to be a devout Catholic. If they took it upon themselves to adopt a child (or maybe they took in an orphaned relative) and wanted to send him to this Catholic school, should they be denied? Neither he nor his companion are living in a state of sin (since same-sex attraction is not a sin, only acting upon it) and yet undoubtedly their homosexuality will come up in questions from the other children.

c matt January 19, 2005 at 4:44 pm

I have to say, Jimmy’s argument does have its appeal, but it seems only fair that it cut both ways (as Nick suggests). Why should the children of divorced and remarried parents be admitted? There is no less public scandal from a Catholic perspective in saying Johnny has two daddies, than saying Johnny’s daddy is on his third wife (or Johnny has three mommies (2 step) and a daddy). What message does that send? And when 50% of marriages in the US are SSM or polygamous, will you be able to shield your children from them?

c matt January 19, 2005 at 4:49 pm

My reference to a hypothetical 50% SSM marriage rate was intended as a response to the exception some seem to make for divorcees. The objection seems to be based upon the fact that divorce is so common that you can’t protect from it. That may be true, but then this is not an argument based upon principle, but upon practicality (not that practical arguments can’t be persuasive).

Mary January 19, 2005 at 6:23 pm

And why would the homosexuality of a celibate man “undoubtably” come up?

Mike January 19, 2005 at 6:25 pm

I also agree with Jimmy on most things – but not this one. I understand the difficulties and the risk of moral scandal for ‘our kids’ – but it seems to me that some things come even before that.
The kid needs an education – it is a right I’m sure all readers would afford him. Sure, he could get that at home. But at some point (whether at school or otherwise) he also needs interaction with other kids. And most preferably, kids who have regular parents. How much more disordered will his outlook become if he never even sees a regular family? Yes, he could get all that at a public school, but I think there’s something wrong with a mentality that says that we stand for his rights . . .as long as we don’t have to have anything to do with it. Pass the buck – let him infect someone else’s kids!
You could say our first responsibility is towards our own kids. True perhaps, but I think we have some responsibility to this child also – even if he’s not our family, he’s in our community, whatever circumstances our crazy laws put him in.
Like it or not, we have to either take him in or spurn him.
We may also be underselling the child – not to mention the Grace of God, by assuming he’ll end up an apologist for the gay lifestyle. (Granted, I wouldn’t take this idea to the extent that I’d trust even a “reformed” paedophile with my kids, but in that case we wouldn’t be weighing it up against the paedophile’s genuine needs.)
Of course it’s one of the most difficult issues in living a Catholic life – how PRACTICALLY to love the sinner but hate the sin. As other readers comment, it goes for a lot of other visible sin too. I pray we can all find the right answer.
I wonder what David Morrison’s take would be on this – he hasn’t blogged for a couple of days. . .

Michael January 20, 2005 at 7:04 am

And why would the homosexuality of a celibate man “undoubtably” come up?
Exactly. Why would it? Except for the fact that the child is being raised by two men. If the child knows he is adopted and knows that his “fathers” who adopted him are close friends who took him in as an act of charity, would it ever really come up in the way the “gay lifestyle” needs to be addressed? Kids are curious but they’re not really that astute. It’s only when they come to realize that their parents have a sexual life that it would really become an issue. You can easily hand-wave away to a five-year-old why he isn’t married. It’s only the parents of the other children who make a fuss.
Curiously, the only real defense of this school’s actions seems to be protecting young children (a noble goal). But is there any age when it would be acceptable to admit the child of homosexuals to a Catholic school?

dcs January 20, 2005 at 7:12 am

The kid needs an education – it is a right I’m sure all readers would afford him. Sure, he could get that at home. But at some point (whether at school or otherwise) he also needs interaction with other kids. And most preferably, kids who have regular parents. How much more disordered will his outlook become if he never even sees a regular family? Yes, he could get all that at a public school, but I think there’s something wrong with a mentality that says that we stand for his rights . . .as long as we don’t have to have anything to do with it. Pass the buck – let him infect someone else’s kids!
As a parent, I can say without the least bit of hesitation that whatever rights this young man has they cannot infringe on my children’s rights. And my children have a right not to be exposed to homosexuality while they’re still too young to be exposed to any sex education whatsoever. Yeah, the kid has rights — he has the right not to be adopted and raised by a couple of homosexuals. But he most certainly does not have the right to expose anyone else’s children to the homosexuality of his “parents.” It’s funny but I think if the kid’s parents were public drug abusers then there would be no question of what to do. But because his “parents” are homosexuals all of a sudden the kid has “rights” that can trump the real rights of other kids.

Trista May 6, 2005 at 6:31 am

I agree with gay marriage. I think it is an absolutely beautiful thing. My best friend is a lesbian and she loves men therefore she is a lesbian.

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