Fallout follows nun’s same sex marriage letter

The Gospel commandment to love has led a Catholic school to change its policy on same-sex marriage announcements.

Where the prestigious school’s alumnae magazine had never allowed same sex union announcements, the policy has been re-examined and changed recently.

Visitation Sister Mary Berchmans, the school’s president emerita, wrote a letter announcing the change.

The letter has stirred a mixture of responses. Some school community members say it is “beautiful” and “overdue.”

Others say it is a “great disappointment.”

Some are unhappy it took so long for the school to reach this point, while a few are angry the school is veering from Catholic doctrine.

The change followed a push last month from hundreds of the school’s graduates who formed a Facebook group to discuss the school’s policy of denying marriage announcements to same-sex couples.

They decided to urge a change in policy.

In her letter, Berchmans wrote, “Recently, a Visitation friend invited me to reflect upon what it means to Live Jesus in relationship with our ­LGBTQ alumnae.”

That conversation — as well as “much prayerful consideration and thoughtful dialogue” — led the school to its new policy.

“As a professed Sister of the Visitation for 67 years, I have devoted my life in service to the Catholic Church.

“The Church is clear in its teaching on same-sex marriages. But, it is equally clear in its teaching that we are all children of God, that we each have dignity and are worthy of respect and love.

“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.”

A gay Visitation graduate who is married to her partner says she is profoundly moved by Visitation’s decision.

“To see the school stand with gay and lesbian students and parents and families, I just felt really emotional and grateful.”

The Archdiocese of Washington says it was not made aware of the school’s decision before the letter from Berchmans was sent.

“The archdiocese has a clear responsibility to ensure independent Catholic schools maintain their authentic Catholic identity and provide advice and guidance on such matters as they arise.

“Catholic Church teaching on marriage is clear, and it also does not conflict with the Gospel message of love.”

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of an advocacy group for LGBTQ Catholics, says he is not aware of any other Catholic high school alumni magazines that includes announcements of same-sex unions. He says  Berch­mans’ letter is “beautiful and very powerful”.

“This is a really big step forward.

“This is something that all Catholic schools are eventually going to have to deal with, sooner rather than later. …Catholic leaders try to bury their heads and pretend this is not a reality, but it is.”

 

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