SPRINGFIELD, IL, August 31, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – An Illinois diocese published formal standards on living in accord with Catholic teaching for families of children in its schools after a same-sex couple sought to enroll their adopted children in a diocesan school.
Issued by Springfield Bishop Thomas Paprocki last month, the Family School Agreement spells out expectations for families wishing to enroll in the diocese's schools in the areas of morality and material support for the Church, stipulating that Catholic students be educated according to Church principles regardless of their parents' lifestyles.
“All children will be taught the Catholic faith in its fullness, regardless of the situation of their parents/adoptive parents/legal guardians,” the agreement states. “It is understood that our schools exist to pass on the Catholic faith for our children as well as for their parents, adoptive parents, or legal guardians to grow in holiness living as disciples of Jesus Christ.”
All children are welcome in the diocese's schools, provided their parents or guardians sign the agreement and agree to its terms. The agreement emphasizes that the diocese's schools “are not simply a private or alternative school system” and that failure to abide by the agreement will be grounds for the children's expulsion from the school.
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In addition to parents and guardians, the Family School Agreement extends to students regarding the increasingly prevalent issue of public violation of Catholic morality.
“Parents/adoptive parents/legal guardians and students who cause public scandal by actively promoting a moral or doctrinal position contrary to Catholic teaching or by making a public issue of their state in life contrary to Catholic teaching shall be considered in violation of the Family School Agreement,” it states.
Students, parents, and teachers of Catholic schools throughout the U.S. have protested in some cases when leadership has worked to reinforce Catholic identity in schools, most notably with recent backlash in San Francisco against Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone.
Numerous other instances have involved school and Church officials having to dismiss parish or school employees who have publicly violated Church teaching through advocating issues in conflict with Church principles or by their lifestyle.
Bishop Paprocki revealed that the agreement came about in part due to the same-sex couple trying to enroll their children in one of the diocese's schools in a letter to pastors and principals, according to the State Journal-Register.
The Springfield diocese is giving specific focus to addressing moral issues that might be a problem for parents or guardians in the agreement prior to their signing it, obliging them in those instances to be in conversation with their parish about how they can come into line with Church principles.
This would encompass divorced and civilly remarried parents, unmarried cohabiting couples, and homosexual couples.
“Parents/adoptive parents/legal guardians not living in accord with Church teaching are expected to discuss with the pastor of their Catholic parish ways in which we hope they could,” the agreement states.
At the same time, no children will be turned away if their parent consents to the agreement but doesn't follow through. Bishop Paprocki said in his letter to pastors and principals that parents might not enroll their children if those children will be taught that their parents may be living “in an objectively sinful situation.”
Issues such as divorce, cohabitation, and homosexuality are formally covered with students in the diocese's Religion Curriculum Standards in seventh grade, but more foundational teaching can occur in younger grades, prompting the need for communication on these issues between the Church and families.
“We want to be in a position to pastorally reach out to people,” Diocesan Director of Catechetical Services Jonathan Sullivan said. “If someone has had difficulties, we would hope that person would sit down with the pastor.”
One pro-homosexual activist objected to the agreement, invoking the frequently used misunderstanding that Pope Francis supports homosexuality.
“What parents in their right minds would idly sit by while a religion teacher is forced to tell their children that something is wrong with their family?” said John Freml, Springfield leader for the excommunicated dissident group Call to Action and pro-homosexual group Equally Blessed, and graduate of a Springfield diocesan school. “This is not the kind of church that Pope Francis has called for, and Paprocki should reread what the pope has said about how the church should treat children of same-sex parents.”
The agreement also requires the whole family to participate in Mass each week and on holy days of obligation, commit to active involvement in parish ministries, and make an effort toward tithing at a rate of eight percent, as well as give deference to those delivering their children's education.
“It entails a respect for and cooperation with those who actually provide Catholic education – the priests, parishioners, and teachers – and their policies,” it states.
The tithing component of the agreement is based on a decades-old stewardship model that has been successful in the Diocese of Wichita with parish support for its schools.
Sullivan said the diocese isn't trying to coerce people into converting to Catholicism and respects that some families have other religious services they attend.
Parishes will be responsible for monitoring tithing and Mass attendance.
Some objections to the agreement were raised at an August 7 meeting, the State Journal-Register report said, but Sullivan said the agreement solidified what parents essentially knew was expected of them with regard to their children's Catholic education.
The diocese did not have standard language about these expectations before the agreement, he said, with schools handling the wording in their handbooks.
The part of the agreement that says children will be taught the teachings of the Catholic Church “in their fullness” makes clear that the diocese's curriculum “is systematic and reflects the Catechism of the Catholic Church,” said Sullivan, “even if those teachings conflict with ways parents are living their lives.”
“Some parents aren't living lives in a manner consistent with the Catholic faith,” Sullivan continued. “What they're teaching in schools is going up against something very different at home.”
Even though a situation involving a homosexual couple trying to enroll children at one of the schools played a part in more formally establishing the policy, Bishop Paprocki told priests and principals in his letter the diocese would “not single out same-sex couples.”
Bishop Paprocki has publicly defended marriage and life several times. He said in his column last week that the U.S. must repent for giving massive financial support to Planned Parenthood.