By BY JOEL CONNELLY
Bishop Blanchet High School in Seattle has refused to run an announcement in its alumni magazine for the same-sex marriage of an alumna who once served as student body vice president and homecoming queen.
In response to the submission by the 1997 graduate, the school sent her a letter saying, in part, “… the archdiocese does not permit this type of information to be published in our Catholic school magazine.”
The reaction has been a much-circulated Facebook post by James Nau, who was student body president in Blanchet’s class of 1997 and homecoming king.
In an open letter to the Archdiocese of Seattle, Nau quoted St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians — “if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” and wrote:
“The policy which prohibits the public acknowledgment of (the) marriage stands behind a faith that you no doubt believe is right, but it does so at the cost of what is greater: Love.
“When there is an opportunity to rejoice in love that exists among the members of your community, you have chosen instead to shut them out, and on this issue Pope Francis has warned, ‘a church with closed doors betrays herself and her mission.'”
Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain firmly closed all doors to same-sex marriage after Washington voted for marriage equality in 2012.
Sartain published a “policy refresher” raining down prohibitions on same-sex “marriage” — quotation marks courtesy of the archbishop. They include:
- “No priest or deacon or lay minister may officiate at a same-sex marriage.”
- “No church facility or school facility may be offered for such an event, even if it is to be witnessed by a non-Catholic minister or civil official.”
- “No church facility or school facility may be used for a reception after such an event.”
- “No church ministers, ordained or lay, may offer ‘wedding preparation’ for such couples.”
The archbishop’s chilly, hard-line stand on same-sex marriage has never gone down well with many Catholics.
Then-Gov. Chris Gregoire, a Catholic, helped persuade the Legislature to vote for marriage equality. Eastside Catholic High School students walked out of school and mounted a sustained protest in late 2013 after the school’s vice principal was forced out over marriage to his husband.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, a devout Catholic, went to St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in 2013 to marry his husband, Michael Shiosaki, in a deeply traditional ceremony.
Nau has received a strong, affirming response to his Facebook post, 227 “likes,” 59 comments and 122 shares by mid-afternoon Thursday.
“The Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle has played a large role in my life,” he wrote.
Nau is a graduate of St. Louise School, Blanchet and Seattle University. He has mentored fellow Catholics at confirmation, worked at CYO summer camps, taught and coached for three years at Blanchet, and participated in campus ministries. He stood vigil beside the body of Archbishop Thomas Murphy as the popular prelate lay in state at St. James Cathedral.
“It is my education by the Archdiocese of Seattle that has made me into the person who writes this letter,” he concluded.
In a subsequent update, Nau writes that he received a “gracious” email response from Antonio DeSapio, in which the president of Bishop Blanchet thanked Nau for his engagement but said that “we cannot knowingly publish anything that is contrary to Church teachings.”
The experience has been “very alienating,” Nau wrote in a response to DeSapio, adding:
“As a teacher, I keep thinking about what this policy says to your current students, and I hope that you consider what this incident teaches the students in the Archdiocese who might be gay or questioning their sexual identity as well as what it says to their friends, families and teachers who love and support them.
“What does it teach students whose parents are gay?”
The Blanchet denial, as with removal of the vice principal at Eastside Catholic, appears to have had an unintended consequence — one worth pondering at the archdiocesan chancery on First Hill.
The Eastside Catholic students came together in their protest and bonded with students at other Catholic high schools, such as Seattle Prep and Blanchet.
The refusal to announce the wedding appears to have similarly connected and reconnected Blanchet alumni. Here is how Nau put it to DeSapio:
“Thanks to social media, we do not lack the means to come together in support and celebration of one of our own, but your policy forces us to do it outside your walls.
“Do you wish for Blanchet to remain an institution that forces large portions of its warm and affirming alumni community to exist separate from itself?
“This effort to rally . . . has more quickly and effectively connected me with my classmates than any issue of the Blanchet magazine. … My connection to the archdiocesan community has grown not because of your policy, but because of our shared objection to it.”
Does the chancery understand this?
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