The April 6 bulletin of San Francisco’s Most Holy Redeemer parish included the following announcement: “Thursday, April 10th, in Ellard Hall 7:30pm – Michelle Theall Speaking Event – Author of ‘Teaching the Cat to Sit’ – See Flyer for more information.” While the name Michelle Theall may not be familiar, she is one of two “mothers” whose adopted son was not allowed to continue at Sacred Heart of Jesus School in Boulder, Colorado, because of the “mothers” open homosexuality.
Although the names of the women were not made public in 2010, when the events took place, Ms. Theall has now written a book about the experience. On February 27, 2014, the Huffington Post, in its Gay Voices section, described Teaching the Cat to Sit: “Theall’s new book, which hit stores on Feb. 25, pairs her struggles as a gay adolescent in the Texas Bible Belt with her later experience as a mother in a same-sex relationship. Theall says she was inspired to pen the memoir in 2010, after she learned her adopted son would be expelled from his Catholic school in Colorado because his parents were lesbians.”
The refusal to allow the child to continue at Sacred Heart was noteworthy in that it provided both Sacred Heart’s pastor and Denver’s then- Archbishop Charles Chaput an opportunity to articulate the purpose of Catholic education. The pastor, Father Bill Breslin, wrote:
“If a child of gay parents comes to our school, and we teach that gay marriage is against the will of God, then the child will think that we are saying their parents are bad. We don’t want to put any child in that tough position-nor do we want to put the parents, or the teachers, at odds with the teachings of the Catholic Church. Why would good parents want their children to learn something they don’t believe in? It doesn’t make sense. ..The core issue for us Catholics on this question is our freedom and our obligation to teach about marriage and family life as our Faith teaches. If parents see the cultural interpretation of what tolerance has become as more important than the teachings of Jesus, then we become unfaithful to the Lord…Many of Jesus’ teachings were not popular. In fact, He was crucified for His teachings.
“Glossing over differences on essential matters, and pretending that crucial issues are irrelevant, is not tolerance. It is relativism, meaning that nothing is important anymore and everyone can have their own interpretation of what is goodness and truth. …The Catholic Church invests in parish schools so as to assist children in becoming disciples of Christ and to stand as a light shining in the darkness that has rejected Christianity and the truth of being human, including the meaning of human sexuality.”
Archbishop Chaput backed his priest. He wrote, in part: “Catholic schools began in this country in the early 19th century. Catholics started them as an alternative to the public schools of the day, which taught a curriculum often hostile to Catholic belief. In many ways times have changed, but the mission of Catholic schools has not. The main purpose of Catholic schools is religious; in other words, to form students in Catholic faith, Catholic morality and Catholic social values…
“The Church never looks for reasons to turn anyone away from a Catholic education. But the Church can’t change her moral beliefs without undermining her mission and failing to serve the many families who believe in that mission. If Catholics take their faith seriously, they naturally follow the teachings of the Church in matters of faith and morals; otherwise they take themselves outside the believing community.
“The Church does not claim that people with a homosexual orientation are “bad,” or that their children are less loved by God. Quite the opposite. But what the Church does teach is that sexual intimacy by anyone outside marriage is wrong; that marriage is a sacramental covenant; and that marriage can only occur between a man and a woman. These beliefs are central to a Catholic understanding of human nature, family and happiness, and the organization of society.
“ …Our schools are meant to be “partners in faith” with parents. If parents don’t respect the beliefs of the Church, or live in a manner that openly rejects those beliefs, then partnering with those parents becomes very difficult, if not impossible. It also places unfair stress on the children, who find themselves caught in the middle, and on their teachers, who have an obligation to teach the authentic faith of the Church.
“Most parents who send their children to Catholic schools want an environment where the Catholic faith is fully taught and practiced. That simply can’t be done if teachers need to worry about wounding the feelings of their students or about alienating students from their parents. That isn’t fair to anyone—including the wider school community….”
On February 22, 2014 Clay Evans reviewed Teaching the Cat to Sit for the Boulder Daily Camera. He excerpted this statement (p. 227) from Theall’s mother: “I think you just need to seek out branches of the Catholic Church that are more accepting of this lifestyle…”