Aren’t Catholic Schools Supposed to be Catholic?

What’s a Catholic school to do? Bow to Planned Parenthood or risk losing money?

Sacred Heart Greenwich
Sacred Heart Greenwich (photo: Google Maps)

Are the values of Catholicism and Planned Parenthood compatible? One independent Catholic all-girls school in Greenwich, Connecticut has decided they are. Or maybe it’s not so much a matter of values, but the value of money.

Earlier this month sophomore Kate Murray was asked to remove the “I STAND WITH PLANNED PARENTHOOD” sticker she had put on her laptop computer. If she didn’t, she was told, she wouldn’t be allowed to re-enroll next year at her school, Sacred Heart Greenwich.

Meanwhile Kate’s parents, Brian and Tracy Murray, went public with the story. Tracy told the Greenwich Time, “It is a small sticker. It is not incendiary, it is not vulgar. It is not hurtful… It is a statement of my daughter’s belief and she deserves the same respect for her beliefs that the administration and part of the faculty are demanding for theirs.”

The story garnered national publicity, with Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards chiming in with this tweet: “Kate, Planned Parenthood is so proud to count you as a supporter. Keep fighting for what you believe in.” As the story grew, it also created a backlash among current and former SHG students and parents. Within days nearly 3,000 of them had signed a petition with this statement: “Unless Kate is allowed her freedom of speech, all of my future donations that would have been allocated to Sacred Heart Greenwich will now and forever be donated to Planned Parenthood.”

What’s a Catholic school to do? Stand on principle or risk losing money? Let’s just say they reversed their decision. In an op-ed written a few days later for the Greenwich Time and the Stamford Advocate, called “Nurturing Freedom of Expression at Sacred Heart,” Head of School Pamela Hayes said that “we would never dismiss a student for what she believes or a cause she supports and will not now.” She went on to praise the “energy” the controversy had generated: “In fact,” she wrote, “the level of confidence and passion we’re seeing from alumnae validates the strength of a Sacred Heart education.”

Really? First of all, if Kate Murray had come to school with a sticker on her laptop supporting Neo-Nazis or the Ku Klux Klan, I very much doubt that the school would have supported that example of free speech. And can Hayes seriously be proud of the fact that so many of the school’s alums were willing to help fund the organization most associated with abortion in this country, responsible for taking about 320,000 innocent lives annually?

Perhaps Sacred Heart Greenwich is merely reaping what it has sown over the years. Maybe the Catholic value of supporting life from conception until natural death was never high on its list of teaching priorities.

In a piece for National Review called “This Is How Religious Liberty Really Dies,” author David French cites a case involving another Catholic school, this one in Miami, Florida. There, teacher Jocelyn Morffi was fired by the Saints Peter and Paul Catholic School after marrying her lesbian partner. Several parents expressed surprise and upset at Morffi’s firing, even demanding an explanation. “Over the long term,” French writes, “this is the real threat to religious freedom. It’s not, ultimately, the government. It’s the combination of media and cultural pressure – of external and internal anger – that slowly but surely bends church institutions to its will.”

Under the mission statement on the Sacred Heart Greenwich website, here’s some of what’s listed under Goal 1:

Rooted in the love of Jesus Christ, the school promotes a personal relationship with God, and fosters the spiritual lives of its members.

The school seeks to form its students in the attitudes of the heart of Jesus expressed in respect, compassion, forgiveness, and generosity.

The entire school program affirms that there is meaning and value in life and fosters a sense of hope in the individual and in the school community.

If parents at Sacred Heart Greenwich and Saints Peter and Paul Catholic School in Miami don’t want their children learning Catholic values, why send them to a Catholic school? If Tracy Murray believes her daughter’s support for Planned Parenthood is a good thing, why not save the tuition and put her in public school?

As David French writes, “You can win all the Supreme Court cases you want, but if the faithful don’t maintain the moral courage and strength of conviction to tack into the cultural headwinds, it will all be for naught.”

Catholic schools – are you listening?