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After alums organize advocacy, Georgetown Visitation will recognize alumnae same-sex legal unions

Georgetown Visitation, run by the Salesian Sisters of the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary, was founded in 1799, and is the oldest Catholic high school for girls in the United States.

Founder's Hall, the main academic building at Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School, Washington DC. (Wikipedia)

Washington D.C., May 14, 2019 / 05:16 pm (CNA).- A Catholic girls’ high school has announced that its alumnae magazine will publish notices of the same-sex legal unions of former students. The decision comes after a school alumnae group organized to advocate for a change to school policy.

Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School in Washington, DC, is run by the Salesian Sisters of the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary. The school announced its policy change in an emailed letter sent May 3 to school students, families, and alumnae.

Sister Mary Berchmans VSM, superior of the monastery responsible for the school, and the school’s former president, signed the email.

The letter was not signed by Dan Kerns, Head of School, nor by any other member of the Board of Directors. Karns is due to retire from the school in July.

Berchmans’ email said a decision to recognize the same-sex legal unions of alumnae had been reached by “school and Monastery leadership after much prayerful consideration and thoughtful dialogue.”

Part of that dialogue appears to have taken place with a small group of pro-LGBT alumnae and activists.

Before the decision was made, alumnae calling themselves the Georgetown Visitation Alumnae for Equity established a private Facebook group in which they discussed efforts to encourage the school to recognize same-sex unions of alumnae.

In the Facebook group, one former student posted the text of an email she sent to Kerns and Berchmans, in which she described herself as a “proudly gay alumna” and complained that the school had declined to publish in its magazine the notice of a same-sex union filed by another alumna.

“I understand that recently a fellow alumna submitted a wedding announcement and was denied publication. It is my further understanding that the administration’s rationale for the lack of inclusion is that you [the school] ‘have an obligation as a Catholic school to take no public position that is in conflict with the sated teachings of the Church at this moment.’”

The former student noted that notice of her own “marriage and same sex partnering” was included in the alumnae notes section of the magaizine in the early 2000s.

“When you talk about the teachings of the church, I want you to remember all of the teachings of the church. I want you to remember to Live Jesus,” the former Visitation student told Berchmans and Kerns.

The alumna posted to the Facebook group the text of a reply from Berchmans, who said that the school was working “towards a solution.”

In her May email to the school community, Berchmans used similar language to the former student’s letter, writing that she had been “reflect[ing] upon what it means to Live Jesus in relationship with our LGBTQ alumnae.”

“The Church is clear in its teaching on same-sex marriages,” Berchmans wrote. “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.”

The religious sister also wrote that she had been praying over what she called the “contradiction” between the Church’s perennial teachings on human sexuality and the Gospel imperative to love.

Noting that “the Church, in its humanity, makes mistakes,” Berchmans said that she was compelled to make a “choice: we can focus on Church teaching on gay marriage or we can focus on Church teaching on the Gospel commandment of love.”

“Beginning with the fall issue of our alumnae magazine, we will publish news of our alumnae’s same-sex unions, along with all updates our alums choose to share with their classmates.”

There are divergent accounts of how the school’s decision has been received among the Visitation community.

A member of the Facebook group posted earlier this month that “Sr. Mary Berchmans is struggling from the amount of negative pushback from members of the Visitation community” after Berchmans announced the decision. The same member noted that Berchmans might be required to “defend” her decision to the school’s board of directors, and called for letters of support to be sent to her and the school.

The Washington Post reported May 13 that a Visitation spokesperson called responses to Berman’s email “overwhelmingly and heartwarmingly positive.”

The Post also reported that school officials had said there were “few complaints about the policy shift from students, parents and the school’s alumnae.”

Before the Washington Post’s story was published, a participant in the Georgetown Visitation Alumnae for Equity Facebook group posted that a Post reporter was working on the story, was a friend of another group member, and urged members of the group to contact him.

One Visitation alumna told CNA that she only learned of the school’s decision when her daughter, a current Visitation student, received the email from Berchmans.

“It was a remarkable way to find out,” she said. “You don’t expect your child to be coming home and telling you about these things when they are supposed to be at a school forming them in the faith.”

The mother told CNA that many other parents objected to the decision but were concerned about confronting school administrators and faculty, noting that school officials seem to have already tacitly approved of retaining a teacher at the school who is widely known to be in a same-sex legal union.

A second parent with daughters at the school told CNA that within the school community there is pressure to conform and support “so-called LGBTQ values.” She said many parents feel pressure to support the same-sex union of one teacher, even if they feel it is inapproproate in the context of the school’s commitment to Catholic teaching.

“All the parents felt like we had to support this teachers ‘marriage,’ and we didn’t really know how to deal with it,” one parent said.

“You worry about soft discrimination against the children,” another mother said. “A’s become B’s very quickly, and you do not want to have a reputation as one of the ‘angry parents.’”

One parent also noted that the school holds an annual “diversity day” for which the students are assigned specific personas to assume, including homosexuality.

The same parents were also quick to insist that much of the school’s religious education and other programs are faithful to Catholic teaching.

“My daughter was taught the Theology of the Body, sound pro-life teaching, exactly what you would want in a Catholic school,” one mother said. “I think there is a minority among the faculty and staff that have gradually taken over parts of the school community and are just really committed to a very politically progressive agenda.”

The Washington Post also reported May 13 that the Archdiocese of Washington said it had not been informed or consulted before Visitation’s decision was made and the email was sent.

While the school is not directly affiliated with the archdiocese, the archdiocese is responsible for ensuring independent Catholic schools maintain their Catholic identity, and is charged with providing advice and guidance on matters related to Church teaching.

An email circulated by school spokesperson Caroline Handorf to the school community May 13 said that representatives from the archdiocese supported the decision.

“We have been in touch with several contacts in the Archdiocese, including Bishop Michael Fisher, to ensure that we are aligned as we move forward and they are assured of our continued commitment to our Catholic identity and to the teachings of the Church,” Handorf wrote.

An archdiocesan spokesman told CNA May 14 that the archdiocese “was not made aware of the discussion on Catholic identity or the recent decision of the school to communicate the change for their alumni publication until after the letter announcing the decision was distributed to the wider Georgetown Visitation community.”

The spokesman also told CNA that Bishop Fisher had not been contacted prior to the email’s circulation.

Handorf has not responded to CNA’s requests for comment.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” are “objectively disordered” and constitute a trial for those who experience them.

People who experience same-sex attraction must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity, the Church says, and “every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

Successive popes have condemned the move towards civil recognition of same-sex unions by the state and expressed their concern that the concept undermines the natural law of the family and marriage, which is between a man and a woman.

Pope Francis has spoken about a state of “critical confusion at the moment” regarding marriage and gender in the world, observing that the word “marriage” can never be used to describe same-sex unions.

Speaking about the essential nature of marriage as between a man and a woman, Francis said in 2017 that “we cannot change it.”

“This is the nature of things,” the pope said, while observing that “we do not joke around with truth.”

Georgetown Visitation was founded in 1799, and is the oldest Catholic high school for girls in the United States. Tuition is $30,100. Approximately 500 students are enrolled in the school.

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  1. How does condoning sin “affirm human dignity”? How does capitulating to cultural lies advance the cause of teaching all God’s children how to build lives together “worthy of respect and love”? How does the distortion of the proper biblical understanding and theological significance of concepts such as “inclusion” and “diversity” serve the interests of Kingdom of God? How does “dialogue” advance truth and virtue when it is really about the terms of surrender to ideologies hostile to revealed religion and natural law? Charity and compassion in this instance require a call to repentance and conversion. As Pope Benedict XVI astutely explained: “Only that which is true can ultimately be pastoral.”

    • Why don’t you ask Pope Bergoglio these questions? Don’t you realize that Georgetown Visitation’s decision and its alumnae pressure group are motivated and sustained by his “Who-Am-I-To-Judge?” words and actions promoting homosexuality and lesbianism?

      • Good QUESTION! When this kind of QUESTION surfaces, one quickly learns that there Is A Major Problem DEVELOPING woth9in the System! The Problem is the Contradiction of the Word of JESUS by the POPE! Jesus said: “If you love me, keep my Commandnents!” John 14:15! WHy is the POPE ALLOWS SAM GENDER UNION? “My sheep knoow my voice!” Jesus already told us what HE wanted us to Learn and to live by! If the POPE is with the Wrod of JESUS< he cood nefr make statement like this! Thus, one needs not to listen to him, but LISTEN to JESUS!

    • Hear, hear, Father Seid.

      But at the same time, how can any of us be surprised by such heretical carry on when the pope and his Modernist hierarchy have made Father James Martin, SJ the spokesman for the Church’s teachings on the moral law?

      After all, the school in Georgetown is only being faithful to the new bogus ‘magisterium’ of Pope Francis and his friends in the American hierarchy, particularly Cardinals Wuerl, Tobin, Farrel and Cupich, all of whom are plants of Theodore McCarrick. The school is only putting into practice what the pope and his picked men have been advocating for years.

      By rubbing our collective noses in what results when faithful Catholics acquiesce in heresy, the school in Georgetown is doing us all a collective favor.

    • Thank you Fr. Seid for the truth of who we are and our purpose in life. Sister Berchman’s dichotomy between “Church teaching” and “the Gospel commandment of love” is a false division since the Church has always taught the Gospel of love. She may be sincere but she is sincerely wrong.

  2. My point has been directly confirmed by Pope Bergoglio himself who has stated: “Being gay is not a problem.” Francis, “Being Gay Is Not A Problem”

    To quote the source —

    Maike Hickson (Twitter, May 14) obtained a text message which an unnamed, likely homosexual lawyer whom Francis received in a private audience, sent to Frédéric Martel. Martel is the author of a Vatican promoted gay-propaganda book. During the audience Francis talked with the lawyer about this book. Afterwards the lawyer wrote to Martel: “I met with the Pope and asked him about your book. He said he had read it. He said it was good. That he knew of many [homosexuals in the Vatican]. He told me being gay is not a problem. We discussed good gays and those gays that are evil but because of power.”

    • According to Jorge Bergoglio, private same-sex sexual relations are not a problem unless you categorize them as “marriage”, and children are involved:
      “If there is a union of a private nature, there is neither a third party, nor is society affected. Now, if the union is given the category of marriage, there could be children affected. Every person needs a male father and a female mother that can help shape their identity.” This statement not only denies The Sanctity of the marital act within The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, but denies The Unity Of The Holy Ghost, and the fact that “It is not posssible to have Sacramental Communion without Ecclesial Communion, while denying our Call to be “Temples Of The Holy Ghost”, simultaneously.
      “Reflecting on the new permissive attitude of some bishops toward homosexuality, Fr. Murray condemned homosexual acts in blunt terms.
      “A relationship based on sodomy is intrinsically evil Murray said”, and I would add abusive. “You don’t sodomize someone and do a good act. That’s an immoral act”, and I would add an act that is devoid of Love.

      “For the Holy Spirit was not promised to the successors of Peter that by His revelation they might make known new doctrine, but that by His assistance they might inviolably keep and faithfully expound the Revelation, the Deposit of Faith, delivered through the Apostles. “

  3. The “human dignity” card trumps all…whether it’s same-sex marriage, euthanasia, communion for remarried Catholics, communion for non-Catholics, “immigration”/open borders….or in a very focused way the recently revised teaching on capital punishment by Bergoglio. But let’s not put this all on Bergoglio (again). Thomism itself took a hit (with delayed effects) with JPIIs love for Scheler and Personalism IMO…writing on the blackboard with one hand while tweaking things with the left, , integrating. St. Augustine was more aware of the possibility for his own teachings to be misinterpreted, JPII less so IMO.

    From the $30K/year Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School website here’s a quote from Sister Mary Berchmans VSM, superior of the “monastery,” now in her late 70s? and she’s there all smiles in a photograph with 1 staff member? and the smiling girls (who can afford that place or who got a scholarship) overcome in the photo by Salesian joy with reference to her “favorite thing about this place”:” I appreciate the manner in which Visitation through the years has maintained a moderate path, retaining the important, stable values of the past while also reaching toward the new, creative ideas of the future. The name of our current capital campaign captures this essence well: ‘A Cherished Past, A Vibrant Future.'”

    Apparently marriage as only between a man and a woman is not among the “important, stable values” or a “truth” or part of the “Gospel imperative to love.” But are we just about “values” or “particular” or both? We’ll leave that discussion for another time…

    Historical pause: let us consider how Richard McBrien of Notre Dame considered Charlie Curran of Catholic U. a “centrist.”

    “The letter was not signed by Dan Kerns, Head of School, nor by any other member of the Board of Directors. Karns is due to retire from the school in July.”

    God bless that “gloomy Christian” Dan Kerns on his way out the door…who did not cave into Berchans and sign that letter and join her on the “Joy-Guffaw Cam” (a la Cardinal Dolan of NY or Bergoglio).

    No surprise! The got-bucks or tuition-paid-for families not too riled up about this letter and the entry of same sex couples in the registry. Quite the contrary! Yes, let nothing ruin some young lady’s brighter future (or narrative)…not the teachings of the Church on marriage…let us consider…not an unwanted, bright-future-affecting pregnancy which then gets resolved by a human-dignity, human-freedom sustaining abortion? How could someone “hate” such a young woman by suggesting she not have an abortion? Would it not be a “sin” for such a young lady with a brighter future to NOT have an abortion? But let’s tone things down a bit since we talk far too much about abortion in our Sunday homilies…and there’s presumbly no connection between pro-choice and pro-same sex marriage…it might improve employment/political possibilities down the road to NOT have attended a “crazy” Catholic School vs an “inclusive” Catholic School approaching the historically more accepted Episcopalians (who became more “accepting” themselves when the money started leaving). Yes, you could always become a pro-choice Catholic Governor (who does not impose their deeply deeply held beliefs) but with respect to the LGBT thing there’s less wiggle room…less “forgiveness.” No mercy. No forgetting. So here we are.

    I am not a Latin Mass only/”Trad Catholic.” I attend the Novus Ordo (but only usually say the regular 15 decades of the rosary ). But count me a student/devotee of the Council of Trent Catechism that does indeed reference Scripture (contrary to all the LIES about that Catechism) and that Saint so much a part of the Thomistic synthesis (though tweaked here and there by St. Thomas and too often apologized for)…Saint Augustine.

    For all of my previous defense of Scholastic Thomism here and in other posts…I think I have become a Christian Platonist.

    Will the “equally clear” criterion eventually replace the “human dignity” left hook to promote a “Scriptural” rendition of the ecology heresy…to limit world population drastically?

    Welcome to not just Modernism but the vastly overrated Modernity! Welcome to our Trajectory!

  4. Oh give me a break. If the “Sisters” wanted to install a statue of Satan on their premises to demonstrate acceptance of the dignity of all religions, as Americans they could do that too, but it certainly would not make it acceptable to those who follow the teachings of Jesus Christ.

  5. What would happen if person/s in Church authority were to say “No” to the identity politics based on lies that human behavior that is changeable is not an identity that is unchangeable? This seems to be the foundational lie that allows sexual violence committed by same sex individuals to become normative rather than recognizing the deformation to the individual and society.

    Would the Church risk losing wealthy donors? Remember the rich man who walked away from Jesus because he was unable to “give” due to selfishness? Christianity survived the poverty that Jesus and his Apostles lived with. So it is money the Church authorities are afraid of losing?

    Is it suffering? Persecution? It seems the Church, especially the Jesuits are no longer willing to be fathers to the people, able to stand up and defend the children or the souls of the children. Why? Too many are engaged in acts of sexual immorality or witnessed acts of sexual immorality and said nothing, while witnessing those who engaged in acts of sexual immorality rise to the ranks of McCarrick in Washington D.C. Remember McCarrick’s offspring in the Church in D.C. has never been rooted out.

    More reason to pray for the church where the “blind guides lead the blind” as Jesus once said to compromised religious leaders.

  6. Out of love, Jesus corrected his followers when they were wrong. I do believe Sr. Berchmans prayed about the seeming contradiction between the Church’s teaching on sexuality and the Gospel imperative to love but she forgot that part of the Gospel when she made her decision. Not to recognize the same sex unions of certain alumnae doesn’t mean hate. It doesn’t mean they are loved any less. It simply means their choice cannot be accepted by an institution dedicated to Catholic education and teaching. It is unfortunate that the courage to defend that in the current political climate was lacking.

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