Cooperation, not exclusion, is the goal of a new parental agreement for students in Catholic schools run by the Diocese of Springfield, Ill., an official with the diocese has said. “We have been and remain committed to partnering with any parents who desire their children to be educated and formed in our schools,” Jonathan F. Sullivan, Director of Catechetical Services for the Springfield diocese, told CNA Aug. 27. “In those cases where a family may be living in a way contrary to Church teaching, we want to ensure that they understand the education and formation they are requesting from a Catholic school so that they can make a fully informed decision about what is best for their child.” “The agreement does not target any couples, persons, or sins,” he added. The diocese’s Family School Agreement has drawn coverage from some national news outlets like Buzzfeed, which suggested that it was targeting same-sex couples after one such couple attempted to enroll their children at a Catholic school in the diocese. Buzzfeed cited dissenting Catholic groups which criticized the policy and claimed it was intended to drive away divorced and gay parents. Sullivan rejected this idea, saying that the children of the couple reported to be at the center of the story “have enrolled in the school and began classes last week.” He said the diocese’s policy is that “the moral situation of a parent, on its own, should not affect the enrollment status of a student.” “It is our hope that all families would use this as an opportunity to examine how they can more closely conform their lives to the example of Jesus Christ and continue to answer his call to holiness,” he said. In a letter to church and school officials, Springfield’s Bishop Thomas Paprocki explained that while the policy was prompted by the same-sex couple, “the policy as actually developed will not single out same-sex couples.” “Rather, it will be used for all parents to indicate that they understand and agree that children in the school will be taught the teachings of the Catholic Church in their fullness.” He noted that the Catholic Church objects not only to homosexual activity, but also to heterosexual couples cohabiting without marriage and those divorced and remarried without an annulment. “The implementation of this policy is premised on the hope we have for repentance and turning away from a sinful way of life, even if that may be years down the road.” The family agreement is modeled after one in the Diocese of Wichita. The agreement asks parents to acknowledge that they understand and agree that their children will be taught the full teachings of the Catholic Church, “even if we are living a way of life that is contrary to those teachings.” It says parents understand that if they don’t live in accord with Church teaching they will be expected to speak with the parish pastor to discuss “ways in which we could.” Sullivan said that Bishop Paprocki promulgated the family agreement in July, but it does not apply to families who have already registered their children. All families will be expected to sign the agreement when they register for the 2016-2017 school year. The agreement could be revised, Sullivan said. In the form, parents pledge their “full cooperation with the school and parish to prepare our child(ren) to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.” The agreement also discusses expected Mass attendance, tithing, and “active witness to the Catholic faith.” Sullivan described the agreement as “the ideal we hope to work toward in discipleship and stewardship.” “We do not expect anyone to live this perfectly today but rather to be working toward that goal. We are all sinners in need of God’s forgiveness,” he said. The agreement also states the parish’s obligation to help parents in nurturing their children. “We will make our best effort to form your child(ren) as a disciple of Jesus Christ,” it says.
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