Catholic girls’ school in DC adopts policy contrary to church teaching

Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School, a Catholic girls’ high school, has adopted a policy for its alumnae magazine contrary to Catholic Church teaching — a move that has taken the Archdiocese of Washington by surprise.

In a letter to the Visitation community, Sister Mary Berchmans Hannan, VHM, president emerita of the school and Monastery Superior, wrote that the school’s alumnae magazine will publish news of alumnae’s same-sex unions, along with all other alumnae news, starting in the fall.

The Catholic Church does not recognize same-sex unions.

“We reached this decision as a school and Monastery leadership after much prayerful consideration and thoughtful dialogue,” Berchmans wrote.

The news arrived with a thud at the headquarters of the Washington Archdiocese.

“The Archdiocese of Washington was not made aware of the discussion of 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,” said an emailed statement from the archdiocese.

Georgetown Visitation is an independent Catholic school founded in 1799, operated by the Sisters of the Visitation. The archdiocese acknowledges the school’s independent status but said the archdiocese has the responsibility to ensure the school maintains an authentic Catholic identity.

Sister Berchmans wrote that the school’s mission is to value diversity and respect the dignity of each person, and the school is welcoming to all, including LGBTQ students, alumnae and families.

In her community letter, Sister Berchmans said the school faced a choice between focusing on church teachings on same-sex marriage or focusing on the Gospel commandment of love.

“We choose the Gospel commandment of love,” Berchmans wrote.

But, from the archdiocese: “Catholic Church teaching on marriage is clear, and it also does not conflict with the Gospel message of love.”

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