There’s been a rainbow-colored rumpus at a Catholic school in northeast Baltimore over the weekend.
The Baltimore Brew reports that a 12-year-old student at St. Francis of Assisi School wore a rainbow Pride shirt on dress-down Friday last week. The girl, who was not named in the report at the request of her mom, thought little of it, having worn the top before.
She and her classmates attended a church service at the school during the day. The service was led by Father John J. “Jack” Lombardi.
According to witnesses, the paper says that at Father Lombardi’s direction, the school principal told the homeroom teacher to speak to the girl. The youngster was pulled over at the end of the service and told to remove the shirt in front of everyone.
A photo of the ‘Pride 365’ shirt she was wearing was included in Baltimore Brew’s story. It looks exactly like this one [top] sold by Target. The girl wore it over a long-sleeve top.
“I think it was really awful what happened. The way they asked her to take it off was really embarrassing,” said a 7th grader, Liam Hines, to the newspaper.
After the service, the girl was summoned to the principal’s office and told she’d violated the school’s dress code.
“She said it was because it was a Catholic school,” the student said. “I thought it was a poor excuse.”
On Sunday, to show support for the student, several of her classmates and other members of the congregation turned up to Father Lombardi’s church service wearing rainbow facemasks.
Baltimore Brew attended with photographer J.M Giordano to capture the dignified show of solidarity. Some congregants carried rainbow bags and others wore rainbow T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan, “I am a child of God.”
One of the church’s own officiants, Lauren Voos, also wore a Pride mask. Voos led part of the call-and-response section of the mass and pointedly slipped in a reference to the incident.
“For marginalized populations and gender identities. . .” she said, and the congregation answered extra loudly: “Lord, hear our prayer.”
Afterward, Lombardi declined to comment on the matter, telling the Brew’s reporter as he left the church, “I’m going to remain peaceful today.”
Instead, yesterday, the Archdiocese of Baltimore issued a statement.
Christian Kendzierski, executive director of communications for the Archdiocese, said: “The attire contained imagery and language with a message that could be determined to oppose teachings of the Catholic Church. St. Francis of Assisi is a Catholic parish. and school that upholds the tenets and teachings of the Catholic faith.”
Kendzierski disputed that the shirt removal was at the priest’s request, saying, “It was the school administration that initiated the request.”
The mother of the student concerned says she’s made a complaint to the Archdiocese’s superintendent of Catholic Schools and awaits a response.
Kendzierski says the church believes in treating people with respect and is “working on plans to bring together the community to discuss this in an open, honest and listening way.”
Yesterday, a leading voice within the Catholic church weighed in on the matter. Father James Martin is a New York Times best-selling author, and one of the leading advocates for LGBTQ acceptance within the Catholic church. In 2017, In 2017, Pope Francis appointed Martin as a consultant to the Vatican’s press office.
On his Facebook page, Martin said, “As I see it, wearing a Pride shirt is not against any church teaching. Pride shirts and rainbow images are one way for members of a group that has been harassed, persecuted and marginalized (and that is still the target of physical violence) to see themselves as beloved children of God.”
He added, “Church authorities also have to be particularly attentive to the real-life effects of such stigmatizing words and gestures … not only on the mental health of LGBTQ youth, but also on their families and friends, as well as the community.”