Firestorm over column on gays in Catholic paper

Boston, USA - A contributor to the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Boston said yesterday he regretted a portion of a column that has infuriated gay Catholics in the region.

In the column, published last week, the writer argued that one reason the children of gay parents should not be admitted to Catholic schools is the “real danger’’ that they would bring pornography to school.

That allegation, plus several others in the column, has drawn a torrent of criticism from gay rights advocates.

And yesterday, the editor of the paper, The Pilot, said in a statement, “The tone of the piece was strong, and we apologize if anyone felt offended by it.’’

The controversy began June 4, when The Pilot published a column by Michael Pakaluk, a former philosophy professor at Clark University in Worcester and former visiting scholar at Harvard who now teaches in Virginia. Pakaluk was reflecting on another controversy, regarding the decision by a Hingham priest to rescind the acceptance of a child of a lesbian couple to a local parochial school.

The Archdiocese of Boston has just begun developing a policy regarding the admission of children of gay parents to Catholic schools, following the Hingham controversy.

In the column, Pakaluk wrote that pornographic items “go along with the same-sex lifestyle, which — as not being related to procreation — is inherently eroticized and pornographic.’’

In a phone interview yesterday, however, Pakaluk said he now views that sentence as a “weak argument.’’

“I think I probably would not make that point again, and I can see how it would be offensive,’’ he said.

In the column, Pakaluk also expressed concern that by welcoming gay families, Catholic schools could give children the impression that the practice of homosexuality is acceptable, as well as potentially provide an opportunity for a gay parent to “advocate for his lifestyle.’’ He added that gay parents should not be called “parents’’ unless they are biologically related to their children.

Pakaluk, who has been writing monthly columns for The Pilot since 2002, according to the archdiocese, stood by those aspects of the column yesterday. He said that what gay Catholics and their supporters believe is “on a major collision course’’ with Catholic teaching that sexual relations should only take place within a heterosexual marriage, that opposite-sex partners in marriage represent the image of God, and that a mother and father make “distinct and complementary’’ contributions toward raising a child.

“Parents have to be committed to trying to live Catholic morality; otherwise, they are not partnering with the school,’’ he said.

Jarrett Barrios, a former state senator from Cambridge who is now president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, called the column “void of the love, compassion, and inclusiveness that so many proud practicing Catholics, myself included, have grown up with.’’

Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, an advocacy group for gay Catholics, said, “I think this is an absolutely appalling piece. I think it’s incredibly irresponsible for a Catholic newspaper to allow such hateful and insupportable claims to be made in their paper.’’

The editor of The Pilot, Antonio M. Enrique, said in a statement to the Globe yesterday that the column did not necessarily reflect the views of the archdiocese or the paper, which he said tries to promote conversation and understanding of the different positions on issues of interest to Catholics.

“Pilot readers are accustomed to reading differing views on many complex social issues,’’ he said. “Our Catholic laity is well educated and can make up their minds on whether they agree or disagree with a particular opinion.’’

Charles Martel, cofounder of the national Catholics for Marriage Equality who attends St. Ignatius Parish in Chestnut Hill, said Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley must “decide where he really stands.’’

“He can’t have it both ways and say he, in fact, is welcoming these children and then have these kinds of statements made in The Pilot.’’

But a spokesman for O’Malley said yesterday that Enrique, not the cardinal, is fully responsible for what The Pilot prints.

The Pilot has provided space for numerous points of view on this issue. In a letter to the editor that ran on the same page as Pakaluk’s column, Monsignor Paul V. Garrity of St. Mary’s Parish in Lynn wrote that Catholic schools have long welcomed all children, regardless of their family situation.

“To begin to discriminate against children who have two mommies or two daddies would fly in the face of this very proud tradition,’’ he said.