By now, you have probably heard of Katelyn Sills. As my friend John-Henry Weston reported at LifeSite, this vivacious Catholic teen “was expelled from Loretto High School in Sacramento last week, two weeks after the teacher, who was found to be an abortion clinic escort, was dismissed at the behest of the local bishop, William Weigand … Katelyn informed her mother after she recognized Marie Bain, one of the teachers at Loretto, as an escort at a Planned Parenthood abortuary where Katelyn and her family had regularly taken part in pro-life rallies.” If you happen to have internet access, please check out Katelyn’s blog at www.StandUpAndSpeakOut.blogspot.com.
Now, the message sent by the Loretto sisters is clear. If the intended victim is a child in the womb, then aborting her life is permissible. If the intended victim is a young lady seeking spiritual and intellectual growth, then aborting her education is desirable. Yet, if the intended recipient is an old radical feminist (and there are only old ones, because they aborted all the potential young ones in the womb), then thou shalt not abort her from exercising authority over impressionable adolescent girls.
Yet, what I find most discouraging about Katelyn’s situation is the following: “The diocese says it is unable to act on the matter of Katelyn’s expulsion. Rev. Charles S. McDermott, S.T.D. chancellor and vicar episcopal for theological affairs for the Diocese of Sacramento, explained to LifeSiteNews.com that the school is run by an order of nuns popularly known as the Loretto Sisters. Rev. McDermott described the order as, ‘A religious institute in the church which is of pontifical right,’ explaining that ‘they are subject in their internal affairs directly to the Holy See and not to the local bishop.’”
Bishop Weigand enjoys a solid reputation when it comes to defending the culture of life. The fact his excellency ordered a pro-abortion teacher dismissed from a Catholic school clearly demonstrates his willingness to shoulder his episcopal duties.
My sources in both the pro-life movement and the canon law world hold Fr. McDermott in similarly high esteem. You can safely assume these two churchmen would only draw such a harsh conclusion after long and careful thought. Thus, it is with trepidation that I question whether the Diocese of Sacramento is canonically unable to intervene in this sordid affair.
Canon 806, Section 1 is clear: “The diocesan bishop has the right to watch over and visit the Catholic schools in his territory, even those which members of religious institutes have founded or direct. He also issues prescripts which pertain to the general regulation of Catholic schools; these prescripts are valid also for schools which these religious direct, without prejudice, however, to their autonomy regarding the internal direction of their schools.”
Does Katelyn’s expulsion concern the internal direction of the school?
In the strictly spiritual sense, I would argue that only the diocesan exorcist is empowered to correct the school’s internal direction. Thus, I would not fight this injustice too strenuously if Katelyn were my daughter. In fact, I would rather take my chances with the local public school than risk her soul at Loretto High.
Nevertheless, is this really what the canon means when it speaks of “autonomy concerning the internal direction of their schools?” After all, a high-school student is neither a teacher, a uniform, nor a postulant interested in joining the Loretto sisters. She is a member of the Catholic public who falls under the care of the religious institute within the context of a public ministry.
More important, autonomy in certain administrative matters does not mean autonomy from the basic principles of justice or autonomy from the Catholic faith.
Katelyn merely insisted that a school administered by a Catholic religious institute act in a manner consistent with the Catholic faith. This is a right enjoyed by every Catholic. For canon 217 upholds the right of every Catholic “to a Christian education, which genuinely teaches them to strive for the maturity of the human person and at the same time to know and live the mystery of salvation.”