Catholic School Rejects Lesbian Alumna’s Wedding Announcement

Lynn Zlotkowski and Lisa Hardej pose with friends during their wedding

Another Catholic school has rejected a lesbian alumna’s wedding announcement, this time in upstate New York where the school claims it is merely complying with diocesan directives.

Sacred Heart Academy, Amherst, New York (near Buffalo), rejected Lynn Zlotkowski’s submission for Cordecho, the school’s publication for alumni. In an email, Sr. Edith Wyss, who was once principal and is now provincial of the Sisters of St. Francis of Penance and Christian Charity at Stella Niagara who oversee the school, told Zlotkowski that the magazine no longer announces same-gender weddings. According to The Buffalo News, Wyss seemed apologetic about having to reject the submission.  In her email to the women, rejecting their wedding announcement, she wrote:

” ‘Congratulations on your wedding! … The pictures of the SHA girls are wonderful and I recognized everyone 15 years later.

” ‘Though I’m no longer at Sacred Heart, the Sisters of St. Francis sponsor the school and are ultimately responsible for its mission and viability…I was contacted about your request and since I knew you, I wanted to respond personally.’ “

The provincial also explained the reasoning behind the rejection, referencing an incident several years ago which led to a total ban on same-gender wedding announcements:

” ‘I’m very sorry that we can’t publish your pictures and your good news in the Cordecho…We had a similar request several years ago and we did publish that announcement of the marriage of an alum to her partner. We did expect some negative response and we got some.’

” ‘However some readers of the Cordecho also contacted the Diocese of Buffalo. The bishop sent a diocesan official to meet with us at SHA to make sure that we understood what we had done…In their view, we were publicly supporting same-sex marriage. In our view, we were supporting our alumnae.’

” ‘I hope you can appreciate our predicament…Know that the current administration of the school and the sisters support you personally and hope for your happiness.’ “

Supporting Wyss’ claims about diocesan interference is a statement released by Diocese of Buffalo Bishop Richard Malone who said he was “grateful” that Sacred Heart Academy had “done the right thing” in rejecting the announcement.

While Zlotkowski and her wife, Lisa Hardej, who are both educators themselves, disagree with the decision, they are still supportive of Sacred Heart Academy. Speaking to The Buffalo News, she said:

” ‘I treasure my time at Sacred Heart and feel sad that my school doesn’t feel empowered to support part of their population’ …

” ‘I know I am not the only gay alumna Sacred Heart has…You can’t just ignore a portion of the people you educated and helped grow into the person they’ve become.’

” I love Sacred Heart…I give money to Sacred Heart. I’m excited about the construction they are doing. If I had a daughter and lived in Buffalo, I would send her to Sacred Heart. I’m disappointed that they can’t support me the way that I support them.’ “

Zlotowski also expressed hope for change in the Church under Pope Francis.

This situation is not a first. A Catholic high school in Maryland made headlines when it rejected a lesbian alumna’s wedding announcement earlier this year. As marriage equality expands in the US, let us hope Catholic education can do better than rejecting LGBT alumni and will raise its standards on LGBT issues overall.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

10 Responses to Catholic School Rejects Lesbian Alumna’s Wedding Announcement

  1. Lynne Miller says:

    i think both the sister (former principal) and the bride (former student) responded with as much grace as could possibly be expected. i’m sure sister will hear about it if the bishop hears of her kind and supportive letter!

  2. I too am glad to see the supportive letter from the former principal, though I wonder what would have happen had she and the other leaders of her school and religious community chosen to publish the announcement anyway? For change to happen, such “acts of disobedience” (which I’m sure is how Bishop Malone would frame it) by men and women throughout all levels of Church structures are what is necessary. We are either complicit with an unethical position or we are not .. in some things there is no middle ground.

    That said, I’m saddened but not surprised that this occurred where Richard Malone is the ordinary. Father Richard Malone was a seminary professor of mine many years ago. Knowing him then, I was taken aback when he became such a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage when Bishop of Portland (ME). I had known him to be a thoughtful and reasonable man, and a very good teacher. Apparently, power does corrupt!

    • Joe Sacerdos says:

      I also knew Richard Malone when he was a young vibrant and very much “liberal” priest. But it has also been reported that Joseph Ratzinger was a progressive when younger. Go figure.

  3. Agellius says:

    The Catholic Church has always believed that only a man and a woman can be married. It continues to believe this.

  4. Joe Sacerdos says:

    “I was only following diocesan directives.” Hmmm Isn’t that what the Nazi Officers said when on trial for their war crimes? I was only following orders?

  5. Jerry Betz says:

    These Sisters taught me in grades 5-9 in the 1950’s. They were the best.
    In the early 1970’s I found myself in San Francisco planning a Dignity retreat. I contacted the Western Province of these Sisters to obtain use of their Motherhouse for our retreat. We got it! Not wanting to blindside the nuns, I asked the elderly Sister if she knew what Dignity was. She said, “Why yes, of course. You are gay and lesbian Catholics, aren’t you? You are most welcome!”
    Granted that was San Francisco Bay Area and pre-JP2, but it was still early in our development and there were often “troublesome” times. These Sisters were wonderful. Glad to see they haven’t changed.

  6. […] January, news broke that Notre Dame Preparatory School, Baltimore, had rejected 2003 alumna Sarah […]

  7. […] Locally, he forced a Catholic parish to remove a sign about Jesus’ two dads and expressed gratitude that a Catholic high school rejected a lesbian alumna’s wedding […]

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