A Catholic school in California has angered several parents by stripping its campus and curriculum of Catholic statues and teachings, ostensibly to be more inclusive.
The San Domenico School, a Dominican Catholic institution, removed the majority of its campus’ 180 religious statues and icons, prompting several parents to claim that the school is abandoning its Catholic heritage to be more pluralistic, according to Marinij. School leadership maintained that the school was still Catholic, but parents pointed out that the removal of the statues and icons was only the latest in a series of moves that made the school less Catholic.
“Articulating an inclusive foundation appears to mean letting go of San Domenico’s 167-year tradition as a Dominican Catholic school and being both afraid and ashamed to celebrate one’s heritage and beliefs,” reads an email to school leadership from Shannon Fitzpatrick, mother of one of the school’s students.
“In our time here, the word ‘Catholic’ has been removed from the mission statement, sacraments were removed from the curriculum, the lower school curriculum was changed to world religions, the logo and colors were changed to be ‘less Catholic,’ and the uniform was changed to be less Catholic,” Fitzpatrick added.
Fitzpatrick said other parents raised similar concerns that the school was abandoning its faith, and that many are angered that the school did not notify them of the changes before enrolling their children for the next year.
“I am extremely disappointed in the school and the direction they’ve been going,” said Cheryl Newell, mother of four San Domenico graduates. “This isn’t a new thing that they’ve been intentionally eroding their Catholic heritage. They’re trying to be something for everyone and they’re making no one happy.”
“The one main statue that has everyone fired up is the baby Jesus and Mary one,” said Kim Pipki, whose daughter left the school after 9th grade. “It was at the center of the primary school courtyard.”
School leadership responded to claims that the school was becoming less Catholic and said that while the school is in fact Catholic, it is also open to students of all faiths. Leadership made the decision to remove Catholic references in order to attract more prospective families who might consider enrolling their children in an independent school.
“San Domenico is both a Catholic school and an independent school,” said Cecily Stock, Head of School. “But what we were finding after doing some research is that in the broader community we are known as being a Catholic school and are not necessarily known as an independent school. We want to make sure that prospective families are aware that we are an independent school.”
“San Domenico is a Catholic school; it also welcomes people of all faiths,” said Sister Maureen McInerney, prioress general of the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael. “It is making an effort to be inclusive of all faiths.”
Mirza Khan, Director of Religious Studies for the middle school, argued that pluralism and the denial of absolute truth was in line with Dominican Catholic teaching, despite objections from devout Catholic parents and the philosophy’s apparent contradiction in the Apostle’s Creed, which is the Catholic Church’s profession of faith.
“The Dominican teaching philosophy is not to teach there is only one truth,” Kahn said. “It is to foster conversation, to intentionally invite in participants that have different perspectives in a very open-ended process of philosophical and spiritual inquiry. That has been a long-standing part of the Dominican tradition.”
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