not return calls.
According to a May 6 memo sent to teachers at the private Catholic
school, same-sex couples may enroll children at St. John on the
condition that they not visit the campus together. A number of
parents, who held a prayer vigil by the school Monday night for the
retention of Vianney, claimed that she had fallen out of favor with
church authorities over the proposal.
While Vianney was not available for comment, parents close to her
said that she objected to the notion of barring individuals from the
campus, and that this dispute was a possible factor in the church not
offering her a contract for next year.
"As parents, we're surmising this is the reason," said Suzi Brown,
the school's parent auxiliary president. "We can't say that it is.
"Sister, when presented with this policy, felt that it was
discriminatory. She personally couldn't enforce it. It's our
understanding that the policy would be enforced by the pastor."
Father Joe Fenton, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of
Orange, said the memo was something the diocese was still reviewing.
He added that he had not heard of Vianney being opposed to the item,
although he had not spoken with her about it.
"The policy was never implemented," Fenton said. "It was always a
draft. It was interpreted by some people as a definite statement for
some reason or another."
The issue of homosexuality has troubled St. John recently. In
December, 18 parents at St. John signed a petition to protest the
school's decision to enroll two kindergarteners who had been adopted
by a male Costa Mesa couple. At the time, Benzoni said he disapproved
of gay marriage, but he defended the boys' right to attend the
The May 6 memo, which was obtained by the Pilot, does not directly
refer to the Costa Mesa couple but proposes to add a passage to St.
John's 2005-06 parent-student handbook barring gay parents from
visiting the campus together.
"The children adopted by a same-sex couple may enroll/will
continue as students at St. John the Baptist School on the condition
that the same-sex couple agree not to present themselves as a couple
at school functions; in other words, they agree not [to] come
together to school functions or events," the memo reads, adding that
the school will educate children while disapproving of the parents'
Norbertines priests, a conservative Catholic order, took over
administration of St. John the Baptist Church three years ago. All
the church's current priests, including Benzoni, are Norbertine.
Fenton said that while Norbertines are traditional on issues such as
homosexuality and birth control, he knew of no conflicts between
Vianney and the church officials.
Many parents, however, remain apprehensive about the principal's
status. Today, members of a "Save Sister" campaign plan to hold
another prayer vigil at the offices of the Diocese of Orange.
* MICHAEL MILLER covers education and may be reached at (714)
966-4617 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.