Faith

California Catholic school takes away statues of Jesus, Mary in ‘an effort to be inclusive’

A Catholic school in California has removed religious statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary from its campus in an effort to be more inclusive. Supporters said the removal of the statues would make a more inclusive environment for children of other faiths.(2009 file photo/Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images)

A Catholic school in California has removed religious statues from its campus in an effort to be more inclusive, the Marin Independent Journal reported Thursday night.

According to the report, parents of students attending the San Domenico School in San Anselmo “raised concerns” about the removal of the statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. San Domenico School is an independent Catholic school, meaning it is not operated by a Catholic parish or religious order. The K-12 school has 660 students.

Shannon Fitzpatrick, whose 8-year-old son attends the San Domenico School, wrote an email to the school’s board of directors, the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael that “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.

“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 wrote.

Cheryl Newell, a mother of four graduates from San Domenico, told the Marin Independent Journal, “I am extremely disappointed in the school and the direction they’ve been going.”

“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,” she said.

Kim Pipki, a mother of a recent San Domenico graduate, said the statues were also important to some families and students at the school who weren’t Catholic.

“It was less about God and more about passing on some traditions,” Pipki said. “People were shocked that the statues were pitched in the basement."

Supporters of the decision said the removal of the statues would make a more inclusive environment for children of other faiths.

Amy Skewes-Cox, who leads the San Domenico School’s board of trustees, said the removal of the religious statues is “completely in compliance” with the school’s “new strategic plan.” She said that some icons remain on the campus, including a statue of St. Dominic, the school’s namesake.

Skewes-Cox said the school's decision is “totally different” than the ongoing national debate over Confederate statues, and the two issues have “absolutely no connection other than it is change, and people have a hard time with change.”

She argued that overtly religious statues could be “alienating” for students of other faiths.

“We didn’t want to further that feeling,” she said.

Sister Maureen McInerney, prioress general of the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael, the religious order that founded the school in 1850, said it “really isn’t my place” to get involved with “the details of the operation” of running the school.

“So if there has been a reduction in the number of statues but there are still many statues around the campus, I think that would be fine,” McInerney said.

McInerney said that “San Domenico is a Catholic school; it also welcomes people of all faiths. It is making an effort to be inclusive of all faiths.”

Twitter users called the story “insane.”

(H/T: Washington Free Beacon)

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