Church denies girl’s First Communion
Priest allegedly told parents ‘you’re setting bad examples’ by letting her wear a suit
Cady Mansell has always had a strong sense of fashion. At 9 years old, she likes trying on makeup and painting her nails. She likes shopping trips to Chicago with her fashionconscious mother. And since she asked for her first bow tie during one of those trips to the mall when she was just 4 years old, Cady has had a thing for snazzy suits.
When it came time for her First Communion, a major event for Cady, she naturally started thinking early about what she wanted to wear on the big day. She settled on a brandnew all-white suit.
But then word got out at her Catholic school about Cady’s planned attire. School officials told Cady’s parents that she couldn’t participate in First Communion with the rest of her class unless she wore a skirt or dress. And when the Mansells dug in their heels, insisting that their daughter should wear the outfit she had picked out for her special day, the argument escalated quickly — to the point that the Mansells pulled their daughters out of the school and the church altogether.
“It made me sad and mad,” Cady said. “We should all be equal and wear what we would like.”
At the school, St. John the Evan- gelist in St. John, Ind., an official, who asked not to publish her name because she didn’t make the decision to ban Cady’s suit, said the school simply couldn’t bend its dress code to suit Cady’s style.
“We have a dress code in place for our school. We consistently enforce that,” she said. “Oftentimes you’ll get somebody who wants to wear sneakers instead of dress shoes, or a purple shirt instead of a white shirt.”
A girl would not be allowed to wear an outfit that fits the boys’ dress code, the official said, though she couldn’t give a reason, other than that it is against the code.
The Rev. Sammie Maletta, the priest at St. John the Evangelist, told the Mansells that a deacon at the church could administer Cady’s First Communion privately, but that she couldn’t attend the ceremony with the rest of her classmates unless she wore a dress or skirt.
After Chris, who worked at the school as a teacher’s aide, discussed the dress code with the principal, her husband took Cady to the rehearsal for the ceremony. There, Chris said, Maletta pulled Cady’s father aside.
In Chris’ telling, Maletta said: “You’re raising your daughter wrong. You’re setting bad examples for her. She doesn’t have the brain development and maturity to decide if she wants to wear a suit. It’s your job as a parent to say, ‘You’re not wearing a suit. You’re wearing a dress.’ ”
Mansell responded by saying if that was how Maletta saw it, the family would leave the parish, which was central to their lives. It meant pulling their daughters out of the school and Chris quitting her job at the school. They went through with it.
Cady said she’s enjoying the new Catholic school her parents enrolled her in a few days after they left St. John the Evangelist at the end of September. But the kids at her new school already did their First Communion at the end of third grade, so Chris (who will also need to find a new job) is looking for a church where Cady can finally make her First Communion.
Cady trying on the suit she wanted to wear for her First Communion.