Church de­nies girl’s First Com­mu­nion

Priest al­legedly told par­ents ‘you’re set­ting bad ex­am­ples’ by let­ting her wear a suit

Toronto Star - - NEWS - JULIE ZAUZMER THE WASH­ING­TON POST

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.

COURTESY OF CHRIS MANSELL

Cady try­ing on the suit she wanted to wear for her First Com­mu­nion.

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