Editor's note: Above video is KREM's original reporting this week on how some local Catholic schools would not attend McClain's visit to Gonzaga Prep
SPOKANE, Wash. – Gonzaga Preparatory High School alumna Anne McClain spoke about her experience aboard the International Space Station on Thursday. Hundreds of students packed the gymnasim to hear the astronaut's motivational message about following their dreams – but some invited schools were absent.
Now, the Board of Governors from a local Catholic school is speaking out about the absence.
Several viewers and other media reports raised the question of whether some schools would not attend due to McClain’s sexuality.
A viewer reached out to KREM about McClain’s visit last week. He wrote that a member of the Diocese of Spokane forbade Catholic school students from attending the assembly “because she is gay.”
He alleged that students at Cataldo Catholic School, which McClain attended as a child, were told they were not allowed to attend the event.
The Spokesman-Review reported on Tuesday that a parent at Cataldo Catholic School said parents were informed that they would need to take their kids out of class themselves if they wanted to attend. Some parents believed the decision was made because McClain is lesbian.
KREM reached out to members of Cataldo Catholic School’s Board of Governors several times and did not receive a response – but the three pastors that make up the board released a statement on Wednesday about their official decision for the school not to participate in McClain's visit.
The board is comprised of Fr. Brian Mee of St. Augustine Parish, Fr. Darrin Connall of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes and Fr. Kevin Codd of Sacred Heart Parish.
“We recognize the value of Ms. McClain’s professional accomplishments and commend her for them, but of concern to us as governors of a Catholic school are two important matters,” the statement reads.
First, the board said classes are “rarely canceled” for outside invitations to participate in extracurricular activities.
“We have a responsibility to maintain the integrity of the class schedule for all our students,” the statement reads.
The statement also addresses news reports surrounding “certain events” in McClain’s life, including “her civil marriage which is not in accord with Catholic Church teaching on the nature of marriage.”
“Not having been made aware of any parameters to the program in advance, we had concerns these issues could become a matter of discussion during a time of question and answer. In our opinion, the possibility of introducing elementary school children to such mature themes would not have been prudent,” the statement reads.
Read the full statement below:
The board says its members did not make the decision based of McClain’s sexual orientation.
“Everyone is a beloved son or daughter of God worthy of love, dignity, and respect,” the statement reads.
Parents could have excused their children from school to attend the visit, according to the statement.
Diocese, other schools release statements this week
On Monday, the Diocese of Spokane released a statement about McClain’s visit to Gonzaga Prep.
“In response to Anne McClain’s presentation at Gonzaga Prep, Bishop Daly has made no declaration whether the Catholic schools in the diocese may or may not attend. In keeping with Catholic education as one of his top priorities, and valuing the principle of subsidiarity, Bishop Daly supports the pastors and principals of schools in making decisions about school activities,” reads a statement from the Diocese of Spokane released on Monday.
KREM reached out to several other local Catholic schools about the event and only received a response from All Saints Catholic School.
"We do not ordinarily respond to media inquiries about school field trips. If you are looking for Bishop Daly’s statement please see the diocesan website," said Principal Lori Johnson on Tuesday.
Gonzaga Prep President Michael Daugherty said the school was “thrilled” to welcome McClain back to her alma mater.
“We have invited our local Catholic elementary schools and several nearby SPS elementary, middle school and high schools in hopes that Anne’s accomplishments and will inspire them to pursue their dreams. It is a wonderful opportunity for the Spokane community and we are grateful to be hosting. Some schools are unable to attend but many are coming with a variety of ages from 4th grade - high school. I would encourage you to reach out to individual Catholic Schools if you have more questions about their attendance of our event,” Dougherty wrote in a statement to KREM on Tuesday.
McClain’s sexuality came to light in August when a New York Times article outlined allegations that she committed identity theft and improperly accessed her wife’s financial records while aboard the International Space Station.
“We’ve been going through a painful, personal separation that’s now unfortunately in the media,” McClain said at the time.
In May, McClain participated in a live video chat with students from schools across Washington and North Idaho who huddled into Gonzaga Prep’s gym.
One of the students called McClain’s impact “inspiring.”