The following is a statement from James Goodness, Vice Chancellor and Director of Communications for the Archdiocese of Newark.
While the unfortunate situation at Saint John’s School in Clark has affected many, the Archdiocese of Newark has special concern for the students involved – the two girls and the boys on the Saint John’s JV Black team, and all other students participating in the league – who have been upset through no fault of their own. The CYO basketball program is organized not only for the enjoyment of the students involved, but also to teach them the importance of fair play, good and healthy competition and how faith can be expressed through sports and in community.
By their very nature, competitive sports call for rules and regulations. What is more, the educational purpose of CYO athletics needs policies that create a safe and healthy environment for the athletes, while serving the goals of the Catholic Youth Organization.
For more than two decades, the rules and practices in the Archdiocese of Newark CYO call for boys-only and girls-only teams in older grades. The rule recognizes that some sports, like basketball, feature greater physical contact and aggression as student players age and mature. The logic is similar to the rules requiring the separation of players by age groupings. Both rules seek to reduce the possibility of injury to a younger, smaller child by older and more physically developed athletes.
While he recognizes that the recent decisions by CYO officials were aimed at an appropriate and consistent application of the organization’s rules, Cardinal Joseph Tobin, the Archbishop of Newark, believes that the Saint John’s JV Black team should not have been penalized for mistakes that adults responsible for following the league rules may have made.
Consequently, the Cardinal has directed that the Saint John’s JV Black team may retain its current team roster as a co-ed team for the remainder of the current season, and have its win/loss record restored. The league will attempt to reschedule the final two games of the season that the JV Black team had forfeited, and the team will participate in the league playoffs.
Further, the Cardinal has directed that CYO officials, under the aegis of the Archdiocesan Secretariat for Catholic Education, convene a working group to study the current league rules regarding participation and team makeup in all age groups.
“We want the children to play for the very reasons CYO sports leagues were established: to provide a source of both recreation and reaffirmation of our Christian faith,” Cardinal Tobin said.
We regret the difficulty, disappointment and discouragement that have affected the children, whose growth remains our highest priority and concern.
In a separate matter dealing with litigation brought by a family against St. Theresa School in Kenilworth, Cardinal Tobin has directed Archdiocesan legal counsel to cease seeking to enforce the school's Parent/Student handbook provision about removal of students because of litigation. The two girls in this matter will continue to attend St. Theresa for the remainder of the year. It should be noted, however, that St. Theresa Parish and School will continue to defend itself in the lawsuit brought against it by the family.