On the most fundamental level, the archdiocese's position puts it in violation of Title IX, the federal guarantee against gender discrimination by entities receiving federal financial assistance.
On a religious level, dioceses across the country allow female players.
From a safety standpoint, medical evidence shows that girls ages 10 to 13 grow faster and have more coordination than boys, and that girls and boys do not differ significantly in physiological parameters.
The archdiocese formed a panel of what were supposed to be "parents, pastors, coaches, and experts in the field of childhood sports," according to a published statement. But neither our pastor, who had written in support of Caroline, nor her coaches, nor parents from Roman, were included. According to published reports, no one who had coached a female on a football team was present. No medical or legal experts in the field of childhood sports were present either.
Personal opinion, Vatican law, and the CYO mission statement were instead presented to the panel and became the basis for their final vote in favor of upholding the ban against females. Their own distorted fears of inappropriate touching between male and female players during a game became a focal point in the decision-making process.
The beautiful thing about kids at this CYO age, the one that should be celebrated and cultivated, is that they do not have a jaded adult perspective. There is no better place to witness this innocence and pureness of heart than in sports, on a field, court, diamond, or track. That is where spirits are nurtured, and where goodwill and respect are learned and earned.
The Roman family is the finest example of this. My daughter was both a beneficiary of and contributor to this family. In their last game, she was named sole captain and, in a show of support, her male teammates walked out onto the field, arms locked, and stood behind her during the coin toss. These preteen representatives of the church, of whom we all should be proud, upheld the ideals in the CYO mission statement.
The panel chose to ignore federal law, religious examples, and the experience my daughter had playing co-ed football. It cheated Caroline, her male and female peers, Romans, and all those who support them. It missed the best that sports have to offer.
Respecting everyone's right to an opinion does not mean everyone's opinion is right, particularly in light of clear and tested facts. If the archbishop upholds the panel's recommendation to ban females from CYO football, this fight will not be over. Many supporters are rallying around Caroline in her quest to play co-ed CYO football. In four months she has gained support nationally and around the world. The determination and strength of this 11-year-old will not be diminished. "I have a long life ahead of me," she says.
Even if the archbishop chooses not to make the right and positive step for the youths - female and male in harmony - in the Catholic Church of Philadelphia, and he continues to ban females from CYO football, Caroline will not give up. Hope will never fade.
E-mail Marycecelia Pla at firstname.lastname@example.org.