The bishop of Belleville, Illinois recently caused a major upset among parents of Our Lady Queen of Peace grade school.
According to parents of the school, Bishop Edward Braxton of the Diocese of Belleville told fifth and sixth-graders that Santa Claus isn’t real. However, he did tell them the true story of St. Nicholas.
The handout describes St. Nicholas as “the 4th century Bishop of Myra in Asia Minor, whose appearance and name have unfortunately been transformed into the secular, fictitious “Santa Claus.”
While his information is correct, angry and heartbroken parents said disclosing this information could potentially flood the grade school.
“He doesn’t believe now,” said Boyd Ahlers, a father to a fifth-grader who still believed in Santa. “I told my son. It was something that shouldn’t have been said.”
Ahlers continued, “Santa Claus was something that was done for the child, the joy of the child to experience Christmas…the spirit of Christmas, and eventually he would have learned.”
Ahlers added that “all the kids at school are talking about it,” and that the information will surely spread the the young children.
Ray Schott, a parent of a sixth-grade boy, said his son came home with “tears in his eyes” after hearing the news. He said his son was heartbroken.
“He isn’t real, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t in your heart,” explained Schott. “I’m not the only parent who had to explain early why he said what he said.”
Schott continued, “These kids are exposed to so much, so early. Santa is the last pure thing in a child’s life. It hurts. He had no right to do any of that.”
“Taken Out of Context”
The Diocese of Belleville explained in a recent article in the Chicago Tribune that the Bishop’s remarks were actually “taken out of context.”
Jonathan Birdsong, the diocesan superintendent of schools, said he was in the classroom and that the bishop’s statements were “misunderstood.”
“I was quite surprised to learn that somehow some individuals incorrectly thought the bishop was going around the school telling little children that there is no Santa Claus,” explained Birdsong. “This is simply not true!”
Bishop Issues Apology
The diocese said Bishop Braxton returned to the grade school and apologized to the students. However, his exact words were not released to the media.
In this article, parent Ray Schott commented on the Bishop’s apology, explaining, “It takes a big person to admit they made a mistake. He showed a little humility and I think that will go a long way.”