SAN PEDRO — A group of Roman Catholics and feminists who are opposed to abortion have called for a demonstration this morning outside Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church to support a 17-year-old honor student who has been barred from graduation at the adjacent Mary Star of the Sea High School because she is pregnant and unmarried.
Dale Nobel, who helped organize the protest, said the demonstration is intended to show church officials that Catholics do not agree with the decision to prohibit Lisa Martinez, a straight-A student and vice president of the student body, from participating in commencement.
"We love our church, but we feel the statement this sends out in denying Lisa the right to graduate with her class is inconsistent with the statements made by the archbishop," said Nobel, who is a member of the St. Brendan's parish in the Wilshire District. "He has spoken out very many times about pro-life issues and against abortion."
Archbishop Roger M. Mahony said last week that he has set up a committee to look into the dispute, which he expects can be resolved before graduation on Friday. "Fortunately, the graduation is still a week off so we still have time to reach what we feel would be a good compromise and would settle the needs of everybody," Mahony said.
School administrators allowed Lisa to remain in class several months ago when they learned of her pregnancy on the condition that she not attend several of the school's public activities, including graduation. Lisa is now 6 1/2 months pregnant.
In defending that decision, Principal Carolyn Quijano said the school has "tried to show forgiveness and support of Lisa in her decision to carry her baby," but she said "forgiveness and empathy do not mean approval."
Quijano said the school's decision is intended to support the teachings of the church, which considers premarital sex a sin.
But Nobel and others fear that the decision will encourage young Catholics to have abortions rather than keep their babies. The church forbids abortions.
"It would have been very easy in this day and age for her to march down to the nearest abortion clinic," said Susan Carpenter McMillan, president of Feminists for Life, at a press conference last week. "This woman decided to take an incredibly courageous step and say, 'I am going to keep my child alive.' "
Nobel said the demonstration, scheduled for 9 a.m., will be a peaceful show of solidarity for Lisa. "As a Catholic, I feel we need to support Lisa in what she has chosen to do," she said. "She has a hard row to hoe."