11-year-old Caroline Pla's fight to play in the Catholic Youth Organization league went national, gaining attention from all over, including daytime talk shows.
Last month Action News reported on how the Philadelphia Archdiocese banned the Doylestown girl from playing with the boys after being in the league for two years.
"It's just really fun to see that my voice is being heard," Caroline said.
Action News has confirmed that an archdiocese board met last week to review the football rule and overwhelmingly voted to not change it. But it's Archbishop Charles Chaput who will have the final say in a decision that's expected in March.
So Caroline wrote to him the following letter on January 27th:
Dear Archbishop Chaput,
My name is Caroline Pla and I am eleven years old. I have been playing football for the CYO program for the past 2 years. After those seasons, now it has come to the Archdiocese's attention that I cannot play, simply because I am a girl. The last two football seasons have been the best in all of the sports history. Being a part of the CYO program was incredible. Having the community service, prayers during practices and games, and the fun of being a part of one big family, was all great to me. Girls shouldn't be excluded from this experience, simply because we're girls.
I don't think that this rule is fair. I think that anybody, regardless of gender, deserves a chance to play whatever sport they want to. Therefore, I have decided to take action to get this rule changed. In November, I called and emailed Jason Budd, and he never responded. So then I started a petition to get the rule changed. That petition is at about 97,000 signatures. As you can see from that number, many other people think that this rule is unfair and that it is time for a change.
At the end of March, I will receive my Confirmation. I will be considered an adult in the church. As an adult, I feel that it would be important for me to have a conversation with you regarding this rule. One of the most important parts of a conversation is being able to listen to each other. I'd like you to hear my thoughts, and I would like to hear your thoughts. Do you think that it is possible to either meet or talk on the phone about this? I understand that there will be a committee, but I would like to talk to you.
Thank you and I am looking forward to your response.
To her surprise, the Archbishop responded - a day later in fact - but it's his words that surprised her more.
Thank you for your email of January 27. I'm copying this response to Ms. Leslie Davila, director of our Office for Child and Youth Protection. This is one of our ministerial guidelines, and I need to follow it; it's an awkward but necessary safety rule to protect young persons like you. I'm sure you understand. I'm also copying the email address I have for your father. Please make sure that both of your parents see our exchange.
Caroline, I appreciate your concern, and I'm glad CYO has meant so much to you. But I'm perplexed that you would contact me last, after publicizing your situation in both the national and regional media. Perhaps that's the way these problems have been handled here in Philadelphia in the past, but as people will gradually discover, that kind of approach has no effect on my decision-making. CYO rules exist for good reason. You're obviously a good athlete, I'm very proud of you for that, and it may be time to adjust CYO rules accordingly. That decision will not be made in haste, though. As the archdiocese has already indicated, the rules affecting your play will be reviewed by a committee of parents, pastors and sports and medical personnel. They will offer me their recommendation sometime in the next two months, and then I'll make a final decision based on the safety and best interests of all players involved. There is no need for us to meet personally on this matter.
I admire your love of the game, Caroline, and I'm impressed by your zeal in pursuing the opportunity to play it. At the same time, it's important to understand that pressure is not a good way of showing respect for dedicated people who are simply fulfilling their duty to protect young people in sports.
Be assured of my good will and prayers for you and your family.
With best wishes in Jesus Christ,
Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. Archbishop of Philadelphia
Caroline says she respects the Archbishop, but not the rule that's keeping her off the field.
"Considering that I did email and call and just didn't get a response, I figured that if I didn't do any of this, no one would hear about it and no one would agree or disagree with it," Caroline said.
She wrote that in a response to Archbishop Chaput on the same day:
Dear Archbishop Chaput,
Thank you so much for writing back to me. I do want to clarify that I called Jason Budd three times and emailed him, November 19, 2012. He never responded. After waiting 25 days, without a response, then the media was made aware of this situation. If I had known that you were in charge of the final decision, I would of [sic] contacted you immediately. Msgr. Gentili on Tuesday informed my parents that you would have the final say. That is when I decided to send you an email.
I will pray that God guides you in your decision.
Caroline's parents say they contacted the archdiocese for weeks and never got a response before finally going to the media.
Another interesting point, Action News found out several archdioceses, including ones in Cleveland, Ohio and Wilmington, Delaware, allow girls to play full contact football with the boys in their leagues.