Girl fights to play in Catholic football league

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DOYLESTOWN, Pa. — Sixth-grader Caroline Pla is fighting the archdiocese for the right to keep playing church-sponsored youth football.

While at least a few U.S. dioceses let girls play football, the Philadelphia league is open only to boys.

After one season without a hitch, she learned last fall that an overlooked boys-only rule would be enforced. The archdiocese, though, agreed to let her finish the season.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput is now reviewing the ban, with a decision expected next month after a panel of coaches, parents and doctors weigh in.

The Women’s Sports Foundation believes there are instead good reasons to reverse the rule — and not just for the sake of girls.

From a safety perspective, pre-pubescent girls and boys are often the same size. And legally, private or religious groups that receive any type of federal funding — through low-income lunch programs or other aid — must abide by Title IX, the 1972 law that guarantees girls equal access to sports, she said. There are exceptions for contact sports, but they cannot be invoked once girls have been allowed to play in a program, she said.