Gridiron Girl Church Ban

This photo taken Feb. 21, 2013, shows Caroline Pla, 11, posing for a photo with her helmet in Doylestown, Pa. The archbishop of Philadelphia announced Thursday, Mar. 14, 2013 that he'll allow the region's Catholic youth sports league to field coed football teams. The Pla family had been fighting the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia for the right to continue playing church sponsored youth football. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Matt Rourke

PHILADELPHIA — The archbishop of Philadelphia said Thursday that he will allow the region's Roman Catholic youth sports league to field coed football teams.

The decision came in response to a request from an 11-year-old girl who's been playing football since kindergarten but has been told that she couldn't play because the Philadelphia league was open only to boys.

Archbishop Charles Chaput said Caroline Pla and other girls will be able to play football in the coming season though the approval is conditional and subject to review.

"It's a great step for the future of the church to include women," said Marycecelia Pla, Caroline's mother. "Archbishop Chaput is starting with young women who are the future of the church, and I thank him for it."

Chaput directed the archdiocese to allow for girls to participate, despite a decision by a panel of coaches, parents, pastors and medical experts that evaluated the Catholic Youth Organization policy and decided to keep it unchanged.

Archdiocese spokesman Kenneth Gavin told The Associated Press that Chaput considered all factors.

"The panel's recommendation was one factor. He is grateful for their service and counsel," Gavin said. "He considered all possible factors though including feedback from sources both critical and supportive; the expectations of parents, coaches, and pastors; common current practice, legal circumstances and the CYO policies of dioceses around the country. Everything factored into the final decision."

Earlier Thursday, Pla said Caroline, a sixth-grader, was still in school and was not yet aware of the decision. She added that the decision would benefit other girls, too.

"It's a great for young girls in CYO football," she said.

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