Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in Sydney’s Catholic Schools

When the topic of religious exemptions from anti-discrimination laws comes up, some people will argue for such measures,citing religious liberty of church institutions.  However,  what often goes unnoticed in such a discussion is the effect on human beings who are affected by such exemptions.

sssshThe Sydney Morning Herald in Australia recently published a story in which the reporter interviewed lesbian and gay people who work in Catholic schools, and who, because their employers are allowed to discriminate, must live lives of secrecy and fear.

The stories are heartbreaking:

“When they first moved in together, Mike and his partner, who were both Catholic school teachers in Sydney, took some unusual steps to conceal their sexuality.

” ‘We set up our house with two bedrooms so if any colleagues came over we could pretend we were just flatmates,” he said.

“Mike now works in an independent school, where he is open with staff, though not students, about his sexuality. His partner, who still works in the Catholic system, is more guarded.

” ‘He’s not able to take a day off work if I am sick. He has to be very guarded as to who he reveals his lifestyle to.’ ” . . . .

“Daniel Torcasio openly discussed his male partner with colleagues while working as a teacher at a Melbourne Catholic boys school, but hid the truth from students: ” ‘They want to know about your life and what you’ve done on the weekend … there was one stage where I referred to my male partner as she or her … I remember thinking “I’m an adult here and I’m lying”.” He too chose to leave eventually.”

What is worse, though, is an almost cavalier approach to the problem that Catholic officials seem to take.  Instead of acknowledging the complexity of the situation, one such official has tried to make it a case of black and white clarity:

“Greg Whitby, executive director of schools with the Parramatta Diocese, said expectations of Catholic schools were clearly communicated to applicants and that teaching contracts featured clauses stipulating employees ‘adhere and observe the principles and moral standings and teachings of the Catholic Church.’ ”

Such an attitude of clear-cut simplicity does not to service the variety of elements involved in such a situation:  the faith of the employee, the desire to be of service, the emotional and spiritual needs of the individual, the opportunity for betterment that a school could have, to name a few.

Our church needs more leaders who are more pastoral in their approach, evaluating all of the factors involved in the situation.  We certainly don’t need leaders who are bureaucrats.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

0 replies
  1. Chaplain Bill
    Chaplain Bill says:

    There is a point in life where we have to decide if we will or will not participate in our own oppression. Adulthood seems to be a great point in life to do that. The subterfuge that this couple endures and appears to continue to endure is tragic and at this point self-inflicted. Walk away from the catholic school and make it very clear why you are leaving. To remain in such a toxic environment — as an adult — is to become your own enemy and to do grave injury to your person.

    • John Dwyer
      John Dwyer says:

      Adding to Chaplain Bill: And it’s not just about being gay; accepting and bearing with that oppression, offering it up as a sacrifice, permits the perpetrators to exacerbate their wonton behavior. It hurts many others for many years to come to submit. Stand up! Speak up! Step forward! Down with the oppressors!

  2. Barbara
    Barbara says:

    What you say is correct, Chaplain Bill, but life isn’t always that simple either. Some people need their job if they want to have food, electricity, heat, etc. There isn’t always another option.

    It always remains tho …. any organization that requires people to hide rather than be who they truly are, is dysfunctional at best and oppressive, cruel, and domineering at worst. The only thing even more repulsive is when such cruelty is done in the name of our loving God.

  3. Richard Baldwin Cook
    Richard Baldwin Cook says:

    So, every job applicant agrees to follow Catholic teaching and doctrine, in order to secure and keep employment. Impressive. So there is no adultery, no contraception . . . Oh, wait . . . such activities are only firing offenses if you fess up. And, who would . . . other than a gay person, who wants to live with dignity. That’s the real ‘violation’ isn’t?

  4. Deranged Millionaire
    Deranged Millionaire says:

    Well, conservatives have a right to their own schools. If you don’t want to be discriminated against – find another school. These are not ‘branches’ of the Church, which has made itself clearly against homosexuality and TG in any case. These are private institutions, and they can be run any way their owners want. Frankly, if they decided to convert it into a Methodist Community College or a KKK Hall – that would be their affair, and solely theirs.


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