Administrator Says He Wasn’t Hired Because Catholic Schools Thought He Is Gay

A case of “he said/they said” is brewing in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, this week, as a Catholic layman who was hired to be the president of a small Catholic schools system, said that his job offer was rescinded because it was assumed that he was gay.  The employer is denying this allegation.

Tim Nelson

Tim Nelson

Tim Nelson, 48,  was hired by the Regis Catholic Schools, an association of five Catholic institutions in Eau Claire,  on April 4th, but he learned on April 22nd that the school system rescinded the offer.

Nelson is charging that the rescinding is based on an incorrect assumption about his sexual orientation based on the wording of an obituary for his father that was printed two-and-a-half years ago.  Eau Claire’s Leader-Telegram reports:

“The Rev. Brian Konopa, pastoral dean of Regis schools, broke the news about ‘serious issues that have come to the forefront’ in a telephone call on April 17, or 13 days after Nelson had been introduced as the next Regis president, Nelson said.

“Regis officials indicated someone had given them information showing that a man’s name was listed in parentheses behind Nelson’s in the survivor list of his father’s obituary 2½ years ago, and they told him that is typically the way a gay partner is listed in an obituary, Nelson said.

“Nelson said he explained to Konopa that he considered the man his best friend and that the man was close to Nelson’s family.

” ‘I said, “If you think we are intimate or sexually active, you’ve got another thing coming.” We are not like that at all,’ Nelson recalled telling Konopa.

“Nelson pleaded ignorance to the traditions of obituaries and said, in retrospect, he should have asked to have the roommate, who was included in the obituary at his mother’s request, listed among other friends of the family.

“Regarding his relationship with the man, Nelson said, ‘The two of us live in community, we share expenses and live a devout Catholic lifestyle and meet daily in a chapel in our home for daily prayers.’ “

In addition, Nelson said that the school system checked out his Facebook account and found something objectionable there, too:

“Nelson also alleged that Regis officials expressed concern about a homosexual group he had ‘liked’ on his Facebook page. Nelson, who acknowledged having some gay Facebook friends, said he doesn’t know anything about the group and must have inadvertently ‘liked’ it. He immediately deleted it when it was brought to his attention.”

Regis Catholic SchoolsBut Regis Catholic schools issued a statement denying that this was the cause of their action:

” ‘Regis Catholic Schools denies that any assumptions, insinuations or speculation played a part in its decision to not hire Mr. Nelson,’ the statement said. ‘Furthermore, Regis Catholic Schools categorically denies that sexual orientation was a part in its decision. Mr. Nelson’s speculation is unfounded and untrue.’ “

The system explained their reason for changing their mind:

” ‘Mr. Nelson was not hired as RCS president because of his lack of candor about his affiliations with religious communities during the interview process,’ the statement said.”

Nelson said that this statement refers to his membership as a Franciscan religious brother when he was younger, but he says he was forthcoming about that part of his life during his interview.

Nelson also alleges that Regis officials asked him to tell people that the reason he would not be employed by the school system is that he had decided not to move from New Mexico, where he currently resides.  The news report says that Nelson

“backed up his assertion by providing the Leader-Telegram with a string of emails, [and] said he refused to go along with what he considered to be a lie.”

While there is no hard evidence made public at this point to support either Nelson’s or Regis’ claims, it is hard to know which side to believe.  Nelson ends up being more persuasive because the school system’s responses are so guarded and vague.   Another thing that adds to the persuasive power of his side is that the case seems to fall into the growing disturbing pattern of church institutions firing LGBT employees.  The fact that an obituary was involved in his case, as it was in the firing of Carla Hale, also adds to the credibility of Nelson’s allegations.

Church institutions could increase their credibility by adopting non-discrimination employment policies for LGBT people, and enforcing these policies well.  Not only would it help their credibility, but it would also help to strengthen their Catholic identity by living up to the church’s ideals of social justice.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

10 replies
  1. Terri Hemker
    Terri Hemker says:

    Wow, we are now living in the world of the thought police…the anonymous (read: cowardly busybody) who turned in Carla Hale; now this bunch scrounging all through this man’s father’s obituary and his facebook page…what? he’s not even allowed to have gay friends now? And who do they think they are assuming the man is what they call ‘sinning’ when he says he’s not and they can’t prove otherwise? Are they going to start paying busybodies to start Googling all their fellow parishioners to see if they’re ‘worthy’ to go to Communion? Are they going to start stopping people in the Communion line and turning them away publicly for what they perceive as ‘sin’? The more this goes on, while the hierarchy has its own ‘dirty hands’ from abetting the child predators and go on taking Communion, the more I am ready to just leave the whole Church altogether in total disgust! Who will be left to pay for the hierarchy’s fancy buildings and fine dresses when there’s no one left in the pews?

  2. Annette Magjuka
    Annette Magjuka says:

    I am a 57 year old straight woman who has been married since 1978 to the same man. I have three children, all straight. I have taught in public and Catholic schools, and have volunteered for years in classrooms of every kind. I have all kinds of gay news feeds coming to my FB. This is because, as a Catholic, I know is is my responsibility to concern myself with social justice, whether it occurs within or outside of the church. Jesus was crystal clear: Love your brother as yourself and judge not lest you shall be judged. The Holy Spirit has been present in the hearts and minds of the majority of Catholics, who now know that it is dead wrong to persecute gay people. Yet the hierarchy of our church is asserting that this persecution and injustice is a tenant of our faith! In my opinion, listening to this without push back is allowing evil to prevail over what Jesus came and died to teach us: LOVE. Love, love, love. That is what we are to be about as Christians. Not routing through old obituaries for “evidence” that someone has “dirty hands.” This is offensive. More than that, it is wrong. Catholics everywhere must speak out and change this. We must speak out and speak out and never, ever give up. Our personal souls depend on it as does the integrity of the Catholic church.

  3. Larry Quirk
    Larry Quirk says:

    I would suggest that we google all the priests in that diocese and all the current teachers and administrators and see what “skeletons” show up in their closets. And of course , we can report them anonymously because that is how the Church’s thought police operate.

  4. Marcy Reynolds
    Marcy Reynolds says:

    I do not understand why so much emphsis is placed on anonymous letters. These people are cowards in the worst way. If they cannot put their name on a letter it should not be acknowledged at all. It should be thrown
    in the garbage.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] the list of all reported ones since 2008 was due to perceived sexual orientation, that being Tim Nelson in […]

  2. […] unlike the recent harsh firings of LGBT Catholic school educators like Carla Hale, Christa Dias, Tim Nelson, and Mark Krolikowski, the case still highlights the dilemma that LGBT employees of Catholic […]

  3. […] Tim Nelson, an educator who said he was not hired for an administrative job because the potential employer thought he was gay, has filed a […]

  4. […]  trend of firing LGBT educators, or even those assumed to be gay, and removing inclusive efforts at the parish level seems to be increasing, even as leading […]

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