Yet another LGBT employee has been fired from a Catholic school, this time in Arksansas. The firing at Mount St. Mary Academy in Little Rock adds yet another victim to anti-equality thinking, which punishes employees in same-gender marriages or those who support marriage equality.
“When Mrs McCullough asked how her marriage had violated the clause [which allows for firings based on lifestyles that contradict Church teaching], Wolfe responded by saying she wasn’t going to have a theological debate and that there was nothing else she could do…
“No law protects McCullough from being fired as a religious institution citing church teaching would be exempt from discrimination laws.”
McCullough says the school knew of her relationship with Mariani for years but only offered her an opportunity to resign when the marriage became known to school officials. As has been the norm with such firings, students and the wider Catholic community are rising to defend McCullough. A petition with almost 1,300 signatures appeared on Friday in support of McCullough, who is still weighing her options.
Jezebel also published email correspondence between an alumna, who is now a teacher herself, and Wolfe. In it, the principal defends the school’s decision:
“While I respect your thoughts and concerns, you really have no clue. This was not just my decision. I am only the messenger…It is not for me to decide, judge or disobey the tenets of the church. I was hired to uphold my contractual obligations as a Catholic school administrator and to carry out those functions, as unpleasant as they may be…Do you not think it took moral courage to carry out and uphold the tenets of the church..?”
Sadly, the views expressed by Wolfe indicate not moral courage, but rather a fear too prevalent in Catholic schools when it comes to LGBT issues. Bishops and administrators who are publicly challenged on firings claim it is painful, but necessary and the hierarchy asks lower administrators to enforce this legalism. The pain in Wolfe’s defensive tone is evident.
National Catholic Reporter published an article analyzing this broader trend of firing employees who either are transgender, enter into same-gender marriages, or simply support LGBT rights that notes:
“It’s not news that gay teachers and other employees of Catholic institutions lose their jobs over a same-sex relationship…What’s different in recent years is a growing acceptance of gay marriage among Catholics and gay people’s increasing ability to marry and unwillingness to hide their relationships…
“Such firings, once the private affairs of Catholic schools, whispered about in the teachers’ lounge, now air on the nightly news and circulate on Facebook.”
This discrimination continues, however, because the schools are legally protected due to religious exemptions in non-discrimination laws, even where sexual orientation or gender identity is explicitly protected. They are reminders that even as marriage equality spreads, like in New Jersey this coming Monday, LGBT rights remain unsecured and change is still needed in the Catholic Church.
However, there is hope as Francis DeBernardo, the executive director of New Ways Ministry, told NCR:
” ‘What we know, what everyone knows, Catholic and non-Catholic, is that the younger generation is much more supportive of marriage equality than older generations, which is the indicator that it is the future’…
” ‘I’m heartened by it not only because they’re young but because a lot of them have discussed their support for the teacher in terms of Catholic principles…It’s a good case of the church hierarchy undone by their highest ideals.’ “
One way to make an impact is for Catholics to get their local church institutions to adopt non-discrimination policies that protect sexual orientation, marital status, views on marriage, and gender identity. We need to get our parishes, schools, and other Church-affiliated institutions to live up to their Catholic principles of non-discrimination and justice. Speaking out for such policies would help spread the word that there is a Catholic tradition which supports and protects LGBT people. For more information, you can contact New Ways Ministry at info@NewWaysMinistry.org.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry