Catholic Students Protest Firings in Seattle and Philly; What You Can Do to Help
Students and faculty at Eastside Catholic High School in Sammamish, Washington, protested yesterday morning when they learned that the school’s vice principal was fired because he married his male partner.
The Seattle Times reported that Mark Zmuda, the fired administrator, met with the students during their protest in front of the school on Thursday, December 19th. According to one student:
“He told us he had gotten fired because he is gay and married. He told us to grow up, get a job and find true love. He was crying and told us what we were doing meant a lot to him.”
Zmuda’s firing brings to twelve the number of LGBT people fired from Catholic institutions in the U.S. fired this year because of sexual orientation, gender expression, or marital status.
According to a report on KIROTV.com, 400 students from Eastside Catholic, which is in the Seattle metropolitan area, walked out of their classrooms for the protest.
The Seattle Times reported that students at another local Catholic high school, Seattle Preparatory School, staged a protest in solidarity with Zmuda at their school. The protest ended with continued discussion on a school-wide basis:
“ ‘Diversity Director, Heidi Kim, moderated a discussion with our students,’ according to the statement to Seattle Prep parents. ‘Following that, Principal Maureen Reid asked students to return to class, where they were able to take up the discussion with their classmates and instructors.’ ”
The Seattle demonstrations come only one week after students in the Philadelphia area publicly protested the firing of Michael Griffin, a foreign language teacher, from Holy Ghost Preparatory School because he and his male partner obtained a marriage license. According to an Associated Press story:
“Administrators at a Roman Catholic high school suffered a sharp and swift backlash this week after firing a well-liked teacher who sought to marry his same-sex partner.
“Educators said they had no choice, but thousands have protested the move through Facebook groups and petitions demanding that Michael Griffin be rehired at Holy Ghost Preparatory School. Some alumni have pledged to withhold financial support.”
A Religion News Service story on The Washington Post website noted that a new coalition of Catholic gay and lesbian students in Pennsylvania has formed to protest Griffin’s firing:
Gay and lesbian Catholic students in Pennsylvania are joining alumni and others in pushing a Catholic high school near Philadelphia to reinstate a teacher who was fired after he applied for a marriage license with his partner. . . .
“Michael Griffin did not deserve to be treated in a way that does not clearly reflect Christ and His teachings,” says the letter sponsored by the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition. “He has dedicated his life to the Holy Ghost Community. He is just as much a part of the Holy Ghost family as any other member.”
Since the beginning of 2012, Bondings 2.0 has been reporting and commenting on this disturbing, growing trend of firing LGBT people from Catholic institutions. (You can read all the stories concerning this topic in by clicking on “Employment Issues” in the “Categories” box in the right hand column of this blog post.) This past Sunday, New York Times columnist Frank Bruni commented on this trend in an essay entitled “The Catholics Still in Exile.” Bruni notes that the message of and spirit of Pope Francis’ outreach to lesbian and gay people is muted by the actions of these institutional administrators:
“Pope Francis has indeed been a revelation, his gentle tone and sustained humility more in touch with the heart of Catholicism than the bitter jeremiads of other Catholic leaders were. But it’s important to note that he hasn’t pledged to revisit doctrine, nor are such revisions likely to happen anytime soon. The world turns at a breathless clip; the church, at a glacial one.
“It’s equally important to note that beyond Rome, the very focus on sexual morality that the pope seems to be waving Catholics away from can still be keen and uncompromising. Examples are made where they needn’t be; punishment is meted out when it doesn’t have to be. And it’s this, as much as anything uttered in Vatican City, that continues to drive a wedge between open-minded Catholics and the church’s hierarchy.”
New Ways Ministry’s response to these dismissals has been to encourage Catholics to work towards getting their schools, parishes, and other institutions to adopt non-discrimination policies which will protect LGBT people from being fired. You can read our whole list of suggestions by clicking here. If you need help with organizing to adopt such policies, please call or email our office: (301)-277-5674; [email protected] The best way to stop these firings is to prevent them by putting into practice Catholic social principles of equality, human dignity, freedom, and the value of work.
Another way you can help is to spread the word about establishing non-discrimination policies by sharing the Facebook meme pictured above on your social media accounts You can access it by clicking here. Let’s make this movement go viral!
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry
I have often wondered what would happen if the hierarchy applied the same logic to all Catholic values in respect of its employees. That would mean anyone using contraception, any sex outside marriage, and divorce etc etc – and of course all gay teachers irrespective of whether they are seeking SSM or not. What sort of faculty would some of these schools have left?
There is hope in this story and others like it. In many cases it seems that the Principals/Administrators doing the firing, and who have close knowledge of the schools, are being tight lipped and careful in their comments, but revealing that behind their actions is the dark hand of the local diocese.
Their awkward silence indicates their reluctance in the matter (many of those fired had been openly gay for some time and in relationships) and that they are acting as ordered rather than following their own feelings about the matter. Most Principals just want to get on with running their schools for their young people and certainly don’t welcome the massive media spotlight that inevitably follows this, or the protests. Some ambitious prelates on the other hand are quite happy to bask in the attention, egged on by the likes of Bill Donohue et al.
So it seems that some of these firings would not have happened without such command from the hierarchy. Which suggests that the case for the Church moving forward has already been won at most levels – and there is really only one to go – the bishops. And Francis is making them feel uncomfortable too.
Will, you bring up excellent points. These things aren’t happening without the approval of the bishops and hierarchy. EITHER there is an enormous disconnect between the message of Francis OR this is a sham. The pope (and I very much like what I am seeing) is getting the benefit of the doubt HOWEVER in a year’s time, he will no longer. Of course I realize that we have 35 years of divisive JP2 and B16 bishops but it does appear that they haven’t gotten the Francis memo or they don’t care. Look at Paprocki’s recent exorcism stunt in Illinois.
There is no doubt that these firings have been influenced by the hierarchy. Additionally I believe that some of the schools that are not diocesan and privately owned are influenced by donors and religious communities. I fail to understand the reasoning behind the firings. Does everyone on the faculty of these schools have to have a church wedding in addition to a civil marriage? By exercising the right to a civil marriage, the individuals are obtaining legal safeguards for their families. I don’t believe they have stated that their marriage must be performed in a Catholic Church. What is the problem? Maybe…..homophobia?
I just need to say that, in spite of the horrible nature of this injustice, the protest photo itself is just incredibly moving and inspiring. So many beautiful Bodhisattva young people, of all genders and races and sexual orientations, standing up to protest a grave injustice committed by the clueless Catholic hierarchy against an adult mentor and role model whom they clearly respected and loved. In the words of the wonderful Canadian and committed Christian singer-songwriter, Bruce Cockburn: “God Bless the Children / With Visions of the Day”.