Before the holidays, Mark Zmuda was fired as vice principal from Eastside Catholic High School. In response, students began the movement they are calling “#KeepMrZ2013” to have Zmuda reinstated. Their continued efforts to organize and pressure the administration has led Sr. Mary Tracy, SNJM, the school’s president, to agree to meet with students, according to the movement’s Facebook page.
At this point though, Zmuda remains fired and students are ramping up their efforts. Monday’s announcement by the school’s president follows a rally last Saturday outside the Archdiocese of Seattle’s offices and come amid plans for “Z-Day” on January 31st to raise nationwide awareness of the firing. Students have launched a social media campaign using Facebook and Twitter, and an interview with Zmuda was conducted by one student which you can view part of here. A Change.org petition directed at the U.S. bishops has gained over 31,000 signatures and all this momentum seems as if it will continue to grow.
That rally over the weekend was attended by about a hundred people, and students with #KeepMrZ2013 released a statement which said, in part:
“When Pope Francis opines that the Church is big enough for homosexuals, one would hope that Catholic institutions begin to reflect those sentiments. The Gospel compels us to demonstrate compassion and love in all our actions, and Mark Zmuda has always done just that. It is a shame then, that the school, in conjunction with the Archdiocese of Seattle, has chosen to conduct itself in such a manner that contradicts the message of social justice that we as Catholics are all called to uphold…
“[T]he continued mistreatment of the gay community within the Catholic Church is unbecoming of the Gospel message we are all called to recognize. We will continue to write letters, lobby Church officials, and use any other means at our disposal to respectfully work toward our ultimate goal of changing the discriminatory attitudes regarding homosexuality in the Church.”
Students also outlined clear requests of Eastside Catholic administrators and the Archdiocese, which include:
“Most immediately, we expect a transparent and honest statement that accurately addresses how this decision was reached, what players were involved, and their rationale for doing so, in light of Catholic social teachings. The students, alumni, and community members deserve an apology for the opaque and misleading fashion in which this difficult situation was handled. We find the school’s decision to punish Mark Zmuda based on such a narrow set of criteria to be out of line, and the terse statements released on the school’s behalf have done little to quell the sentiment of discontent…
In future matters, we ask that the Archdiocese, or any Catholic school under its purview, conducts itself accordingly – that the review of any employee judged to have broken Catholic doctrinal teaching (birth control, cohabitation, matters of sexuality, and the like) will henceforth include a holistic review of the individual’s job performance, character, and embodiment of Catholic social teaching before a final decision regarding employment standing is made.”
Clearly, Eastside Catholic’s students are inspirational and residents of the Seattle area have joined #KeepMrZ2013. SeattlePi reports that students from other high schools have joined rallies, including Seattle Prep, a Jesuit school, which hung a banner with the words “Keep Mr Z.” Nearby Catholics wrote an op-ed in The Seattle Times questioning the school’s stated justifications for firing Zmuda and expresing support for the students, writing:
“Can our church leaders put fairness, inclusiveness, and love above rules — especially man-made rules that no longer make sense in light of modern science, psychology culture and the working of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Catholics worldwide?
“All of us who work or have worked for the church and who have not adhered to every church teaching should stand with the students of Eastside Catholic High School in their protest of Zmuda’s termination. They see their beloved Mr. Z’s ousting for what it is: arbitrary, unfair and discriminatory. They, and we, feel he should be reinstated.
“Our church leaders do have a choice. They can shun all of us who, in following our consciences, have chosen not to adhere to all of the teachings of the church. Or they can follow the example of Pope Francis, who said, ‘Our church should be the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people.’ “
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry