For nearly a month, high school students have kept the pressure on school administrators and the Archdiocese of Seattle after Eastside Catholic High School fired vice principal Mark Zmuda for marrying his husband. The Archdiocese and school have responded negatively in reaction to petition deliveries, and all of this comes as a planned day of action on January 31st approaches.
A petition with 21,000 signatures was delivered to Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain by nearly three dozen Catholics, just as students delivered a similar one to school president Sr. Mary Tracy. At the chancery, Greg Magnoni, a spokesperson for the archdiocese, received the petition. In what might be an attempt to distance the archdiocese from the case, SeattlePi reports Magnoni emphasizied that though Sartain is supportive of the firing, the decision to do so was ultimately the school’s choice. You can view a video of the interaction between #KeepMrZ2013 supporters and Mangoni by clicking here.
For their part, Eastside Catholics’ Board of Trustees released a letter to the school community addressing the firing. The statement commends students for their advocacy, but reaffirms that Zmuda will not be rehired. They also stated that the school respects LGBTQ students.
Increasingly, LGBT church employees find themselves amid such paradoxical thinking as marriage equality advances. Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry is quoted by The Seattle Times about this crisis:
” ‘With marriage equality moving across the country, it was not difficult to predict that this was going to spread…I think we’ll see more and more of these, unfortunately.”
How such violations are handled by schools and parishes, where most of the terminations across the country tracked by New Ways have occurred, differs from one employer to another and from diocese to diocese…
” ‘My experience with church officials at all levels, from bishops to school officials, is that they tend not to seek out controversy but respond to it when it comes up,’ DeBernardo said.”
Yet, many find the student response in the Seattle case to be a sign of hope for the Church. Barbara Guzzo, who led Catholics for Marriage Equality’s Washington efforts in 2012, said:
” ‘The students out at Eastside Catholic represent the future of the church . . . I believe in the spirit. The spring works in many ways. Change may not happen in my lifetime, but I hope there will be change. We’ve got to keep knocking on the door.’ “
Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat writes that the students are winning what he calls an “ongoing morality play” that keeps getting foggier:
“Consider the jumble of values, rules and official gobbledygook the students of Eastside Catholic High School in Sammamish have exposed with their agitating in the past month:
“It’s apparently OK to be gay and teach there. Unless you get married — then you are fired. With the caveat that if you agree to get divorced — then you can keep your job.
“Now if you’re a lesbian who teaches part-time and announces on the radio that you’re getting married — not only do you keep your job, you get a raise!”
Westneat lays out the many contradictions and inconsistencies present at Eastside Catholic before concluding:
“Here’s what I think it means. When you tie yourself into knots like this, it usually means you know you’re wrong.
“It doesn’t mean the pope is suddenly going to back gay marriage. Or even that Zmuda may get his job back. But it probably means the church, at least around here, will find its way to some morally ambiguous ‘accommodation’ in which it continues to oppose gay marriage but sees fit to look the other way when the lives and loves of real human beings are at stake.”
Chanting ‘Love Always Wins,’ Eastside Catholic H.S. students and their supporters are now planning a nationwide day of action for January 31st. To offer your support, like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.
January 10, 2014: Anti-LGBT Policies Create Vaccines Against Faith in Catholic Schools
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry