Seattle Archdiocese Responds As Students Keep Fighting Unjust Firing

Supporters of Mark Zmuda protest outside Archdiocese of Seattle chancery. Note that two protesters on the right are carrying signs from New Ways Ministry’s campaign to establish non-discrimination policies.

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.

Related Posts:

January 10, 2014: Anti-LGBT Policies Create Vaccines Against Faith in Catholic Schools

January 7, 2014: Love Always Wins: Students Inspire Hope with Their Defense of Fired Gay Teacher

December 20, 2013: Catholic Students Protest Firings in Seattle and Philly; What You Can Do to Help

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

13 replies
  1. Terence
    Terence says:

    As a South African, I recall how the political transition there was sparked, by student anger at discrimination and patent injustice.
    It will take time, but discrimination inside the Church will end too – just as Church teaching promises it should.

  2. Sal James
    Sal James says:

    Bravo Eastside students!

    You are fulfilling Pope Francis’ challenge: “Show, by your life, that it is worth giving your time and talents in order to attain high ideals, it is worth recognizing the dignity of each human person, and it is worth taking risks for Christ and the Gospel”.(Farewell Address at Youth Rally, Rio de Janeiro)

    Bravo and continue to “make a mess” and organize other students to do the same!

  3. Annette Magjuka
    Annette Magjuka says:

    I don’t see why the church doesn’t clarify that, for them, marriage is all about the creation of new life–having children. Since two men or two women cannot have biological children, the church does not “recognize” these unions as marriage. They are not sanctioned marriages. However, there are many other kinds of partnerships that good people enter into–and these include secular gay marriages, in states where it is legal. The church does not officially recognize these marriages, just as they do not recognize marriages between divorced people, etc. But the church should also insist on dignity and social justice for all–while not sanctioned, they will keep a “hands off” approach–a “Who am I to judge?” approach, as Francis has modeled. Catholic schools do not refuse to enroll children from divorced and remarried parents; neither should they ban LGBT “marrieds” from teaching or holding jobs if they do their jobs well. This stand seems to fulfill both the dogmatic stance on marriage (“It is all about the children”) and social justice demands of the Catholic faith (all have dignity and should be treated as such). We need to clarify that the “intrinsically disordered” label is nonsense since science has shown us that sexuality is biologically determined and part of a person’s very being. Then we can move to common sense social justice, just as these wonderful students are doing.

  4. Sean Karees
    Sean Karees says:

    Annette Magjuka you err when you write “marriage is all about creation of new life-having children” and so does any teaching authority including the Magisterium or the Pope. Marriage is about companionship and intimacy. If we were to really take the rule you mention as a standard, then all marriages that lose the ability to have children lose their validity i.e. it is an automatic divorce. The rest of your post is very sound.

    • amagjuka
      amagjuka says:

      I agree totally. I just see it as a diplomatic “way out” for the present moment–so the church can stop the witch hunt, the firings, etc. i want full inclusion for LGBT people, including all sacraments ( marriage).


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] January 17, 2014: Seattle Archdiocese Responds As Students Keep Fighting Unjust Firing […]

  2. […] Seattle Archdiocese Responds As Students Keep Fighting Unjust Firing […]

  3. […] Zmuda firing prompted a student walkout, repeated protests, a 21,000 signature petition, and nationwide Z-Day of Action in late January. This uprising also […]

  4. […] January 17, 2014: Seattle Archdiocese Responds As Students Keep Fighting Unjust Firing […]

  5. […] January 17, 2014: Seattle Archdiocese Responds As Students Keep Fighting Unjust Firing […]

  6. […] January 17, 2014: Seattle Archdiocese Responds As Students Keep Fighting Unjust Firing […]

  7. […] Seattle Archdiocese Responds As Students Keep Fighting Unjust Firing […]

  8. […] #KeepMrZ2013 is a movement of high school students in Seattle organizing for their gay vice principal fired for marrying his husband.  Now one more voice is speaking out in support of these youth. Father John Whitney, SJ, pastor of St. Joseph’s Parish in Seattle, spoke about the students from Eastside Catholic High School in his homily earlier this week.  He begins by describing the conflict in early Christianity about whether to accept Gentiles as members or only Jews, and he reflects on how this controversy was resolved: […]

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