What’s the latest from Eastside Catholic High School, near Seattle, Washington, around which a growing movement for LGBT church workers has emerged? Just look at the front page of the New York Times to find out about this revolution happening in Seattle. And pay attention at the end of this week when a major action is planned.
Students walked out of classes in December after a vice principal, Mark Zmuda, was fired for marrying his husband. Since then, supporters from many quarters have kept the pressure on the Archdiocese of Seattle and school administrators, causing the resignations of both the school president and the board chairman.
The goals of the #KeepMrZ2013 movement are for Zmuda to be reinstated and for the Catholic Church to rethink its sexual ethics. Parents at Eastside Catholic are collecting signatures on a letterto the board condemning the firing and seeking resolution. You can view that letter here.
Alumni, like Corey Sinser, are also offering their support by speaking with the media. At The Daily Beast, another alum, Scott Bixby, wrote about the selective enforcement of Church teaching happening at Eastside Catholic, the students leading this movement, and an upcoming action scheduled for later this week:
“…even a cursory look at Eastside’s personnel practices show that the school is picking and choosing just what counts as behavior ‘inconsistent’ with Church teachings.
“The only group that hasn’t exercised back-bending feats of hypocrisy is the student body. Students have walked out, picketed, debated with church leaders, and are even organizing a national “Mr. Z” day, asking people across the country to wear orange on January 31…the students continue to demonstrate Eastside’s only real leadership.”
NPR affiliate KPLU gave Eastside students an opportunity to share their views, by interviewing a variety of individuals. Their responses give insight into both this movement’s energy and the future of American Catholicism:
“[Teresa Edwards, senior, Holy Names Academy] ‘I go to church every week. I’m involved in campus ministry at my school. At this point, I’m not happy with the church that I’m seeing…We’re frustrated. We’re really tired of hearing one thing in religion class and seeing something entirely different coming from the Archdiocese’…
“[Zena Rivera, senior, Holy Names Academy] ‘I got into this movement because I am a queer youth…Catholicism isn’t being bigoted. It’s not about being homophobic, it’s about loving people. I feel like looking back at the Civil Rights movement it’s so weird because Catholics were so into supporting people of color. I’m also a person of color…it’s weird because they’re all for me in that identity, but they turn their back when it comes to me being queer.’ “
According to the National Catholic Reporter, Archbishop Peter Sartain defended the school’s decision to fire Zmuda as not discriminatory, but merely being faithful to Catholic identity. At the same time, Sartain seemingly tried to distance the archdiocese from the decision by placing the firing at the feet of Eastside Catholic’s board of trustees.
Perhaps Sartain recognizes that an anti-LGBT Catholic Church cannot survive an emerging generation of youth for whom LGBT equality is a requirement of their faith lives. It seems that young people are responding to Pope Francis’ encouragement to dream about social change and respond to the contemporary world’s challenges, saying:
” ‘Your will and your abilities, combined with the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells within each one of you on the day of your Baptism, allow you to be not spectators, but the protagonists of contemporary events.’…
“Diversity of thought, said the pope, ‘reflects the manifold wisdom of God when one approaches the truth with honesty and intellectual rigor, when one approaches the goodness, when one approaches the beauty.'”
These words from the pope follow-up on his comments during World Youth Day last year that young people should ‘make a mess’ in their dioceses in pursuit of the common good. And make a really good mess is certainly what these Seattle-area high schoolers have done. Will you join them this Friday, January 31st, for Z-Day by wearing orange, connecting on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter (use #KeepMrZ2013 and #ZDay), and finally:
“At 1:00 PST, we ask that wherever you are, you stand up for a minute of silent solidarity with students, members of the community, business professionals, and anyone else around the globe who feels as passionately about this issue as you do. Take a stand for Mark Zmuda. Take a stand for a new era of compassionate respect for the LGBT community.”
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry
January 22, 2014: Eastside Catholic President Who Fired Gay Vice Principal Resigns
January 18, 2014: Jesuit Priest Endorses Students ‘Making a Mess’ in Seattle
January 17, 2014: Seattle Archdiocese Responds As Students Keep Fighting Unjust Firing
January 10, 2014: Anti-LGBT Policies Create Vaccines Against Faith in Catholic Schools