Responding to the terrible trend of LGBT church employees being fired from their jobs has been a difficult challenge. What are ways that Catholic people in the pews can help to stave off these unjust actions?
“About a century ago, Catholic job-seekers were routinely confronted with signs reading, ‘No Catholics need apply.’ Now, it seems administrators in some Catholic schools are prepared to post signs that say, ‘No gay people need apply.’ “
Sparked by the recent developments, particularly those in the diocese of Honolulu and the archdiocese of Cincinnati, where bishops have made orthodoxy pledges which explicitly disparage lesbian and gay relationships a requirement for working in Catholic schools, Duddy-Burke proposed the following actions that ordinary Catholics can take:
- “Write or email Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati and Bishop Clarence Silva of Honolulu to demand these ill-conceived contracts not be implemented. Tell them how you believe these documents violate the very soul of our faith.
- Send a similar letter to Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha, Neb., chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Catholic Education about why LGBT people should not be banned from teaching in our schools.
- Catholics whose children or grandchildren attend Catholic schools can speak with their administrators to insist they not adopt this type of contract. Talk about the values of respect and inclusion that you believe are central to our faith and how important it is that these values are part of your children’s education. Work with other parents to ensure the school’s leadership knows this matters to lots of tuition-payers. Alumni of these institutions also have an important voice. You can reflect on the values that you carry with you as a result of your education and your sense of how these contracts violate them.”
Duddy-Burke notes that the firings teach a terrible lesson to students and families who attend Catholic schools:
Catholic schools and other institutions do embody central values of our faith, and I believe all of us understand the important role they play in our communities. However, having them be models of exclusion, intimidation and oppression radically lessens their effectiveness.
New Ways Ministry strongly supports DignityUSA’s call to action. Bishops and other church leaders need to hear from the majority of Catholics who support LGBT equality in church and society. Without hearing from us, church leaders will not be able to discern the voice of the Spirit active in our church.
New Ways Ministry also encourages Catholics to help prevent future firings by working to establish non-discrimination policies in Catholic institutions. You can read more about how to start discussions to establish such policies by clicking on our blog post entitled “How to Establish LGBT Employment Non-Discrimination Policies in Catholic Institutions.” Even if your parish or school is ultimately unsuccessful in getting such a policy adopted, the discussion of these issues will help to let Catholic leaders know that the laity do not want this terrible firing trend to continue.
Several other voices have recently expressed their opinions about the Cincinnati situation.
Cincinnati.com published an op-ed by Tom Sauter, an attorney and the advocacy chair of the Greater Cincinnati Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network, which notes that the archdiocese of Cincinnati should be more concerned with the safety of their LGBT students than with the lives of their teachers. He states:
“The language of the pledge creates unsafe spaces for youth who are or are perceived to be gay.
“How could a teacher who has signed the pledge be reasonably expected to intervene in the bullying of an LGBTQ student? . . .
“The archdiocese should focus on providing a safe space for a world class Catholic education rather than policing the personal lives of its teachers.”
ABC-News reported on the new, stricter policies in Cincinnati and Honolulu, noting the opposition of a national Catholic schoolteachers’ union:
“The president of the Philadelphia-based National Association of Catholic School Teachers says some educators in the archdiocese have contacted the union with contract concerns, even though the union doesn’t represent them.
” ‘This contract is way over the top and very oppressive,’ said union president Rita Schwartz.”
Cincinnati.com also published an op-ed from Peg Hanna, a Catholic mother of nine and grandmother of 16 who finds the archdiocese of Cincinnati’s new policy totally unacceptable:
“Of course, I want our children’s teachers to be people of integrity and good will. But according to this language, a teacher could be fired for attending her lesbian daughter’s wedding, for having intimate relations with a fiancée, being seen buying birth control at a local pharmacy, standing along the route at a gay pride parade, or dealing with infertility through medical means. It wouldn’t matter how good a teacher she or he is, that she or he opted to follow a call to serve people in the church rather than teaching in a public school for higher pay, or how involved in the social justice mandates of our Gospel that teacher is.
“The so-called morality clause has nothing to do with morals at all. It ignores the fact that married Catholic couples use artificial contraception; that a strong majority of Catholics support equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people; and that many young couples are delaying marriage for financial and other reasons. Many of these are still good, conscientious, faith-filled people.
“It is tragic that the Archdiocese of Cincinnati is forcing parents to make a difficult choice. Do they want their children taught by people who are so rigid they have no understanding of the situations most Catholics find themselves in, or who have to lie about their lives to maintain employment? To do so would be a mockery of the faith we hold so dear.”
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry