As Firings and Restrictions Continue, So Does the Determination of the Faithful

It seems that almost every day, we receive news concerning employees from Catholic institutions being terminated because of LGBT issues.  Such news can be depressing, when we think about how much our church leaders need to learn about LGBT issues and Catholic principles of human dignity and equality.  On the other hand, sometimes these stories can be inspiring when we learn about the courage of individuals who are standing up to the oppression, and of groups of Catholics who are making known their opposition to using support for LGBT issues as a reason for being fired.

In the latest round of news on these matters, we have witnessed two more teachers who have refused to sign new diocesan contracts which restrict school employees from showing support for LGBT people.  Let’s hope and pray that their courage inspires others to resist.

Kathleen Purcell

In the first case, Kathleen Purcell, a teacher and program director at Bishop O’Dowd High School, Oakland, California, signed the new contract, but crossed out the offending clauses with which she disagreed.  Purcell, a former constitutional lawyer, interviewed by, said:

“This contract would be a huge step backwards, and would say, ‘We’re stripping these employees of civil rights.'”

Purcell added:

“Then you throw the employees’ personal lives into the middle of all the disputes currently in the Catholic Church.”

The news report noted that the schools’ parents are threatening to withhold donations, as a sign of support to Purcell.  We have seen time and again in disputes like this that parents and students have organized in support of courageous teachers.

Richard Hague

Such was the case in Cincinnati, Ohio, this week, too. Students, alumni, and parents demonstrated outside of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s office in support of Richard Hague, a teacher who worked for 45 years in Catholic education and has refused to sign his diocese’s new contract.  Hague, who teaches at Purcell Marian High School, was eloquent in his letter to the archdiocese explaining why he will not be signing the new, restrictive contract.   WLTW-TV quoted from Purcell’s letter:

“I simply cannot believe that Jesus would require me to condemn my friends, nor that Jesus would require me to report any of my colleagues who supported, even loved, gay persons, nor do I believe for a moment that Jesus would punish me for my earlier ministry.” 

Robin Hoopes and Richard Miller

And another Cincinnati teacher was told by his employer that his contract would not be renewed next year.  Richard Miller, a teacher at St. Rita’s School for the Deaf, lives with another man, Richard Hoopes, and their six children, in a committed relationship.  He told WNKU-Radio that he told his employer of his relationship when he was hired:

“I was assured at that time that what I did in my personal life was my business and I was being hired for my abilities and my capabilities as a teacher and he was very excited to have me on board. About three weeks ago, I was issued a letter by the very same director stating that my contract would not be renewed and when I was asked why my contract would not be renewed his response was, it was just too risky.”

Flint Dollar

In Macon, Georgia, Mount de Sales Academy’s band leader, Flint Dollar, was just fired , because he announced plans to marry his male partner.  WMAZ-TV reported, though, that just as soon as the firing was made public, parents of the school’s students have begun to organize, and that within two days of the news, they are planning a public protest.

The school, sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, has an employment policy that says the institution is “committed to the principles of equal employment opportunities to all qualified individuals without regard to race, color, gender, ancestry, national origin, age, religion, creed, disability, veteran’s status, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, or any other characteristic or status that is protected by federal, state, or local law.”

Principal David Held sent a cryptically-written email this week to parents “to address recent social media posts regarding personnel decisions at Mount de Sales Academy, and to share some information that might clarify some of the rumors that are circulating.” Yet, though he discusses school governance and policy making, he does not mention Dollar or his firing in the email.

Catholic commentators have also weighed in on these new contracts, questioning how these new policies fit into the seemingly new agenda that Pope Francis is setting for the Church.  In The National Catholic Reporter, Isabella Moyer recalls a homily last year where the pope asked people to build bridges, not walls.  The new contracts, she observes, are basically walls, designed to be defensive. Bridges are especially needed for people who are tenuously attached to the church.  Moyer writes:

‘There are many good women and men hovering around the doors of the church. Some are contemplating joining us for the first time or returning after long absences. Others are struggling with a growing desire to leave. Hard-handed tactics and judgmental pronouncements will not convert hearts. Sadly, they might provide the final push out the door.”

Regina Brett, columnist for Cleveland’s Plain Dealeralso referred to Pope Francis in her commentary about the new contracts:

“Just when the new pope made the church more welcoming, the church found another way to turn more Catholics away.

“My church needs a heart transplant. I thought it got one with the new pope. Now I’m not so sure.”

The firings and new policies seem to be coming at us fast and furious.  Catholics, however, are ready to stand up to these measures with an equal amount of determination and vigor.  One can become depressed by such oppressive actions, or one can attempt to band together with others and stand up for what their consciences are telling them is right and just. Our church will change not because the hierarchy changes, but because Catholics are willing to make their voices heard and stand up for their faith.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related article:

U.S. Catholic: “Food pantry worker gets fired as the Catholic litmus test gets more stringent


15 replies
  1. amagjuka
    amagjuka says:

    This is where the rubber hits the road. Teachers feel forced to sign the document and parents do not want to pull their kids out of the Catholic school that has served them well. I remember clearly as a school child learning the Catechism and the lives of the saints. We were told that one day, even we could be called as martyrs for the faith. In today’s world, this is a moment of truth. Do we stand by our informed consciences, or do we sign the document to maintain some kind of status quo? And what kind of status quo is it after the LGBT person is fired? It is a totally different environment “after.” Anyone who signs must come to terms with the fact that he/she has signed away someone else’s civil rights. I would urge all who signed to write an addendum stating that they have signed under duress, and wish to state that they do not want to be a part of the firing of a good teacher/parish worker. The church has gone from “If you can teach, you can teach,” to a tremendously damaging witch hunt. I cannot imagine that all the signers agree with what they have signed. It is not too late to add the addendums!!! And the protests must continue. How long? As long as it takes.

      • Rebel Girl
        Rebel Girl says:

        Sure. I’ll check your list to make sure we have the same names for the LGBT issues but you’re correct. I’m also including folks who have been fired over other issues such as personal reproductive choices or views on women’s issues and other political questions…basically people fired for things that would not have gotten them dismissed from a secular institution.

    • Ghosty Wolfe
      Ghosty Wolfe says:

      Frankly, sexism and homophobia are considered acceptable (along with bigotry towards people of other faiths). It’s all part of being a “good Catholic” for many people. I don’t think it’s going to change any time soon either. According to Rome, women are “lesser than” and LGBT people are intrinsically evil and morally disordered. To Rome women need to get married, stay at home, make babies and shut up. LGBT need to just go away or go to jail or die (and they need to shut up too). I cannot help but think that the Vatican is determined to keep it’s congregants ignorant, stifled and unprepared for the societal realities existent in the 21st century. It really does look that way.

    • Ghosty Wolfe
      Ghosty Wolfe says:

      Dear Father Anthony, I clicked on your name and saw your church in Orlando. I watched the video and your church looks awesome! I wish I lived close enough to attend. Please keep up the good work! That just put the biggest smile on my face. 😀


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] suit against Mount de Sales Academy, Macon, Georgia, reported Valdosta Today. School officials fired the band director in May 2014 after Dollar’s engagement to his now-husband became known to […]

  2. […] Kathleen Purcell was let go from her teaching job in an Oakland, California, Catholic high school for crossing out sections of the new teachers’ contract, which demanded that employees’ personal and professional lives conform to Catholic teaching. I am thankful for the courage and witness of Kathleen Purcell and others like her who put their beliefs about justice into action. […]

  3. […] Dollar, who was fired from his job as a music teacher at Mount de Sales Academy, Macon, Georgia, when it was learned that he intended to marry a […]

  4. […] is not mentioned in the news story, when the dioceses of Cincinnati, Honolulu, Cleveland, and Oakland instituted new contracts, being part of a legally married lesbian or gay couple, or supporting […]

  5. […] teacher Flint Dollar was fired from a Sisters of Mercy school in Macon, Georgia recently, after plans to marry his partner became known. Students, parents, and […]

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