The chorus of voices opposing the recent firings of LGBT people from Catholic institutions increased in this past week, as nine fired employees wrote to Pope Francis, seeking an audience. Additionally, theologian Lisa Fullam spoke out against these unjust firings, and she examined the root causes of them.
The Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBT political equality organization, released a letter this week which they mailed to Pope Francis on behalf of nine people recently fired, inviting the pontiff to meet with them to discuss employment and LGBT issues in the church. The letter reads, in part:
We have devoted years, some of us even decades, to serving our communities as teachers, leaders
and role models. We have made a conscious choice to work within the Catholic Church because we
strongly believe that a Catholic education prepares our young people to be responsible citizens, men
and women for others. For each and every one of us, our employment was far more than just a job –
it was a reflection of core Catholic values. . . .
After each termination, school and Church officials have told us we violate Catholic Church
teachings on homosexuality. Yet, such directives have not only caused great harm to our families, but
also contradict your pastoral priority for the Church to reflect the beauty of God in ways that attract
and entice rather than alienate. . . .
The letter writers appealed to Pope Francis’ well-known gestures of welcome to LGBT people:
We take hope from your messages of acceptance and see in your pastoral leadership the possibility
for the Church to correct these hurtful injustices. We ask for a Papal audience with our families, so
that you may hear our personal stories firsthand and see the impact the Church’s actions have had on
The letter was signed by nine fired employees. Six are lesbian or gay educators: Tippi McCullough, Flint Dollar, Michael Griffin, Richard Hague, Kristen Ostendorf, Brian Panetta. One is a gay man dismissed from his parish ministry: Nicholas Coppola. One is the mother of a gay son, who will not be re-hired at a Catholic school because she refused to sign a new, restrictive contract: Molly Shumate.
To learn more about these individual cases, and for an exhaustive list of LGBT people and allies whose service in Catholic institutions has been terminated, visit New Ways Ministry’s page of names and links.
Lisa Fullam, a professor of moral theology at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, posted an analysis on the dotCommonweal blog entitled “What Counts as ‘Unjust Discrimination’?” After citing the Catholic Catechism’s admonition about lesbian and gay people that “Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided,” Fullam recounts the story of Colleen Simon, who was recently fired from her job as social ministries coordinator at a Kansas City parish.
For Fullam, the root of the problem lies not with the employees but with unjust Catholic language about lesbian and gay people. She concludes her post:
“I’d add also that listening to LGBT people might include being open to the possibility that language like ‘grave depravity,’ ‘intrinsic disorder,’ ‘objective disorder’ and the like is in need of revision and rejection. It seems to be utterly unjust to apply such harsh and hurtful language to two women who love each other deeply and share also a profound commitment to service of the poor. They set a standard for love of neighbor that all of us–gay, straight, or whatever–would do well to emulate. “
(Editor’s note: Lisa Fullam recently published a theological article in support of civil same-sex marriage on this blog. You can read it by clicking here.)
As always, we encourage Catholics to begin discussions of non-discrimination policies in Catholic institutions as a way to forestall future actions against LGBT and ally employees.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry