Luis Alberto González taught as a married gay man for two years, but, for the first time in fifteen years, he will not be returning to school this fall. He was told by a local bishop it is “no longer appropriate” that he teach religion at a public school in the Canary Islands, a Spanish autonomous community off the coast of Africa.
González, formerly a Catholic priest, married his husband in 2012. Aware that Spanish law grants Catholic bishops hiring and firing abilities related to religion teachers in public schools, González was forthright and wrote to his local bishop about the marriage. In letter to the editor entitled “Good News” to the Spanish daily El País, González wrote:
“I got married civilly to another man in 2012. The fact would not be very significant except that I work in Lanzarote as a professor of Religion at two institutes. At the end of the school year in which the union took place, I considered it appropriate, for openness, put my job in the bishop’s hands (in writing even)…
“Therefore, I assumed I would be fired, but my employment contract has been renewed year after year. Either the bishop of Canarias doesn’t consider the matter very important, or he’s taking a new approach to the issue in his jurisdiction. In either case, it’s good news.”
However, it seems the “Good News” letter has now led to his firing. The Diocese of Canarias reported he has been fired by the bishop. In a fax to González, the diocese explained:
“For reasons of doctrine and morality and under canon law, your suitability as a religion teacher is retracted.”
There is some confusion as the Canary Island’s Ministry of Education still lists González as a teacher and Deputy Minister of Education Manuela Armas said there had been no communication to his office from the diocese.
For his part,González is resigned to the firing and said he “knew it could happen.” González asserts that he may no longer meet criteria for religion teachers set forth by the Spanish hierarchy, and he is only demanding that he be fairly compensated and allowed to access unemployment benefits.
More broadly, González wonders about the “manipulation of beliefs by those who have power in religion” and says Catholicism should not institutionally seek to ‘get into’ every aspect of people’s lives. Iglesia Descalza reports that the fired educator remains hopeful and has promised to remain in the Catholic Church to continue affecting change:
“The teacher argues that ‘there are elements of the citizenry, such as the people who make up the educational community, who don’t think it’s bad for someone who is gay and married to teach religion, but as you go up the pyramid of the Catholic hierarchy, one is aware that they’re on a different wavelength, advocating certain themes, including ones that could be considered medieval.’ …
” ‘There will always be those who will say that the Church is like a club. If you don’t want to be there, go. I, however, argue — and I’ve been a priest — that you can help change it from within…The Church itself has to be revised, take up these debates normally and face them.’ “
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry
El País (in Spanish): “El Obispado de Canarias expulsa a un profesor gay casado”
Iglesia Descalza (English translation of El País article): “Diocese of Canarias expels married gay teacher”