Marriage equality is now legal in Florida, and Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami has wasted no time warning church workers they could lose their jobs for publicly supporting LGBT rights.
Wenski sent archdiocesan employees a copy of the Florida Catholic Conference’s statement opposing the court rulings that made same-gender marriages legal. NBC 6 in South Florida reports that Wenski attached his own letter that said, in part:
“All employees should note that, because of the Church’s particular function in society, certain conduct, inconsistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church, could lead to disciplinary action, including termination, even if it occurs outside the normal working day and outside the strict confines of work performed by the employee for the Archdiocese. Employees should exercise discretion when posting on social media sites, and note that online activity indicative of prohibitive behaviors may subject an employee to disciplinary action or termination.”
This letter is the archbishop’s latest attack on LGBT rights and evidence he is not affected by the ‘Francis Effect’ as some had hoped for last November. Wenski, as chair of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committe on Domestic Justice and Human Development, has recently opposed President Obama’s executive order barring LGBT discrimination by government contractors. In the past, Wenski has called pro-equality court rulings “another salvo in the ‘culture wars’ that ultimately seek to redefine the institution of marriage as solely for adult gratification” and said same-gender marriages would lead to polygamy.
Archbishop Wenski’s response to marriage equality in Florida scapegoats church workers, denying them their rights to just labor practices, dignity, and conscience. Since 2008, more than 40 church workers have lost their jobs in LGBT-related employment disputes (you can find a full listing here) and a majority of these occurred in 2014. These firings do immeasurable damage, ranking as the worst Catholic LGBT story of 2014 by Bondings 2.0 readers. Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley has even admitted they “need to be rectified.”
Instead of accepting that marriage equality is rapidly becoming law nationwide and focusing on important issues, Wenski is escalating the institutional church’s campaign against church workers who are LGBT or allies. This is a most tragic way to start the new year and hopefully other bishops in Florida and elsewhere will not imitate such threatening tactics. Few acts fall as far from the Gospel as intimidating the very ministers who are humbly and devotedly building up the Reign of God in our church.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry