This week is National Catholic Schools Week, a celebration of the church’s educational efforts in the U.S. There is much to be celebrated, but it is also an opportune moment to consider the firing of LGBT and ally church workers.
This year, we are highlighting the many instances in which those educated by Catholic schools organize resistance against these unjust actions. Students have walked out of their schools in protest, held rallies to support beloved teachers, and even held a national day of action last January.
Garlia Cornelia Jones-Ly, an alumna of Marian High School, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, which fired lesbian science teacher Barb Webb last year, wrote a perceptive article in The New York Times about those formed by Catholic education who are now challenging the church about LGBT justice. She writes:
“The sense of shame I felt for the halls I once walked in dissipated as I joined both graduates and nongraduates of Marian in a social media movement supporting Ms. Webb. I wasn’t the only member of our community to be angered — far from it . While I have had a distant relationship with the Catholic Church for a few years now, I was one of many who had hoped for better from two establishments — my school and the church I grew up in and still loved. The values of the Catholic Church will always be within me and are passed onto our children.”
Jones-Ly writes about her own time at Marian, specifically recalling a paper arguing for same-sex marriage that received a failing grade for not expressing the “view of the Catholic Church.” These experiences, coupled with nearly 50 dedicated church workers disputing employment actions from 2008 to now because of LGBT issues, leave this alumna questioning Catholic education today:
“While my paper affected my class grade, it wasn’t damaging enough to alter my life. Ms. Webb seems to have made some of the same assumptions I did when I turned in that paper — that a church that counts among its most important principles the command that each of us “love thy neighbor” would place blind adherence to doctrine over an individual member of the community’s welfare…
“The school, and the church, would likely say that the firing of Ms. Webb wasn’t ‘personal’ either. But when I consider my children, the religion in which to raise them, and our coming choice about whether to send them to Catholic school, I find myself wishing the church would be more personal, and take into account the people who are part of it, and the global community of which we are a part today.”
These firings were identified by Bondings 2.0 readers as the worst Catholic LGBT news in 2014 and are a growing crisis for the American Church. On its face, threatening employees with the loss of their job unless they violate their conscience or suppress their identities and relationsships is antithetical to the Gospel. These firings also act as a vaccine against the Catholic faith and could lead the Catholic Church to become a shrinking cult as younger members leave more and more. As the tremendous good of Catholic schools is celebrated this week, it is essential to consider how the church’s educational ministries can more credibly and inclusively engage LGBT issues.
For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of these and other LGBT-related disputes, click the ‘Employment Issues‘ category to the right or click here. You can also find a full listing of the more than 40 incidents made public since 2008 by clicking here.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry