Case of German Lesbian Fired from a Catholic School Poses Moral Questions

The disturbing trend of Catholic institutions firing lesbian and gay church workers because they choose to legally marry their partners is spread across the U.S.    Even more disturbing, though, is that we have now seen examples of this discriminatory trend popping up in other countries, as well.  Last year we reported on a gay volunteer being dismissed from a Catholic relief organization in the U.K., and a lesbian teacher being fired from a Catholic school in Italy because rumors had spread about her orientation.

The Caritas kindergarten in Holzkirchen, Bavaria, Germany

This past week in Germany, it became public that a lesbian kindergarten teacher at a Catholic institution in Holzkirchen, a small Bavarian town, was made to sign a severance agreement after she informed her employer that she was making plans to legally marry her female partner. reported the story, noting that because of a confidentiality agreement between the teacher and school, the teacher’s name was not made public.   There are similar factors to cases in the U.S.  Like most cases here, the article reported that the crucial issue is a contract morality clause:

“The Catholic charity, Caritas, which runs the school, refers to Article Four of the ‘fundamental order of ecclesiastical duties in an ecclesiastical setting, with which everyone who works for a religious agency is familiar. This document states that all employees are expected to ‘recognize and follow the principles of the Catholic faith and ethical teaching.’ This is considered particularly relevant in the cases of educational and executive personnel.”

And like most cases here, the article reported that “The parents are also at a loss to understand the reasons for her having to leave.”

But the German situation is slightly different, too, from most U.S. cases.  In Germany, all kindergartens, even those sponsored by religious groups, receive public funding, so the church-state issue is more complex.   Another unusual twist in this story is that Caritas, the employer, offered the fired teacher “a post that did not entail any educational or executive duties but she refused the offer.”  It raises the interesting suspicion that they just did not want her in a position that would influence children, and that the moral gravity of her situation is actually somewhat relative, and not absolute.

Because the fired teacher is not speaking publicly, some local politicians have come to her defense:

“Ulrike Gote, a Green Party’s spokeswoman in the state of Bavaria, accuses the Catholic Church of ‘hypocrisy.”

” ‘The Church should actually be delighted that someone wants to marry their partner,’ Gote says. ‘These are the kinds of double standards that we have had to deal with for a very long time.’

“The mayor of Holzkirchen, Olaf von Loewis of the Christian Social Union, who is a practicing Catholic, also has difficulty accepting the stance his Church has taken towards homosexual relationships.

” ‘I am very familiar with the rules and regulations of the Church as an employer,’ Loewis says. ‘And I deem them to be wrong.’ “

As I read these similarly sad and tragic stories over and over again,  two questions always come to my mind:

1) Why is homosexuality, and in particular, committing to a legal marriage, the main reason that people are being dismissed from jobs in these morality clause cases?  There have been pregnancy-outside-of-marriage stories, but these, thank God, have been few.  The cardinal sin these days for church employers seems to be gay and lesbian people committing themselves in love to their spouses.  The fact that this issue has been singled out over all others should be proof enough that this is not about morality, but politics.

2) Though principals and church administrators often use the line that the morality clauses have to be enforced to set examples for children, do they ever think of the example that they themselves set in firing someone from a job they love, that they have been performing well, that they receive praise from those they serve, and that is their livelihood?  What lesson do children learn from such actions?

Church leaders need to start being self-reflective about their actions and policies.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Editor’s note:  There were many articles in German about this case on the web, but was the only one in English that I found.



9 replies
  1. Anton
    Anton says:

    Did the Catholic church officials officially excise Chapter 4 from the Gospel according to John? Jesus broke the rules of his tradition by speaking with a woman all alone at a well. She was a Samaritan, he was a Jew, he asked her to minister to him, requesting a cup of water. She bantered with him, she had five husbands. Jesus even scandalized the men he was traveling with. They were amazed that he was speaking with a woman, solus cum sola. Then he even claimed to have been fed already by doing his Father’s will in speaking with the woman. She then was so moved by Jesus that she dropped her bucket and went into the city of Sychar to preach the Good News about him, even though she was ostracized from the community (that’s why she was at the well all by herself). and convinces the people (no doubt men included) to come to see this Jesus, the Jew. They invite him into the city to listen to him and then tell the woman they believed because of what she said, but now more because of what HE told them. Another thing. In Matthew’s Gospel: “These were the Twelve whom Jesus sent out after he had given them these instructions: “Don’t turn on to the road that leads to the unbelievers (Gentiles), and don’t enter Samaritan towns.” (Mt. 10:5) And in John he’s violating his own instructions! As he does in Luke (9:51), as well. He was never consistent. He even healed the Roman centurion’s house-boy.
    A handout at Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Daytona Beach, Florida, has it right. “All are welcome! Where all means ALL!”
    “We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich, dirt poor, y no habla ingles. We extend a special welcome to those who are crying new-born, skinny as a rail, or could afford to lose a few pounds. We welcome you if you can sing like Andrea Bocelli or like our pastor who can’t carry a note in a bucket. You’re welcome here if you’re ‘just browsing,’ just woke up, or just got out of jail. We don’t care if you’re more Catholic than the Pope, or haven’t been in church since little Joey’s Baptism. We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but not grown up yet, and to teenagers who are growing up too fast. We welcome soccer moms, NASCAR dads, starving artists, tree-huggers, latte-sippers, vegetarians, junk-food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery or are still addicted. We welcome you if you’re having problems, or you’re down in the dumps, or you don’t like ‘organized religion,’ we’ve been there too. If you blew all your offering money at the dog track, you’re welcome here. We offer a special welcome to those who think the earth is flat, work too hard, don’t work, can’t spell, or came because grandma is in town and wanted to go to church. We welcome those who are inked, pierced or both. We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down your throat as a kid, or got lost in traffic and wound up here by mistake. We welcome the flexible, inflexible, tolerant & intolerant, those who laughed as well as those who gasped at this welcome card. We welcome tourists, seekers, doubters, bleeding hearts, and you!” Thank you, Jesus!

  2. ermadurk
    ermadurk says:

    Another action by a Church leader that outrages the laity affected by it, and mystifies any rational person for the lack of logic which motivates it. Thanks Frank, for information that clarifies, and motivates us to act justly.

  3. Joan Mertens
    Joan Mertens says:

    Thank you, Francis DeBarnado, for your keen insights into this situation and for your constant support of gays and lesbians who serve children and the Church. Blessings, Joan Mertens

    Sent from my iPhone



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  2. […] German educator fired for her plans to marry a woman will return to her position as head of a Bavarian kindergarten, aided by a new church employment […]

  3. […] German educator fired for her plans to marry a woman will return to her position as head of a Bavarian kindergarten, aided by a new church employment […]

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  5. […] policy change comes only weeks after a lesbian kindergarten teacher was fired for planning to marry her partner, one of more than 50 church workers have lost their jobs since 2008 in public incidents. […]

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