The wife of Margie Winters, who was fired from a Philadelphia-area Catholic elementary school because of her marriage, is appealing to Pope Francis to rectify the injustice that the former director of religious education experienced from the school’s administration.
The New York Daily News reported that Andrea Vettori sent a letter to the pontiff in which she appealed to him to reinstate her wife, Margie, to the job she held at Waldron Mercy Academy for eight years. The news article quoted excerpts from the letter:
“I ask you, I beg you, I implore you to ask God to reveal to you the next steps. Not just for Margie and myself, but for the injustices that have been done in the name of our faith against gay and lesbian members of the Church throughout the United States and the world whose only ‘sin’ was to be true to the love God placed within them.”
The entire text of Vettori’s three-page letter can be found at the end of the Daily News article. In it, she describes the couple’s faith life, relational commitment, and community involvement, noting that one is a lay Associate and one is a Companion of the Sisters of Mercy who operate the school. Indeed, the letter states that it was their involvement with the Mercy Sisters where
“we fell in love–with God, with our sisters, with one another.”
Vettori pleaded with Pope Francis
“to intervene on our behalf and countless other faithful Catholics so that we may not be condemned to live a life exiled from a Church that we so love and want to serve.”
In conclusion, she asked for the pope to allow the couple to meet with him when he visits Philadelphia at the end of September for the closing of the World Meeting of Families.
Meanwhile, responses to the Winters’ firing have begun to proliferate. An online GoFundMe appeal with a goal or raising $25,000 has raised $9,000 already. In addition to the Stand With Margie Facebook page, a Twitter hashtag, #StandWithMargie, has been established.
Philly.com reported that more than 200 parents from the school met this past week to show support and gratitude for Winters and to discuss ways to respond effectively. The news article also states that it was a disagreement with a parent about whether to teach Pope John Paul’s “Theology of the Body” to the elementary school students. While the parent proposed this work, Winters felt that it was too mature for younger children, and in fact the principal agreed with her.
Weighing in on the firing was Benjamin Brenkert, who last year resigned from the Jesuits to protest the unjust firings of LGBT people from Catholic institutions. In a Daily Beast essay which explores some of the philosophical assumptions of magisterial teaching on sexuality, Brenkert said that in firing Winters, the school was
“unequivocally informing LGBTQ persons that they cannot under any circumstances contribute to the spiritual or intellectual formation of children.”
Additionally, the Human Rights Campaign spoke out in support of Winters. Lisbeth Melendez-Rivera, director of Latino/a and Catholic Initiatives stated:
“We call on the school to reinstate Margie Winters, and look to the day when Catholic leaders like [Archbishop] Chaput have the strength and courage to embrace our lives, to allow us to earn an honest living, and to participate in the education of our children.For guidance, [Archbishop] Chaput should look to the pews, where there’s more support for LGBT non-discrimination laws and marriage equality than even among the general public.”
As these cases multiply and become more frequent, church leaders will soon have to see how, just on a practical level, this policy is unsustainable. Instead of increasing love and justice, these firings cause people to become further alienated from Catholic Church structures.
In their efforts to promote a narrow vision of church teaching, focused solely on sexuality, Catholic leaders are forgetting the wider picture of the love and justice which the church should be promoting.
In the words of Andrea Vettori in her letter to Pope Francis:
“Jesus said ‘you will know my disciples by the fruit.’ I would say look at the fruit of our lives.”
For the recent history of this terrible trend of firing, click here for Bondings 2.0’s chronicle.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry
NBC Philadelphia: “Community Rallies Behind Beloved Educator Fired for Same-Sex Marriage”