Fired church worker Margie Winters left 23,000 petition signatures at the doors of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s offices on Monday. Though she arrived during business hours, the doors of the building were locked.
Petitioners are asking Archbishop Charles Chaput to protect LGBT church workers and respect Catholic schools’ autonomy.
Winters, joined by 50 supporters, was barred from entering archdiocesan offices which were under lockdown at the time, reported the Philadelphia Inquirer. Handing the box of signatures to a security guard, Winters joked the lockdown was “because I’m so threatening.”
The petition, organized by Faithful America, intitially asked for Winters’ reinstatement. The former religious educator explained how the momentum of support grew, according to CBS Philly:
“We ask for full inclusion at the table and in the church…And we ask now for a moratorium on firing any LGBT employee.
“The biggest hope that I can get right now is that we would have a conversation with the Bishop, or with any of the Bishops to talk about inclusion in the church…We would invite the Archbishop to conversation with the LGBT community.”
Waldron Mercy Academy expelled Winters in June after eights years of teaching and being, in the words of one parent, a “perfect example of living a religious life.” Winters was fired for being married to another woman.
Ken Gavin, spokesperson for the archdiocese, issued a statement that the petition’s basis was “problematic” and criticized Winters’ supporters for perpetuating the “falsehood” of Chaput’s involvement. Winters suggested people can “draw your own conclusions” about Chaput. She noted Waldron Mercy administrators knew about her marriage for years but acted only when an anonymous complaint was filed with the archdiocese, a situation that is all too common in Catholic education according to columnist Jamie Manson.
Gavin re-affirmed Archbishop Chaput’s support for firing Winters, an act for which he previously expressed gratitude and said it displayed “character and common sense.” Philadelphia’s top prelate has made a string of offensive statements about LGBT people, as the city prepares for Pope Francis’ September visit. In addition to his comments about the Winters case, he recently told the Catholic mother of two gay sons she ‘prefers worldly ways to Jesus‘ for her equality advocacy, and also presumed that LGBT Catholics planning to attend the World Meeting of Families were might be lobbyists for changing the church.
Meanwhile, the Waldron Mercy Academy community is deeply wounded and members are sustaining their protests even as the school’s board of trustees promises a series of meetings, already attended by 170 parents. Some parents have withdrawn their children or are withholding tuition. Winters’ wife, Andrea Vittori, appealed to Pope Francis in a letter last month, and the fired teacher added her own hopes that Pope Francis would meet with LGBT Catholics while visiting the United States.
In a related note, Fr. Warren Hall, who was fired as the chaplain at Seton Hall University for supporitng LGBT anti-bullying efforts earlier this year, has been reassigned, reported Religion News Service. He will serve as parochial vicar for two New Jersey parishes with a pastor, who is a close friend, Fr. Bob Myer. Hall has subsequently come out as a gay and wrote his own letter to Pope Francis, encouraging the pontiff to defend LGBT church workers.
For Bondings 2.0’s full coverage of this story, and other LGBT-related church worker disputes, click the ‘Employment Issues‘ category to the right or here. You can click here to find a full listing of the almost 50 incidents since 2008 where church workers have lost their jobs over LGBT identity, same-sex marriages, or public support for equality.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry