Ahead of Labor Day, Archbishop Supports Firing of Lesbian Church Worker


Kate Drumgoole, right, with wife Jaclyn Vanore

Newark’s archbishop has endorsed a Catholic high school’s firing of lesbian educator Kate Drumgoole, even as support for her grows.

Today, Bondings 2.0 focuses on the archbishop’s comments and legal case surrounding Drumgoole’s firing. Tomorrow, we will take up reactions to the firing from Catholics and others in the local community.

Archbishop John Myers said in a statement that Drumgoole’s same-gender marriage to Jaclyn Vanore could “create confusion and uncertainty in the moral formation” of students, reported The Record. He affirmed Paramus Catholic High School’s firing of Drumgoole, which he described as “corrective steps” taken to protect the church’s mission and identity.

Drumgoole, a beloved Dean of Guidance and women’s basketball coach at Paramus Catholic, was fired in January after her wife’s estranged sister sent pictures of the couple to school officials. These photos were not public, according to The Record.

Last month, Drumgoole filed a discrimination lawsuit against the high school and the Archdiocese of Newark. A judge denied Paramus Catholic’s motion to dismiss on First Amendment grounds, and the case has now entered a year-long discovery period.

At this point, the case seems to hinge on whether Drumgoole’s work was ministerial in nature , which would exempt the school from state non-discrimination protections. Drumgoole’s lawyers, Eric and Lawrence Kleiner, argue that the educator was not a minister and that Paramus Catholic cannot practice selective portions of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination while dispensing other portions.

To this end, the lawyers will be interviewing school employees whose personal lives contradict church teaching, and yet who have not been fired. This evidence may reveal a “big dichotomy,” they say, showing selective enforcement of church teaching in such a way that discriminates against LGBT people. The Record explained:

” ‘This is a rare case where, in our estimation, based on the paperwork that’s been provided, the defense is not claiming it was a budgetary concern, they replaced somebody because of poor performance. They are openly admitting that same sex led to the determination to terminate her. So this is a direct of discrimination,’ Eric Kleiner said. ‘Which will be attacked directly in discovery.’

“In paperwork filed in the defense motion, a monsignor said he found Drumgoole’s conduct to be ‘odious,’ Eric Kleiner said. ‘Odious is an extremely revolting and repulsive statement. That bespeaks where we’ll be going on discovery.’ “

Eric Kleiner told The Record that Drumgoole’s heroism in seeking justice “will not be muted or diffused or lessened by the extremely harsh and divisive language given by the Archbishop.” Lawrence Kleiner spoke of the division in the Catholic Church on LGBT equality, saying the archbishop was “taking an issue that has already divided its members and turning it into a chasm.” And Drumgoole said the couple was humbled by the support they have received, and that this case was about more than their marriage:

” ‘This is an issue for individuals and families. And not necessarily simply families who have individuals who are gay or who are involved in same-sex marriage. But just individuals who believe in equality and believe that people should be able to love freely — and still be employed where they’re employed.’ “

Many people in the Newark area, and particularly Catholics, have taken interest in this case because of the archbishop’s checkered history.

Mark Crawford, New Jersey state director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, told The Record that Myers was “hypocritical” and “backward” because “[h]e’ll protect those clergy he knows abused children yet hold these hard-line positions against people who love each other.”

Alfred P. Doblin,  The Record’s editorial page editor, recalled the case of former priest Michael Fugee to sharpen this contrast. Fugee’s conviction of sexually assaulting a child was overturned only because of a judicial error. Under Myer’s leadership, the priest returned to ministry and even had unsupervised contact with children despite signing a memorandum with the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office to avoid minors.

At the time, Myers said that Fugee’s case had “more grays than black and white,” but Doblin questioned where the grays were and said there was “no consistency in the way Myers has dealt with church employees.” Doblin concluded:

“[Myers] writes, ‘The invitation to join in the life of the Church does not include an invitation to alter or redefine what the Church believes and teaches, nor is it an invitation to allow others to define the identity, mission and message of the Church.’

“How, then, does Myers justify his own past actions? He writes that the church acts only on facts. Only when ‘credible evidence’ comes to the attention of the archdiocese that an employee is violating the tenets of the Catholic faith will there be an investigation and appropriate action. . .

“Myers contorted himself to defend the indefensible: the continued ministry of Michael Fugee when there were more-than-credible allegations that the man was a sexual predator. . .The archbishop’s actions speak louder than his letter.”

The Star-Ledger editorialized further that church leaders who shelter abusive priests are “what really endangers the moral formation of students,” adding:

“Since 75-year-old Myers will not go quietly into the already large, $700,000 weekend house he used $500,000 in church funds to expand into a 7,500 square foot retirement mansion, let’s review the moral foundation it was built on. Not only did Myers refuse to release the names of priests credibly accused of child abuse during his 15-year tenure, like other churches do, he protected some of them personally. . .

“Would Jesus really tell this woman her lifestyle is ‘odious’ because she’s gay, while protecting pedophile priests? If students learn anything from that, it’s bigotry and hypocrisy.”

Myers has a notably negative record on LGBT issues. Last week, he suspended Fr. Warren Hall from priestly ministry, having fired him last year from directing Campus Ministry at Seton Hall University because Hall expressed support for the NOH8 Campaign. Myers released a 2015 memorandum to church ministers saying people in same-gender civil marriages, and even Catholics who support marriage equality, should be denied Communion. He made this same point when New Jersey was debating marriage equality. Thankfully, in both cases, his words were largely ignored.

Tomorrow’s post for Labor Day examine the ways Catholics have responded supportively to the cases of Kate Drumgoole, Fr. Warren Hall, and many other unjustly fired 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 more than 60 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

14 replies
  1. Friends
    Friends says:

    For God’s sake — literally — can’t SOMEONE get through to the Vatican with news of the grievous harm Myers is creating for the Catholic Church, and for its public reputation, and urgently request that Myers be directed to resign his position immediately? Pope Francis already took this executive action, in the case of the odious Cardinal Burke. Why can’t (or won’t) he do it in the case of Myers? Does Francis even know what’s happening on this side of the Atlantic?

    • Wilhelm Wonka
      Wilhelm Wonka says:

      Get through to the Vatican? A waste of time. It would be highly unlikely even to acknowledge complaints about Myers, let alone reply to them.

      Instead, simply stop contributing financially to an organisation that has shown its love of money (e.g., Myers’ spending on his property such a huge amount of Church funds) to be greater than its love of justice.

  2. Jim McCrea
    Jim McCrea says:

    The leaders of this denomination will continue to have carte blanche because the sheep continue to put up with any and all things because of their mistaken idea that bitchups are called by God and are Successors of The Apostles.

    Ya gets what ya pays for.

  3. Thomas
    Thomas says:

    The breath taking arrogance displayed by the Archbishop is disturbing.But then , this is “company policy” .
    Until the Vatican announces that this type of denigration is morally wrong and profoundly evil, no one will accept any other church positions are worthy . Look to Georgetown and their reparation to descendants of slaves they sold to keep their doors open. It took a very long time, but in the end, the Jesuits knew that had to confess for harming their brothers. Now, the church must do the same for every homosexual person they’ve spent centuries condemning. I won’t hold my breath waiting, but I won’t give up hope either.

    • newwaysministryblog
      newwaysministryblog says:

      Pat D: Please send the edits that you want to make, and we will make the changes for you. Alternatively, you can re-submit the whole comment, with the edits, and we will replace it and delete the earlier one.

      • Pat D
        Pat D says:

        “Confusing the Faithful!”
        Public figures like Joe Biden and Tim Kaine have been criticized by several Bishops that their Faith is not central to their public and political life and they are “confusing the Faithful.” One priest tweeted “Don’t show up in my communion line,” despite Pope Francis’ statement “Who am I to Judge!”” All of this rhetoric about “Faithfulness” by Bishops and their condemnation of same gender relationships is damaging to the Church. I cannot imagine that Pope Francis doesn’t see it.
        First of all, who are the Faithful? Are they those who believe in Jesus Christ or those who believe in the Church? I use the word Church rather than Catholic Church because Christ founded His Church, which generations later was given the name Roman Catholic Church with its base in Rome. While I am a proud cradle Catholic, I am a Christian first because Jesus Christ is “numero uno” in my life and therefore His commandments of “Love” follow in priority. His commandments places Family next, which is God’s gift to me and explicitly my responsibility and His command to take care of them by following His teachings contained in the four Gospels of the New Testament. So Faith is central to my life, as Joe Biden and Tim Kaine, and I believe John Boehner, have also expressed.
        I have chosen to practice my Faith in the Catholic Church, but with the belief that Jesus’ followers, the people, clergy and laity, constitute the Church. Like any institution, government and religious denomination, an authority or hierarchy is needed. But that hierarchy, as Jesus demonstrated and gave his life for, must serve the people, not focus on those laws, rules, doctrines, dogmas, etc., which foster division, condemnation and “confusion.”
        There is enough evidence in the Gospels that the culture and times during which Jesus taught were different from that of the Genesis, Abraham, Moses and other early prophet eras, i.e., the Old Testament. So why should there be reluctance to change in the 21st century when our intellective knowledge and science are much different from that of Jesus’ time? Almost 2000 years later the Catholic Church (Vatican II) recognized this and revised its teaching on homosexuality, but mandated celibacy, thereby forbidding two people of the same gender from entering into a monogamous and loving relationship. Such a mandate is not placed on anyone else. A priest or sister freely choose their vocation before taking a required vow of celibacy. And celibacy was not always required of priests. But to make matters worse the Church even supported “conversion therapy.”
        Our country was founded on Christian values. And the Catholic Church has failed miserably in preserving marriage as a sacramental bond between a man and woman by not instituting, post-Vatican II, even 30 years ago, a “spiritual covenant” vocation between two people of the same gender. This could have avoided all the equality issues and Supreme Court interventions. If it had Joe Biden wouldn’t be performing a wedding ceremony in his home.
        The “confused” American Bishops need to wake up and not wait for “a” Pope to accept the LGBT community into the Church fold. Eventually “a” Pope will! It would be nice if this were to happen in the year of Mercy, 2016. The whole world should be moving toward Love and Mercy.

  4. Barbara J Monda
    Barbara J Monda says:

    Well then, let’s fire all priests and Bishops and Cardinals who have molested children, had affairs with women or men or who masturbate immediately!! Because these certainly “create confusion and uncertainty in the moral formation” of students,

  5. Janelle Lazzo
    Janelle Lazzo says:

    If “Is it loving?” is an appropriate question to ask about behavior, and I think it is, the behavior of the fired school employee and her spouse , along with the people who support her, IS . The behavior of the frustrated sister who blew the whistle and the Archbishop who only validated her behavior but added his own skewed take on the relationship to it definitely IS NOT. He wants to eliminate confusion? Why doesn’t the Church do some serious thinking on why a Church policy should directly violate Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor as yourself.”


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Catholic has caused divisions in the community and harm to those involved. Commentaries have sharply criticized the school and the archdiocese, pointing out that while the school may be legally exempt from state […]

  2. […] histories on LGBT issues and his handling of abusive clergy, figures centrally in both incidents. Yesterday’s post featured criticisms of how quickly he has dismissed gay church workers while protecting priests […]

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