Jesuit Weekly Criticizes “Unjust Discrimination” against LGBT Church Workers

A major outlet in the English-speaking Catholic media has opined against the firing of LGBT church workers.

downloadAmerica Magazine, a Jesuit weekly in the U.S., printed an editorial titled “Unjust Discrimination” on the issue of LGBT firings. The editors opened by discussing a 2015 policy change by German bishops to prevent church workers who are divorced and remarried or in same-gender partnerships from being discriminated against in employment. The editors wrote:

“Civil unions for same-sex couples have been legal in Germany since 2001. What sparked last year’s policy change? The bishops recognized that the previous church law, which included a ‘morals clause’ for Catholic employees, was being selectively applied. . .

“Under the new law, the church in Germany can dismiss an employee who publicly expresses ‘opposition to fundamental principles of the Catholic Church—for example by support for abortion or for racial hatred’ or who disparages ‘Catholic faith content, rites or practices,’ on the grounds that these infractions would constitute a ‘grave breach of loyalty.’ “

The editorial cited Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne, who at the time the German bishops announced their new policy explained that the change sought “to limit the consequences of remarriage or a same-sex union to the most serious cases [that would] compromise the church’s integrity and credibility.”

Such reasoning and reasonableness has not been present among the U.S. episcopate, even after the nation’s Supreme Court legalized marriage equality nationwide and despite the growing number of church workers who are entering same-gender marriages. The America editors noted a disparity between Catholic colleges and other Catholic institutions in the treatment of LGBT employees and acknowledged cases where “individuals have been secretly reported to their supervisors by other members of the community.” They continued:

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church, while teaching that homosexual acts cannot be morally accepted, also requires that homosexual persons be ‘accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided’ (No. 2358). The high public profile of these firings, when combined with a lack of due process and the absence of any comparable  policing of marital status for heterosexual employees, constitute signs of ‘unjust discrimination,’ and the church in the United States should do more to avoid them. In addition to any possible harm done to the employees who have been fired, the appearance of unjust discrimination weakens the church’s overall witness. The church will lose talented, devoted workers because of institutional decisions made under pressure or without sufficient discernment.”

Employment issues about gender and sexuality pose a further problem since many lay Catholics disagree with the Magisterium, yet church institutions are dependent on the same lay people whose consciences have led them to a more accepting stance. The editors asked how this situation could be sustainable in the long term, and replied:

“The answer is not to downplay or gloss over these teachings. Catholics are called to preach difficult truths about a range of subjects, including but not limited to marriage and sexuality. But what is the best way to do that? It is true that sometimes an employee of a Catholic institution can cause scandal by his or her public words or deeds. But it is also true that treating employees unfairly, by holding them to different standards or dismissing them abruptly or without consultation, can itself cause scandal.”

One proposal the editorial cited is that of Archbishop Joseph Tobin, newly named to become a cardinal in November, who advocated a case-by-case approach in a recent interview with America. There are complex questions of formation and support, too, and the editors conclude:

“The church must be free to conduct its ministries without government interference and with room to challenge prevailing social mores. But we also have a duty to proceed with wisdom and mercy, attentive to the dignity of the individual and the common good.”

This editorial from America adds significantly to Catholics’ responses against the firings as discriminatory and unjust, adding to a 2014 editorial from the National Catholic Reporter. These pieces come as more than 60 church workers have lost their jobs in LGBT-related employment disputes since just 2008. The firings continue, such as the case of  educator Kate Drumgoole and music director Michael Templeton. This latest editorial highlights both the need for positive action in defense of LGBT church workers, the complexities of church employment, and ultimately the tremendous harm done when church leaders discriminate against faithful employees.

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 2007 where church workers have lost their jobs over LGBT identity, same-sex marriages, or public support for equality.

7 replies
  1. Albertus
    Albertus says:

    The problem goes much deeper. There predominates a false mentality, which even the seem to have to pay service to. that Christ came to earth to give us laws, and esttablished a Church to enforce those laws (esp. sexual rules) and to police mankind. Nothing of course, is further from the truth. Chirst came to give us life, life to the fullest, to share His divine life with us , particularly in the Eucharistic Sacrifice and the other Sacraments. The Church exists to communicate that DIvine LIfe to us. But this has been reduced to moralism. Unfortunately, as long as the Pope. the Hierarchy and the jesuits consider homosexuality to be abberant, and same’sex relations to be wrong, there will be no progess in th area of abolishing discrimination against gay people.

  2. Tom Bower
    Tom Bower says:

    In the same way that the hierarchy bans making use of homosexual employees, I am waiting for the hierarchy to fire all married straight couples who make use of birth control. After five years of marriage any couple who does not have more than two children should have to prove they don’t use birth control or have a medical impediment to having children. Both share the same medieval mind set and level of offense to the Church so why not treat them the same?

    • Friends
      Friends says:

      BINGO, Tom! You’ve got it exactly right. NO priest, bishop or Pope owns the consciences of a faithfully-bonded married couple — of whatever gender-pairing — where it concerns the private intimacy of their marriage bed. I apologize in advance for the following broad caricature — but apparently we’ve got cranky, frustrated, uptight, forcibly-celibate Catholic priests and bishops presuming that they have some divine right to “referee” the intimate relationships of happily-married couples. NOTHING like this happens in our sibling Anglican and Episcopal Churches — which (significantly) allow their own ordained clergy to marry, and (of course) to use prudent and rational birth control, in the case of heterosexual couples. The enforced and completely arbitrary celibacy of the Roman Catholic clergy is the root of much evil — or at least of much acute theological and social dysfunction — within the Church. Many Catholic priests themselves are perfectly aware of this dual dysfunction, but they consider themselves helpless and powerless to do anything about it, lest their principled conscientious dissent cost them their jobs. This is a precis of the predicament. So what’s the fix? “God only knows!” We await further developments.

  3. Colleen Fay
    Colleen Fay says:

    I am a Catholic transsexual woman who, after a 45 year career as a Roman Catholic musician was fired for wanting to continue in two positions after I transitioned to living as a woman. In both cases, it was made clear to me that my transsexuality was “unacceptable” or “incompatible” with my continuing in a Catholic position. It was particularly awkward because in one of those two positions, the music director, himself a Catholic, is himself a gay man; whom I had previously supported in his position. Having said all this I have a special feeling that we as the Catholic Church must reach out with compassion to each other. There is a climate of fear among some of our very conservative sisters and brothers who erroneously believe that trans people in particular pose a threat to the good order of Catholic family life. Nothing could be further from the truth. We neither hate ourselves nor anyone else nor wish to impose on anyone else. Even among the groupings of sexual minorities, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, et al., trans people like me constitute a tiny minority. In truth there is no “LGBT community.” Evidence of this sad fact is found in that so few gay man are willing to stand up for the rights of other sexual minority persons unless their own gay rights are threatened. A big “thank you” to the editors of America magazine, and of course, to New Ways Ministry.


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  1. […] protects legally married gay and lesbian workers in Catholic institutions. An  America magazine editorial in 2016 called the firings “unjust […]

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