Students, alumni, and other school community members gathered at St. Ignatius College Prep School, Chicago, last week to support Matthew Tedeschi, a gay teacher who was fired from the Jesuit institution this spring.
As has happened with many such protests to support other fired LGBT church employees, the demonstrators used messages derived from Catholic teaching and values to protest the dismissal of Tedeschi. According to The Windy City Times, a sign of one of the protesters read “Make Ignatius Jesuit Again.”
Bondings 2.0 readers may recall that Tedeschi was fired after he repeatedly complained about students harassed him for over a year about his sexual orientation. The students had learned about his being gay from searching his online dating profile.
At the protest, Tedeschi called for six changes at the school, according to the Windy City Times report:
“First of all, Tedeschi wants the school administration to change its nondiscrimination policy to include sexual orientation and gender identity. Next, he wants the administration to allow the LGBT student organization to post flyers in the school and make online announcements, similar to other student organizations. As of now, he said, the group is not allowed to do either of those things.
“His other demands include a ‘fair panel to decide cases of faculty dismissals’; an impartial ombudsman who is present at meetings involving employee discipline or termination; the ability for teachers to ‘have more say in drafting, implementing, and evaluating the school policies that affect them’; and the opportunity for St. Ignatius teachers to form a labor union.”
The fired teacher was joined at the protest by Chris Pett, the incoming president of DignityUSA, and Colin Collette, a former music director at a Chicago-area parish who was fired when his same-gender marriage became public.
Tedeschi noted that a firing such as his has wide repercussions for the entire community:
“Tedeschi said this lack of transparency in disciplinary practices makes teachers ‘far more afraid’ to do their jobs because they don’t know what the administration will use against them to discipline them. He said the practices are bad for young Catholics because it makes them ‘not want to be part of the Church.’ And he said the practices are bad for parents and alumni, ‘who wonder what values the administration is instilling’ in its students.”
A school official denied that sexual orientation was involved in Tedeschi’s firing:
“St. Ignatius Director of Development Ryan Bergin emailed Windy City Times, ‘We are able to say unequivocally that Mr. Tedeschi was not fired because of sexual orientation,’ adding, ‘At this time, Saint Ignatius does not have an official LGBT group however the school does run Project Unity, which is a group for students dedicated to expressing an open understanding of all people, regardless of identity.’ “
While Tedeschi said that one of the reasons he was fired was because he “undermined authority,” he also said the administration failed to offer examples of how he supposedly did so.
Tedeschi’s requested changes at the school are all in line with Catholic teaching and values. They should be changes that all Catholic schools institute as a way to show that they are living up to their best ideals about non-discrimination of LGBT people, as well as Catholic social teaching about workers’ rights.
New Ways Ministry has been encouraging Catholic institutions to adopt non-discrimination policies to protect LGBT employees. For more information on how to start the discussion of such policies in your Catholic community, click here.
—Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, July 1, 2017