Today’s post is by Mark Guevarra who served as Pastoral Associate at St. Albert Parish in St. Albert, Alberta, Canada. For eight years, he coordinated sacramental preparations, adult faith education, ministry to Catholic schools, and general pastoral ministry.
In early December 2017, a representative from the Archdiocese of Edmonton called me in for an investigation. Also present at the meeting was my pastor. I was investigated for two things: (1) my involvement with the formation of an LGBTQ Catholic prayer and support group called CORE and (2) the allegation that I am have a male partner and a daughter.
The investigator relayed concern that the prayer group had been formed without approval of the archbishop. I explained that I had several reasons for not doing so. First, the group was still in a trial period, and we didn’t know if it was going to have a future. Second, it didn’t seem necessary to ask permission to start a prayer and support group. Many small support and prayer groups exist throughout the Archdiocese without seeking permission. Finally, it is well within my vocation as a lay Catholic and pastoral associate to discern and respond to people’s need to encounter God.
Regarding the second point of investigation, many within the Archdiocese know I am gay and that I am in a relationship. At the meeting, I was told that since I started doing ministry 8 years ago, some lay people and clergy members opposed me because of my identity and relationship. Essentially, I was able to work because I have kept matters private. They were willing to turn a blind eye so long as I did not publicize it. However, my opponents through the years have been carefully scrutinizing my life, and the formation of CORE motivated them to end my service in the church.
The investigator asked directly if I am in a relationship with a man and have a daughter. I refused to answer what I knew to be an unjust question. I gave my reasons: (1) If I’m so carefully scrutinized, what is to stop all church workers from being scrutinized? (2) Why is my “sin” grounds for dismissal while other sins are not? Many employees of the Archdiocese conscientiously object to certain church teachings, e.g. contraception. Others are not even Catholic. So why are some beliefs being casually overlooked? Homophobia appears to be at work. (3) In hiring and firing people, shouldn’t we use Jesus’ criteria? Who shall inherit the kingdom of God, but those who serve the least of these. I have served faithfully, helping those in need of God, consistently serving in a spirit of compassion and patience. If we are to judge one another, should it not be for ways we have or have not served like Christ?
At the investigation, I asked for a dialogue with my archbishop. Months later, when I was called for another meeting, the investigator stated that the archbishop refused to meet with me. I was once more asked the question of whether or not I am in a same-sex relationship. Again, I refused to answer. On February 6, 2018, about a month after this second meeting, I was called into my pastor’s office and in the presence of the head of Human Resources for the Archdiocese, was terminated on the grounds that I am in a relationship with a male partner and have a daughter. They took my refusal to answer their question about my relationship status as sufficient evidence to prove that I am in one. At the moment I am seeking legal counsel and prayerfully discerning how God is calling me to act. One sign of hope was a letter a received from the auxiliary bishop who invited to meet me regarding ministry with the LGBTQ community. I am grateful for his pastoral courage.
I believe my employment termination is unjust. I believe the denial of the prayer and support group for LGBTQ Catholics is unjust. I believe being terminated for conscientiously and respectfully disagreeing with a church teaching is a slippery slope for all church workers and therefore unjust. Worse still, it sends a damaging message to all LGBTQ Catholics that they have no place in the Church.
Since the investigation two months ago I have felt both uncertain and yet resolved. I am grateful for clergy, religious and many allies who have offered prayers, pastoral guidance and support. The faith I have had the privilege of passing on in parish ministry for eight years has kept evil from robbing me of my joy and hope for the kingdom of God.
–Mark Guevarra, February 12, 2018
See video message from Mark Guevarra:
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