Fired for Not Answering Question About His Relationship Status
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:
Related articles and posts:
Edmonton Journal: “Edmonton archdiocese employee says he was fired for refusing to say if he is in same-sex relationship”
Global News: “Edmonton Catholic pastoral associate allegedly fired for being gay”
CBC: “Edmonton man says Catholic Archdiocese fired him after investigation into same-sex relationship”
Ignorance, intolerance, mean spiritedness…. All are at play in this. If Edmonton is like most North American dioceses there are employees who are divorced people, people who use contraceptives, people who live in sexual relationships without marriage, people who are unfaithful to their spouses, people who are sexually active. (AKA “hooking up.”)…
Does the Archbishop have spies at the pharmacies watching who obtains contraceptives. No. Spies in lounges and taverns recording single folks who come alone and leave accompanied? No. Spies in neighbourhoods reading the names on mailboxes, counting cars, questioning neighbours? No.
Perhaps you see where I’m going. To single out one behaviour that is opposed by Church teaching and ignore all of the rest is ludicrous, hypocritical, and unjust. It goes against Christ’s teaching not to judge others.
I’d say that there must be a special place in hell for malicious archbishops, but sadly, in my opinion, the mercy of God might deem otherwise.
Either way, the behaviour of the archbishop in this story brings scandal, shame, embarrassment and distrust to the Church
I was going to leave a reply, but you’ve really covered every point I had in mind, so I’ll merely “ditto” your comment… with passion!!!
But the church still gladly accepts our financial support.
Is this all they have to do? Drive more people away from the Church? What is the issue with having a daughter? Do they fire people who have children out of wedlock?
Witch hunt. Inquisition. These are the words that come to mind from reading Mark’s story. As he said, since when does anyone need permission to pray? Not answering the question was both respectful and honest. Reminds me of how Jesus would not answer his accusers. We saw what happened to him. Mark is a martyr, witness, for Christ. Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day. Can’t miss the symbolism. In the end, what does he tell his daughter? Another example of how pro-life the Church is NOT.
Mark, I am grateful for your witness, courage, and hope. I’m praying for you, and that the church will do as Jesus would.
Today’s reading, James 1:1-11, perseverance in trials and from Mark, “Jesus sighed…at this generation.”
Hi Loretta, thank you so much for those scriptures. I will pray with them today as I journey through this challenging time.
You are not alone. We are the body of Christ, Mark. Thank you for your courage and witness.
Hi Mark. I am very sorry for hearing your story. It is such a classic case of ecclesiastical bullying, and probably by some very hypocritical clergy. I have worked full time with Egale Canada and OECTA to train Catholic teachers across Ontario, as well as Edmonton (ATA), and other parts of Canada on issues of LGBTQ+. I stand with you in your journey to justice and having to face the oppressive and ugly side of some of the Church rulers.
Mark, as one who has been through a similar trial with the Church, I want to say how your story moved me to tears. Thank you for your words of witness – counseling others not to leave the Church, but rather to stay and share their stories with clergy and laity – to be agents of change from within. We ALL are part of the Body of Christ and should be embraced and affirmed for the gifts we bring and share with the Church and her people and the world.
I invite everyone to go to their parish this coming Sunday before Mass and stand outside with a sign that says – If you practice artificial means of contraception, you may not go to Communion. Please report back the response you receive.
Or if your children go to a Catholic school, at the next PTA meeting ask the head of the school to confirm that none of the teachers uses artificial contraception. Just for the fun of it ask for a signed statement from the teachers confirming that fact. Good for the goose, good for the gander.
Once again the Church shows its true side regarding lgbtq persons, that they are not worthy of being either in or the receivers of ministry. The very hypocrisy Jesus decried!
Mark, thank you for sharing your story during such a challenging time. And I am so sorry that you were placed in such a stressful position in which you could not trust to answer a question about something so important to you. And then they fired you anyway. What they have done to you is so wrong. Know that these responses to your post are just the tip of the iceberg of those who support and respect your grace amidst the struggle. Keep speaking out. Your voice is so important! May peace be with you and yours.