Lesbian Teacher Fired by Catholic School Over Her Same-Gender Marriage

Jocelyn Morffi, left, with her wife, Natasha Hass

A lesbian educator was fired for entering a same-gender marriage, the second such firing to become public in the past week and evidence that anti-LGBT discrimination in Catholic institutions is still very much present.

Jocelyn Morffi was fired from Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic School in Miami, Florida, just days after her wedding to Natasha Hass. The Miami Herald reported:

“Morffi worked for Sts. Peter and Paul for almost seven years. She also coached basketball and ran a volunteer organization, called #teachHope70x7, that takes students around the downtown Miami area on weekends to distribute meals to the homeless, said Morffi’s friend Katerina Reyes-Gutierrez.

“Morffi married her partner of two years last weekend and returned to work on Wednesday, Reyes-Gutierrez said. She was called into the principal’s office that afternoon and told that she had to resign. Morffi refused, according to Reyes-Gutierrez, and was fired the next day. She was not given a reason for the termination, Reyes-Gutierrez said. Morffi did not respond to a request for comment.”

Morffi offered a comment on social media, saying:

“This weekend I married the love of my life and unfortunately I was terminated from my job as a result. In their eyes I’m not the right kind of Catholic for my choice in partner. However, I will CONTINUE with #teachHope and will inform you of the new location for the February 25th outing very soon. Also THANK YOU for the oupour [sic] of Love and Support.”

Parents at the school have reacted strongly in support of Morffi. They received a letter notifying them of the firing on the day it happened, and the following day some 20 of them were at the school to voice their concerns:

“‘We were extremely livid. They treated her like a criminal, they didn’t even let her get her things out of her classroom,’ said Cintia Cini, parent of one of the children in Morffi’s class. Cini said that the parents hadn’t known Morffi was gay, but did not care about her sexual orientation. ‘Our only concern was the way she was with our children, the way she taught our children and this woman by far was one of the best teachers out there,’ she said. . .

“‘We were completely outraged, all of the parents,’ said Samantha Mills, whose child was in Morffi’s class last year. ‘This teacher in particular has made such a contribution to the school. She never imposes her personal beliefs on others. She just does everything in love. She has a way of teaching that is so amazing.'”

According to WPLG Local 10, Sts. Peter and Paul Principal Carlota Morales said in the letter to parents that firing Morffi was a “difficult and necessary decision.”  She would not share why Morffi was fired when meeting with parents, and the school is not commenting further.

The Archdiocese of Miami stated that the firing occurred because Morffi broke her contract, adding that teachers are partially responsible for “spiritual growth of the children.” This latter statement seems to desire identifying Morffi as not only an educator, but as a minister, an important legal distinction that Catholic institutions have successfully used to win discrimination lawsuits.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski has opposed LGBT equality many times in the past, including specifically on employment issues. After marriage equality became legal in 2015, Wenski warned church workers in a letter that they would lose their jobs if they supported LGBT equality. Previously, Wenski wrote a letter to Catholics in which he opposed marriage equality by saying that it would open up the path to polygamy. He even attacked a fellow bishop for suggesting the church’s rhetoric played a role in the homophobia behind the 2015 massacre at Pulse nightclub.

A lawyer representing Morffi said she is now considering legal action. Florida has no law protecting employees from discrimination based on their sexual orientation and a local county ordinance has a religious exemption to which the school could appeal.

Morffi’s firing is the second injustice against an LGBT church worker to break in the past week. Pastoral minister Mark Guevarra was fired after eight years working at a Canadian parish. You can read his account of how and why he was fired by clicking here.

The firings of Morffi and Guevarra bring the number public cases of church workers fired in LGBT-related employment disputes since 2007 up to 80. You can find a full listing of these incidents by clicking here. The firings of LGBT church workers remains a tragic reality in the Church. It is way past time for them to stop.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, February 13, 2018

9 replies
  1. Chris
    Chris says:

    The discrimination against gays in the more conservative parts of the the United States Catholic Church has to stop. It is an abuse of power and an abuse of the rights of Church employees to do what the Church teaches them to do: follow their informed conscience and love others. Having a same sex marriage is not against Catholic doctrine; there is nothing whatsoever in the vows made at a state same sex marriage that contradicts any Catholic teaching.

    Reply
  2. Richard Boyle, OSM
    Richard Boyle, OSM says:

    Brother and sister LGBTQ people…The Church is NOT a “friend,” and the scandal of oppression, discrimination, judgment and exclusion will continue until the Holy Spirit herself shakes the institution to its core. How and when that shall manifest, I do not know, and I am not “holding my breath.” I do not believe I will live long enough to see justice and Jesus’ love reign over divisive hatred and shaming.

    Reply
  3. Friends
    Friends says:

    Archbishop Wenski’s C.V. is well worth reading. Here’s a comprehensive summary by Wikipedia:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Wenski

    Early in his career, he identified with more liberal causes and attitudes — but he has drifted further and further toward the far-right-wing of the Church in the last few decades. His present appointment was awarded to him by the notoriously-reactionary Pope Benedict XVI — who, as a student, was a member of the nefarious Hitler Youth in Germany. So what made Wenski pitch so far to the right, during the past few decades? Personal conscience? Political opportunism? There are several possibilities — but the bottom line is that he’s doing the reputation of the Roman Catholic Church no favors, when he behaves in such a conspicuously hateful and mean-spirited manner. It’s no wonder that an increasing number of our Catholic young people choose to have nothing to do with a Church that is pitching so far toward the extreme political right wing.

    Reply
  4. Vernon Smith
    Vernon Smith says:

    May Jocelyn and her family and friends keep speaking out. They shed light on the injustice of such firings by telling their story with such strength.

    Reply
  5. Janelle Lazzo
    Janelle Lazzo says:

    Although I remain a practicing Catholic, it becomes harder and harder to follow the guidelines of the institutional church regarding personal behavior. It is as if the message of Jesus is being disregarded in favor of rules, all of which to this date, have been made by men. Not a woman policy-maker in sight. This teacher sounds like exactly the kind of person I would have wanted to teach my children when they were young. The Church will need to change so that such firing cannot be justified . The Golden Rule must be front and center. One guideline which works for me–if it is not loving , don’t do it. This firing will do much more harm than good, not just to the teacher but to her students, their parents, that school community, and the Church at large. Shame on everyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus, then harbors prejudice against His creatures, in this case a lesbian just being true to herself. Vatican II was a long time ago. Time for more fresh air .

    Reply
    • John Hilgeman
      John Hilgeman says:

      Well, I have seen statements from some churchmen about “just discrimination.” Meaning that discrimination is “just” if it is discrimination against people and behaviors they don’t like.

      Reply
  6. John Hilgeman
    John Hilgeman says:

    Drip, drip, drip. Once again a lesbian or gay employee is fired because they got married civilly to a same gender person. Once again parents are outraged over the firing of an employee they trust and admire. Once again people are estranged from the Catholic Church.

    When will the tipping point come? When will the light come on? When will church leaders realize their doctrines are biased and just plain wrong?

    Reply

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