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