A fired church worker has said he will not proceed with legal action but instead remain inside the Church and promote inclusion for LGBT Catholics.
Mark Guevarra was dismissed as a parish pastoral associate after being investigated by the Archdiocese of Edmonton over his same-gender partner and help with an LGBT support group. You can read his account of the firing on Bondings 2.0 by clicking here.
Rather than sue the Church, Guevarra is taking his severance and seeking change. He told CBC in an interview:
“‘I think pursuing legal action, in a way, degrades my credibility in being that bridge builder. . .That’s the hard part for me to balance, raising this injustice legally but also wanting to build this bridge. . .It doesn’t mean that I’m going to stop pressuring the archdiocese to create safe spaces for the LGBT community and their families.'”
Speaking of the firing, he told MetroNews that he is “broken by this,” but despite the grave discrimination that occurred, his call is to be that bridge builder so that, he said of LGBT Catholics, “we have a place, we have a story.”
In the CBC interview, the church worker also shared about his lifelong Catholic faith and call to ministry, both of which have informed his decision to remain in the Church:
“‘The church is my family. . .I’m baptized. That means that I’m a part of the body of Christ. It’s like cutting off my arm. I couldn’t see myself apart from that.
“‘In my ministry, I’ve reminded young people of that reality. This is who you are. You can’t run from it and you have a responsibility to build it up and make it right and good and just. . .I was told to be private about that. . .I was told to be silent about my sexuality. I was willing to sacrifice disclosing that to do service for the church, to do ministry in the church. . .
“‘I stand in solidarity with all those people [who have been rejected in the Church], and that’s what gives me strength to keep doing ministry in the church, to have been doing ministry for the past eight years and to continue to do that even if I’m not formally an employee of the archdiocese of Edmonton.'”
Guevarra, a lifelong Catholic, said his work in helping people integrating their faith and sexuality is answering Pope Francis’ call for pastoral accompaniment:
“‘Pope Francis calls all of the pastors of the church to … be creative and courageous in going to the margins of society and to church and bringing the light of the gospel, the healing of Jesus Christ to them. . .I felt that’s what I was doing.'”
Guevarra also explained the depth to which he was scrutinized in the Archdiocese, including people digging through his Facebook profile. But now that he has been fired, he was surprised at how much support has been pouring in from various places. Professor Junaid Jahangir, a longtime friend of Guevarra, wrote in The Huffington Post:
“In essence, what sin has Guevarra committed other than tending to the sheep that have flocked to him? . . .Guevarra has simply offered an ear and space to those who are deeply wounded on the inside. By firing him, the Catholic Church has simply proven that it could not even tolerate throwing this scrap of humanity to the most vulnerable among her people. Indeed, as has been confirmed by the Church’s conduct again and again, it is driven more by political fervour of the day than by eternal, everlasting love.”
Jahangir further explained that, “like any devout gay religious person he rejects false binaries and cherishes his faith to the best of his abilities.”
The Archdiocese is still refusing to comment on the firing, and Guevarra said Archbishop Richard Smith has been unwilling to meet with him.
Guevarra is not the only gay church worker to be fired in 2018. The same week news of his firing broke, it was also reported that lesbian teacher Jocelyn Morffi was fired from a Catholic school in Florida just days after marrying her wife. The two join more than 80 church workers and volunteers who have lost their positions in LGBT-related employment disputes made public since 2007.
Mark Guevarra’s words largely speak for themselves, a powerful testimony to his deep faith and unwillingness to forgo the right given him in baptism to be a member of the Church. That the institutional Church should harm him so is deeply tragic; that he remains and prepares for ministry anew is true grace.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, February 20, 2018