Annabelle Thies is a Vermont sixth-grader who has come to the easy conclusion that you can both be supportive of LGBTQ rights and Catholic–something that people much older than she continue to struggle with. And it seems her mother may have lost her job because of her daughter’s opinion.
Annabelle published a column in The Commons, an online news source, in which she defends the rights of LGBTQ folk, especially her aunts and uncles who are in happy same-sex marriages. She describes an incident where she was told that being queer and Catholic are mutually exclusive saying:
“According to my friend, the classmate said, ‘I don’t think that Annabelle and her family are good Catholics because they believe in gay and lesbian marriage.’ “
But Annabelle had a different perspective:
“The Catholic religion teaches that men and women were designed to fit perfectly together and that people who marry the same sex are not obeying God’s law. Well, guess what: My family doesn’t believe that, and neither do I.”
“I told my mother about the situation. She gave me some good advice. She told me that the people who think or say hateful things have never experienced an Aunt Kate, and Uncle Dan, or a Paul who have made everyone’s lives better. She told me to pray for those people so that they can open their hearts to others. I completely agree with her. She also told me that we ‘have to try extra hard to love people who are afraid to love us.’”
Faced with this conflict, Annabelle resolved it by going to her faith’s deepest teaching: :
“I was baptized Catholic and am a strong believer in Christ, but one thing that has challenged my faith is this topic. Hate-filled comments — especially from people who say that they believe in Jesus and his unconditional love — don’t make sense to me. If you actually look in the Bible, we are told to love one another. That means everybody. I will never stop loving my family because of who they love or who they marry. God loves everybody, no matter who they love. I’m proud of my faith, and I’m proud of my family. No one can take my love for either away from me.”
Annabelle believes that a more welcoming church is possible, in part by the support of the people in the pews–like herself:
“I think that you can still be Catholic and support gay marriage because I’m Catholic and I support gay marriage.”
Unfortunately, Annabelle’s outspoken support of her queer family members may have gotten her mother fired from the Brattleboro Catholic school where she works. In a follow-up essay in the same paper, Richard Levesque, a friend of the family wrote:
“It appears that Annabelle’s mom, as a result of the essay, has resigned from her job in admissions and development at St. Michael’s School. I must confess that we do not know the details of her departure, but we are aware of the ‘morality clause’ that may have been behind her departure.”
Levesque goes onto express his continued support of Annabelle and her family, saying:
“Recently, the pastor of St. Michael’s parish asked that we pray for and support our youth of today because they will be our leaders tomorrow. Well, if our future leaders advocate and stand for justice and love toward family and neighbors, as illustrated by Annabelle Thies, then surely our church and our community will be in good hands.”
If this firing was caused by Annabelle’s essay, what would make it different from the firing of other queer employees is that Thies’ mother was not in a same-sex relationship. Moreover, her mother did not speak out publicly in support of LGBTQ equality. While it is unjust and wrong for Catholic schools to fire LGBTQ teachers for any reason related to their sexuality, it is also concerning if they are firing people for supporting their families. If Catholic schools fire both LGBTQ identified teachers and their allies, the schools will a less diverse, welcoming place.
Isaiah 11:6 says that “A little child will lead them”. And while I will not make the mistake of referring to someone as articulate and passionate as Annabelle Thies as a child, I believe that her no-nonsense approach to loving the queer people in her life, while continuing to be a strong Catholic voice, could teach the adults in the room a thing or two about love.
–Kaitlin Brown, New Ways Ministry, May 15, 2018