A gay teacher at a Canadian Catholic school has appealed to district administrators to promote LGBT inclusion rather than continue allegedly discriminatory policies which have provoked fierce criticism.
Writing anonymously, the teacher from the Calgary Catholic School District in Alberta asked top officials to “use your platform for change” and “do what is right” so that schools in the district can “keep our doors open and our faith strong.” The teacher, who claimed their letter “carries with it an army of voices” from other LGBT employees and their allies, wrote:
“I firmly believe that our board is one of the best school boards in all of Canada, and should remain so. Recently, the difficulty that comes from defending our faith and our values has become exceptionally challenging.
“The call to establish our value is here; it is now!
“As a Catholic teacher, I am called to celebrate and to strengthen my faith, and to teach children to do the same. Love. Kindness. Mercy. Forgiveness. Humility. Righteousness. Faithfulness. These are the attributes I attempt to instil [sic] in my students. Your actions regarding employees who identify as being part of the LGBTQ community directly contradict the very teachings and messages that come from what it means to truly be Catholic. If you wish to be relevant, it is time to change. You are missing out on a golden opportunity to reaffirm the importance of Catholic education.”
The teacher’s column refers to reports that several Catholic school districts in Alberta have “morality clauses” in employee contracts that discriminate against people based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and/or marital status. One former administrator, a lesbian woman, has filed a discrimination complaint already. In response, the teacher wrote about both their faith and their profession:
“I am also Catholic. I was raised Catholic and attended Catholic school. Though I was not hired as a religious education teacher, the subject of Catholicity is a topic that I address with my students daily. . .I hope that I can ease any tensions they feel about being Catholic and gay. It’s hard enough trying to be gay in Alberta, without the struggle of it compounded by being Catholic and understanding the relationship between my faith and who I am. . .
“I have met too many employees in our board who are just like me. We all identify as part of the LGBTQ community, and we all have a deep-seated fear that our jobs are on the line should anyone ever discover our truth. We all willingly chose this career, knowing full well it would not be easy for us, and for our loved ones, who also carry this heavy burden for us. Understand that we are here, and we demand change.”
The teacher called on education officials to retract any potential contract which targets LGBTQ employees, even if indirectly. The letter’s author claimed to know already of four employees terminated because of their sexual and/or gender identity.
The teacher also criticized Fr. Jerome Lavigne, whose anti-gay homilies have made headlines in recent weeks, most notably in his claim that the rainbow flag is “nothing short of spitting and laughing in God’s face.” Of the priest, the gay teacher commented:
“Rev. Jerome Lavigne, who walks our stage during our Opening Mass and our Faith Day celebrations, has spewed out hateful speech. He has made comments about the LGBTQ community which are enormously inappropriate and frankly disgusting. How on earth can we look to him to lead a community in faith, and to work with our children in our schools, when he carries hate in his heart? How is someone like him better suited than I to represent our faith? I challenge you to hold him to a standard in which we hold ourselves, or refrain from inviting him to further celebrations.”
Disputes in Alberta over LGBT issues in Catholic education have continued to heat up since mid-December. The province’s Education Minister, David Eggen, has stated that his ministry is reviewing Catholic districts’ contracts regarding any potential discrimination, but he has avoided talk of any wider investigation. And so far church leaders have remained largely silent, a position which has drawn growing criticism from Catholics and LGBT advocates. Whether they will take this teacher’s passionate and prayerful appeal as an invitation to dialogue remains to be seen.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, January 10, 2019