In New Employment Dispute, Catholic School Principal Says He Was Fired for Being Gay

Matt Luttringer

Another LGBTQ-related employment dispute has made news as the former principal of a Catholic school says he was fired for being gay, a firing which caused at least one other key school official to resign in protest.

In April, Matthew Luttringer was fired as principal of Notre Dame High School in Riverside, California where he had served for eight years. Luttringer said the firing was because he is gay, reported The Press-Enterprise:

“Supporters have rallied behind Principal Matthew Luttringer, who says he was fired for being gay and says he may sue. They accuse the Diocese of San Bernardino — which runs the school — of trying to remake it as a more conservative Catholic institution, at the expense of student diversity, academics and athletics.

“Diocese spokesman John Andrews denies all that, saying the diocese suspects fiscal mismanagement and fired Luttringer for poor performance. . .Andrews said he could not elaborate on the reasons for the firing because state law limits what he can say about a former employee.

“Luttringer said his Office of Catholic Schools supervisors never told him of job performance problems until the end of this year. And he said the area they cited — school finances — wasn’t under his direct control.

“That left Luttringer with only one conclusion: that he was fired for being gay.”

Further details from The Press-Enterprise revealed that Luttringer was placed on leave in late March right after a threat of violence was issued against the school. The diocese’s Superintendent Samuel Torres allegedly criticized the principal for not properly handling the incident, though police spokesperson Officer Ryan Railsback described the school’s response as “an example of Notre Dame’s systems working as they’re supposed to.” The firing then happened in early April.

Following the principal’s firing, the school’s president, Robert Beatty, the director of admissions, and the director of student services all resigned. Beatty specifically identified Luttringer’s firing as the cause of his resignation. A top sports coach was also fired, though without any clear link to the Luttringer dispute.

Luttringer has decried his treatment by Torres and the Office of Catholic Schools, saying “the lesson we’re sending kids is hypocrisy” and that the way he was treated was “completely not in line with Catholic church teachings.”

Enrollment and donor numbers are already dropping at Notre Dame, and many parents as well as Beatty believe Luttringer’s firing is responsible for the attrition:

“Beatty hesitated when asked if he would advise parents to send their child to Notre Dame.

“‘I don’t think I would ever go as far as saying don’t send your kid there, but I would certainly — I can’t say I support the leadership. . .I’m uncertain what school they would be sending their kid to. There’s so much uncertainty.”

“Donors are also taking notice, and in some cases, pulling support. . .donors like Cecilia Cuevas, who with her husband has long given $4,500 a year for Notre Dame scholarships, said they’ll send their money elsewhere.

“‘There are many good Catholic organizations out there,’ Cuevas said. ‘A Catholic school should be Catholic, and the way they treated Matt was not Catholic.'”

The former principal’s lawyer, Eric P. Lampel, told The Press-Enterprise that they have readied a lawsuit if Luttringer is not reinstated as principal. Lampel is ready to challenge the idea that church officials could legally fire Luttringer under the “ministerial exemption.” A crowdfunding effort to help with legal costs has raised nearly $2,000. The organizers of the fundraising wrote, in part:

“We are fed up with the poor treatment of those who have devoted themselves to Catholic Education. We are fed up with the implosion of Catholic Schools in our Diocese, and the subsequent closure of those schools by the neglect the Bishop has shown for Catholic Schools. We are fed up with the blatant non-Christian and non-Catholic manner in which the San Bernardino Diocese and the Office of Catholic Schools treats and then dismisses these individuals.  This behavior is nothing new, but this time we would like them to realize that there is no separation of Church and mistreatment by representatives of the Church.  We would like to see the Diocese of San Bernardino and the Office of Catholic Schools act as the Catholic Christians they claim themselves to be.”

Luttringer still believes he could return to Notre Dame and repair much of the harm done, but he is not sure time will heal what has happened otherwise. “Students know when we’re not being honest,” he said.

LGBTQ-employment disputes in Catholic education are being given new attention this summer. The Archdiocese of Indianapolis has forced at least three LGBTQ church workers out of their jobs and removed a Jesuit school’s “Catholic” designation for refusing to fire a married gay teacher. Nearly 100 church workers have lost their jobs in such disputes since 2007.

For Bondings 2.0’s full coverage of church employment issues, click the “Employment” category on the right-hand side of this page. For New Ways Ministry’s resources on church employment and LGBTQ issues here.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, July 16, 2019

5 replies
  1. Anne Fry
    Anne Fry says:

    The Catholic Church is in crisis. It has failed catastrophically to deal with clergy sex abuse, protected paedophiles at the expense of children and now demonstrates a lack of basic Christian principles in its prejudice and persecution of LGBT staff and students in schools. What is happening?

    Reply
  2. Mary Jo
    Mary Jo says:

    Time for everyone to do what the Cuevas have done and that’s close the check book, pull all monetary support. Shake the dirt from your sandals if you are not welcome and move on. Just as Jesus advised.

    Reply
  3. Malcolm Blue
    Malcolm Blue says:

    I went through parochial Schools for 12 years pre-Vatican II. When Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict, ret.) forced his own to head the Society of Jesus, THAT was the turning point in the Church! As a kid, The Eucharistic Churches were all on the left, with the conservative churches on the right. With the Vatican manacles on the Jesuits, the Eucharistic Churches are still on the left, but the Roman Church has drifted so far to the right that the only difference between them all is their rites and rituals! AND the 1st time that the Vatican admitted there ARE gay priests was when the Vatican accused the gay priests as being the pedophiles. (note: 95% of pedophiles are heterosexual!) Finally the reason that the numbers of Catholics is so high is because officially, one has to apply to cease being a Roman Catholic! Vatican numbers are inflated like the egos of most Bishops and Cardinals!

    Reply
  4. Nancy Ellison
    Nancy Ellison says:

    Hello everyone and thank you for all of those who have supported this campaign either monetarily, emotionally, or spiritually we are grateful for your kindness and generosity to date.

    Part 1:
    I wanted to give an overdue update to this campaign and clear up a few misconceptions. This fundraiser was started by supporters of Matt and is solely managed by those supporters. At no time did Matt ask for this fundraiser. In fact, his parents specifically asked for this fundraiser not to be undertaken. Matt’s mother Annie had written a few impassioned statements which we added to the account as updates. She is his mother, and we felt her frustration, pain and unwavering support of her son was worth documenting. The decision to post her statements were made by the organizers only.

    This go fund me had no planning, first mistake. The people who started this had no social media connections, not on fb, twitter, instagram….second mistake. Note to self and others when running a social media campaign one should be socially connected. We were doing okay then we attached Matt’s twitter account and it changed the settings to look like he was the organizer, third mistake. We shut off his Twitter link and still can’t get him off as lead organizer. Our option was to end the fundraiser and start a new one proceeding with lessons learned. Realizing that God protects saints and fools it was decided to keep the original campaign in order that those who donated could be part of our entire history. Hence, the “mismanaged” part of our fundraiser.

    Part 2:
    By now many of you have seen the press article and we include a link for your perusal.

    Matt’s supporters are far and varied. Liberal, conservative, male, female, Catholic, Christian and nonbelievers, alumni, staff, students, parents, community and just friends of Matt’s who know him outside of community.
    None of us are united in any particular philosophy nor are we united in the exact reason for Matt’s unreasonable dismissal. We are united in the belief that his firing was unjustified.

    It has been said that the school was not Catholic enough. As someone who has been affiliated with Notre Dame for 26 years, I had never seen a more Catholic presence before his tenure and knew of his intent to keep growing in that direction. Currently, (if they are still there) there is a religion teacher with a PhD and another who earned his masters degree under Michael Barber who is one of preeminent theologians in the country today. A former teacher who left to be a full time mother was educated at Steubenville University.

    Big changes had come under Robert Beatty’s and Matt’s leadership. Never in the school’s history had so many positive improvements been made. Was it perfect? Nothing is, but for the first time in a long time there was hope that Notre Dame could be what she deserved to be, a leader in Catholic education with a campus that was no longer third world status and a shining light in the City of Riverside.

    Homosexuality does not explain the exodus of staff, the firing of Rob Robinson, the silencing of staff in being forbidden to discuss the matter, the fact that Robert Beatty’s retirement was never mentioned at the pastoral center and so much more. Nor does it explain other similar dirty hits throughout the diocese. Matt’s sexuality was never promoted on campus. There was never a promotion of LGBT agenda, no homosexual marriage, no relationship, a private man indeed. Matt shared with me personally on numerous occasions his love of his faith, alma mater and his belief that marriage was a sacrament between a man and a woman. His desire to provide a Catholic education to anyone who desired one and his devotion to students. Their success were his success. They asked that Matt be allowed to hand them their diplomas at graduation and were dismissed out of hand.

    The mafia hit by office of catholic schools was just that. People who seek power for their own glory. What is true is that evil hides in darkness and OCS has done nothing by the light and has covered themselves in lies, unethical dealings and secrecy. This immoral behavior has been condoned by the Bishop and his office.

    We stand by Matt because he is a fantastic administrator and ask for your prayerful support for not only Matt but for Robert Beatty, Rob Robinson and any other staff who has been damaged OCS and are being targeted by OCS.

    Finally, I ask you to pray for OCS, those who remain at Notre Dame who conspired and acted along with OCS, The Bishop Gerald Barnes aka Pontius Pilate, who washed his hands of this matter and the Diocese of San Bernardino. May they seek and be worthy of the Lord’s forgiveness and may He have mercy on their souls.

    While it is an entirely personal decision that should be reached with prayerful consideration, We also request you to withhold any contribution to the diocese via DDF or any diocesan fund as many of our community have done.
    Help spread the word!

    Reply
  5. A Oropeza
    A Oropeza says:

    My child went to Notre Dame and Matt was a teacher at the time. My child had a hard time in his last 2 years of high school on account of a few teachers and who where highly scared to deal with a student who was questioning his sexuality. The principal at that time did not want anything to do with the subject. I went to her to report a sport coach who was treating my child rudely and made it impossible for my child to get a long with classmates and continue in a sport he really loved. I believe that these individuals who were let go or resigned were individuals who are true Catholics and believe in helping individuals become stronger. You see throughout the time my child was there these individuals and a few others who have left in the past years helped me understand what my son was going through and to love him no matter what. These individuals have made my son be a strong individual and to still believe in the Catholic ways. I grew up in attending a few grades in catholic schools and used to go to church. The current Bishop and Pope have made it to where certain things are sacred such as greed. I was a struggling mother at the time and asked for assistance in food and a payment plan in order to keep my son enrolled in a what I thought was a good institution. I was told that since I did not put money in my envelope every Sunday that I could not get any assistance. I would have to petition the priest at that time to give me a meeting first, to plead my case. Needless to say I did not, I looked outside my church for assistance. Matter of fact these individuals who no longer work there helped me find assistance. I thank these individuals for helping their students and not pushing their personal beliefs on students. They taught him to be a true catholic. Thank you to all those who believe in not bringing in politics and personal issues to the children. I believe that these individuals helped my family deal with a situation that was frowned upon at the time as taboo. If it wasn’t for them I wonder if my son would have been a statistic. I know they have been help to other students for different reasons. They all are successful people.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.