A lesbian Catholic church worker recently fired by a Spanish bishop because of her same-gender marriage has received tremendous support. The incident has become a catalyst for church reform through the circulation of an open letter that calls for a more inclusive religious community.
According to Novena News, Bishop Francisco Conesa of Menorca terminated Carme Mascaró Servera’s employment as a catechist for the Sant Miquel Catechetical Centre after she married her same-gender partner. In response, an open letter criticizing the bishop’s decision has received over 1,000 signatures, advocating for an institutional church that is based more on love and equality rather than rigid doctrinal principles.
The diocese explained its reasoning for terminating Mascaró’s employment, as reported by a separate Novena News article:
“‘We are all called to holiness and to live in communion within the Church, but when joining an association or holding an office of greater responsibility, a plus of credibility is required from the person who is to take on a specific job, so that the mission entrusted to him or her is fruitful and the person in question does not cause any kind of scandal among the faithful.’”
Servera’s firing occurred the same week that Pope Francis reiterated his endorsement of same-gender civil unions, a statement that has generated an incredible ripple effect of joy for LGBTQ persons and couples across the globe. (To read Bondings 2.0’s ongoing analysis of Pope Francis’s support of same-gender civil marriages, click here.)
The signatories of the letter articulated their “deep sadness and indignation” at Mascaró’s ouster – a move they described as “contrary to the Gospel and all that Jesus preached.” Advocates of Servera asked a powerful question about her qualifications as a catechist:
“‘How have Carme’s faith and commitment changed before and after the wedding?’”
The open letter also articulated how problematic it is when an individual is deemed a social pariah within a locality such as Menorca, which is a small island community:
“Deploring the fact that Church leaders have judged Mascaró for the simple fact that ‘she married for love in the only way she was allowed to,’ the petitioners lamented that ‘in communities like Menorca where we all know each other, putting a label on a person can be a lifelong stigma.'”
The letter underscored:
“‘We want a Church more focused on evangelical love and less on canon law.’”
The letter continues, emphasizing how this distressing episode can serve as a beacon of hope for institutional church reform and “change the way the Church views LGBTI people.” The petitioner’s letter concludes by warning that the church will continue to lose parishioners if it chooses to discriminate against its faithful employees based on who they are and who they love:
“‘We are not little children, whom only men (and beware, no women!) can guide. If we do not listen to the signs of the times, the Church will be more and more empty.’”
In response to the tremendous outcry, Bishop Sebastià Taltavull from the adjacent Mallorca diocese attempted to minimize the negative publicity, emphasizing:
“‘[B]eing a lesbian should never be incompatible with being a Christian’ and explaining that ‘the problem came when she got married… I want to respect decisions but I would like there to be dialogue before making decisions.'”
Although the Menorca Diocese has stated that Servera can continue her employment in the diocese’s Caritas office (a charitable relief program) as well as her volunteer duties “in all aspects of Church life,” she is no longer permitted to teach anything related to the Catholic faith.
Mascaró provided her personal reflections on behalf of herself and her partner in the wake of her employment termination:
“‘[We] are convinced that love should always be a gift, a blessing [and] never a reason for rejection or exclusion.’
“‘On many occasions I have been asked how I can participate in an institution like the Church, which historically has done so much harm and which has a traditional doctrine that is often incoherent and exclusive. . .I cannot deny that there are many manifestations and forms of it [the discriminating Church] that I do not like and that, if I could, I would change.
“‘But… let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Or is it the case that we are all not light and shadow? Doesn’t every family have good and bad? Wealth and poverty? What good would it do me to judge [the Church] from outside? How could I work to renew it if I didn’t do it from love, knowledge and forgiveness?'”
In the last decade, more than 100 church workers have gone public about losing their jobs in LGBTQ-related employment disputes. You can find a full listing of these incidents here, as well as New Ways Ministry’s resources on church employment and LGBTQ issues here. For Bondings 2.0’s full coverage of church employment issues, click the “Employment” category on the right-hand side of this page.
—Brian William Kaufman, New Ways Ministry, November 16, 2020