Is the tide on firing LGBTQ employees at Catholic schools turning? This question was asked by National Catholic Reporter’s executive editor Heidi Schlumpf in an October 11th column.
Schlumpf’s impetus for raising the question was the employment dispute involving Amanda Kammes and Benet Academy. She writes:
“So when my sister texted me last month with the news that the Catholic high school her three now-adult children had attended had rescinded a job offer to a lacrosse coach after the woman put her wife down as her emergency contact, I was hardly surprised.
“‘Happens all the time,’ I told my sister, who noted that students, parents and alumni had started a petition and gone to the media with their support for the coach.
“I assured her that happens all the time, too.
“But what doesn’t happen all the time is that the school, Benet Academy in suburban Chicago, reversed its decision and again offered the coaching job to Amanda Kammes, who accepted it.”
Schlumpf’s conclusion does acknowledge, however, that the dispute at Benet Academy may not be resolved fully after the abbot in charge of the religious community that oversees the school expressed concern with Kammes’ hiring.
About the larger context of these church worker employment disputes, Schlumpf spoke with Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry. Asked whether there had been similar resolutions as with Benet Academy, where a firing was reversed:
“[DeBernardo] could recall only one: In 2015, students, alumni and parents from St. Mary’s Academy in Portland, Oregon, protested when the school pulled a contract that had been offered to a counselor after learning she was a lesbian. The school not only reinstated her, but expanded its employment policies to welcome gay staff and administrators.
“DeBernardo hadn’t been in touch with anyone at Benet, but expressed hope that Catholic schools might be beginning to realize that firing employees over their sexual orientation hurts the institution in the long run — not to mention the LGBTQ students in their care.
“‘I would hope, too, that these administrators are also beginning to follow Pope Francis’ example of not being exclusionary towards LGBTQ people,’ DeBernardo said. ‘More U.S. bishops are starting to get that message and perhaps it is trickling down to Catholic administrators.'”
Schlumpf also spoke to the president of Jesuit-run Seattle Preparatory School, Kent Hickey, who commented:
“‘Give me a teacher more like St. Francis, one who preaches the gospel at all times, using words when necessary. That preaching in the classroom (or on the playfield) should include genuine expressions of care, upholding the sacredness of the person, and building up the Body of Christ in Christian community. . .That’s the high bar we should be trying to reach. Those are the essential teachings upon which that lacrosse coach should be hired or fired.'”
The LGBTQ-related employment disputes have not ceased. Just yesterday, Bondings 2.0 reported on the latest firing, that of Matthew LaBanca who was terminated by the Diocese of Brooklyn over his same-gender marriage. But, returning to Schlumpf’s original question, is the tide turning for LGBTQ church workers where there are at least signs of hope? Leave your thoughts in the ‘Comments’ section below.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, October 28, 2021