A church worker has been fired from a Catholic institution for the second time over his same-gender marriage.
John Thomas McCecil was recently terminated from directing a theater production at Notre Dame High School, Chattanooga. An alumus of the school, McCecil had experienced intense bullying there as a student because of his gay identity. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on this latest development:
“…[W]hen the director of his alma mater’s theater department reached out to him back in December asking him to direct the school’s upcoming musical ‘Godspell,’ McCecil was beside himself. Finally, he thought, a little light could be trained on all those dark memories and redemption was in sight.
“‘I could see it as a way of rising above the previous incidents, and showing it was about the art,’ he said recently. ‘Something in me knew that it wasn’t going to happen.’
“Less than a month later, after McCecil had gone through a background check, viewed the requisite child safety video, and began auditions, the school president called to say he’d been terminated.
“Kyle Schmitt then followed up in a letter, telling McCecil: ‘We understand you’re in a same-sex marriage which conflicts with the teaching of the Catholic Church that marriage may only be between one man and one woman.'”
McCecil is unsure how school officials came to know about his same-gender marriage, and Schmitt and the school are not commenting. The fired church worker commented, “Maybe my name is on a list or something.”
That speculation about being on a blacklist arises from McCecil being fired once before by a Catholic institution because of his marriage. Back in 2019, Our Lady of the Mount Church, Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, forced him to resign as music director over what was phrased as a “questionable” relationship.
The experience of being fired a second time has deepened the wounds McCecil experienced the first time. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported:
“‘I thought this would be a healing opportunity and a chance to spread the message of Jesus Christ and his love,’ he said. ‘Instead it was just another nail in the coffin.’
“‘People need to know,’ he continued. ‘No matter what the Pope says about acceptance, individuals are still making these un-Christlike decisions.’ . . .
“‘I never should have expected the church would accept me for who I am. It opened some old wounds but for me, it was just another reminder I don’t need closure from the Catholic church or my alma mater. I get that from my faith. I won’t allow earthly institutions to make me feel lesser than.'”
More than 100 church workers have lost their jobs in LGBTQ-related employment disputes that went public in the last decade. To view the full listing, click here. For resources on how Catholics can act to protect LGBTQ church workers, including implementing non-discrimination policies, click here.
—Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, February 18, 2022