Fired Lesbian Church Worker Says Archdiocese “Weaponized” Her Faith Against Her

Maggie Barton

A Colorado elementary school teacher fired by the Archdiocese of Denver for being in a same-gender relationship has said that she feels the church “weaponized” her faith against her.

For six years, Maggie Barton served as a technology teacher at All Souls Catholic School in Englewood, a K-8 school south of Denver. After the archdiocese found a photo of Barton and her partner, an official phoned her. During the conversation, Barton acknowledged that she was in a same-gender relationship. Barton described the conversation to Colorado Public Radio (CPR): 

“‘He was asking me a lot of questions about my understanding of the Catholic faith and if I was aware of the church’s position on same-sex attraction and all that kind of stuff. It was a very uncomfortable conversation. That was the only correspondence that I had with the Archdiocese directly.'”

On the day after the call, the school told Barton she was fired. She is still unsure how the photo of her and her partner came to the archdiocese’s attention, as she had not posted any photos of them publicly.

Barton has been an active Catholic, attending Catholic elementary schools and a Catholic college. During her first year at St. Edward’s University in Texas, Barton came out to her family and friends as a queer woman. She has remained active in her faith as a regular Mass attendee. Barton told CPR she feels her faith was “weaponized” against her:

“‘I think it’s important to kind of get this narrative out there because I know that choosing to work in a Catholic school as a lesbian, as someone within the queer community, might not make sense to everybody. The reason why I did that is because of my faith. To feel my own faith being weaponized against me in this way, to be terminated and to lose this position is, it’s heartbreaking.'”

Barton also commented to The Denver Post about the contrast between Pope Francis and Denver’s Archbishop Samuel Aquila. The same week she was fired, the pope made his comments denouncing anti-LGBTQ+ criminalization. Barton stated:

“‘I’m at a loss right now with how the leader of the Catholic Church is saying things that feel very supportive of who I am as a person and then to have someone at the level of the Archdiocese saying something that feels the exact opposite and almost contradictory to what the Pope is saying. I’m confused. What am I supposed to do with that?'”

The archdiocesan contract stipulates that all employees serve as “ministers of the church,” and must “personally [exemplify] the characteristics of Catholic living.” In a statement, the Archdiocese of Denver claimed public accounts of the firing were “not accurate” and need to be “corrected.” It continued:

“That a Catholic school employee experiences same sex attraction in itself is not a cause for termination.  However, all Catholic school employees in the Archdiocese of Denver are expected to abide by the terms of the agreement they signed and commitments they make, including the duties that are quoted above. . .Someone persisting in a lifestyle contrary to these views will find it difficult to teach them to our students.”

While two Catholic institutions have left Barton without a job, the Catholic community has rallied to support her. “I just had an outpour of support from families and coworkers and even former students and families,” Barton said, adding, “It was overwhelming to me how many people were reaching out in support of me.” The community even began a GoFundMe to help Barton cover expenses as she searches for a job. The crowdfunding has already raised over $26,000. 

One Colorado, an LGBTQ+ advocacy group, released a statement supporting Barton: 

“We are disappointed to see the Denver Archdiocese continue to take this harmful stance towards LGBTQ+ Coloradans. Faith communities, including schools, should be a place for love and support. Denying admission to LGBTQ+ students, excluding LGBTQ+ parents from full participation, and in this case terminating LGBTQ+ teachers for no other cause than for who they love alienates and discriminates against LGBTQ+ Coloradans of Catholic faith.”

In a public statement, Maggie Barton posted on Facebook:

“I grew up in the Catholic faith. I believe I embody the values of that faith in my everyday life, and it pains me to hear that cannot be true because of who I love.”

As a national teacher shortage continues to be a challenge, perhaps Catholic schools might embrace the values of welcome and inclusion to those LGBTQ+ educators who wish to celebrate their faith and their love of teaching.

Bobby Nichols (he/him), New Ways Ministry, February 15, 2023

3 replies
  1. James Profirio-Bond
    James Profirio-Bond says:

    I was the founding principal of Ave Maria Catholic School in Parker CO,
    I lost my principalship there plus three other Catholic schools once the respective Dioceses found out that I was gay plus had a husband. So by having a husband it automatically meant that we were having sex thus breaking what the contact states. The parents were upset with my firing. The first graduating class had me come back to give them their diplomas

  2. Fr. Dale Korogi
    Fr. Dale Korogi says:

    That a queer woman would continue to contribute her gifts to the Church despite what we’ve said and done is a wonder and inspiration and reason for hope to me, an old queer priest.

  3. Edna Torres-Perry
    Edna Torres-Perry says:

    Thank you for sharing this story . I hope ALL parents of LGBTQ children withhold money from the church as a form of protest. Jesus would be disappointed at those in charge who sit in judgment of another human being.


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