Positive Responses

In 2021, Bishop John Stowe of Lexington broke with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and endorsed the Equality Act. That same year, he apologized to fired lesbian church worker Margie Winters on behalf of the church.

In 2019, Brebeuf Jesuit High School refused to fire an employee in a same-gender marriage after the Archdiocese of Indianapolis requested it do so. Archbishop Charles Thompson subsequently withdrew the school’s “Catholic” designation, but both school officials and the provincial of the Jesuit’s USA Midwest Province stood by their decision. They are appealing the decree about their “Catholic” designation.

To date, only two members of the U.S. hierarchy, Cardinal Sean O’Malley of the Archdiocese of Boston, has spoken out against firing of legally married gay or lesbian people who work for Catholic institutions. O’Malley said that this trend is a situation that “needs to be rectified.”

In April 2017, Bishop John Stowe of Diocese of Lexington offered the most comprehensive positive statement against the firing of church workers in LGBT-related disputes. He told attendees at New Ways Ministry’s 8th National Symposium:

“We must preserve our tradition and our integrity as a church. . .We risk contradicting ourselves if we want our employees to live by the church’s teaching and if we ourselves as an institution don’t live by our teaching, which has always opposed discrimination of any sort.”

In October 2016, the Jesuit weekly America Magazine published an editorial titled “Unjust Discrimination” that challenged the firing of LGBT church workers. The editors said holding LGBT employees “to different standards or dismissing them abruptly” can be causes of scandal, and proposed German bishops’ employment policies as a model to be adopted. Fr. James Martin, SJ, editor-at-large for America, reiterated these points in a major address for New Ways Ministry on mutual respect in the church.

In May 2016, Mercy High School in San Francisco retained English teacher Gabriel Stein-Bodenheimer after he came out as transgender. This decision was affirmed by the Sisters of Mercy, who administer the high school, and agreed to by local ordinary, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone. Those involved in the decision later shared their reflections about this positive step.

In April 2016, officials at the University of San Francisco including President Fr. Paul Fitzgerald, SJ, welcomed the marriage of head women’s basketball coach Jennifer Azzi to assistant coach Blair Hardiek, saying the University would afford them “every benefit and legal protection which is due.”

In May 2015, the bishops of Germany voted in favor of new employment policies which would protect church workers in same-gender relationships from being fired from their jobs because of their legal relationship status.  The same protections apply to those who have re-married after divorce. A lesbian woman was able to resume directing a church-affiliated kindergarten as a result of this decision.

The first meeting of a network of Catholic workers who have been fired or concerned about firings was held in Chicago at the end of April 2015.  The group includes those whose employment disputes revolve around a number of questions of morality, including LGBT issues.

In July 2015, Fordham University responded to conservative criticisms by congratulating theology department chair J. Patrick Hornbeck on his same-gender marriage in the Episcopal Church. The statement wished the couple “a rich life filled with many blessings” and  affirmed their constitutional right to marriage in the U.S.

In September 2015, St. Mary’s Academy in Portland, Oregon reversed its decision to dismiss a counselorafter learning she is a lesbian woman and then adopted a non-discrimination policy protective of LGBT employees, including those who are legally married.

In April 2012, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn allowed a gay Catholic man to remain on the parish councilof an Austrian church. This decision reversed the priest’s decision, who had expelled Florian Stangl because he had a registered domestic partnership. Stangl had bee overwhelmingly elected to the council by his fellow parishioners. Schönborn’s decision came after he met with the man and his partner over lunch.