Public School Religion Teacher in Canary Islands Fired by Catholic Bishop

August 15, 2014

Catholic education will continue to suffer as more LGBT and ally educators are fired.

Luis Alberto González taught as a married gay man for two years, but, for the first time in fifteen years, he will not be returning to school this fall.  He was told by a local bishop it is “no longer appropriate” that he teach religion at a public school in the Canary Islands, a Spanish autonomous community off the coast of Africa.

González, formerly a Catholic priest, married his husband in 2012.  Aware that Spanish law grants Catholic bishops hiring and firing abilities related to religion teachers in public schools, González was forthright and wrote to his local bishop about the marriage. In letter to the editor entitled “Good News” to the Spanish daily El País, González wrote:

“I got married civilly to another man in 2012. The fact would not be very significant except that I work in Lanzarote as a professor of Religion at two institutes. At the end of the school year in which the union took place, I considered it appropriate, for openness, put my job in the bishop’s hands (in writing even)…

“Therefore, I assumed I would be fired, but my employment contract has been renewed year after year. Either the bishop of Canarias doesn’t consider the matter very important, or he’s taking a new approach to the issue in his jurisdiction. In either case, it’s good news.”

However, it seems the “Good News” letter has now led to his firing. The Diocese of Canarias reported he has been fired by the bishop.  In a fax to González, the diocese explained:

“For reasons of doctrine and morality and under canon law, your suitability as a religion teacher is retracted.”

There is some confusion as the Canary Island’s Ministry of Education still lists González as a teacher and Deputy Minister of Education Manuela Armas said there had been no communication to his office from the diocese.

For his part,González is resigned to the firing and said he “knew it could happen.” González asserts that he may no longer meet criteria for religion teachers set forth by the Spanish hierarchy, and he is only demanding that he be fairly compensated and allowed to access unemployment benefits.

More broadly, González wonders about the “manipulation of beliefs by those who have power in religion” and says Catholicism should not institutionally seek to ‘get into’ every aspect of people’s lives. Iglesia Descalza reports that the fired educator remains hopeful and has promised to remain in the Catholic Church to continue affecting change:

“The teacher argues that ‘there are elements of the citizenry, such as the people who make up the educational community, who don’t think it’s bad for someone who is gay and married to teach religion, but as you go up the pyramid of the Catholic hierarchy, one is aware that they’re on a different wavelength, advocating certain themes, including ones that could be considered medieval.’ …

” ‘There will always be those who will say that the Church is like a club. If you don’t want to be there, go. I, however, argue — and I’ve been a priest — that you can help change it from within…The Church itself has to be revised, take up these debates normally and face them.’ “

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Related articles:

El País (in Spanish): “El Obispado de Canarias expulsa a un profesor gay casado”

Iglesia Descalza (English translation of  El País article): “Diocese of Canarias expels married gay teacher”


Gay Coach Will Keep His Job at Catholic High School

August 14, 2014

Click here to share this graphic on Facebook.

Click to share this graphic on Facebook.

Last Saturday, Bondings 2.0 reported on the coming out of Nate Alfson, coach at a South Dakota Catholic high school, and raised the question of whether the school administrators would allow him to remain employed. Now it is clear that St. Mary’s High School will welcome the newly-out Alfson with open arms.

After coming out in an article for OutSports, Alfson, who coaches volleyball and baseball, met Tuesday with administrators. It was in this meeting Alfson was told he could keep his job, of which the Argus Leader reports the coach saying:

” ‘We talked about being on the same page as each other and that they were willing to walk through this with me and support me…They want me to be their volleyball coach again and that I was a great role model to the athletes.’ …

” ‘I couldn’t be happier that they are supportive and want me to be a part of the coaching team…It’s a sense of relief to be able to move forward and focus on volleyball and the girls. This season is about them and the hard work they put in. The support has been amazing and I can’t wait to live a free life.’ “

School administrators did not comment, though the Diocese of Sioux Falls released a statement saying gay church workers are welcome to work as long as their lifestyles were deemed chaste, the same expectations made of heterosexual workers.  (Though the definitions of chastity are different for these two groups.)

Alfson’s decision to come out publicly was a courageous one, especially with so many recent instances of LGBT church workers being fired for telling the truth about their lives. New Ways Ministry tracks the firing and resignations of LGBT and ally church workers. Fourteen people have been forced out this year alone. I was worried that after writing about Alfson’s deeply personal and wise article, I would shortly be writing the story about his firing too. That St. Mary’s administrators are willing to stand by Alfson and foremost follow Catholic teachings on the dignity of each person and social justice, especially relating to labor issues, is a hopeful sign.

This development comes in the same week that news broke that a high school run by the Sisters of Mercy dedicated their athletic field to alumna Abby Wamback, an internationally famous athlete who is also a married lesbian.

Now, it is essential for Catholic schools to keep this momentum going. The last two weeks, staff members from New Ways Ministry have attended annual meetings for the Conference of Major Superiors of Men and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the two separate organizations of the leaders of men’s and women’s religious communities in the U.S. While at these meetings, New Ways Ministry is asking these leaders  to implement LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination policies at their schools and institutions.   At our exhibit table, we are distributing a brochure explaining how such policies can be adopted.  While non-committal, the leaders’ responses have been positive to this idea.

Additionally, you can advocate for LGBT and ally church workers by raising the issue of non-discrimination policies within their your local parish or Catholic school. Below are suggestions for how you can make a difference:

1. Educate Yourself. Learn more about the current challenges LGBT church workers face, including firings, by reading Francis DeBernardo’s essay in Conscience magazine. You can find that by clicking hereBondings 2.0 also lists every LGBT-related public firing at a Catholic institution since 2008 on our “Catholicism, Employment, and LGBT Issues” page. There you will find further information about each case. Finally, you can read Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage by checking out the ‘Employment Issues‘ category to the right and to receive the latest updates enter your email in the “Subscribe” box in the upper right hand of this page.”

2. Take Action. Adding a sufficient non-discrimination policy at your local Catholic institution could be as simple as adding the following: “(Name of parish, school, or institution) will not discriminate in employment practices on the basis of marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, and personal support for marriage equality.” For more tips on establishing LGBT-inclusive policies, click here.

3. Connect. If you want help with adopting a non-discrimination policy or anything related to Catholic LGBT employment issues, you can contact New Ways Ministry by emailing info@newwaysministry.org or calling (301) 277-5674 for further resources and information.

Now that Nate Alfson is proudly out and ready to return to coaching, he told reporters: “I can breath, I can smile, and I’m not afraid to cry, and I’m not afraid to feel what I’m feeling.” It is past time to make this sense of freedom and authenticity normative for every teacher, student, administrator, parent, and alumni involved with Catholic education. What difference will you make this fall?

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Marriage Equality Court Cases Raise Opposition from Catholic Bishops

August 13, 2014

In recent weeks, bishops and archbishops in various parts of the U.S. have been speaking out against marriage equality as the issue continues to be debated in different states.  Below is a round-up of a variety of actions which have made the news.

Cincinnati, Ohio

As an appeals court begins to weigh the arguments about lifting the ban on same-gender marriage in Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Michigan, Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati has called on Catholics to pray for maintaining marriage as an institution only for heterosexual couples.

Cincinnati.com reported that the archbishop sent an email to thousands of Catholics in the 19-country archdiocese, reminding them that Ohio’s Catholic bishops supported the ban on same-gender marriage in 2004. The article quoted an excerpt from the email:

” ‘Traditional marriage, the union of one man and one woman for life, is the cradle of the family, which is the basic building block of society,’ said Schnurr, who suggested an ‘appropriate prayer’ would be the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Prayer in Defense of Marriage.”

Michigan

An interfaith prayer service in support of marriage equality was recently held in Lansing, Michigan, to support the same court case which is affecting Cincinnati.   While many people of different faiths gathered to pray together, MLive.com reported that the Michigan Catholic Conference issued a statement against marriage equality.  The article excerpted the statement:

“For the sake of future generations and to uphold the common good for all of society, the Catholic Church recognizes and teaches that marriage is rooted in natural law and as such cannot be redefined. By no means should the Catholic Church’s teaching in support of natural marriage between one man and one woman diminish the dignity or sensitivity that must be afforded to all human persons, regardless of their orientation.”

Texas

In Texas, where the state attorney general is appealing a decision which reversed the state’s ban on same-gender marriage, Catholic bishops there have put their support behind this initiative.

According to CBSLocal.com:

“Catholic Bishops said in a statement they hope the U.S. 5th Court of Appeals will objectively review the case and ‘affirm the right of the people of Texas to continue to upholding marriage as a union between one man and one woman.’ ”

Miami, Florida

Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami spoke out against a recent court ruling in that state which said that same-gender couples have the right to marry.  Wenski called the decision “another salvo in the ‘culture wars’ that ultimately seek to redefine the institution of marriage as solely for adult gratification,” according to The Catholic Sentinel.

The court case, which was initiated by same-gender couples in the Florida Keys, invalidates the voter-endorsed constitutional ban from 2008, but only applies to the state’s Monroe County.

Virginia

When an appeals court in Virginia recently ruled that the state’s ban on same-gender marriage was unconstitutional, the two Catholic bishops there spoke out against the ruling.   Bishop Paul LoVerde of Arlington and Bishop Francis DiLorenzo of Richmond issued a statement  which called the ruling“a fundamental misunderstanding of the intrinsic nature of marriage and is an injustice to Virginia voters,” according to a Catholic News Service story.

At the same time, the two bishops affirmed that  “those with same-sex attractions must be treated with respect and sensitivity.”

Conclusion

While Catholic bishops continue to speak out against same-gender marriage, Catholic people continue to grow in their support for equality for lesbian and gay couples.   More important than the political realities, bishops need to understand the harmful pastoral realities that their negative statements cause.  It’s time for bishops to be pastors, not politicians.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 

 

 


Catholic School Honors Lesbian Alumna Soccer Star

August 12, 2014

While the LGBT news this past year from Catholic high schools has mostly been negative, focusing on the dismissals of teachers for being proud of their sexual orientation and their marriages, this summer sports seems to be offering a glimmer of hope in this arena.

Abby Wambach

The latest news is that Our Lady of Mercy School for Young Women, a Brighton, New York high school, has renamed its soccer field after Abby Wambach, a 1998 alumna and two-time Olympic gold medalist, who also happens to be a lesbian.  This news comes only days after a South Dakota Catholic school coach came out publicly as a gay man.

Wambach, who won  the  2012 FIFA World Player of the year, the top award in her sport, was present at the field’s dedication ceremonies this past weekend, and she exhorted current students to strive for excellence, integrity, and honesty.  The Rochester Democrat-Chronicle reported from her speech:

“I want you girls to believe in yourselves. Think about the people around you. Know what motivates you. Find a passion, find something you love and blow every record that I’ve set out of the water. I truly believe that because that’s how we … grow and evolve.”

And Wambach had praise for the Sisters of Mercy who run the school and her former coach there:

” ‘I want to thank Mercy and the Sisters of Mercy for always praying, especially late in some of those Olympic Games. We love you for that,’ Wambach said, opening her speech with a joke. . . .

“I’ve had a lot of coaches in my life, a lot of amazing soccer-mind coaches in my life. There is no better motivator that I’ve ever been coached by than Kathy [Boughton]. . . .

“She told me if you come from this school and you want to wear this jersey, you’ve got to be a good person … I appreciated all the tough love you showed me and all the teaching one needs to have about respect.”

These are strong words of praise coming from such a celebrated athlete.  The Democrat-Chronicle recounted her main achievements:

“A six-time winner of U.S. Soccer’s Female Athlete of the Year award, the former Section V standout was the 2012 FIFA World Player of the year, the highest honor given in her sport. In 2011 she also became the first soccer player to win The Associated Press’ annual Female Athlete of the Year award. The roots to becoming the greatest scorer in soccer history — her 167 international goals are tops among men and women in the record books for any player from any country — were planted at Mercy.”

Wambach came out publicly as a lesbian in 2013 when she married Sarah Huffman, another soccer player, in a Hawaii ceremony.  She had long been a vocal supporter of LGBT equality.

In a separate news story, Wambach again expressed her thanks for her Catholic education:

” ‘I am honored that my alma mater would want to do this for me and my family,’ Wambach said Wednesday via text message. ‘I owe so much of my success to my upbringing and education. Mercy is a massive part of my character.

” ‘The values (her former coach, Kathy Boughton) instilled in me still apply in all parts of my life. I couldn’t be more proud and thankful for this amazing honor.’ “

Jackie Robinson, the first African-American major league baseball player, integrated professional sports over a decade before American society began to wrestle with integration. Sports paved the way for larger change on the issue of race in America.  Perhaps sports will be the area that will help the Catholic community come to terms with its LGBT members and work for their equality.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related sports blog posts:

May 29, 2013: “Robbie Rogers: Soccer Star, Devout Catholic, and Now Openly Gay

May 29, 2013: “First Out Gay Student College Athlete Is at Catholic School

February 12, 2014: “Catholics Tweet Their Support for Mike Sam

March 22, 2014: “University of Notre Dame Athletics Closer to Full LGBT Acceptance

 

 

 

 


Minneapolis Archbishop Nienstedt: “I’m not gay…I’m not anti-gay.”

August 11, 2014
Archbishop John Nienstedt

Archbishop John Nienstedt

Archbishop John Nienstedt of Minneapolis-St. Paul denied suggestions that he was gay or could be considered anti-gay in recent media blitz intended to confront intensifying calls for his resignation. He also spoke about a failed 2012 campaign to ban marriage equality, archdiocesan financial difficulties, and clergy sexual abuse of minors.

Controversy has surrounded the archbishop for more than a year, with concurrent claims that he mishandled clergy sexual abuse claims and made advances on other men, including priests and seminarians in the diocese. Nienstedt also possesses a strong anti-LGBT record that many church justice advocates have criticized.

However, Nienstedt said he would not resign unless asked to do so by the papal nuncio because he is confident the archdiocese was “in a much better place” now.

Regarding allegations of sexual misconduct against priests and seminarians, Nienstedt ordered an independent investigation that has produced a report now under review by church officials. The Star Tribune reported the archbishop denies any misconduct and blames ‘enemies’ for the allegations:

“Nienstedt said he believed that the investigation involved five allegations of sexual impropriety, including from the time he served in the Detroit Archdiocese in the 1990s. . .The allegations were made by priests and seminarians.

“When asked why Catholic priests and seminarians alleged he had same-sex attraction, Nienstedt responded, ‘I have no idea.’

” ‘But I made a lot of enemies by the stands I’ve taken in Detroit and here,’ he said. ‘I assume it feeds into that.’ “

In a separate interview with KCCO, video of which is available at The Advocate, Nienstedt was asked directly if he was gay  and responded:

” ‘No, I’m not gay. But I also want to say, as it was quoted in the paper this morning, I’m not anti-gay either. At the time of the marriage amendment, a lot of people said I was bigoted, that I was homophobic and I’m not.’ “

Nienstedt spoke about that 2012 campaign for an amendment banning marriage equality, for which he mailed more than 400,000 DVDs to Catholics, had anti-marriage equality prayers inserted into the liturgy, and told the mother of a gay son that acceptance of her son might imperil salvation. Administratively, Nienstedt banned priests from endorsing marriage equality or opposing the proposed ban — though this did not stop several courageous priests from speaking out and donating to pro-LGBT causes. In the end, Catholics in Minnesota played a crucial role in defeating the ban and stood on the side of LGBT justice.

Whereas Nienstedt  once said that “marriage equality is the work of Satan,” the archbishop now says he was “not against gays” and “didn’t fight gay marriage.” Instead, he was positively advancing a ‘traditional’ understanding of marriage and clarifying Catholic teaching on homosexuality. An attempt by the archbishop to explain these teachings came up short when pressed by reporter Tom Lyden:

“[Lyden]: Okay. What about homosexuals?

“[Nienstedt]: Homosexuals need to lead chaste lives.

“L: They need to lead celibate lives?

“N: Well, yes.

“L: Okay. Does that seem reasonable to you, that we should all lead the lives of priests?

“N: Well… um…

“L: Tell me, archbishop, why should I lead the life of a priest?

“A: Because it is of your nature to, um, express yourself sexually through a committed relationship.

“L: I am. I’ve been with the same partner and husband now for 21 years.”

You can view the full 30-minute Fox interview at The New Civil Rights Movement

Archbishop Nienstedt’s history in the Twin Cities is deeply troubled, but these interviews make clear he is not planning on resigning.  The allegations of personal misconduct proving true would only add to this tragedy, as Francis DeBernardo wrote on this blog in July. I reiterate DeBernardo’s concluding words about Nienstedt:

“I am angry at the harm he has caused others, but I find myself strangely sympathetic towards him if it turns out that he caused even greater harm to himself.”

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Catholics Seek Legal Rights, Pastoral Welcome for All Families

August 10, 2014

Advancing LGBT rights in the U.S. is increasingly a struggle about supporting families, both in the church and under the law. Below are several stories in which Catholics are standing up for just civil laws and inclusive pastoral care.

Adoption Rights

New legislation, known as the Inclusion Act, has been introduced in the U.S. Congress that would allow religiously-based agencies receiving government funds to refuse same-gender couples access to foster care and adoption services. This act has received the support of at least three Catholic bishops, but Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA criticized it in an essay on  The Huffington Post. She also happens to be the adoptive parent, with her wife ,of two girls.  She wrote:

“In almost every case, [same-sex couples] have given their kids an abundance of love and stability. The intentionality with which they chose to parent is carried forward into their raising of their daughters and sons. They have done all the things that other parents do, often while facing stigma and a lack of legal stability for their families…

“The so-called Inclusion Act does nothing to protect children. To the contrary, it could continue depriving children of potentially loving, stable homes. And it does nothing to protect religious liberty. If there are agencies that truly believe they have a religious mandate to place children only with married, opposite-sex parents, and that there are parents wanting to place children for adoption clamoring for such agencies, then let them manage that service with private funding.”

Parents Speak Out

Parents, adoptive and biological, have long spoken out for their LGBT children, and in the Catholic Church, they have some of the most active advocates for inclusion. Patrick Nugent, the parent of a gay son and an adoptive parent, recently wrote to Catholic Charities of the USA (CCUSA) about President Obama’s executive order barring LGBT non-discrimination by federal contractors.

Concerned that CCUSA CEO Larry Snyder had joined a letter of religious leaders asking the president to expand religious exemptions, Nugent asked Norbertine Brother Steve Herro, manager of mission and ministry at CCUSA, about how Catholic Charities would treat LGBT employees. Nugent writes:

“Why did [Snyder] not ask for exemption from the Civil Rights Act as well, there is no difference…Snyder’s effort to essentially codify continuing discrimination against LGBT people casts a pall on all the activities of CCUSA.  Do you refuse service to LGBT people?  Do you refuse service to African-American people?  Do you refuse service to handicapped people?  I trust the answer to all those questions is ‘No’.  So then why refuse them employment?”

Nugent and his wife, both Catholics for more than 70 years, adopted two children through Catholic Charities of Washington, DC. He adds that this would no longer be possible because foster care and adoption services have been shuttered by the Archdiocese of Washington for fear same-gender couples might adopt the children. This father and LGBT advocte concludes:

“In the future I will read of the accomplishments of CCUSA and its affiliates with two reserve questions:  what did they not do because of Larry Snyder’s gender based discrimination, and what faithful, practicing Catholics were not permitted to participate due to Snyder’s gender-based hiring practices…I will pray that CCUSA will one day embrace traditional Catholic Social Teaching and truly respect the dignity of all people.”

You can read Patrick Nugent’s full letter, and find more information about Catholic parents efforts on behalf of their LGBT children at the Fortunate Families blog. You can also read the inspiring words of Erma Durkin, a longtime LGBT advocate and mother, who was recently interviewed by the National Catholic Reporter.

In a hopeful sign, Larry Snyder said that Catholic Charities was “pleased” with President Obama’s executive order and would continue working with the federal government.

Baptisms

Finally, a new policy in the Diocese of Madison centralizing approval for baptism is again drawing fire and raising questions of whether the sacrament will be dispensed in a spirit of love or according to the letter of the law. A 20,000-plus petition sponsored by Faithful America was delivered to the chancery at the end of July asking Bishop Robert Morlino to affirm that such children can indeed be baptized, according to WKOW.

Critics say the policy is an attempt to prevent same-gender couples from having their children welcomed into the church. Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry explained that Morlino has a “strong record against supporting lesbian and gay people” and could easily be more restrictive in allowing baptisms than a pastorally-inclined parish priest might be.

While the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops stated in 2006 that children of same-gender couples should be welcomed to baptism if there is sufficient hope they will be brought up in the Catholic faith, the matter remains a lingering question as more couples legally marry and gain adoption rights.

Pope Francis

Though not directly addressing the civil and canonical matters in question in the U.S., Pope Francis offered fruitful words about family in his message to the First Latin American Congress on the Pastoral Care of the Family in Panama. The pope said, in part:

” ‘What is the family? Beyond its more pressing problems and its most urgent needs, the family is a “centre of love,” where reigns the law of respect and communion, able to withstand the attacks of manipulation and dominance of the  worldly “centres of power “. In the home, the person is integrated in a natural and harmonious way in a human group, overcoming the false opposition between the individual and society. Within the family, no one is discarded: both the elder and child are welcome. The culture of encounter and dialogue, openness to solidarity and transcendence have it in its cradle.’ “

Terence Weldon of Queering the Church posted the text, noting that nothing in it excludes families led by same-gender parents. He comments:

“Take a closer look at the portion of Francis’ message quoted above, at the important sentence, ‘Within the family, no one is discarded: both the elder and child are welcome’. Indeed, within authentic Catholic families, all are fully included, the old and the young, the strong and the weak, the straight and the gay.

“The Church sometimes likes to present itself as an example of the human family on a grand scale, with itself as mother. By extension of the above, the Church needs to remember and practice the Pope’s message–within the family of the Church, just as in the domestic family–no-one should be discarded.”

Only months away from October’s Synod on marriage and family life, LGBT people and their parents are offering bright examples of what it means to form homes where all are welcome and where no one is discarded. Now it is time for Catholic officials to learn from these courageous lay voices.

You can view Bondings 2.0‘s continuing coverage of the Synod by clicking here or the ‘Synod 2014‘ category to the right.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Gay Coach at Catholic H.S.: “Be You, Be True, and Never Forget that You Matter.”

August 9, 2014

Nate Alfson

“It’s a closet so small you literally can’t move. No turning, no bending, no squatting, nothing. Along with the pitch black atmosphere, there are sharp needles pointing at you everywhere and any time you make too big of a movement it jabs you. Some jabs hurt more than others. For those who are or were in the closet, we became masters of standing still and hiding from the world.”

With these words, South Dakota’s first openly gay high school coach has come out — and now many wonder how the Dell Rapids Catholic high school where Nate Alfson coaches will respond.

In a piece published by OutSports, the baseball and volleyball coach told his story of being a closeted gay athlete. A hyper-masculine and homophobic sports culture put Alfson on edge: “When you aren’t openly gay and you are an athlete or a coach, any subtle tell turns into an insecurity.” Other players’ suggestions that he might be gay or listening to teammates’ conversations about women caused Alfson a great deal of uncomfortability. Now, in the article, he is introducing himself anew to the world and to the athletes he coaches:

“I identify myself as a gay, Christian, athlete with a lot of different interests. I am writing my story to share with the world that it is OK to be who you are born as and feel confident about it. I have found that there are other people in the world just like me and I don’t have to feel alone any longer. I am a proud openly gay man with a great job as a program coordinator for an agency that serves adults with disabilities.”

Alfson played baseball while attending Augustana College, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where he felt increasingly “insecure and lonely” as a closeted gay Christian. He sought close friendships, which would allow him to confide in someone about his sexual orientation, while, at the same time asking God to ‘cure’ him of being gay. Being outed was a “daily fear” for Alfson. You can read a full account of his struggles in college by clicking here.

In 2012, Alfson decided to come out to family and friends, and since then he has broadened the circle of those to whom he is out.  He writes:

“It was hard at first to be able to accept being gay and actually say it out loud. My friendships have become stronger than ever. I have now been accepted and embraced by some former teammates and coaches, some athletes I’ve coached, family friends, family members and all my closest friends. The freedom and happiness that comes along with being yourself is like nothing I’ve ever felt before…

“I used to believe that my happiness was being successful as an athlete and by making other people happy; a people-pleaser to the max. After coming out, and freely talking about who I am, I found what true happiness actually was. My  burden lifted, I have never felt ‘lighter’ in my life. Being cared about by others is a great and necessary feeling, but caring about yourself is even important. The quote that says you can’t love someone else without first loving yourself is true.”

However, Alfson also writes about a potentially troubling situation: his employment at St. Mary High School, Dell Rapids, South Dakota, where he had not been out. The coach admits it could be a potential challenge, but is “confident it will work out for the best and the Earth will still keep turning regardless of the outcome.”

In a separate article, OutSports raises the same question and offers advice to school administrators:

“They would be smart–and they would be Christian–to praise him for being his true self and continuing to work with him to empower youth to explore their beliefs as he coaches them through the physical challenges of high school sports.

“The question will be whether the school focuses on the first couple of books in the Holy Bible, or whether they let the actual words of Jesus Christ guide their decisions. Gay coaches have been fired by Christian schools in the past. This is the Catholic school’s opportunity to turn the tide of acceptance.”

In the video below, OutSports founder Cyd Zeigler asks, “Whether firing someone because they’re gay is really the Christian thing to do.”

Alfson closes with advice for closeted LGBT athletes, and really advice for us all:

“My advice to closeted gay athletes or anyone who may be struggling with themselves would be to first take a deep breath and know that there are people in the world who care about you and understand what you’re going through…

“We are all in this together and we can change this fear inside ourselves one story at a time. Make a difference in the world by being kind to one another and don’t be afraid to do good deeds to those around you. A smile goes a long way. Be you, be true, and never forget that you matter.”

Let us pray that administrators at St. Mary High School in South Dakota will embrace Alfson’s authenticity, faith, and wisdom as being beneficial for the students he coaches.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 985 other followers