On Labor Day, Let’s Remember LGBT People Fired from Catholic Institutions

September 2, 2013

Labor DayToday is Labor Day in the United States, a time when we stop to celebrate the gifts of all workers in our society.  Labor Day always happens on the first Monday in September, right in the middle of  back-to-school season.

Charles Reid, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas, Minneapolis, penned an essay for The Huffington Post which combined both of these timely themes by asking Catholic schools and institutions to make a “Back-to-School Resolution: Let’s Stop Firing Gays and Gay-Rights Supporters.”

Noting the long list of firings of LGBT people and their supporters fired from Catholic workplaces over the past year, Reid states:

“It is time, well past time, for Catholic schools to make this back-to-school resolution: No more firings of gays or gay-rights supporters in the new school year.”

His rationale for this suggestion at this point is based on the context of Pope Francis’ summertime statement, “Who am I to judge?” in response to a reporter’s question about gay priests, and specifically rumors about calls to fire Monsignor Battista Ricca, Francis’ overseer at the Vatican Bank, after rumors circulated that Ricca was gay.

Reid suggest that we put Pope Francis’ statement about judging into practice in our Catholic workplaces:

“But if we see this statement as an olive branch, as an effort to accommodate to the Church people with same-sex attractions, then we are entitled to ask Catholic institutions to take the next step: Catholic entities, especially Catholic schools, should stop firing gays and gay-rights supporters.”

Reid says Francis’ example is one that all Catholic leaders can follow:

“Let us remember, once again, that Pope Francis made his statement about not judging gays in circumstances similar to the facts of these cases: Monsignor Ricca, in the pope’s judgment, was just the man to help clean up the mess at the Vatican Bank. And he is gay. And 15 or so years ago, he had taken a lover, or two, or three. And the pope was willing to look past this history, and focus on Ricca’s many fine qualities.”

The rest of the essay examines some of the firings that happened this past year in Catholic schools  (all of which were covered by  Bondings 2.0):  Mike Moroski, Carla Hale, Ken Bencomo.

On this Labor Day, let’s pray for all LGBT workers in Catholic schools and institutions, who serve faithfully.  Let’s remember those who have been fired this past year:

Mark Krolikowski

Nicholas Coppola

Carla Hale

Erin Macke

Nick Johns

Tim Nelson

William Hudson

Ken Bencomo

Let’s also remember those who have had action taken against them in previous years:

Nigel Studdart
“John Doe”
Trish Cameron
Michael Fischer
Steav Bates Congdon
Jodi O’Brien
Fr. Owen O’Sullivan, OFM, Cap (see page 5 in link)
Laine Tadlock
And let’s also remember those LGBT people who’ve suffered employment discrimination in many other areas of work, too.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Catholic John Doe Fears for His Church Job Because of Marriage Equality Contribution

August 22, 2012

The Minnesota Catholic hierarchy’s strong support of the state’s proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-gender marriage has prompted the government’s campaign finance board to take an extraordinary measure to protect a Catholic contributor to the organization working for the amendment’s defeat.

 A blogger for the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports:

“A man, now known only as John Doe, told the Minnesota campaign finance board that he believes he would be fired from his Catholic employer if it became known that he gave money to the group opposing the marriage amendment.

“The campaign finance agency believed him and therefore, in an unusual move, granted him anonymity, despite his $600 contribution to Minnesota United for All Families.

“The agency’s decision exposes the strong feelings rampant about the proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and a rift about it even inside the Catholic Church.

“The Church has strongly supported the move to pass the amendment, collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars for the campaign backing it and told clergy not to dissent from its pro-amendment stance.”

The campaign finance agency used the case of Trish Cameron from earlier this summer to support its decision:

“In making its decision, release Friday, the state campaign finance agency examined the case of Trish Cameron, a former teacher at a Catholic School in Moorhead. Cameron told agency officials that she had revealed to her supervisors during a private annual self-evaluation that she personally objected to the Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage, although she would said she would not bring that belief into the classroom.

” ‘A week later,’ the campaign finance agency wrote, ‘Ms. Cameron was asked to resign.’

“Doe, the contributor to Minnesota United for All Families, had similar reasons to fear, he said.

” ‘Mr. Doe argues that because his job requires him to represent the Catholic organization’s positions to others from time to time, if his opposition to the marriage amendment was known, it would cause immense strain in his working relationships. Mr. Doe believes that this strain may be enough that his employment would be terminated,’ the agency wrote.

“Minnesota law allows exemptions from the requirement to disclose the names and employers of contributors if such disclosure would cause specific harm.”

The full text of the campaign finance board decision is available here.

While it is praiseworthy that the campaign finance board has taken this measure to protect this man’s employment, it is a sad commentary on the state of our church when a person is forced into anonymity to express a moral decision.  Only free and open discussion will allow church leaders to be able to discern the voice of the Spirit moving in the community.  The bishops should hold a moratorium on firing church employees who freely express their political decisions so that a true dialogue can happen in the church.

Trish Cameron’s comments about her own case are worth citing here.  The following is an excerpt from an interview with Minnesota Public Radio:

“Cameron believes she represents a segment of the Catholic Church no longer willing to simply accept what the church leaders say without discussion. Cameron said she has heard from many Catholics who tell her they are also struggling with the same-sex marriage issue.

” ‘We want to talk. This matters in our life. To some of us it’s extraordinarily painful. To some of us it’s really confusing,’ she said. ‘I have teenagers with close friends that are openly gay and those friends matter to them.’

“Cameron also said that she and other parents are afraid that the battle over same-sex marriage will alienate their children from the church.

” ‘After generations of being planted and rooted in the Catholic faith, we’re afraid we can’t hand this faith comfortably to them,’ she said.

“Cameron said she is not asking the church to sanctify same sex-marriage. But she does want church officials to talk about the issue. She worries they have slammed the door on dialogue.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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