As Firings and Restrictions Continue, So Does the Determination of the Faithful

May 23, 2014

It seems that almost every day, we receive news concerning employees from Catholic institutions being terminated because of LGBT issues.  Such news can be depressing, when we think about how much our church leaders need to learn about LGBT issues and Catholic principles of human dignity and equality.  On the other hand, sometimes these stories can be inspiring when we learn about the courage of individuals who are standing up to the oppression, and of groups of Catholics who are making known their opposition to using support for LGBT issues as a reason for being fired.

In the latest round of news on these matters, we have witnessed two more teachers who have refused to sign new diocesan contracts which restrict school employees from showing support for LGBT people.  Let’s hope and pray that their courage inspires others to resist.

Kathleen Purcell

In the first case, Kathleen Purcell, a teacher and program director at Bishop O’Dowd High School, Oakland, California, signed the new contract, but crossed out the offending clauses with which she disagreed.  Purcell, a former constitutional lawyer, interviewed by, said:

“This contract would be a huge step backwards, and would say, ‘We’re stripping these employees of civil rights.'”

Purcell added:

“Then you throw the employees’ personal lives into the middle of all the disputes currently in the Catholic Church.”

The news report noted that the schools’ parents are threatening to withhold donations, as a sign of support to Purcell.  We have seen time and again in disputes like this that parents and students have organized in support of courageous teachers.

Richard Hague

Such was the case in Cincinnati, Ohio, this week, too. Students, alumni, and parents demonstrated outside of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s office in support of Richard Hague, a teacher who worked for 45 years in Catholic education and has refused to sign his diocese’s new contract.  Hague, who teaches at Purcell Marian High School, was eloquent in his letter to the archdiocese explaining why he will not be signing the new, restrictive contract.   WLTW-TV quoted from Purcell’s letter:

“I simply cannot believe that Jesus would require me to condemn my friends, nor that Jesus would require me to report any of my colleagues who supported, even loved, gay persons, nor do I believe for a moment that Jesus would punish me for my earlier ministry.” 

Robin Hoopes and Richard Miller

And another Cincinnati teacher was told by his employer that his contract would not be renewed next year.  Richard Miller, a teacher at St. Rita’s School for the Deaf, lives with another man, Richard Hoopes, and their six children, in a committed relationship.  He told WNKU-Radio that he told his employer of his relationship when he was hired:

“I was assured at that time that what I did in my personal life was my business and I was being hired for my abilities and my capabilities as a teacher and he was very excited to have me on board. About three weeks ago, I was issued a letter by the very same director stating that my contract would not be renewed and when I was asked why my contract would not be renewed his response was, it was just too risky.”

Flint Dollar

In Macon, Georgia, Mount de Sales Academy’s band leader, Flint Dollar, was just fired , because he announced plans to marry his male partner.  WMAZ-TV reported, though, that just as soon as the firing was made public, parents of the school’s students have begun to organize, and that within two days of the news, they are planning a public protest.

The school, sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, has an employment policy that says the institution is “committed to the principles of equal employment opportunities to all qualified individuals without regard to race, color, gender, ancestry, national origin, age, religion, creed, disability, veteran’s status, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, or any other characteristic or status that is protected by federal, state, or local law.”

Principal David Held sent a cryptically-written email this week to parents “to address recent social media posts regarding personnel decisions at Mount de Sales Academy, and to share some information that might clarify some of the rumors that are circulating.” Yet, though he discusses school governance and policy making, he does not mention Dollar or his firing in the email.

Catholic commentators have also weighed in on these new contracts, questioning how these new policies fit into the seemingly new agenda that Pope Francis is setting for the Church.  In The National Catholic Reporter, Isabella Moyer recalls a homily last year where the pope asked people to build bridges, not walls.  The new contracts, she observes, are basically walls, designed to be defensive. Bridges are especially needed for people who are tenuously attached to the church.  Moyer writes:

‘There are many good women and men hovering around the doors of the church. Some are contemplating joining us for the first time or returning after long absences. Others are struggling with a growing desire to leave. Hard-handed tactics and judgmental pronouncements will not convert hearts. Sadly, they might provide the final push out the door.”

Regina Brett, columnist for Cleveland’s Plain Dealeralso referred to Pope Francis in her commentary about the new contracts:

“Just when the new pope made the church more welcoming, the church found another way to turn more Catholics away.

“My church needs a heart transplant. I thought it got one with the new pope. Now I’m not so sure.”

The firings and new policies seem to be coming at us fast and furious.  Catholics, however, are ready to stand up to these measures with an equal amount of determination and vigor.  One can become depressed by such oppressive actions, or one can attempt to band together with others and stand up for what their consciences are telling them is right and just. Our church will change not because the hierarchy changes, but because Catholics are willing to make their voices heard and stand up for their faith.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related article:

U.S. Catholic: “Food pantry worker gets fired as the Catholic litmus test gets more stringent


New San Francisco Archbishop is Defender of Traditional Marriage

July 29, 2012

Bishop Salvatore Cordileone

Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Bishop Salvatore Cordileone, who has a strong record of opposition to LGBT issues, to head the Archdiocese of San Francisco, which has a strong community of LGBT Catholics.

The San Francisco Chronicle describes Cordileone this way:

“Salvatore Cordileone, 56, organized religious leaders and helped raise significant sums of money to get Proposition 8, the 2008 initiative that banned same-sex marriage in California, on the ballot and spoke forcefully in support of it. He is also chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.

“In his first statements after the Vatican’s announcement, Cordileone, the current bishop of Oakland, touched on a range of topics, from cultural diversity to immigration reform. But reporters barraged him with questions about same-sex marriage. His response was resolute.

” ‘Marriage is the union of a man and a woman, because children can only come about with the embrace of a man and a woman together,’ he said. ‘I don’t see how that’s discriminatory against anyone.’ “

Cordileone recently required board members of the Catholic Association of Lesbian and Gay Ministries to sign a loyalty oath, but the members have refused to do so.

The Chronicle also reported reactions to the appointment:

“San Francisco is ‘one of the hearts of the gay liberation story,’ said Michael Harank, 59, a lifelong Catholic who founded an independent Catholic agency in Oakland for homeless people with HIV. “He may be pastoral, but his work as one of the financial fathers and creators of Prop. 8 is clearly a slap in the face to the gay community.” . . .

“The Rev. Thomas Reese, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, said the appointments of increasingly conservative bishops in the United States started with Pope John Paul II, who served from 1978 to 2005.

“Though it would be impossible to find a Catholic bishop in favor of same-sex marriage, Reese said conservatism today includes a particular focus on marriage.

“Clearly, the pope and the Vatican are very concerned about the issue of same-sex marriage and are very opposed to it, and that’s reflected by the kinds of bishops that are being appointed in the United States,’ he said.”

The San Jose Mercury News reported another comment which highlights that this appointment was made because of LGBT issues:

“Charles Martel, president of Catholics for Marriage Equality, said Friday that he believes Cordileone was appointed to combat the acceptance of gay marriage here and abroad. ‘They see this as ground zero,’ he said.”

New Ways Ministry‘s Executive Director Francis DeBernardo released the following statement about Cordileone’s appointment:


“Bishop Cordileone’s record on LGBT issues has not been welcoming.  He will have to learn to be more sensitive and pastoral as he takes over in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, which has a large LGBT community, and very active and organized groups and parishes of LGBT Catholics.  The experience of working with such a vibrant and diverse community can help him to grow personally and pastorally.


“The Catholic Church in any community is so much more than who the local bishop is.  Lay Catholics in San Francisco will need to work with Bishop Cordileone to let them know what kind of leadership that they want from him. If he does not heed the prayerful requests of faithful Catholics there, the church in San Francisco will be greatly diminished.”

Noting Cordileone’s recent pressure on the Catholic Association of Lesbian and Gay Ministries, a blogger on San Francisco’s KQED radio station website cited Bernard Schlager, executive director of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry at the Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley:

“As Archbishop of San Francisco, Cordileone could put similar pressure on individual parishes that have welcomed gays and lesbians, Schlager said. . . .

“As archbishop, Cordileone could force priests to sermonize against gay marriage, too.

“Schlager doesn’t think he’ll do that, because it would be too controversial.

“But Thomas Sheehan, a professor of religious studies at Stanford University, isn’t so sure the archbishop will refrain from meddling in priestly business on LGBT or other issues. ‘He could well demand that priests reinforce the church’s teaching on contraception,’ Sheehan said.

“But ultimately Sheehan thinks the effects on individual Catholics will be modest. ‘I doubt it will affect how people practice,’ he said. ‘People look less and less to the hierarchy.’

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry




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