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

Fired Minnesota Catholic School Teacher Calls for Dialogue on Marriage Equality

June 28, 2012

A 46-year old Catholic school teacher in Moorehead, Minnesota, has lost her job because of her personal conviction in favor of marriage equality.

Trish Cameron

Trish Cameron, who taught at St. Joseph’s Catholic School, says she is now praying for a healthier dialogue in the church on the issue of marriage.

Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) reports:

“After 11 years teaching fifth graders at St. Joseph’s Catholic school in Moorhead, the same-sex marriage issue was on Cameron’s mind as she filled out her annual self-evaluation form this spring.

“Part of the evaluation asked teachers to rate how well they support the teachings of the church. In the comment box, Cameron wrote, ‘I do not agree with all church teachings on a personal level, but I do not bring my own opinions into religion classes.’

“That comment led to a meeting with her principal and superintendent where she explained her break with the church on the issue of same-sex marriage. One week later, they asked her to resign.

” ‘I don’t think there was any hiding my feelings, but along the way at the moments of dialogue was I thinking, “gee I’m jeopardizing my employment?” No,’ she said. ‘That never crossed my mind.’ “

Her decision to express her views privately through the teacher evaluation process resulted from the fact that during a visit to her fifth-grade class last year, Bishop Michael Hoeppner of the Crookston diocese directed students to urge their parents to vote for the upcoming constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality.  MPR reports:

” ‘When he came to talk to my fifth graders this year this was the topic, gay marriage and the Minnesota Marriage Amendment,’ she recalled. ‘And it ended with a direct call to “talk to your parents”‘ kind of “tell them how to vote and make sure — this is important for the church.” And I was really troubled by that, I was very uncomfortable with that.’

“Cameron said she felt a fifth grade classroom was not the appropriate place for a political discussion of the marriage amendment, which would change Minnesota’s Constitution to allow marriage only between a man and a woman. Cameron said she can’t remember another instance in 11 years where a bishop expressed political views in the classroom.”

Cameron, who has a teaching position in nearby Fargo, North Dakota, for the fall, holds no bitterness, but does hold a hope that the Catholic church can discuss important issues like marriage equality more openly:

“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.

” ‘If that is what the church chooses to say in the end — divine revelation and no more dialogue, then I guess for me even my own future as a Catholic which matters a lot to me, that part of it I don’t know yet,’ she said. ‘It really does matter how the church responds to this.’

“Cameron said her faith is strong and she won’t turn away from the Catholic Church in the near future. But she said if the church continues to ignore the plea to talk about difficult questions like same-sex marriage, she will have no choice but to find a more open and accepting place to worship.”

If the hierarchy does not find a more productive way of dealing with cases like Cameron’s, our church should brace itself for a downward spiral of firings and resignations.  What is troublesome in this case is that it was not public dissent, but private conviction which caused the firing.  Job performance and duty to the church and its religion curriculum were not  at issue.  Our prayers are with Trish Cameron–prayers of support during this challenging time and prayers of gratitude for her faithful, grace-filled witness.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,135 other followers