Public School Religion Teacher in Canary Islands Fired by Catholic Bishop

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”

3 thoughts on “Public School Religion Teacher in Canary Islands Fired by Catholic Bishop

  1. Will August 15, 2014 / 5:17 am

    One of the themes emerging from this wave of firings of LGBT educators, especially those who have married, is that many have been out and accepted already in their place of work, in some cases even married for some time but that when this becomes public in a wider sphere, online or in the media, then the heavy hand of the local diocese weighs in and they are fired. Quite often the tight-lipped and carefully worded comments of a Principal or parish priest reveal that they have been ‘commanded’.

    This does suggest an appalling hypocrisy here: it is not the conflict with church teaching itself that is the problem so long as it’s kept quiet – but that any openness and honesty about it, that might embarrass a bishop, ARE a problem. It shows too that in the case of committed LGBT couples the basic argument of equality and fairness is already won among the laity.

    This also has echoes of the coverups of paedophile priests and other genuine scandals. It is as if the hierarchy is only ever concerned about APPEARING to be true to teaching – rather than actually being true to it. Such a position indicates the hierarchy to have become purely political in their approach, such cynical pragmatism leading to a hollowing out of the integrity of the institutional Church. And so when it is uncovered – as in Ireland (or Minnesota) – the loss of authority and respect is catastrophic.

    And we are NOT better of without that. However much I despise some of the clergy – the hypocrites and the venal silk-slippered pedants (and including those who have abused me in the past) – the central mysteries of the faith and their expression in a human church through the ages is something we must not lose. I recently watched the film Calvary which offers a powerful and intelligent parable for the state of the Church in this respect. It’s not comfortable viewing.

  2. Anne Fullerton August 15, 2014 / 7:24 am

    For context, it’s important to know that Spanish law contains a long-standing deal with the Catholic Church that teachers of religion, though employed by the government, must be vetted by the Church. This man does not have any legal recourse. In a similar case, a married priest was terminated from his teaching job even though his employer had known for years that he was a married priest after his photo appeared in the newspaper when he participated in an event organized by the Spanish optional celibacy group MOCEOP. The former priest appealed his dismissal all the way up to the European human rights tribunal in Strasbourg but ultimately lost the case. This case is no different except that the spouse is a man, not a woman.

  3. Anthony Borka August 15, 2014 / 12:00 pm

    Although I do not agree with the Church, under the present teaching what did he expect? he expected to be fired and was.

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