The disturbing trend of Catholic institutions firing lesbian and gay church workers because they choose to legally marry their partners is spread across the U.S. Even more disturbing, though, is that we have now seen examples of this discriminatory trend popping up in other countries, as well. Last year we reported on a gay volunteer being dismissed from a Catholic relief organization in the U.K., and a lesbian teacher being fired from a Catholic school in Italy because rumors had spread about her orientation.
This past week in Germany, it became public that a lesbian kindergarten teacher at a Catholic institution in Holzkirchen, a small Bavarian town, was made to sign a severance agreement after she informed her employer that she was making plans to legally marry her female partner.
WorldCrunch.com reported the story, noting that because of a confidentiality agreement between the teacher and school, the teacher’s name was not made public. There are similar factors to cases in the U.S. Like most cases here, the article reported that the crucial issue is a contract morality clause:
“The Catholic charity, Caritas, which runs the school, refers to Article Four of the ‘fundamental order of ecclesiastical duties in an ecclesiastical setting, with which everyone who works for a religious agency is familiar. This document states that all employees are expected to ‘recognize and follow the principles of the Catholic faith and ethical teaching.’ This is considered particularly relevant in the cases of educational and executive personnel.”
And like most cases here, the article reported that “The parents are also at a loss to understand the reasons for her having to leave.”
But the German situation is slightly different, too, from most U.S. cases. In Germany, all kindergartens, even those sponsored by religious groups, receive public funding, so the church-state issue is more complex. Another unusual twist in this story is that Caritas, the employer, offered the fired teacher “a post that did not entail any educational or executive duties but she refused the offer.” It raises the interesting suspicion that they just did not want her in a position that would influence children, and that the moral gravity of her situation is actually somewhat relative, and not absolute.
Because the fired teacher is not speaking publicly, some local politicians have come to her defense:
“Ulrike Gote, a Green Party’s spokeswoman in the state of Bavaria, accuses the Catholic Church of ‘hypocrisy.”
” ‘The Church should actually be delighted that someone wants to marry their partner,’ Gote says. ‘These are the kinds of double standards that we have had to deal with for a very long time.’
“The mayor of Holzkirchen, Olaf von Loewis of the Christian Social Union, who is a practicing Catholic, also has difficulty accepting the stance his Church has taken towards homosexual relationships.
” ‘I am very familiar with the rules and regulations of the Church as an employer,’ Loewis says. ‘And I deem them to be wrong.’ “
As I read these similarly sad and tragic stories over and over again, two questions always come to my mind:
1) Why is homosexuality, and in particular, committing to a legal marriage, the main reason that people are being dismissed from jobs in these morality clause cases? There have been pregnancy-outside-of-marriage stories, but these, thank God, have been few. The cardinal sin these days for church employers seems to be gay and lesbian people committing themselves in love to their spouses. The fact that this issue has been singled out over all others should be proof enough that this is not about morality, but politics.
2) Though principals and church administrators often use the line that the morality clauses have to be enforced to set examples for children, do they ever think of the example that they themselves set in firing someone from a job they love, that they have been performing well, that they receive praise from those they serve, and that is their livelihood? What lesson do children learn from such actions?
Church leaders need to start being self-reflective about their actions and policies.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry
Editor’s note: There were many articles in German about this case on the web, but WorldCrunch.com was the only one in English that I found.