Weekend for Fired Church Workers Encourages Solidarity, Justice, Faith

Image from U.S. Catholic magazine. See end of this post for link to an important survey on church worker firings.

I was blessed this past weekend to take part in a national meeting of Catholic church workers who have been fired or are being threatened with firing because of a variety of issues, including their support for LGBT equality.  The meeting, the first of its kind, brought together about 30 people from across the nation who are concerned about this disturbing trend.

Here on Bondings 2.0,  we have been chronicling the plight of lesbian and gay people fired for legally marrying, trans people fired for transitioning, allies who would not renew their contracts because of added morality clauses that would prevent them from supporting LGBT family and friends.

This meeting, held at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago, included people in those situations, but also included people fired for support of various other issues of church reform. The event was co-sponsored by Call to Action, Catholics for Choice, DignityUSA, Human Rights Campaign, and New Ways Ministry.

Ellen Euclide

Crux reported on the event, interviewing lead organizer, Ellen Euclide from Call To Action, who noted that the program discussed “discrimination, at-will employment, morality clauses, and how we might build some power to push for just employment practices in the workplace.”

It was a blessing and privilege to be with this group of people to share stories, discuss strategies, and pray together.  When we gathered for our closing liturgy on Sunday, we reflected on the readings of the day, which included the following lines from Psalm 118:22:

The stone which the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
By Yahweh has this been done;
it is wonderful in our eyes.

The same verse was echoed in the first reading, Acts 4:8-12.

The truth of those words came through over the weekend, as I witnessed how those who have been rejected by church leaders are now working together to renew the church in a more just and inclusive manner.   Though their experiences have certainly been painful, they are using their pain to work to prevent the same thing from happening to others, and to help the Church live up to its best ideals.

I learned some other important lessons from participating in this group.  First, I realized how important  it was for these church workers who have lost their jobs to be with others who have been fired or are threatened with being fired.  I have noticed that one reason that these firings can happen so easily is that isolation works against those who are fired.  It is usually one person in a city or diocese, not a group.  However, there is strength in solidarity, and when people join together with others in the same situation, great transformation can take place.

Hearing the stories of support that these workers received from their students, parishioners, and local communities, I realized that the firings harm not only church workers but the entire church, who lose the gifts and talents of these dedicated workers. Ellen Euclide, in a Call To Action blog post about the weekend, pointed out another way the Church is harmed by these actions:
“Discrimination, lack of access to contraception, low pay and job insecurity are some of the many reasons that our parishes, schools and nonprofits are losing the gifts and talents of committed workers like those who gathered in Chicago this weekend.  While the church leadership is enacting unjust employment policies, Catholic people in the pews have been supporting fired church workers across the country. The firings harm not only church workers but the entire church. This policy is not sustainable and will only lead to more and more Catholics leaving the church, especially young people.”
Another event like this past weekend’s is being planned for the fall of this year.  The more organized that church workers become, the better that they will be able to support one another and guide the church to more just employment practices.
I left the meeting with a feeling of confidence that, as a Church, we are going to be able to reform these policies to reflect Catholic teachings of the rights of workers and the treatment of all people equally.
(U.S. Catholic magazine is conducting a reader survey entitled “Should Catholic organizations fire employees who stray from church teaching?”   Click here to read background information, followed by the survey.)
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

3 thoughts on “Weekend for Fired Church Workers Encourages Solidarity, Justice, Faith

  1. Kat April 29, 2015 / 9:28 am

    None of these church employees deserved to be fired if they were doing their jobs well and were not hostile to the Church in any way. The Catholic church is being challenged to accept differences of opinion from its faithful communities, not shut our voices out. I pray the Holy Spirit moves fast as it is painful to see the harm the Catholic church does in the world today. It’s as if the good is overcast with a dark shadow until the church answers our cries and then the light again.

  2. Rosa G. Manriquez, IHM April 29, 2015 / 11:18 am

    Thanks to those who gathered.

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