John Murphy directed a Catholic nursing home for just a week before he was fired for being in a same-gender marriage.
Murphy was the executive director of Saint Francis Home, an assisted living community in Richmond, Virginia, affiliated with the city’s Catholic diocese, though independently operated. Crux reported that after his first week:
“[T]wo deputies of Bishop Francis Xavier DiLorenzo told him that he was being fired because his marriage goes against Church doctrine. . .Murphy was terminated without severance pay and he and his husband, a retired clinical social worker, are relying primarily on Social Security benefits to get by, he said.”
Though Saint Francis Home is lay-administered, it was representatives of Richmond Bishop Francis Xavier DiLorenzo who fired Murphy, he said. This action led to speculation that “DiLorenzo found out about his marriage after his new employee paperwork was forwarded to the diocese for processing,” though diocesan spokesperson Diana Sims Snider refused to comment. One board member has resigned in protest.
Murphy has since filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, saying the board president promised a same-gender relationship would not be problematic. Murphy told Crux his faith was shaken by the firing:
” ‘I thought I found a safe place where I could do good and I won’t be judged and I won’t be ostracized. . .People being discriminated against because of who they love, when it has nothing to do with their performance, is outrageous.’ “
At the press conference where Murphy announced the firing, a statement was included from New Ways Ministry’s Sister Jeannine Gramick, which read, in part:
“As a Catholic nun for more than 50 years, I am saddened that representatives of the Richmond Catholic Diocese fired John M. Murphy abruptly on April 1, 2015 from his position as Executive Director of Saint Francis Home in Richmond, because of his same-sex relationship. The Richmond Catholic Diocese has failed to follow our Church’s social doctrine on the rights of workers.
“Conforming to Catholic sexual morality should not play a part in employment decisions. Otherwise, Catholic institutions should be firing thousands of heterosexual individuals for their sexual sins. Judgments about hiring and firing need to be based on characteristics such as competence, honesty, and responsibility.”
Murphy’s firing is also outrageous. He is the eighth known church worker to lose a job in an LGBT-related dispute this year, and his is one of more than 50 cases made public since 2008.
It is striking that just as bishops in Rome under Pope Francis’ guidance meet to find new ways of ministering to and accompanying families, including LGBT ones, bishops in the U.S. are doubling down in this incident and with Newark Archbishop John Myer’s memo mandating the denial of Communion to LGBT supporters.
There is still hope that John Murphy and other church workers discriminated against for their identity or beliefs will receive justice, according to fired religious educator Margie Winters. She told PennLive:
“I think the voices of our community are getting raised in such a way that we are claiming our rootedness in who God is and God as an inclusive God, a God of unconditional love who invites everyone into his heart, into a heart of mercy. . .Once the church can claim we are truly children of God in all that we are, in our professions, in our relationships, that will bring the church to a wholeness that it hasn’t embraced with the LGBT community in particular.”
Whether or not the Synod on the Family will embrace LGBT Catholics as “truly children of God” is unknown, but there are certainly signs the Holy Spirit is alive and well in Rome!
For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of this story, and other LGBT-related church worker disputes, click the ‘Employment Issues‘ category to the right or here. You can click here to find a full listing of the more than 50 incidents since 2008 where church workers have lost their jobs over LGBT identity, same-sex marriages, or public support for equality.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry