If Marriage Equality Becomes Law, Archbishop Threatens to Fire Married Gay and Lesbian Church Workers

An Australian Catholic archbishop has threatened to fire any church employee that enters into a same-gender marriage, should the option for such a marriage become legal soon in that nation.  The threat comes as Australia prepares to host a postal plebiscite which could result in the country’s Prime Minister calling for a vote on the measure in Parliament.  [Bondings 2.0 reported on the plebiscite last week, and you can review that post by clicking here.]

The Sydney Morning Herald reported:

Archbishop Denis Hart

“Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart. . . pointedly warned the church’s 180,000 employees they were expected to uphold its teachings ‘totally,’ and defiance would be treated ‘very seriously.’ “

” ‘I would be very emphatic that our schools, our parishes exist to teach a Catholic view of marriage,’ he said. ‘Any words or actions which work contrary to that would be viewed very seriously.

” ‘Our teachers, our parish employees are expected totally to uphold the Catholic faith and what we believe about marriage. People have to see in words and in example that our teaching of marriage is underlined.’ “

Hart is the chair of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference.  His remarks were supported by Archbishop Timothy Costelloe, chair of the Bishops Commission for Catholic Education.

Hart’s comments highlight the skewed view that some prelates have taken about the question of same-gender marriage.  Does he really think that a Catholic view marriage is the main reason that Catholic parishes and schools exist?  Don’t they also exist to teach salvation, God’s love, justice in the world, respecting the equality of all, and so many other things?  When did marriage become the litmus test for authentic Catholicism?

Does he really believe that church employees must “totally uphold the Catholic faith”?  What about other employees whose lives do not reflect church teaching on charity, on kindness, on justice for the oppressed, on care for the poor, not to mention many other sexuality issues?

Fr. Frank Brennan

While religious liberty protections may allow the Catholic hierarchy the freedom to fire such employees, that doesn’t mean that they must do so.  That’s the position of Fr. Frank Brennan, an Australian priest who is the chief executive of Catholic Social Services Australia.  Writing in The GuardianBrennan defended the hierarchy’s right to fire married lesbian and gay employees, but he recommended that they shouldn’t.  Speculating that the nation will legalize marriage equality, he wrote:

“Once the Marriage Act is amended, should a church school be able to decline to offer married quarters to a teacher in a same sex marriage? I would answer ‘yes,’ though I would hope a church school would be open to the employment of a gay teacher living in a committed relationship. Equally I would continue to allow a church school to make a free choice as to who best to employ as a teacher.

“Given the lamentable history of homophobia, I would think a good church school would be pleased to employ an openly gay teacher who respects and espouses the school’s ethos. Free choice is often better than legal prescription when trying to educate in the ways of truth and love.

“Should a church aged care facility be able to decline to offer married quarters to a couple who had contracted a same sex marriage? I would answer ‘yes,’ though I would hope a church facility would be open to providing such accommodation in Christian charity if it could be done in a way not to cause upset to other residents. After all, same sex marriage is a very modern phenomenon and I would favour ongoing tolerance of the residents in aged care facilities run by a church, wanting to live out their last days with individuals and couples in relationships such as they have long known them.

“However, even in Catholic aged care facilities, we need to admit that not all couples are living in a church recognised marriage, and it is no business of other residents to know if they are. We need to allow everyone time to adapt with good grace, provided only that we can be certain that appropriate services are available elsewhere if a church feels unable to oblige on religious grounds.

[Editor’s note:  Brennan first publicly supported marriage equality in 2013.]

Brennan’s argumentation points out a dimension sorely lacking in Hart’s statements:  situations are complicated and often involve intersecting values that must be weighed.  Why don’t Catholic leaders consider the other demands and truths of church teaching such as charity and justice? Why does sexuality have to trump all other Catholic values?

In addition to Brennan, another Catholic leader has indicated that the archbishop’s threats may not be enacted.  The Sydney Morning Herald reported:

Suzanne Greenwood

“Catholic Health Australia, the country’s largest non-government, non-profit health group, distanced itself from those threats.

“Chief executive Suzanne Greenwood . . .[said] she would not expect doctors and nurses to adhere so strictly to the church’s teachings, though conceded it may be different for teachers.

” ‘We’re not converting people to Catholicism,”‘ she said. ‘It’s not really relevant to the jobs people are performing within the care environment at a hospital or an aged care facility.

” ‘It’s not like people are currently screened [for sexuality or marital status]. I would see absolutely no reason why that would change.’ “

Terry Laidler

And Terry Laidler, a psychologist who is a former priest, took a more pointed stand against the threats to gay and lesbian employees.   In an essay for The Sydney Morning Heraldhe wrote:

“Consistent the archbishops may be, but they are entirely out of touch with society generally, and with their own staff and people.

“Hart and Costelloe should not be surprised at the cries of hypocrisy that have echoed in mainstream and social media when they have appeared to threaten people’s livelihoods like this while those in leadership positions like theirs have previously proved inept or craven in ridding the very same institutions of child predators.”

Part of the archbishops being “out of touch,” Laidler pointed out, is that 60-70% of Australian Catholics support marriage equality.  And worse than being out of touch, is the harm that the archbishops’ words can have:

“. . . .[T]hey appear so lacking in insight into how their words would affect a young LGBTI man or woman considering contributing to our nation as a teacher.”

The possibility exists that in at least one part of Australia, Tasmania, married lesbian and gay church employees would be protected against discrimination and firing.  NT News reported:

“Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesman Rodney Croome said the state’s anti-discrimination laws meant the church and other religious organisations would not be able to sack employees in a same-sex marriage if the latter was legalised.

” ‘Tasmanian law makes it very clear that there can be no discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or relationships status, including in faith-based schools or hospitals,’ Mr Croome said.”

The Catholic Church should not have to be coerced by civil law to practice fairness and equality.  Those values should spring from the hearts and souls of Catholics, and we hope they would spring especially so from their leaders.   As Bondings 2.0 has reported before, the German bishops have found it in their hearts to protect lesbian and gay church employees in committed unions.  When will the bishops of other countries follow their shining example?

Francis DeBernardo, August 22, 2017

Related article:

Gay Star News: Australian Catholic churches threaten to fire people who marry same-sex partners”

Bishop Endorses Ban on Transgender Soldiers, Silent on Other Discrimination

Responding to President Donald Trump’s apparent ban on transgender soldiers in the military, the archbishop for the Military Services, USA released a statement endorsing the ban. Meanwhile, there’s been silence from U.S. bishops on another Trump administration act that could advance discrimination against LGBT people.

Archbishop Timothy Broglio

Archbishop Timothy Broglio opened his statement on the transgender ban with an affirmation that the church cares for all people “regardless of personal choices or conditions, because Christ offers salvation to all people.”

While Broglio supported Trump’s trans ban, he believed that the president missed the real issue about gender identity. Broglio said that trans soldiers are not problematic because of military readiness or cost, as the president claimed, but because of a deeper reason. Broglio said the ban fails “to address the essence of the issue – the dignity of the human person.”Broglio explained:

“[G]ender ideology undermines basic Christian anthropology by defining the person as a disembodied mind and the body as a mere instrument. . .Sexual orientation and gender identity issues reflect a rapidly increasing and incorrect societal attitude that individual behaviors in life should pursue immediate and personal choices rather than eternal truth.  In extending the maternal care of the Church to the faithful of this Archdiocese, it is opportune to reaffirm that personal choices in life, whether regarding the protection of the unborn, the sanctity of marriage and the family, or the acceptance of a person’s God-created biology, should be made not solely for a penultimate reality on this earth but in anticipation of the ultimate reality of sharing in the very life of God in heaven.”

Other Catholics endorsed the president’s ban, even while it is still unclear whether his tweet constituents an actual order and how such an order would be implemented. Theologian Chad Pecknold of The Catholic University of America described the ban as the “right decision” because trans people being respected “doesn’t mean that they are fit for combat in the defense of a nation.”

The Trump administration took another anti-LGBT action on the same day as the announcement of the ban, which was also the 69th anniversary of when the military was racially desegregated.

The Justice Department announced that it would no longer interpret Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars employment discrimination for certain protected classes, to be inclusive of sexual orientation. This decision reverses actions taken by President Obama’s Justice Department, which had also interpreted the law as protecting workers based on gender identity. So far, Catholic bishops in the U.S. have been silent about this discriminatory regression.

These two responses undercut church leaders’ claims that LGBT people should be shown “respect, compassion, and sensitivity.” Broglio and Pecknold speak in terms that treat trans people as objects and as problems with which the church must deal rather than understanding trans people as members of Christ’s body and gifts to the world. Their words seem to indicate they have not personally encountered a trans person and listened to such a person’s story. Their theology derives from anti-trans ideology rather than being grounded in lived realities and scientific knowledge. They certainly do not seem truly concerned with the human dignity of trans people, despite Broglio’s statement that he is.

Church leaders should vocally oppose federal actions that would allow more employment discrimination against LGBT people. While there are more complicated issues when it comes to church workers, church teaching clearly rejects the firing of an employee based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity/expression. That same church teaching says “every sign of unjust discrimination should be avoided.” The bishops’ collective silence on this issue when they have so quickly spoken out to oppose LGBT issues, such as marriage or transgender equality, is sadly telling.

In other similar situations, Church leaders have responded differently than Broglio. Pope Francis himself, whose record on gender identity is admittedly mixed, readily affirmed one nun’s ministry with transgender women in Argentina. Chicago’s Archbishop Blase Cupich said recently that “people should be called the way they want to be called.” Most of all, U.S. bishops could listen to their German peer and papal adviser, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich. He recently said the church should be more concerned with discrimination against LGBT people than marriage equality. His statement included these words:

“[It is worth recalling] that the Church has not exactly been a trailblazer as far as the rights of homosexuals are concerned. We must express our regret that we did nothing to oppose homosexuals from being prosecuted. “

Shifting positions to be truly concerned with the dignity of transgender people and discrimination against members of LGBT communities would not be difficult for the U.S. bishops if they have the will to do so. The sad reality is that even four years into Pope Francis’ leadership, that will too often remains absent.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 1, 2017

Case of Fired Transgender Teacher Comes to Unsatisfactory Decision

For nine years, Jan Buterman has been seeking justice in Canadian courts, after he was fired as a substitute teacher in a Catholic school district because he chose to transition from male to female.  A recent court decision seems to indicate that justice will not be served.

The transgender man was fired in 2009 from  the Greater St. Albert Catholic School District, Edmonton, Alberta.   Since that time there has been negotiations with the district’s administration, and several motions in court, but according to CBC-Radio Canada, a recent decision by a judge seems to have brought a close to the case, though no decision on the substance of the situation was reached.

Jan Buterman

The news outlet reported that the Alberta Court of Appeal ruled that Buterman had given up the right to bring his case to the provincial human rights commission because supposedly a few years ago he reached a financial settlement with the school district.  Buterman contends, however, that he did not accept the settlement.  The news report gave a synopsis of events:

“In October 2008, Buterman was removed from the board’s roster of substitute teachers after he notified them he was a transgender person in the process of transitioning from female to male.

” ‘Since you have made a personal choice to change your gender, which is contrary to Catholic teachings, we have had no choice but to remove you from the substitute teaching list,’ the board wrote at the time.

“A year later, Buterman filed a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission.

“The next day, the board offered him $78,000 if he’d agree to withdraw his complaint. The board asked him to promise not to make any further complaints to the human rights commission and agree to keep the deal confidential.

“Buterman rejected the offer.

“In Sept. 2010, the board made a different offer to Buterman. That offer was also rejected, but Buterman’s lawyer replied in writing that his client was willing to accept the original offer.

“The same day, the board confirmed the original offer still stood, and the two parties went back and forth about making minor changes to the wording.

“In January 2011, Buterman’s lawyer returned the money and the unsigned settlement documents, noting it had taken longer than expected to consider and discuss the issues with his client. By April 2011, Buterman was without a lawyer, so the board sent the draft documents directly to him.

“Buterman never responded directly to the board. Instead he told the media he had rejected the board’s settlement offer due to the confidentiality clause.

“More than three years passed. Then the school board applied to the human rights commission to determine if it still had jurisdiction to hear Buterman’s complaint. The board argued the parties had entered into a settlement agreement.

“After a three-day hearing on that point, the commission determined it had no remaining jurisdiction over the complaint because a deal had been reached and Buterman ‘had relinquished his human rights complaint in favour of a settlement.’ “

Buterman is disappointed in the decision, especially since none of the substantive issues of the case were discussed, and the court’s ruling hinged on procedural topics.  Buterman stated:

“It is surprising, I think, to many that this has been kind of all on procedural side issues. But those side issues are more than enough to derail the ability to actually interrogate the question of whether or not someone has the right to be fired for being trans.”

He and his lawyers have not decided what their next move is.

Buterman’s case highlights the fact that true justice in cases like his won’t come from law courts but from church officials acting justly.  At the very least, they can act in an informed manner. For instance, there is no church doctrine prohibiting gender surgery, as they claimed when they fired Buterman.

The Sisters of Mercy were able to retain a transitioned transgender teacher (and a full-time one, not a substitute) last year at one of their schools in San Francisco.  Justice was served in that case.  Other church leaders should follow their example.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, July 6, 2017



Students, Alumni Rally Round Fired Gay Teacher

Students, alumni, and other school community members gathered at St. Ignatius College Prep School, Chicago, last week to support Matthew Tedeschi, a gay teacher who was fired from the Jesuit institution this spring.

As has happened with many such protests to support other fired LGBT church employees, the demonstrators used messages derived from Catholic teaching and values to protest the dismissal of Tedeschi.  According to The Windy City Times, a sign of one of the protesters read “Make Ignatius Jesuit Again.”

Bondings 2.0 readers may recall that Tedeschi was fired after he repeatedly complained about students harassed him for over a year about his sexual orientation.  The students had learned about his being gay from searching his online dating profile.

Matt Tedeschi (right) addresses the protestors, while supported by Chris Pett (left).

At the protest, Tedeschi called for six changes at the school, according to the Windy City Times report:

“First of all, Tedeschi wants the school administration to change its nondiscrimination policy to include sexual orientation and gender identity. Next, he wants the administration to allow the LGBT student organization to post flyers in the school and make online announcements, similar to other student organizations. As of now, he said, the group is not allowed to do either of those things.

“His other demands include a ‘fair panel to decide cases of faculty dismissals’; an impartial ombudsman who is present at meetings involving employee discipline or termination; the ability for teachers to ‘have more say in drafting, implementing, and evaluating the school policies that affect them’; and the opportunity for St. Ignatius teachers to form a labor union.”

The fired teacher was joined at the protest by Chris Pett, the incoming president of DignityUSA, and Colin Collette, a former music director at a Chicago-area parish who was fired when his same-gender marriage became public.

Tedeschi noted that a firing such as his has wide repercussions for the entire community:

“Tedeschi said this lack of transparency in disciplinary practices makes teachers ‘far more afraid’ to do their jobs because they don’t know what the administration will use against them to discipline them. He said the practices are bad for young Catholics because it makes them ‘not want to be part of the Church.’ And he said the practices are bad for parents and alumni, ‘who wonder what values the administration is instilling’ in its students.”

A school official denied that sexual orientation was involved in Tedeschi’s firing:

“St. Ignatius Director of Development Ryan Bergin emailed Windy City Times, ‘We are able to say unequivocally that Mr. Tedeschi was not fired because of sexual orientation,’ adding, ‘At this time, Saint Ignatius does not have an official LGBT group however the school does run Project Unity, which is a group for students dedicated to expressing an open understanding of all people, regardless of identity.’ “

While Tedeschi said that one of the reasons he was fired was because he “undermined authority,” he also said the administration failed to offer examples of how he supposedly did so.

Tedeschi’s requested changes at the school are all in line with Catholic teaching and values.  They should be changes that all Catholic schools institute as a way to show that they are living up to their best ideals about non-discrimination of LGBT people, as well as Catholic social teaching about workers’ rights.

New Ways Ministry has been encouraging Catholic institutions to adopt non-discrimination policies to protect LGBT employees.  For more information on how to start the discussion of such policies in your Catholic community, click here.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, July 1, 2017

Latest Firing Reveals Church Worker Disputes are Really About Homophobia

Yet another church worker claims to have been fired because of sexual orientation in a case which lays bare the homophobia behind such firings.

Joshua Gonnerman

Joshua Gonnerman said he was fired from a Catholic institution because he is a gay man, reported Melinda Selmys on her blog, Catholic Authenticity

While Gonnerman has not released the details of his firing, Selmys has offered worthwhile commentary on how these firings are not about sexual behavior, but sexual orientation.

Selmys explained the Gonnerman is publicly celibate because he has decided to adhere to the magisterium’s teaching on same-gender sexual acts. He has also “been publicly involved in helping others to find life-giving ways of living that teaching out.” His support ministry was featured in an article in The Washington Post a few years ago. Selmys wrote:

“I wish I could say that this is the first time that one of my friends has lost work at a Catholic or Christian organization because of their sexual orientation, but it’s not. No amount of public fidelity to the traditional teaching on marriage, nor even the use of terminology like ‘same-sex attracted’ instead of ‘gay,’ has been sufficient to prevent discrimination within conservative Christian institutions. . .In almost all of these cases, they were told directly that their homosexuality was the cause of concern.

“This is why it makes my blood boil when people claim that there is no homophobic discrimination in Christian circles — that Christians discriminate between sinful and unsinful behaviours, not people. I know a lot more queer/SSA Christians than most folks do, and the rate at which I see blatant discrimination against my friends is high enough that nobody will ever be able to convince me that this is a rare or freakish occurrence: the work of occasional, isolated individuals rather than a symptom of systemic prejudice.”

In Selmys’ analysis,these firings are not about an ethical double-standard where heterosexual church workers are not policed in the same way that lesbian and gay people are.  They are not about lesbian and gay people whose consciences lead them to dissent from the magisterium’s prohibition on same-gender sexual acts. They are really about communicating a non-welcome to LGBTQ Christians.  In Selmys’ words:  “that we are seen as dangerous outsiders even if we choose obedience to the teaching of the Church.”

Melinda Selmys

In another post on the Catholic Authenticity blog, Selmys further engaged homophobia in the church. She acknowledged that there are numerous church workers who use contraception, yet they are never challenged “because everybody knows that if the Church suddenly fired everyone who uses contraception we would face a Catholic [church worker crisis].” Heterosexual Catholics are not expected to be perfect in their adherence to Catholic teachings about sexuality, and yet:

“[W]hen it comes to homosexuality, suddenly that’s no longer okay. If you’re gay you can expect to subjected to an inquisition by random internet trolls. . .You may be called upon at any time to publicly endorse the most harshly worded phrases from random Vatican documents concerning your sexuality. You might be literally asked to sign a document confirming your acceptance of the Church’s teaching before you can rent space in the parish hall.

“If you’re gay, the usual ways that Catholics deal with sexual desire are no longer sufficient: you must be constantly on guard against every vestige of homosexuality, and your sole purpose in life must be the crucifixion of same-sex Eros. Anything less and you’re a heretic who is probably being paid by George Soros to advance the gay agenda.”

More than 60 church workers have lost their jobs in publicly known LGBT-related disputes since 2008. You can find a listing, along with other information about employment issues, by clicking here.

Joshua Gonnerman’s firing underlines a point LGBT advocates have made before: that these firings are not about same-gender relationships or support for marriage equality, but are fundamentally about homophobia in the church and its effects. That even queer Catholics who are supportive of church teaching are beginning to speak out against these injustices is a major step forward.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, June 26, 2017

Court Decision Against Gay Employee Should Not Be Final Word

The news that a gay man’s suit against the Chicago-area Catholic parish which fired him was dismissed by a judge because of the religious exemption rule is disappointing, but should not be the last word on this case.

U.S. District Judge Charles P. Kocoras told Colin Collette, who was fired as music director from Holy Family parish, Inverness, that his suit against both the parish and the Archdiocese of Chicago was dismissed because churches are exempt from employment discrimination laws if the position in question is deemed to be ministerial.

Colin Collette

The Arlington Daily Herald reported that Kocoras viewed Collette to be a “key ministerial employee” and the judge’s decision stated:

” ‘The Supreme Court has recognized the right of religious organizations to control their own affairs,’ Kocoras wrote. ‘This right includes the freedom to “decide for themselves, free from state interference, matters of church government as well as those of faith and doctrine.” Matters of church government include the right of churches to select their own leaders.’

“Kocoras added Collette also served as a director of worship with duties ‘specifically oriented toward helping the church carry out the celebration of Mass.’ “

Collette commented to The Chicago Tribune about the ramifications of the church’s decision to fire him:

“Collette said Wednesday that the decision ‘flies in such contradiction to the wonderful things that are coming out of Rome. The pope is speaking about unity and love, and here we are creating a church of fear and division.’

His attorney saw more sinister motivations behind Collette’s firing. The Tribune captured her thoughts:

“Collette’s attorney Kerry Lavelle, who had argued that Collette’s role was not ministerial, said in a statement Wednesday that the Catholic Church has ‘chosen to stand behind its ministerial exception to discriminate against members of the gay community.’

” ‘That someone of (Collette’s) commitment and ability is prevented from pursuing their career in this day and age is a sign of how far some institutions have to go in accepting all members of society, and demonstrates that there are still many individuals who are not granted equal rights in the workplace,’ Lavelle said.”

Collette had been fired in 2014 because he announced his engagement to another man. The Arlington Daily Herald reported the comments of the then-head of the Chicago Archdiocese:

A letter from the late Cardinal Francis George, published in Holy Family’s bulletin in October 2014, stated Collette was dismissed for his “participation in a form of union that cannot be recognized as a sacrament by the church.”

Though the legal case has, at least for now, been lost, this should not be the end of this matter.  While Cardinal George had made opposition to LGBT equality a hallmark of his archdiocesan administration, the new pastoral leader of Chicago, Cardinal Blase Cupich, has been much more open to LGBT people.

While Cupich may not have been able to comment on Collette’s case while it was still going through the court, now is the time that he can offer reconciliation with this Catholic man who has been so unjustly treated.

Cardinal George’s claim that Collette’s marriage “cannot be recognized as a sacrament by the church” is a red herring.  Collette was not asking that his civil marriage be so recognized.  Catholics of all sorts may avail themselves of legally valid opportunities that are not recognized by the church and still maintain their employment in church institutions.  Why can’t Collette do so?

The judge may be right that the church does not have to follow civil law.  But the church should at least follow God’s law and treat people with respect, compassion, and dignity.  It should treat all people equally, not set up separate rules for some and not for others.

Civil law may permit Colin Collette’s firing, but Christian charity demands that he not experience discrimination.  Cardinal Cupich should meet with Collette soon, and reinstate him to his former position in Holy Family parish.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, June 9, 2017

Related articles and posts:

For all Bondings 2.0 posts which mention Collette’s story and trace its development, click here.

Cook County Record: Catholic church can’t be sued for discriminating against gay man fired as music director: Judge”

The Daily Mail: “Gay music director loses his battle against Catholic parish”



Jesuit H.S. Denies Teacher Was Fired Because He Is Gay

A Jesuit high school in Chicago is denying allegations it fired a gay teacher because of his sexual orientation, but that statement has not stopped alumni from organizing against the firing. (Bondings 2.0 reported the firing over a week ago .)

extralarge (1).jpgIn a statement to faculty and staff, administrators at St. Ignatius College Prep said, “While we cannot share details of Matt Tedeschi’s term of employment, it is important for you to know that he was not fired for his sexual orientation.”

However, no reason was given for why he was so abruptly terminated, reported DNA Info.

Tedeschi, who taught religious studies and French, was fired earlier this spring after having been at St. Ignatius for four years. Students who found his online dating profile had harassed him through social media and in the classroom since February 2016. Despite multiple reports, Tedeschi claims the administration did almost nothing to stop the harassment or to discipline the students. Tedeschi responded to the St. Ignatius administrators’ most recent statement:

“‘I was fired for asking the administration to protect me from student harassment leveled against me precisely on the basis of my sexual orientation. . .I may not have been fired solely “for” my sexual orientation, as the school writes, but I certainly was fired “because of” it.'”

Many members of the St. Ignatius community feel similarly. Alumus Christian Johns described Tedeschi to DNA Info as “arguably one of the best rookie teachers at Ignatius.” Johns said further:

 “Granted, the details are still murky, it is clear that the administration at Ignatius fails to get ahead of crises that could be handled with professional zest. The administration, community, and students have to do better so that Ignatius remains an incredible place to learn and grow.”

A petition for administrators to better support LGBT people and people of color at the school gained more than 530 signatures. A Facebook group, “SICP alumni in opposition to Tedeschi firing,” now has more than 1,200 members. The organizer of the group, Jessica Schneider, told DNA Info firing someone because of their sexual orientation is inconsistent with the school’s values:

“The school doesn’t seem to be able to have open discussions,” said Schneider. . .”I know that there are certain things that can’t be disclosed, but the reaction [from administrators] isn’t sufficient for the incident.”

Alumus Andrew Rayner wrote a blog post entitled, “On Being in the Closet at St. Ignatius.” He described the atmosphere at the school as “virulent” when it comes to homosexuality, an atmosphere that stymied his own coming out process. On this latest news about Tedeschi’s firing, Rayner commented:

“I do not know all sides of the story to explain why the teacher, who seemed to be well respected by staff, well-liked by students, and was on his way towards tenure, was fired. . .but when the issue was said and done, the students involved received small disciplinary slaps on the wrist. The teacher ended up canned.”

Rayner expressed concern not only for Tedeschi, but “the student like me who is walking the halls of St. Ignatius feeling even less supported and loved than they felt before because of this incident.” He concluded:

“I also understand as a former educator and proud, fully-out gay man the importance of modeling for young people. The failure of the school to model proper behavior in this situation is what I am most concerned about. Modeling can literally save lives. . .

“What kind of modeling is this for young people? For a school whose motto is ‘men and women for others,’ these actions by the students and the response by the school do not seem to uphold these values. As I said, it is totally within the rights of a Catholic school to not condone homosexuality. You can believe whatever you want to believe. But as an educational institution that holds itself to the standard of teaching God’s love, the school is obligated to teach respect for all people, to decry bullying, to promote justice, and to protect its young people, regardless of beliefs or identities. This is a failed teaching moment. Or, at least, the lessons taught were not ones of love.”

If Tedeschi was not fired because he is a gay man, St. Ignatius officials owe the school community and the wider church community a more thorough explanation about the incident.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, June 2, 2017