New Jersey Catholic High School Rejects Transgender Student

September 14, 2016
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Mason Catrambone with his parents, Frank and Annmarie

A Catholic high school in New Jersey has rejected a transgender student, and school officials are making shaky claims that Catholic identity was the reason behind their decision

Camden Catholic High School accepted Mason Catrambone last spring. Trouble arose when his parents informed administrators in August that their son was transitioning. In two meetings held, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported:

“The family say they told school officials at two August meetings that Mason would be willing to use the restroom in the nurse’s office, and change into gym clothes there as well.

“They did insist that Mason — who is not yet undergoing any treatment or surgical procedures — be able to wear a boy’s uniform.”

According to a joint statement from Principal Heather Crisci and the Diocese of Camden, those requests could not be met because of the school’s Catholic identity. Fr. Joseph Capella, director of Catholic identity at the school, cited natural law to defend the decision, saying “we believe we are not the creators, and at no point in our lives can we move toward being that.” Capella later said that because of the high school’s religious affiliation, “some will choose another learning environment.”

Mason, who came out as transgender this past May, said school officials “can’t look past what I’m going through, and see me as a human being. . .I’m not a transgender. . .entity. I’m not some diabolical plan to impose my transgender evilness on them.”

Mason explained how he sees the situation:

“I didn’t lose Camden Catholic. Camden Catholic lost me.”

Mason’s parents, Frank Catrambone, Sr. and Annmarie Kita, who learned about Mason’s gender issues four months ago, stand by their son. They taught Mason that “you stand up for yourself, and speak for yourself,” as he is doing now.  When they learned the news from their child, Annmarie said she was “in complete disbelief,” but the family discussed it and the parents educated themselves. Frank said despite there being a “mourning period,” the high rate of transgender youth suicides because of family rejection motivated them to respond positively:

“I heard that, and there was not a choice to make. The only thing to do was to love and support Mason.”

They are disappointed Mason will not begin at Camden Catholic this fall. A 1971 alum, Frank said he had been “very, very excited that my kid was going to have the same opportunity” there. Annmarie said the school “could have tried hard to find a way” for Mason to attend.

For now, Mason is attending an online cyber high school and raising awareness about his rejection. He told NBC Philadelphia that he wants his story shared, and says, “I felt like I was rejected even though I knew the students of Camden Catholic would accept me as one of their peers.” A Change.org petition supporting Mason has received more than 1,300 signatures so far.

Camden Catholic and the Diocese of Camden are attempting to describe the rejection of Mason as a choice the family made.  The decision, however, was the school’s to make. School officials failed to prioritize a student’s well-being, to educate themselves about gender identity issues and thereby provide appropriate supports for a transgender student. Fr. Capella’s claims about natural law theory rejecting transgender identities is debatable, and it is certainly not official church teaching.

The school officials’ decision is having repercussions in the wider Church community. Walter Browne, who attends Mass weekly with his family though is not Catholic, wrote a letter to the editor of the Inquirer which said, in part:

“Just last week, I was listening to the Gospel in which Jesus was sitting with the ‘outcasts,’ much to the consternation of the Pharisees. Now we have that same Church, at Camden Catholic, turning away a teenager who wants the benefits of the love and logic of Jesus. Just who have become the Pharisees now? Why reject anyone – gay, straight, divorced, transgendered [sic]? We all need the healing power of community and love. Open the doors to everyone.”

As more transgender youth come out, more and more Catholic schools have had to face the issue. The Diocese of Little Rock amended its 2016-2017 education policies to threaten LGBT students with expulsion if their gender identity or sexual orientation even “have the potential of causing scandal.” Earlier this year, a Catholic high school in Rhode Island attempted to ban transgender students, but reversed the decision after tremendous alumni outcry. And some Catholic bishops have vocally opposed President Barack Obama’s efforts to keep transgender youth safe and supported in public schools.

Catholic educators who oppose transgender students should educate themselves. If they do, they will find that there is no defined Catholic teaching on transgender identities or diverse gender expressions. They will find that some church leaders, like the United Kingdom’s Monsignor Keith Barltrop who heads LGBTQI outreach for the Archdiocese of Westminster, have actually called for the church to support trans people who transition. They will find that these issues are not settled. They will realize that their responsibility is to respond with the compassion and care that Jesus himself offered, always attentive to the well-being of the person in front of them.

The school year has only just begun. It would not be too late for Camden Catholic officials to learn something, apologize to Mason and his family, and welcome him with open arms.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Related article:

Philly.com:  “Petition backs transgender 14-year-old rejected from Camden Catholic”

 

 


Saint of 9/11: Remembering Fr. Mychal Judge as a Gay Priest

September 11, 2016

Today marks the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, which took the lives of 2,996 people. Catholics remember in a special way the life of victim No. 1, Fr. Mychal Judge, OFM.

Judge, frequently referred to as the “Saint of 9/11,” was not only a chaplain for the New York Fire Department and a beloved (and busy) pastoral minister.He was a gay priest. This last identity is sometimes ignored or even left out intentionally when he is remembered, but it should not be.

As we pray for the victims of 9/11, for those persons who inflicted such pain, and for peace in our world today, we would do well to consider Judge in his fullness, for the lessons he taught and the witness he provides for our church even now. Focusing on his death could obscure his life, as a 2011 feature article in New York Magazine cautioned:

“As it happens, the unembellished story of Mychal Judge’s death is just as moving — and an even more telling tribute to the chaplain, as well as to the men he served.”

Part of his busy life included ministry to LGBT people who were on the margins of the church and of society in the 1980s and 1990s.  The same article quoted above explained:

“Back in the early eighties, Judge was one of the first members of the clergy to minister to young gay men with AIDS, doing their funeral Masses and consoling their partners and family members. He opened the doors of St. Francis of Assisi Church when Dignity, a gay Catholic organization, needed a home for its AIDS ministry, and he later ran an AIDS program at St. Francis. [In 1999], he marched in the first gay-inclusive St. Patrick’s Day parade, which his friend Brendan Fay, a gay activist, organized in Queens.”

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Firefighters carrying Judge’s body from the World Trade Center rubble

Fay said that in Judge “there was a core of sadness or vulnerability in him” that made him a good minister because he “was very in touch with human vulnerability.” The priest had an apartness from it all, though, which helped him minister, too, said Fay:

” ‘He recognized the tension between the worlds he lived in. . .He’d be honored by these members of the far right, and yet at the same time he felt he had to constrain himself. There was a certain sadness about that.’ “

Judge never came out publicly, especially to the firefighters at Engine 1-Ladder 24, near his residence. But he came out selectively to many people, including gay advocates, New York City officials, and the Catholics to whom he ministered. Franciscan Fr. Brian Carroll told New York Magazine:

” ‘Mike taught me how to come out as a young man. . .And how to see sexuality as an important part of who I am. He took away the shame. For some people, sexuality is a part of their shame. Or homelessness is a part of their shame. Or addiction is a part of their shame. Mychal helped people embrace all the shame parts of themselves and turn them into something good.’ “

Judge still struggled with the church, even while he himself was quite peaceful about his sexuality, writing once from the Marian shrine at Lourdes that he felt as if he was in a “different kind of church.” Many of his brother Franciscans were surprised when it became public after his death that Judge was a gay man.

 

But Judge’s sexual orientation, for him, was an integrated part of his being and even a gift. An autobiography of the priest, written by Michael Ford, quotes Judge as saying, “Look at who we are as gay people at this moment in history, being a gift for the church, being agents of change in both church and society.”

Popular devotion to the “Saint of 9/11” is growing, as a fast-growing  website about the priest’s legacy attests. There are documentaries and biographies, including Brendan Fay’s film, “Remembering Mychal,” which was shown at World Youth Day in Poland this past July and has been screened at parishes, too. His burial site in New Jersey has become a place of pilgrimage for many people. The cause for Judge’s formal canonization is gaining steam,reported The Record, but it also has little backing from the Archdiocese of New York or the Franciscan community.

Today’s Gospel, part of the same readings proclaimed the Sunday after September 11th, 2001, includes the parables of the Lost Sheep and the Prodigal Son. They are readings about going out to the margins to find people, and about rushing out to welcome those who have come home. This Gospel seems particularly fitting for Fr. Mychal Judge, a gay man who, in his priestly ministry, rushed to the margins and welcomed home the many people he served in so many ways. Fr. Michael Duffy, OFM, concluded the homily at Judge’s funeral with the following words (you can listen to the audio version at NPR by clicking here):

“And so, this morning we come to bury Myke Judge’s body, but not his spirit. We come to bury his voice, but not his message. We come to bury his hands, but not his good works. We come to bury his heart, but not his love. Never his love.”

Fr. Mychal Judge was, and is, a gift for Catholics. Gay men in the priesthood still have to deal with structural homophobia, and disputes about priests who have come out as gay are not infrequent. Judge’s life reveals how wrong it is to reject or repress gay priests. His life is a witness to the broader truth that there are many gay priests who lead holy lives of humble service. That is why, in remembering him and learning the lessons he teaches, we must never forget that his sexual orientation was a fertile source for his ministry and his love. We must always honor the fullness of Fr. Mychal Judge’s person–the full person that God created him to be.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Related Article

National Catholic Reporter, “The joys of Mychal Judge, fallen 9/11 chaplain”


New Catholic School Policies Threaten LGBT Students with Expulsion

September 9, 2016

dolr14There’s not much of the Catholic Catechism’s call for “respect, compassion, and sensitivity” toward LGBT people in Arkansas’ Catholic schools’ new policies which enforce the idea that LGBT youth should remain closeted and quiet.

Directives about LGBT topics are part of changes made this year to the Catholic Schools Policy Manual for the Diocese of Little Rock, which covers the entire state of Arkansas. Regarding sexual orientation, the Manual says:

“Students may not advocate, celebrate, or express same-sex attraction in such a way as to cause confusion or distraction in the context of Catholic school classes, activities, or events. When discussing homosexuality or homosexual inclinations, the use of the term ‘same-sex attraction’ is preferred, as it is a more appropriate description in accordance with the truths of Catholic faith and morals.”

In a section titled “Gender Dysphoria (Transgenderism),” the Manual said students should conduct themselves “in a manner consistent with their biological sex.” Schools will treat students similarly when it comes to restroom use, uniforms, school dances, and more. The Manual continued:

“If a student’s expression of gender, sexual identity, or sexuality should cause confusion or disruption at the school, or if it should mislead others, cause scandal, or have the potential for causing scandal, then the matter will first be discussed with the student and his/her parents. If the issue is not resolved to the satisfaction of the school, whose primary goal must always be to uphold Catholic truths and principles, then the student may be dismissed from the school, after the parents are first given the opportunity to withdraw the student from the school.”

The Manual states that, even if alumni procure legal name changes, any documents will be issued in the following way, “Original Name, n.k.a. New Legal Name” (“n.k.a.” stands for “now known as”) These policies will affect over 6,700 students in the diocese’s 27 Catholic schools, reported THV 11.

The diocese is defending these policies by saying they adhere to church teaching and preserve Catholic identity, but students, alumni, and parents disagree. Katy Simmons, a parent of a student at Catholic High School for Boys, Little Rock, said the Manual “does not convey the message I want my son to learn.” A current student, who remained anonymous, described the Manual as “non-Christ-like and discriminatory” and said the diocese should be “much more merciful about this.”

Recent graduate Tyler Gibbons, a gay student who was part of the first same-gender couple welcomed to Catholic High School for Boys’ prom, said the school was “where [LGBT peers] felt safe” to find who they are and what they seek in life. But that is no longer the case because there is now “fear of being reprimanded by the diocese.”

Sarah Vestal, another alumna of Catholic High School for Boys, told THV 11 she believes that the diocese’s directives are partly responding to her, as she is the school’s first transgender graduate:

” ‘I came out and came back for my 40th high school reunion last year.  So, they had to face me for the first time.’ . . . Vestal said she and Bishop Taylor had ideas about which bathroom she should be allowed to use.  She said Taylor also will not allow her to have a copy of her diploma with her new name. . .Vestal and others said they have spoken to Taylor directly, and he has refused to remove the addendum.”

Tippi McCullough, who was fired in 2013 from Mount St. Mary Academy in Little Rock because she married her wife, said that if the diocese does not “want to bring scandal against your school, then don’t do things that discriminate against children.”

Some Catholic schools have instituted policies which restrict LGBT youth, such as banning same-gender prom dates or using biological sex in official documents. A Catholic high school in Rhode Island even attempted to ban transgender students, though that decision was withdrawn after alumni protested.

But the Arkansas policies seem wholly different in scope and intensity. The Manual explicitly eliminates almost every support that might be offered to LGBT students, and then goes further to stifle students’ expression. Threatening expulsion for students who even “have the potential for causing scandal” is pastorally-insensitive and damaging to student’s development.

These policies were clearly not written by people with expertise in education, adolescent development, LGBT issues, or even church teaching. Admonitions to only use “same-sex attraction” contradicts the pope, who has used the word “gay” when speaking about homosexuality. These policies may be enforcing a set of values, but those values are not Catholic.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Priest Who Blessed Lesbian Couple’s Love Now Facing Church Sanctions

September 8, 2016
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Fr. José García with Carmen and Lucia

A Spanish priest is facing disciplinary sanctions after blessing a same-gender couple the day before their civil marriage.

Fr. José García held a “blessing of love” for Carmen and Lucia at Saint Bartholemew Church in Onda, Spain. The July 30th ceremony was attended by their family and friends. García explained the women sought to “celebrate the love they have for God and the love which exists between them,” according to the blog Dos ManzanasThe couple was married in a civil ceremony the next day.

This blessing became public in late August when a conservative Spanish new outlet posted about it, eliciting a response from the Diocese of Segorbe-Castellón. Acknowledging first that lesbian and gay people should not be discriminated against, the diocese’s statement quoted Pope Francis in saying “there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family [Amoris Laetitia, no. 251].”

According to the statement. Fr. García was then visited by both the diocese’s Vicar General and Bishop Casmiro López Llorent who demanded an explanation from the priest. The diocese said Fr. García admitted to the bishop the “grave error” of his actions, saying they were motivated by “an erroneous application of mercy” that “did not distinguish the welcome and pastoral accompaniment of persons” from what may seem like approval of same-gender marriage.

The statement reported that the priest apologized to people who considered the blessing scandalous, and he promised not to act similarly in the future. But recanting is seemingly not enough for Bishop López, reported Euro Weekly. The diocese has opened a canonical investigation against Fr. García to see whether formal sanctions should be applied for blessing the love between two people.

Critics of the diocese’s actions have noted the differing speeds with which this case and clerical sexual abuse allegations have been dealt with. Loottis, a Spanish LGBT blog, wrote:

“What is amazing is the speed with which the diocese of Segorbe-Castellón has reacted to this case and in contrast to other scandals which starred members of the Church as happened with the scandal of ‘The Romanones’ in Granada in which several priests were accused of abusing minors for years and the Spanish hierarchy hurried from the first moment to preserve the innocence of the priests involved.”

Loottis noted, too, that Bishop López has made LGBT-negative remarks in the past. In 2013, he said marriage equality had led to a “significant increase in children with severe personality disturbances” and that families led by lesbian and gay people created environments that “frequently ends in violence.”

It is quite sad that the diocese has punished Fr. García so severely, and that more sanctions may be coming. Media reports have been limited to the diocese’s account as the priest has either largely chosen to keep quiet or been silenced. But the limited statements he has made, explaining this incident as a blessing that celebrates love of God and between two people speaks volumes.

If the church blesses animals, ships, church vestments, eggs, and so much more, why are ministers barred from blessing the holy love that exists between two people? The hierarchy’s opposition to same-gender marriages is well known. But blessing love and supporting couples is precisely the type of pastoral accompaniment to which Pope Francis has called the church, even if such relationships do not conform to the heteronormative standards of the Magisterium. There is no love which is wrong, and there is no love outside God’s embrace.

The good news is that God clearly blesses the love between Carmen and Lucia, and their desire to have that love blessed in the church acknowledges their reciprocal love for God. Priests should not be punished for recognizing these realities, and being good pastoral ministers to LGBT people who have been marginalized. The only “grave error” in this incident will be if the canonical investigation now underway were to imperil Fr. García’s priesthood because he was simply a good priest.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 


Fr. James Martin to Receive New Ways Ministry’s Bridge Building Award

September 6, 2016

For an updated version of this page, please click here. 

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Fr. James Martin, SJ


New Ways Ministry is proud to announce the presentation of our Bridge Building Award to Father James Martin, SJ, in recognition of his ministry of communication which has helped to expand the dialogue on LGBT issues in the Catholic Church.

The award will be presented at a ceremony on Sunday, October 30, 2016, 2:00-5:00 p.m., at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, 1726 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville, Maryland, 21208 (near Baltimore).  Immediately following the presentation Fr. Martin will offer remarks.  An hors d’oeuvre reception will conclude the event.


For information on attending the award ceremony for Fr. Martin, click here

For information on honoring Fr. Martin on this occasion, click here.


Fr. Martin serves as Editor At Large for America magazine, the national Jesuit opinion journal.  In addition, he is one of the most widely recognized Catholic personalities on social media, with a Facebook following of close to half a million people.  Fr. Martin has used his communication skills and channels to allow for an extensive discussion of LGBT issues among Catholics of varying ideologies.

To read all of Bondings 2.0 blog posts which refer to Fr. Martin, click here.

New Ways Ministry’s Bridge Building Award honors those individuals who by their scholarship, leadership, or witness have promoted discussion, understanding, and reconciliation between the LGBT community and the Catholic Church. The award was first given in 1992 to Father Charles Curran, a renowned moral theologian. Other awardees were: Bishop Thomas Gumbleton (1995);  Sister Margaret Farley, RSM (2002); Mary Ellen and Casey Lopata (2005); John J. McNeill (2009).

The October 30th award ceremony and reception are open to the public. A suggested donation is $35 per person (all are welcome regardless of ability to donate). If you would like to attend the event, please click here, and fill out the form by October 20th.

If you would like to honor Fr. Martin’s achievements in a special way, New Ways Ministry invites you to have your name or your organization’s name listed in the program booklet for the event.  You may choose to be listed in one of the following categories:

  • Patron ($1,000 donation)
  • Benefactor ($500 donation)
  • Supporter ($250 donation)
  • Contributor ($100 donation)
  • Friend ($50 donation)

To have your name or organization’s name listed, please click here and fill out the form by Ocvtober 7th.

If you have any problems with the online form, please contact New Ways Ministry at 301-277-5674 or info@NewWaysMinistry.org.

Father Martin is the author and editor of numerous books including Seven Last Words: An Invitation to a Deeper Friendship with Jesus, and The Abbey: A Story of Discovery. His 2014 publication  Jesus: A Pilgrimage was a New York Times bestseller and won both a Christopher Award and a Catholic Press Association Award. Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor and Laughter are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life was named as one of “Best Books” of 2011 by Publishers Weekly.

His book on Jesuit spirituality The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life, a New York Times bestseller, was awarded a 2010 Christopher Award, and was also a number one bestseller in Catholic books.  His memoir My Life with the Saints (Loyola, 2006), which received a 2007 Christopher Award, was named one of the “Best Books” of 2006 by Publishers Weekly, and also received a First Place award from the Catholic Press Association.  Together on Retreat: Meeting Jesus in Prayer is an e-book that uses the technology of the e-reader to lead readers on a guided retreat.

For further information call (301) 277-5674 or email info@NewWaysMinistry.org

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


NEWS NOTES: September 6, 2016

September 6, 2016

News NotesHere are some news items that you might find of interest:

  1. Vice President Joe Biden, a Catholic, made headlines last month when he officiated at a same-gender wedding.  Several church officials criticized him for the action.  DelawareOnline.com reports that a small group of Catholics staged a protest at the Diocese of Wilmington’s (Delaware) chancery, calling on Bishop Francis Malooly to “repudiate Joe Biden or resign.”  Biden is from Delaware.
  2. Bondings 2.0 blog post by Cristina Traina about Pope Francis’ comments on the “ideological colonization” of gender was picked up and re-distributed by Religion News Service.  Traina revised the article for the new publication.
  3. Diane DeBernardo, who has participated in several New Ways Ministry pilgrimages, was the subject of a National Catholic Reporter personality profile that examined, among other things, her involvement in starting her parish’s LGBT outreach ministry.  She is also the sister of New Ways Ministry Executive Director Francis DeBernardo.
  4. DignityUSA, an organization of LGBT Catholics, recently called on U.S. Senator Marco Rubio not to appear at an Orlando conference of anti-LGBT groups, which took place on the two-month anniversary of the Orlando nightclub massacre, reported Miami New Times.
  5. Fr. Mike Tegeder, a Minnesota priest who was a strong supporter of LGBT rights, has passed away from lung cancer.  The Minneapolis Star-Tribune said he was “a vocal critic of former Archbishop John Nienstedt and the church’s attempts to block gay marriage, opposition that threatened Tegeder’s status as priest at his two Minneapolis churches, St. Frances Cabrini and Gichitwaa Kateri. He kept his bus driver’s license up to date in case he was dismissed from the priesthood.”

On Labor Day, A Reminder to Church Leaders: Legal Exemptions Do Not Exempt God’s Law

September 5, 2016

Workers 2016“This Labor Day, we draw our attention to our sisters and brothers who face twin crises—deep trials in both the world of work and the state of the family. These challenging times can pull us toward despair and all the many dangers that come with it. Into this reality, the Church shares a word of hope, directing hearts and minds to the dignity of each human person and the sanctity of work itself, which is given by God.”

So begins this year’s Labor Day statement from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. But the faithful who read the statement should be forgiven for wondering just what “word of hope” the church can offer when its leaders so routinely fire LGBT church workers.

Today’s Bondings 2.o post draws attention to the twin crises facing church workers: the discrimination they face working for church institutions and having the sanctity of their families impugned by church leaders. The Archdiocese of Newark is the epicenter of church worker justice debates right now, as both lesbian educator Kate Drumgoole and gay priest Fr. Warren Hall face sanctions for following the holy path of living as one’s authentic self.

Drumgoole was fired from Paramus Catholic High School last January after school officials became aware of her same-gender marriage. The much beloved former Dean of Guidance and women’s basketball coach is now suing the school and the archdiocese. Hall has been suspended from active ministry, in part for supporting Drumgoole and other LGBT efforts. He had been fired from his job as the director of campus ministry at Seton Hall University last year.  Later, he came out as a gay man.

Archbishop John Myers, an already controversial prelate with checkered histories on LGBT issues and his handling of abusive clergy, figures centrally in both incidents. Yesterday’s post featured criticisms of how quickly he has dismissed gay church workers while protecting priests against whom credible allegations of sexual abuse of children have been filed.

It became public that Fr. Thomas Nydegger, the archbishop’s Vicar General, said Drumgoole’s position as a guidance counselor “makes her gay marriage and gay lifestyle (whether overt or covert) particularly odious.” An editorial from the Star-Ledger commented:

“Odious, as defined by Merriam Webster online, is ‘deserving hatred or repugnance.’ So what Nydegger said is, quite literally, hateful.

“Contrast that with what Pope Francis said about gay priests: ‘Who am I to judge?’ The Pope argues the first purpose of the church is to proclaim God’s merciful love for all people, and says it should seek forgiveness from gays for the way it has treated them.

“Drumgoole’s firing is the perfect example. Thousands of Paramus Catholic alumni expressed outrage in a letter to school administrators: ‘You institutionalize the kind of oppressive worldview that leads students to bully and verbally abuse other students based on their sexual orientation,’ their petition says.”

That editorial noted the genuine debate over First Amendment protections now playing out in the United States, and said the Church and State issue “is a genuinely difficult legal question.” But it continued:

“Regardless of the legal debate, though, one thing is certain: The archdiocese has acted abysmally. Since learning that Drumgoole is gay, after photos of her 2014 wedding were circulated by a vindictive relative, the archdiocese has referred to her as ‘a poor role model.’

“That’s rich. Countless teachers, parents and students at Paramus Catholic have vouched for her admirable leadership. Drumgoole was once a two-time captain and star player of the Paramus Catholic girls’ basketball team. She had risen through the ranks at her alma mater, and recently been promoted to an administrative role.

“Myers, meanwhile, was protecting pedophile priests and using church money to build himself an opulent retirement mansion, while removing a popular gay priest from Seton Hall against the will of parishioners, accusing him of having an ‘agenda.’ Right.”

The Star-Ledger editorial concluded by slamming the Archdiocese whose “hypocrisy is striking,” and who supported the firing  of a lesbian woman “because of church bigotry.”

There is no “word of hope” coming from Archbishops Myers towards church workers or towards Catholics generally. The Archdiocese has noted direct the hearts and minds of God’s people to respecting the dignity of Kate Drumgoole, Fr. Warren Hall, or any LGBT church worker. Certainly, the institutions shows no appreciation for the sanctity of the work such people perform in service to the church and to the world. Instead, church leaders in Newark and elsewhere create hostile environments in church institutions and denigrate the love and the families of same-gender couples.  More than 60 church workers have lost their jobs in LGBT-related employment disputes since 2008.

Thankfully, Catholics can turn to one another and to their local communities for words of hope which help us orient our lives on each person’s dignity and the positive value of work affirmed in church teaching. Nearly 4,000 people, including alumni from every graduating class at Paramus Catholic, have signed an open letter condemning the firing of Kate Drumgoole. Alfred Doblin, an editor for The Record which has tracked these Newark church worker stories closely, wrote these words:

“I reject the notion that the Gospels call for the firing of someone because they have found a life partner of the same sex. Love is not gender-specific.

“This isn’t complicated. It should not require attorneys or theologians. We are supposed to fall in love. We should not be fired for finding something so basic to human survival. . .So close your eyes again. Think of your spouse. Think of how you would feel if he or she lost a job because of your love for them.

“Church officials want us to believe that allowing a married lesbian to work in a Catholic school and coach basketball violates the teachings of their faith. That argument rings hollow. . .The courts may rule Paramus Catholic has an exemption from the state Law Against Discrimination. But the court will be silent on whether Paramus Catholic has an exemption from the New Testament.”

The bishops’ claims about religious and ministerial exemptions when it comes to church workers are not ironclad, however.  Several fired employees have won legal cases against their former employers. An increasing number of positive responses when church workers have come out as LGBT have also emerged. New Ways Ministry tracks such “Legal Victories” and “Positive Responses” in regularly updated features on our page about Catholicism, Employment, and LGBT Issues.

This Labor Day, our church must remember the essential truth pointed out by Alfred Doblin when it comes to exemptions: that civil law and God’s law are not synonymous, and that we are ultimately accountable to God’s law which is about not only justice, but mercy.

The Year of Mercy will end in just a few months, and I still believe that church worker justice should be a central concern for this Jubilee Year. It is not too late to turn the page on this wounding period in church history and, in the words of Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, rectify these firings. No LGBT church worker should lose a job because of who they are or whom they love. Taking that step would certainly be a “word of hope” in which God’s people could find life.

Consider praying New Ways Ministry’s “Labor Day Prayer for LGBT Workers in the Catholic Church“. You can read past Labor Day coverage from 2015 (here), 2014 (here), 2013 (here), and 2012 (here).

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

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry