Did the Vatican Reject France’s Openly Gay Ambassador?

April 12, 2015

Did the Vatican reject an ambassador because he is an openly gay man?

News reports that the Holy See has not accepted the new French ambassador are spreading quickly, but due caution is necessary before conclusions can be drawn. If true, however, this is a troubling sign for a papacy which, so far, has had a pretty good record on LGBT issues.

Laurent Stéfanini

Though nominated in January, Laurent Stéfanini, France’s choice as Ambassador to the Holy See has not yet received official recognition from papal officials, and the Vatican Press Office is refusing to comment on this delay.

The Guardian  reported that an anonymous source inside the Vatican, said that Stéfanini met with Archbishop Luigi Ventura, Apostolic Nuncio to France, in February. Reportedly, the nuncio asked Stéfanini, who has previous experience at the French embassy at the Holy See, to decline the nomination because he was openly gay. Further rumors, reported in the French weekly Le Journal du Dimanche, claim that it was Pope Francis himself who sought to replace Stéfanini.

What then to make of this potentially tragic scenario which, if true, could undermine much of the progress Pope Francis made on LGBT issues? Michelle Boorstein writes at The Washington Post that Stéfanini is a qualified candidate with support from many, including church leaders, but there may be greater politics at play. She writes:

“No matter what’s going on privately at the Vatican over the appointment, the decision to appoint an openly-gay ambassador to the Vatican (even one as experienced in Paris-Vatican diplomacy as Stéfanini) was interpreted by some Vatican watchers as both a provocation and a challenge to the Vatican by the French government.

“That being said, the appointment reportedly had the support of the archbishop of Paris, Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, who is said to have written a letter to the pope in support of the nomination.”

Also necessary to consider is that the Vatican has previously rejected nominated ambassadors for their personal lives, often related to their marital status. The Post reports:

“In 2008, France tried and failed to appoint several candidates to the same job after its previous ambassador died. ‘The first candidate was divorced … another Protestant, and the last not only homosexual but … stably united with an official companion,’ Italian paper La Repubblica reported at the time.”

Official sources at the Vatican and the French Embassy are remaining quiet, leaving these reports grounded in unnamed Vatican sources. The Vatican should be transparent about the reasons for this delay and, if they are rejecting France’s nominee, be clear about the reasons why an otherwise qualified person is being denied.  At the very least, the Vatican should confirm or deny whether Stéfanini’s sexual orientation is at issue.

There is no clear link to Pope Francis, and given his previous statements on gay people, this rejection would seem uncharacteristic of him. Remaining silent about the charges leveled, however, only leads to potentially damaging misinformation and France, along with worldwide Catholics, are owed an explanation.

Though reports about this matter are plentiful, prudence dictates that no hasty conclusions be drawn about why Stéfanini has not yet been credentialed as France’s ambassador yet. At this point, though, the Vatican’s silence is as harmful as rejection. Let us hope it is for reasons other than his identity as created by God.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Gay Teacher Case in Omaha Affects Community, Statehouse, and Future

April 11, 2015

Matthew Eledge

In Omaha, the repercussions of Skutt H.S.’s decision not to renew the teaching contract of gay teacher Matthew Eledge are reverberating in the local community, the statehouse, and, perhaps even into the future.

The Catholic school made the employment decision when they learned from the English teacher and speech coach that he plans on marrying his partner, a man.  Immediately, students, parents and alumni organized a petition drive–with over 45,000 signatures in two days–to support Eledge.  But perhaps the most interesting developments are yet to come, as Eledge has stated that, as far as he knows, he is still employed by the school to finish out the academic year.

KETV reported that Eledge told them

“. . . that he respects the school and the Archdiocese.

“Eledge also said, while he’s scared and nervous, he is also humbled by the outreach from alumni, parents and the community.”

The case had repercussions at the Nebraska statehouse in Lincoln. KETV stated:

“Some state lawmakers sounded off during debate on the Legislature floor. . . .

” ‘No one should be fired or judged on the ridiculous standard of whom they love,’ Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks said.”

If you would like to see a copy of the Archdiocese of Omaha’s teacher contract, click here.

The case illustrates the importance of laws outlawing LGBT discrimination, though with the inclusion of religious exemptions, these laws would still not be applicable to Catholic institutions. In an Associated Press article, Steven Willborn, a University of Nebraska employment discrimination law professor said that a 2012 Omaha law and a proposed state law are both not applicable to Eledge’s case because of religious exemptions.

Wilborn was not without hope, though.  The article reported:

“Any reversal would be more likely to come from a public opinion backlash, Willborn said, such as seen recently in Indiana when that state’s lawmakers passed a religious objections law that critics said would sanction discrimination against gays and lesbians.

” ‘Of course, the public opinion that would matter most at Skutt would be what their parents and supporters and donors think,’ Willborn said.”

The inclusion of a financial factor in Willborn’s analysis raises an important question.  Throughout the last few years as we witnessed the over 40 employment disputes over LGBT issues in Catholic institutions, we have seen Catholic people protesting these unjust decisions from a faith perspective.   The most significant feature of these protests has been the outpouring support from young people.

While Catholic school leaders need to question the justice of their actions in regard to dismissing employees over LGBT issues, they also need to think about the practical consequences for the future of these institutions.  Will this next generation of Catholic students consider sending their children to schools which discriminate against LGBT people?  If they don’t, how much longer will Catholic schools survive?

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Church Worker Dispute Unites Community, Prompts Students to Come Out

April 10, 2015

Dowling Catholic students gathered in prayer during the walkout.

Though church officials’ employment disputes with LGBT church workers continue, faith communities are increasingly resisting such discrimination being perpetuated in their names. The community of Dowling Catholic High School, Des Moines, Iowa, site of one of the most recent cases, is a perfect example.

A moment of healing and unity occurred when more than 150 people prayed together following a student walkout on Wednesday. As one student described it:

“Students spoke their minds, spread words of love, held hands in prayer and even mustered up the courage to come out as gay/lesbian/bisexual in front of their peers.”

In prayer, those gathered were protesting the school’s decision to deny Tyler McCubbin a teaching job for being openly gay, while at the same time they were making known their support for LGBT students. Sophomore organizer Grace Mumm told The Des Moines Register:

” ‘I just want the community to know that this is a really important topic, and that just because our school officials or diocesan leaders might have made this decision, it does not directly reflect what we believe as students.’ “

Parents and alumni expressed their concerns to The Register, which ranged from the negative impact on educational quality and fundraising to the anti-Christian nature of such acts and how they turn young people away from faith. Brendan Comito, a parent and alum, said:

” ‘It saddens me that our school treated someone in that manner. I don’t think this is how Christ would act’…[School officials] are missing out on a lot of talented people who can have a positive impact.’ “

Message from Tyler McCubbin in Facebook group

Tyler McCubbin’s message to a Facebook group of his supporters.

Concerns are also high about the wellbeing of LGBT and questioning students at Dowling Catholic, as such youth can be particularly vulnerable to mental health issues, self-harm, and suicide in such a formative life moment. McCubbin applauded students for “exercising their right to protest in terms of social justice,” adding:

“I want those students to know I want to be there for them, but I’m not allowed to be there because I’ve been true to myself…I hope there is a continued dialogue about discrimination and religion…The two together in the same sentence is a big oxymoron. It’s ridiculous that an institution that preaches peace and tolerance and so many great things about human beings can still discriminate against people who are just themselves.’ “

The school announced it will not be disciplining students who participated in the walk out, according to marketing manager Tara Nelson. Officials did, however, send letters to parents and alumni to explain their reasons for denying a contract offer to McCubbin. Reports indicate that due to Iowa’s religious exemptions in nondiscrimination laws, Dowling Catholic administrators are on firm legal ground in their decision.

The school’s negative decision, however, has become a rallying point for positive developments to emerge.

Kate Courter, a junior at Dowling, said she was able to come out to her parents as bisexual because the incident was being discussed at home and other students came out as gay and bisexual during the walkout rally.

Elsewhere, students began a Change.org petition, accessible here, asking the school to sponsor an LGBT support group and organizers are meeting with Dowling administrators to discuss how the school can better care for its students.

Faithful America, in their own petition here, is asking Des Moines’ Bishop Richard Pates to end the de facto “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the diocese’s Catholic institutions.

More than 2,100 people have joined the Facebook group “Dowling Catholic Alumni, Faculty, and Students Against Discrimination” and are organizing around the hashtag, #DowlingCares.

Share this graphic on Facebook!

Share this graphic on Facebook!

Despite the tragedy of the school’s action, these acts of resistance are hopeful signs for the church’s future. To educate and minister to God’s people requires that church workers be their truest selves, ministering in openness and authenticity. For the good of the church’s mission, LGBT church workers must be welcomed to live as God created them so they can share their gifts with the students.

The intensity and frequency of movements to support church workers is increasing. Local communities, often led by high school students, are less and less afraid to say “no” to LGBT injustices committed by church officials. In a twist, their actions show how, contrary to discriminatory policies, Catholic schools are succeeding at forming students for a lived faith that does justice.

To lend your support, consider signing the above petitions or voicing your support on social media.

For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of these 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 40 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


The Life and Times of the ‘Gayest Catholic Parish’ in the U.S.

April 9, 2015

The National Catholic Reporter’s Tom Fox greatly helped the burgeoning movement of gay-friendly Catholic parishes in the U.S. by publishing a five-part series examining the life of one such parish, Most Holy Redeemer (MHR), San Francisco, which he notes is often referred to as “the gayest Catholic parish in the nation.”

The interior of Most Holy Redeemer parish church.

Fox’s series on this parish should be read by anyone interested in Catholic LGBT ministry.  Links to the individual articles are interspersed throughout this post, as well as listed individually at the end.

What emerges from this in-depth examination, however, is not how extra-ordinary MHR is as a Catholic community, but, instead, more about how much it is similar to every other well-run parish.  It is a center of faith which responds to both the spiritual and practical needs of the people in its neighborhood.

MHR’s welcoming atmosphere is partly a result of the fact that it is located in the Castro neighborhood of SF, probably the largest LGBT communities in the country.  But what is interesting is that not all parishioners are locals.  Fox pointed out that many people travel from all over the Bay Area to attend Mass and programs there.

Young people, a demographic that seems to be disappearing in most Catholic parishes, are one group in particular that have found MHR to be a spiritual home.  Fox explains:

“Younger Catholics come from around the Bay, making up much of the parish. The very diversity that once moved some Catholics to flee MHR now seems to draw others, especially younger ones who feel at home and want to help prepare their children to live in an increasingly diverse world.”

That’s a lesson that many Catholic parishes should learn:  if you want to attract younger people, welcome the LGBT community.

Fox raises an issue which many LGBT-friendly Catholic parishes face:  how to be welcoming when so many LGBT people are suspicious of official Catholicism.  Jim Stockholm, a longtime MHR parishioner, explained the challenge:

“It’s the Catholic faith. It’s got a bad rap in the LGBT community. We have an archbishop who helped fund and led the charge against same-sex marriage. All that translates down to, in some way, our parish. We’re in the Castro, in the community, and so we have the challenge to overcome that, to say we are welcoming.”

While certainly unique because its parishioners are predominantly members of the LGBT community, the parish operates very similarly to other parishes of its size. In the third part of the series, Fox examined an important question for MHR and for many LGBT-friendly parishes:  Are they the “gay parish” or are they a Catholic parish that welcomes gays?  Parishioners seemed to be definite that MHR was the latter, and not the former.  One member, Bob Barcewski said:

“We don’t see ourselves as a gay community, but rather as a community that’s open to gays.There’s nothing in this church — no functions — that are gay here. There’s nothing gay about what we do here. It’s an acceptance and a realization that people feel OK to be who they are that makes this place different. It’s also a history of knowing that this was one of the few places anywhere, where people who were catching a mysterious disease and dying like flies, stepped up and responded.”

Most Holy Redeemer parishioners march in San Francisco’s gay pride parade.

Indeed, when the AIDS epidemic hit the Bay Area in the mid-1980s, it was at the same time that the parish had begun to open their doors to the LGBT community.  Ministering to people with HIV and AIDS became a focus of the parish’s ministry.  The fourth part of the series examines this critical time in the parish’s life, and it notes that MHR’s outreach is recognized by many others in San Francisco as being pioneering.

Their solidarity with those who suffer now extends to the homeless community, with weekly suppers, which, as one parishioner pointed out, are more accurately described as “banquets.”

In the fifth and final installment, Fox summarized his experience of researching this series.  His comments serve as a reminder of the importance of LGBT ministry in the Catholic Church:

“In dozens of interviews over several weeks with MHR parishioners, I found both pain and an eagerness to celebrate. I found a desire to be better understood by the wider church community. I found a willingness to forgive. I found much openness and universal abhorrence of judgment.

“I found hope, sometimes fledgling, that [Pope] Francis, given enough time, can change the course of the church, especially in how the institution affects the lives of LGBT Catholics. I found an extraordinary eagerness to come together as people of faith to help each other in ways big and small. I found, in words often suggested by Most Holy Redeemer parishioners, community in the Castro.”

Accompanying this five-part series are two side-bar articles which allow the voices of LGBT Catholics to be amplified:  1) a profile of Robert Pickering, a gay Catholic man from Denver who, like many other out-of-town LGBT Catholics, visited MHR when he was in San Francisco one Sunday; 2) snippets of conversations from the dozens of interviews that Fox conducted with MHR parishioners.

The series certainly does justice to the immense amount of faith-filled outreach that this community of and for LGBT people has accomplished.  The work done here is a perfect example of the hundreds of Catholic parishes across the nation who have welcoming LGBT ministries.  You can find a list of many of them by clicking here.

To read all previous posts on LGBT-friendly Catholic parishes and pastoral work, go the the category “All Are Welcome”  or click here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

      Links to Tom Fox’s National Catholic Reporter series             on Most Holy Redeemer parish, San Francisco:

1)  ‘Gayest’ US Catholic parish strives to maintain openness, accepting

2)  Though welcoming, inclusive parish can be a tough sell to LGBT community

3)  ‘There’s nothing gay about what we do here’

4)  LGBT-friendly parish has long history of ministry to homeless, sick

5)  Finding community in the Castro

Side-bar articles

1)  One gay Catholic’s journey

2)  ‘Most Holy Redeemer is our home’

 

 

 

 

 

 


Two Gay Teachers Fired from Midwest Catholic Schools

April 8, 2015

Matthew Eledge in photos with speech students

News that gay educators in Iowa and Nebraska were fired from the Catholic schools where they had been teaching broke yesterday, prompting swift outcry from local communities.

Matthew Eledge

Since 2010, Matthew Eledge taught English and coached the speech team at Skutt Catholic High School in Omaha. Now, KETV 7 reports that Eledge’s contract was not renewed for the coming school year after the teacher informed administrators of his December engagement to partner Elliot Dougherty.

Students responded quickly, launching a Change.org petition that gathered almost 15,600 signatures in eight hours. They claim Eledge attempted to postpone the wedding so he could continue teaching, but was told by administrators he would have to end his relationship with Dougherty to preserve his job, and he would be fired immediately if any of this was mentioned to students.

In later portions of the petition, Eledge is extolled by the students who call him a “living example of what it means to be a SkyHawk [the school’s mascot].” They write:

“A core belief at Skutt Catholic is to inspire ‘moral and ethical leadership by not only educating, but also requiring students to provide service to, embrace diversity within, and seek justice for their communities and the marginalized in our society’. As parents, former teachers, alumni, and individuals who support the Skutt Catholic community: we demand the administration embrace diversity and stand up for justice by not discriminating against a teacher that has inspired hundreds of students and future leaders in the community.”

In response to this student-led protest, Deacon Tim McNeil of the Archdiocese of Omaha defended the firing. In an interview with The Omaha World-Herald, he said the archdiocese does not publicly discuss contract renewals, but he did note that all teacher contracts include language about upholding Church teaching, and that this would include not marrying someone of the same gender.

Tyler McCubbin

Tyler McCubbin

Dowling Catholic High School in Des Moines allegedly revoked a job offer made to Tyler McCubbin because he is gay.

McCubbin, who has been a substitute teacher and track coach since last fall, applied for a position to teach social sciences and was offered it by the school’s president. This offer, however, was revoked after a social media check revealed McCubbin’s same-sex relationship. KCCI 8 quotes McCubbin:

” ‘I said, “Yes it’s true. I’ve been engaged for almost a year now.” And they said, “Because of that, we can’t offer you the contract…What’s so shocking is in an institution where they preach tolerance and love and respect for everyone, no matter what your background is, they don’t uphold to those teachings.’ ”

” ‘I walk into Dowling every day, actually. [I’m] really blessed to be able to substitute at a school like Dowling. The structure is great, the kids are great.’ “

Dowling students are planning a walkout today and alumni have spoken out against the school’s decision, reports KCCI 8. In a press release, organizer Grace Mumm said the walkout is happening because students “cannot let this issue slide without voicing that love” for all. Alum Sydney Schulte added:

“If a qualified teacher can’t be accepted because of his sexual orientation, why should any LGBTA+ students feel the same way?”

The school’s superintendent, Luvern Gubbels, claims McCubbin was never offered a job because the hiring process was still underway and says he may be acting upon a verbal claim by a school official that McCubbin was the top choice. A further statement from Bishop Richard Pates, obtained by Call To Action, did not name McCubbin but admits that an individual was not offered a job at Dowling because “It came to the school’s attention through the social media scan that the applicant is in a same-sex relationship and is engaged.”

Matthew Eledge and Tyler McCubbin join more than 40 other church workers who have lost their jobs over LGBT issues since 2008. Scott Alessi writes about this troubling trend for U.S. Catholic, which includes a survey about whether Catholic institutions should fire church workers over these issues that you can access here. Alessi, however, is clear that these firings are unjust, writing:

“The selective scrutiny in focusing on only a handful of teachings related to sexuality also sets a double standard in the workplace…Pope Francis has repeatedly called for a church of mercy, one that does not focus on the faults of its members or obsess over a narrow set of doctrinal issues. The church’s employment policies should take a similar approach…

“It is time to end the witch hunt for employees within the ranks of the church who may not always be living according to the letter of the law. If such a strict test were truly applied across the board so that anyone who sins were to be fired, everyone from the pope on down would lose their job. Instead of trying to purge the church of employees who may not meet the ideal, it is time to craft a new approach that appreciates their gifts and talents, recognizes the value of their contributions, and helps to point them—and all whom they encounter in their work—toward the gospel.”

These two most recent firings hammer home how, indeed, it is time for a new approach.

For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of these 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 40 incidents since 2008 where church workers have lost their jobs over LGBT identity, same-sex marriages, or public support for equal rights.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Catholics Respond to Indiana’s Controversial RFRA Law

April 7, 2015

Gov. Mike Pence signing Indiana’s “right to discriminate” law, surrounded by religious leaders

In the days since Indiana passed its Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), reactions to this “right to discriminate” law and similar bills have captured national attention. Below, Bondings 2.0 summarizes Catholic responses with links provided for further reading.

While initially calling for dialogue and mutual respect, Indiana’s five bishops clarified their position in a second statement about the changes to RFRA. These changes, which added sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes when it comes to spheres like housing and employment, make the bishops wonder that the revised law “may undermine religious freedom.” It is worth noting that Indiana’s bishops endorsed the original RFRA bill in February.

Weighing in during morning shows on Easter Sunday, Cardinals Timothy Dolan of New York and Donald Wuerl of Washington both advocated for “right to discriminate” laws, reports The Washington Post.

Speaking on Meet the Press, Dolan said religious believers did not make religious freedom an issue, but he appreciated Indiana Governor Mike Pence for signing the law and protecting the rights of religious communities. He continued:

” ‘It’s tough to balance religious conviction. But it’s easier to ignore religious freedom than it is today the more popular issues…I just wish we could do that in a temperate, civil way instead of screaming at each other.’ “

Cardinal Wuerl, appearing on Fox News Sunday, said “different measuring rods” were used for what counts as discrimination. Likely speaking to recent developments in the District of Columbia, the cardinal added:

” ‘Why would it be discrimination for a Catholic university to say, “We’re not going to allow a gay rights or an abortion rights group have their program on our campus,’ and it not be discrimination for that group to insist that the Catholic school change its teaching?’ “

Archbishops William Lori of Baltimore and Charles Chaput of Philadelphia attacked the “acrimony and lies” they believe characterizes those criticizing Indiana’s originally-worded law. In a joint piece with Southern Baptist leaders published by an anti-gay organization, the archbishops lashed out at those who claim religiously motivated opposition to marriage equality is bigoted or discriminatory.

In an editorial, the National Catholic Reporter criticized the original law while admitting that they generally support RFRA laws. However, the newspaper’s reservations in the Indiana case centered around extending individual protections to corporations. Last year’s Hobby Lobby decision has made them rightfully concerned. The editors continued:

“The trouble with the Indiana religious freedom law is in how it was conceived. With a ballot initiative that would outlaw same-sex marriage stalled in the Legislature, Republican representatives and Pence, winking and nodding the whole time to opponents of marriage equality, passed the RFRA legislation thinking it would cost them nothing while at the same time bolster support from so-called values voters. They clearly misjudged this cynical political ploy. Instead of a sop to appease conservative voters, they tossed a grenade into the business community.”

The University of Notre Dame has not commented yet on the Indiana law, but last fall announced it would extend employment benefits to same-sex partners and has been implementing an LGBTQ pastoral plan since 2012. However, Sherman Alexie, a writer and filmmaker, cancelled a scheduled appearance at the University until Indiana has full protections for LGBT people.

Meanwhile, a more positive response came from Dan Eisner, the president of Indianapolis’ Marian University. In a statement reported by WTHR 13, Eisner said the school supported religious liberty, but added:

“We also believe in the dignity and civil rights of every person regardless of race, religion, age, disability, ethnic heritage or sexual orientation. We support the action called for by the CEOs of nine major Indiana corporations asking the governor and the legislature to ‘make it clear that Indiana is the welcoming state we all believe it to be’ and to ‘take immediate action to ensure that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act will not sanction or encourage discrimination against any residents or visitors to our state by anyone’….As we enter Holy Week and the Easter season, let’s do everything in our power to affirm the values of religious freedom and civil rights for all.”

For Bondings 2.0‘s previous post on the Indiana controversy, click here, and for our coverage of religious liberty related issues related to the Catholic Church, check out the “Politics & Human Rights” category to the right.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Federal Commission Rules Gay Teacher’s Firing Was Likely Discrimination

April 6, 2015

Flint Dollar

On this Easter Monday, Bondings 2.0 offers two positive updates regarding church workers and incidents of anti-LGBT discrimination.

Flint Dollar

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released a letter, dated January 30, stating that Flint Dollar was likely discriminated against when fired from Macon, Georgia Catholic school where he taught. The Telegraph reports:

“[The] Commission has determined ‘there is reasonable cause to conclude’ that fired Mount de Sales Academy band director Flint Dollar was discriminated against because of his sexual orientation.”

Now, the EEOC will attempt “informal methods of conciliation,” but if these fail either the Commission or Dollar could file a lawsuit against the high school. Dollar was fired in 2014 after his plans to marry a male partner became known, with the school then clarifying that he was fired for the marriage and not for being gay.

What is interesting about this case, though, is neither federal nor state laws protected Dollar from discrimination due to his sexual orientation; the former band director filed a discrimination claim through Title VII of the Civil Rights Act which prohibits gender discrimination. At the time he filed the claim, Bondings 2.0 noted that previous claims in that vein had failed, but perhaps Dollar’s case is setting new precedents.

It was also noted that Mount de Sales Academy had a non-discrimination policy inclusive of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and marital status, and was known for its progressive history of racial and religious integration. In light of the EEOC’s finding, administrators should return to this historical roots, admit to the discrimination which occurred, and seek justice for Flint Dollar.

Immaculata High School

Bishop Bootkoski

Patricia Jannuzzi’s job at Immaculata High School in New Jersey is in dispute, following her anti-gay posting to Facebook last month. Regardless, Bishop Paul Bootkoski of the Diocese of Metuchen, where the school is located, was clear that he finds Jannuzzi’s comments “disturbing.”

Jannuzzi’s sons, who set up a fundraising page seeking $100,000, are claiming their mother was not rehired for the 2015-2016 school year. A spokesperson for the diocese denied these claims, saying they were “baffled and disappointed” that the fundraising site contained misinformation. Bishop Bootkoski clarified the situation to MyCentralNewJersey.com:

“However, she has never been terminated, as some media outlets have reported. She has been put on administrative leave. There has been no interruption in her pay and benefits. We regret that certain individuals and groups are using inaccurate media reports to push their own agendas.’ “

Bootkoski also added :

” ‘The teacher’s comments were disturbing and do not reflect the Church’s teachings of acceptance…

” ‘We are a compassionate Catholic community committed to treating our students, faculty and parishioners with respect. We have never wavered from our traditional Catholic teachings…Pope Francis reminds us that we are to accept all of our brethren. We must ensure that our educators steer away from harsh and judgmental statements that can alienate and divide us.’ “

Bishop Bootkoski is now being targeted by conservative anti-gay groups for being honest about Jannuzzi’s remarks, which are pastorally damaging and contradict Catholic teaching. These groups have taken out radio aids attacking the bishop. Instead, Bishop Bootkoski and Immaculata administrators should be commended for swift action in response to the religion teacher’s harsh statements.

Much remains to be seen about the outcome of Flint Dollar and Patricia Jannuzzi’s cases. Still, as the Easter season begins, these are positive signs that some Catholic institutions are, albeit slowly, becoming more inclusive and accepting places for all.

For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of these 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 40 incidents since 2008 where church workers have lost their jobs over LGBT identity, same-sex marriages, or public support for equal rights.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


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