Ahead of Labor Day, Archbishop Supports Firing of Lesbian Church Worker

Kate Drumgoole, right, with wife Jaclyn Vanore

Newark’s archbishop has endorsed a Catholic high school’s firing of lesbian educator Kate Drumgoole, even as support for her grows.

Today, Bondings 2.0 focuses on the archbishop’s comments and legal case surrounding Drumgoole’s firing. Tomorrow, we will take up reactions to the firing from Catholics and others in the local community.

Archbishop John Myers said in a statement that Drumgoole’s same-gender marriage to Jaclyn Vanore could “create confusion and uncertainty in the moral formation” of students, reported The Record. He affirmed Paramus Catholic High School’s firing of Drumgoole, which he described as “corrective steps” taken to protect the church’s mission and identity.

Drumgoole, a beloved Dean of Guidance and women’s basketball coach at Paramus Catholic, was fired in January after her wife’s estranged sister sent pictures of the couple to school officials. These photos were not public, according to The Record.

Last month, Drumgoole filed a discrimination lawsuit against the high school and the Archdiocese of Newark. A judge denied Paramus Catholic’s motion to dismiss on First Amendment grounds, and the case has now entered a year-long discovery period.

At this point, the case seems to hinge on whether Drumgoole’s work was ministerial in nature , which would exempt the school from state non-discrimination protections. Drumgoole’s lawyers, Eric and Lawrence Kleiner, argue that the educator was not a minister and that Paramus Catholic cannot practice selective portions of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination while dispensing other portions.

To this end, the lawyers will be interviewing school employees whose personal lives contradict church teaching, and yet who have not been fired. This evidence may reveal a “big dichotomy,” they say, showing selective enforcement of church teaching in such a way that discriminates against LGBT people. The Record explained:

” ‘This is a rare case where, in our estimation, based on the paperwork that’s been provided, the defense is not claiming it was a budgetary concern, they replaced somebody because of poor performance. They are openly admitting that same sex led to the determination to terminate her. So this is a direct of discrimination,’ Eric Kleiner said. ‘Which will be attacked directly in discovery.’

“In paperwork filed in the defense motion, a monsignor said he found Drumgoole’s conduct to be ‘odious,’ Eric Kleiner said. ‘Odious is an extremely revolting and repulsive statement. That bespeaks where we’ll be going on discovery.’ “

Eric Kleiner told The Record that Drumgoole’s heroism in seeking justice “will not be muted or diffused or lessened by the extremely harsh and divisive language given by the Archbishop.” Lawrence Kleiner spoke of the division in the Catholic Church on LGBT equality, saying the archbishop was “taking an issue that has already divided its members and turning it into a chasm.” And Drumgoole said the couple was humbled by the support they have received, and that this case was about more than their marriage:

” ‘This is an issue for individuals and families. And not necessarily simply families who have individuals who are gay or who are involved in same-sex marriage. But just individuals who believe in equality and believe that people should be able to love freely — and still be employed where they’re employed.’ “

Many people in the Newark area, and particularly Catholics, have taken interest in this case because of the archbishop’s checkered history.

Mark Crawford, New Jersey state director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, told The Record that Myers was “hypocritical” and “backward” because “[h]e’ll protect those clergy he knows abused children yet hold these hard-line positions against people who love each other.”

Alfred P. Doblin,  The Record’s editorial page editor, recalled the case of former priest Michael Fugee to sharpen this contrast. Fugee’s conviction of sexually assaulting a child was overturned only because of a judicial error. Under Myer’s leadership, the priest returned to ministry and even had unsupervised contact with children despite signing a memorandum with the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office to avoid minors.

At the time, Myers said that Fugee’s case had “more grays than black and white,” but Doblin questioned where the grays were and said there was “no consistency in the way Myers has dealt with church employees.” Doblin concluded:

“[Myers] writes, ‘The invitation to join in the life of the Church does not include an invitation to alter or redefine what the Church believes and teaches, nor is it an invitation to allow others to define the identity, mission and message of the Church.’

“How, then, does Myers justify his own past actions? He writes that the church acts only on facts. Only when ‘credible evidence’ comes to the attention of the archdiocese that an employee is violating the tenets of the Catholic faith will there be an investigation and appropriate action. . .

“Myers contorted himself to defend the indefensible: the continued ministry of Michael Fugee when there were more-than-credible allegations that the man was a sexual predator. . .The archbishop’s actions speak louder than his letter.”

The Star-Ledger editorialized further that church leaders who shelter abusive priests are “what really endangers the moral formation of students,” adding:

“Since 75-year-old Myers will not go quietly into the already large, $700,000 weekend house he used $500,000 in church funds to expand into a 7,500 square foot retirement mansion, let’s review the moral foundation it was built on. Not only did Myers refuse to release the names of priests credibly accused of child abuse during his 15-year tenure, like other churches do, he protected some of them personally. . .

“Would Jesus really tell this woman her lifestyle is ‘odious’ because she’s gay, while protecting pedophile priests? If students learn anything from that, it’s bigotry and hypocrisy.”

Myers has a notably negative record on LGBT issues. Last week, he suspended Fr. Warren Hall from priestly ministry, having fired him last year from directing Campus Ministry at Seton Hall University because Hall expressed support for the NOH8 Campaign. Myers released a 2015 memorandum to church ministers saying people in same-gender civil marriages, and even Catholics who support marriage equality, should be denied Communion. He made this same point when New Jersey was debating marriage equality. Thankfully, in both cases, his words were largely ignored.

Tomorrow’s post for Labor Day examine the ways Catholics have responded supportively to the cases of Kate Drumgoole, Fr. Warren Hall, and many other unjustly fired church workers.

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 60 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

Bishops on the Offensive in Chicago, San Francisco, Newark, and Minnesota

Fighting marriage equality has been on the agenda for several bishops across the U.S. this week.  Three different bishops had strong words against marriage equality, and a fourth launched a fund-raising campaign to broadcast advertisements designed to ban marriage equality in his state.


Cardinal Francis George

Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George used the occasion of a Mass celebrating the golden anniversaries of 400 married couples to issue a not-so-veiled statement against marriage equality.

Chicago.CBSLocal.com reports:

“Without mentioning gay marriage specifically, George also spoke briefly about the Catholic Church’s opposition to legalizing same-sex marriage, saying the institution of marriage is something that ‘comes to us from God,’ not from the church or from the government.”

Addressing the married couples whose anniversaries were being celebrated, George mad an even stronger condemnatory statement:

“There must surely be ways in our civil society, where we can honor friendships, where we can respect other people, without destroying the nature of marriage. It is very important, for your whole lives, give witness to what marriage truly means. And while civil laws might change – if they do – then society will be the worse for it.”

When he made a similar statement earlier this summer during the Chik-Fil-A controversy, Bondings 2.0 offered a long list of ways that Cardinal George could begin to honor LGBT people and their relationships.


Bishop Salvatore Cordileone

San Francisco’s Archbishop-designate Salvatore Cordileone’s Los Angeles Times interview went viral this week, particularly because of his comment that gay and lesbian people in relationships should not receive communion:

“During a July news conference, Cordileone was circumspect when discussing the ‘cultural challenges’ his new diocese would present — which he said revolved around ‘issues of family life and, essentially, come down to our understanding of the human person, the purpose of our human sexuality, what God calls us to do and how he calls us to live and how he calls us to love.’

“But in a recent interview at the headquarters of the Oakland diocese, where he has served as bishop for three years, Cordileone was more direct: Gays and lesbians who are in sexual relationships of any kind, he said, should not receive the sacrament of Holy Communion, the central ritual of Catholic life.

” ‘If we misuse the gift of sexuality, we’re going to suffer the consequences,’ he said, ‘and I firmly believe we are suffering the consequences.’ “


Archbishop John Myers

As if taking a cue from the same playbook as Cordileone, Newark’s Archbishop John Myers also used non-participation in communion as a way to promote his anti-marriage equality position.

This week, Myers issued a pastoral letter urging Catholics to vote against marriage equality.  A NorthJersey.com article provides details of the letter, which included a directive not to receive communion addressed to any Catholic who does not support the hierarchy’s view on marriage.   You can read the full text of Myers’ letter here.  The relevant excerpt on communion:

“It is my duty as your Archbishop to remind you that Catholics who do not accept the teaching of the Church on marriage and family (especially those who teach or act in private or public life contrary to the Church’s received tradition on marriage and family) by their own choice seriously harm their communion with Christ and His Church. I urge those not in communion with the Church regarding her teaching on marriage and family (or any other grave matter of faith) sincerely to re-examine their consciences, asking God for the grace of the Holy Spirit which ‘guide [us] to all truth’ (John 16:13). If they continue to be unable to assent to or live the Church’s teaching in these matters, they must in all honesty and humility refrain from receiving Holy Communion until they can do so with integrity; to continue to receive Holy Communion while so dissenting would be objectively dishonest.”

In a separate NorthJersey.com article on reactions from Catholics to Myers’ statement, a number of Catholics disagreed with him, especially young people:

“. . .[T]he reactions on Tuesday of students at Seton Hall University, the state’s largest Catholic college, reflected a recent Pew Research Center poll showing that a majority of lay Catholics — 53 percent — support gay marriage and that the number rises to 72 percent among Catholics between the ages of 18 and 34.

“In an informal survey, 15 of 21 students said they are not opposed to gay marriage. Several said they go to church and would continue to accept Holy Communion despite their disagreement with the church hierarchy on the matter. ‘I think that’s outrageous,’ said Kristina Ripp, 18, a freshman from Wood-Ridge, when told about parts of the statement. ‘Our generation is more accepting. I think it’s going to make people quit the faith. They might not want to go back to church because they won’t feel accepted.’

“Ripp and more than a half-dozen other young Catholics said they would continue to go to church but questioned whether other young people might be alienated by the apparent gulf between young Catholics and church leaders.”


The bishops of Minnesota have involved themselves even further into the political debate about marriage equality in their state by initiating a fund-raising campaign for advertisements.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports:

“Minnesota Roman Catholics will receive a letter this week from the state’s bishops, urging them to donate money for television ads asking voters to say yes to a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

“For many of the more than 400,000 Catholic households expected to get the letter, it marks the first time they’ve been asked by church leadership to make a financial donation to Minnesota for Marriage, the chief group campaigning for passage of the marriage amendment Nov. 6.”

A political scientist noted that such an effort by the bishops is extraordinary:

“In trying to reach every Catholic household in Minnesota, the mailing is ‘unusual’ compared to Catholics’ roles in marriage amendment campaigns in other states, said John Green, a political science professor at the University of Akron (Ohio), who studies politics and religion.

” ‘I can’t think of anything as direct and as explicit,’ Green said. ‘I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with it legally, but certainly I’m sure it’s very controversial. Catholic leaders have been involved in fundraising. I know of examples where they have reached out to parishioners, but I’ve never heard of anything quite this comprehensive.’ “

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry