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Another Gay Teacher Fired by a Catholic School

A petition is making the rounds to protest the firing of another gay high school teacher, this time in Los Angeles.  From the Change.org press release:

Current and former students of St. Lucy’s Priory High School will deliver more than 45,000 petition signatures from a popular Change.org campaign asking the Los Angeles-area Catholic school to reinstate ousted gay teacher Ken Bencomo. Supporters say he was fired after photos from his marriage to longtime partner Christopher Persky appeared on the front page of a local newspaper.

I want to separate the question whether Catholic institutions have the right to do this sort of thing from the question whether they should, on either moral or prudential grounds.  I am not aware of divorced and remarried teachers getting fired.  The axe always seems to fall on those who are somewhat more easily marginalized:  unmarried pregnant teachers, gay teachers, etc.  Am I wrong about that?  Feel free to post examples to the contrary in the comments.

About the Author

Eduardo Moisés Peñalver is the Allan R. Tessler Dean of the Cornell Law School. He is the author of numerous books and articles on the subjects of property and land use law.

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If every lesbian or gay lay, ordained or vowed religious person stopped teaching at Catholic schools, I suspect we might be surprised at the paucity of good teaches that would result.

I challenge all self-respecting gay or lesbian teacher at these schools to come out and show just how dependent the schools are on the dedication of these "intrincially disordered" Catholics.

The firing of unmarried pregnant teachers is especially egregious. The Catholic Church should not have a policy that you have to get an abortion or get fired.

Very sad.

St. Lucy's is a daughter house of Mt. St. Scholastica in Atchison, Kansas.

http://www.mountosb.org

http://stlucys.com

It was named for Mother Lucy Dooley, OSB, prioress in Atchison, 1924-1950.  

The opportunities I've had to observe decisions like these being made in Catholic schools invariably have revealed their roots to be in fear of protests, pickets, bad press, and danger to the bottom lines of these schools that, practically, must run as profitable businesses. Hatred and self-righteous persecution never has, in my experience, been a part of it. On the other hand, that fear is aroused by groups (CUFF comes to mind) willing to use those tactics of protest, picket, bad press, and withdrawal of students in order to, yes, attack easily marginalized groups. Those groups bully the schools who, in turn, also become bullies because they respond in fear. Perhaps the question we ought to reflect on is whether good people can do more to help Catholic schools, make it safer for them to resist the pressure tactics.

According to this news story in the LA times, he was fired, not because he was gay - the school had known that for 10 years, and apparently didn't find it objectionable - but because he married his partner.  Eduardo, you might consider revising your headline and your post to make this clearer.

(The school also states that, by entering into a gay marriage, he violated his employment contract).

This situation raises the question: did he intend to inform the school he was married?  Is it just his bad luck that the local paper published wedding pictures?  Did he hope and expect that he could be married(!) without the school community discovering the fact?  In short: did he hope and expect to preserve his job after committing a public act he knew, or reasonably should have known, would get him fired?  

It's kind of an odd juxtaposition of positions - to both enter into a marriage, and hope one's employer doesn't find out about it - because as I understand it, one of the driving motivations of legalizing gay marriage is that it puts gay men and women on an equal public footing: in theory, they don't have to be secretive anymore about their relationships and commitments.  Gay marriage, it seems to me, acknowledges that marriage is, by its nature, a public institution (and indeed, the local paper apparently found it newsworthy).

It can't be a comfortable spot to be in - to have to choose between his spouse and his job.

I would ask this, too: if entering into a gay marriage isn't sufficient religious grounds to merit dismissal from employment by the Catholic church, is there *any* violation of Catholic teaching that should merit it?  In the eyes of the church, entering into a gay marriage would be a pretty serious sin.  I don't think it's outrageously unreasonable for a religious community to have some expectations for public conduct on the part of its public representatives.

 

Is firing unmarried pregnant teachers a trend?  Does it even merit the use of the plural form?  I suppose that teacher in Queens isn't the first Catholic school teacher to find herself in that situation, although I've never heard of it before.  

In many (most?) places in this country, women teachers were not allowed to be married.  If they got married, they were fired.  That changed during World War II.

As recently as 1970, I knew a married woman who was fired from her teaching job at a big suburban parochial school when she got pregnant.  The principal, a nun, did not think it was appropriate for seventh graders to be taught by a pregnant woman.

For winning (or losing) minds and hearts, especially young people's, I'll put this incident up against all your New Evangelization and spot you a Ford Focus, three smiles, and a "Who am I to judge?" from Pope Francis.

if entering into a gay marriage isn't sufficient religious grounds to merit dismissal from employment by the Catholic church, is there *any* violation of Catholic teaching that should merit it?

Tough one, Jim P. Off the top of my head, I'd go with shielding sexual abusers of children, which is an actual job-related violation. I'm assuming here that that is a violation of Church teaching. Everything but experience suggests that it must be.

Jim makes a good point.   In addition, it appears the pregnant woman may have lied during her job interview, which may have had something to do with her subsequent firing.

 

On the other hand, a majority of Catholic colleges offer healthcare benefits to same-sex partners rather than firing people when they learn they are in a same-sex marriage:

 

The Cardinal Newman Society [?] reports on a survey of health insurance and includes his item witout comment:

The group surveyed 453 institutions including faithful Catholic colleges such as Belmont Abbey College, Franciscan University of Steubenville, and The Catholic University of America as well as other Catholic institutions such as DePaul University and Fairfield University....

.

Fifty-seven percent of the institutions which responded to the survey offer healthcare benefits to same-sex partners. That percentage is up from 40 percent just seven years ago.

 

- See more at: http://www.cardinalnewmansociety.org/CatholicEducationDaily/DetailsPage/...

Jim Pauwels: >I don't think it's outrageously unreasonable for a religious community to have some expectations for public conduct on the part of its public representatives.

How could anyone disagree?   But of course, the statement is not much for guidance unless one understands what "some expectations" might include.  Suppose the teacher was of the view that he was acting out of love, and that he was resolving an issue of his personal standing before God - as he is given to understand God.   How does his life as a married man constitute public conduct in any way different form that of any other married man, in terms of public representation.  I cannot discern by observation which men I meet in the course of a day are married and which are not, much less how they are acting within their marriage.

The notion, as I read it, that this man's marriage constitiutes bringing scandal on the Church is risible given the use of that excuse to protect for decades paedophiles under direct Church discipline.

Jim Pauwels- yes, the use of the plural is appropriate for  Catholic schools firing unmarried teachers simply for pregnancy.  Here's two more-  note that the Ohio case below is not the one that involved artificial insemination.

http://www.daytondailynews.com/news/news/teacher-sues-church-over-pregnancy-firing/nThJR/3

http://www.republican-eagle.com/content/wabasha-catholic-school-fires-pregnant-unmarried-teacher

I can understand firing someone for a same sex wedding (though I would not do so) because that represents a considered intent to violate church teaching.  Firing pregnant unmarried teachers strikes me as both theologically incorrect and inconsistent with the church's prolife stance.  Theologically incorrect, because every single employee of every single Catholic school in the country, including the principals who do the firing, commits sins on a regular basis, and if they fired all the sinners they would have no one left.  Haven't they ever heard of "let him who is without sin cast the first stone"?  And I would certainly say that any institution that claims to be prolife has an absolute obligation to avoid creating incentives to abortion.

But beyond that, I'm losing faith in the American Catholic bishops.  Their behavior strikes me as showing self righteous bullying and an attempt to use economic clout to force their views on people who are poorer and weaker.  I'm thinking about the Bishop of Santa Rosa firing non-Catholic teachers in Catholic schools unless they are willing to affirm and abide by the Church's teaching on contraception. (After an uproar,   I'm thinking Bishop Thomas Olmsted, who said of the tragic Phoenix case "There cannot be a tie in this debate. Until this point in time, you have not acknowledged my authority to settle this question."  Doesn't Bishop Olmsted understand that Catholic laity have to answer to their consciences, not just to him, and that for most people, a doctor knowingly allowing a patient to die, when her life could be saved, and when the baby's life cannot possibly be saved, is a huge issue of conscience?  I'm thinking about the Catholic bishops demanding, not just that they be completely disjoint from hospital employees getting contraceptive coverage, but that they be effectively able to block the employees from having contraceptive coverage.
 

I cannot see this kind of behavior as in the spirit of Christ.  I also think it is very dangerous to the long term survival of the church.  Genuine belief must be persuaded or inspired, not coerced.  Attempting to coerce produces only hypocrisy and will backfire in the long run.
 

Oops, bad editing in my post.  I meant to say "After an uproar, the bishop of Santa Rosa postponed his plan to force the Church's teaching on contraception on non-Catholic employees, but he has not abandoned it."

Here we have two men whose lives together have not bothered the administration of this school for some time.  They decide to take advantage of a package of legal rights and responsibilities offered to them by the state, so that their lives together might have greater stability.  That is all we really know -- everything is pure speculation.  Public scandal.  He must be fired.  The same teacher could have taken the same package of rights and responsibilities in exactly the same fashion, ie, outside of the Church, in front of a justice of peace or judge, and this would cause no scandal as long as his partner is the opposite gender.  A civil, non-sacramental marriage of opposite sex couples is indistinquishable, but I've never heard of a Catholic school teacher being fired because he or she chose marriage outside of the Church.  Perhaps we should start hunting down these folks too? Where's Tomás de Torquemada when you need him?

 

Sorry -- left a word out.

"That is all we really know -- everything else is pure speculation."

Jim Pauwels claims "In the eyes of the church, entering into a gay marriage would be a pretty serious sin." I thought that, in the eyes of the church, divorcing and entering into a new marriage would be a pretty serious sin.

 

Eduardo raises this pretty obvious comparison in his article above: "I am not aware of divorced and remarried teachers getting fired.  ...  Am I wrong about that?  Feel free to post examples to the contrary in the comments."

 

Is Jim Pauwels aware of any divorced and remarried teachers getting fired from Catholic schools? Is anyone else? If one can get fired for entering into a same-sex civil marriage, surely one should get fired for divorce and remarriage?

 

The hypocrisy appears to be breathtaking ... and no one has posted a comment acknowledging it, let alone attempting to deal with it!

My kids go to Catholic school; I do not agree with the dismissal here,  I don't  think the teacher's marriage presents any issues re: appropriate role models; indeed, we want peopel in committed relationshis to get married,

 

 But I would be okay with the transfer of a pregnant unmarried teacher to an admin job with the diocese until after she has her baby.  (Then she could come back the next year).  I don't aspire for my young daughters to grow up to be unmarried moms, and I would prefer their teacher not model that. 

I would much rather my children were taught to practice charity and compassion than intolerance. Firing this teacher seems to me a far greater sin than his marrying another man. The firing appears to constitute "unjust discrimination" and hence violates CCC 2358, viz., "2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition."

For the sake of precision in this post and these comments, it's worth noting that it's not sinful per se to divorce and remarry; if those are the only two facts we have, we don't know enough to know whether or not it's a sinful situation.  It would be a sin to divorce and remarry without having the previous marriage annulled.  How a Catholic school administration would discern which set of circumstances applies to a particular employee's situation, I don't know, unless the employee volunteers the information.  

If the employee does volunteer that he divorced and remarried without getting an annulment, then I wouldn't object if he was held to the same standard as an employee who enters into a same sex marriage.  Having said that, it would seem more merciful for the school to offer to work with the divorced and remarried employee to get his situation made right in the eyes of the church.  (I suppose an analogous offer could be made to the teacher who had just entered into a same-sex marriage, but needless to say, it doesn't seem likely that the teacher would accept this offer.)

From the school administration's point of view, once a set of circumstances like this does become known, if the school already has a policy forbidding those circumstances, it *must* act - or at the very least, it must explain why it's choosing to set aside its policy.  This is why I raised the question about what the teacher had intended to do.  It seems likely that he knew that getting married would jeopardize his job.  If I was in his situation, I might get married, too, and damn the consequences.  But I wouldn't be surprised when the consequences come about, and neither should he.

The LA Times article suggested that he is a popular teacher.  There are many schools and school districts that need talented teachers.  (Come to Chicago.)  I hope he lands on his feet in a school that is able to employ him in time for the coming school year.

I do find it pretty outrageous that a pregnant, unmarried teacher would be fired.  Having attended Catholic schools myself, it doesn't surprise me to learn that it's a traditional practice, but we can do better.  I think there is something to be said for Irene's suggestion.  If it is a high school, my view is that the teacher can actually give Gospel witness by continuing to teach while pregnant, if she is willing to do this.  "I am forgiven, I love my child, and life is precious" - sounds like a good Catholic message to me.

 

 

Here's a refreshing quote from the retired Bishop of Austin Texas:

  • Married Priests

    "The Church has ALWAYS had them! First thousand years. Today, in the Eastern Church and all the ordained Protestant ministers who have been received into the Church without disruption to their families. This issue could be "solved on Thursday at 2pm with a single pen stroke from the Pope."

  • Divorce

    “…Millions of Catholics find themselves in impossible situations that cannot be altered … If the Church could find solutions to failed marriages in the second century, shouldn’t it try to do so in the 21st?”

  • Abortion

    “I take exception to the basic organizational thrust of the Catholic Church in the United States as it endeavors to counter the agonizing reality of abortion. In my opinion, the Church must take primarily a prophetic role, not a political one.”

  • Death & End-of-Life Care

    “The Church teaches that all life is sacred and must be protected, and that a person should ordinarily live until some disease or accident beyond their control takes their lives. But what about the person who is definitely dying, has no possible hope of recovery, and is in pain and costing $6,000 per day to be kept alive? … We’ve always had the principle that there is no obligation to extend a person’s life artificially … I believe that’s one of the changes we have to make.”

  • Homosexuality

    “A number of states now recognize gay marriage, and a sizable number have changed their state constitutions from prohibiting it. In this area, I am at odds with the administrative posture of the Church in the United States.” “The Church is actually saying that if you are gay, you are called to celibacy. Why did they decide that? Not a good choice, in my opinion.”

  • Same-Sex Marriage

    “A number of states now recognize gay marriage, and a sizable number have changed their state constitutions from prohibiting it.” “I personally see no reason why committed homosexual couples should not enjoy the same legal and tax benefits as committed heterosexual couples.”

    http://greenhillspublishing.com/about-bishop-john-mccarthy/

    I could not agree more.  There is nothing inherently sinful about same-sex couples enjoying the legal protections afforded them by the state.  Any so-called sin is what we assume and imagine is part of the relationship.  We should stop doing that. 

 

[excerpt] “I am not aware of divorced and remarried teachers getting fired. The axe always seems to fall on those who are somewhat more easily marginalized: unmarried pregnant teachers, gay teachers

Of course as you mention in the article, parochial and private schools have the right to hire and fire staff.  As for the question of whether or not they should, I would say the in Catholic Schools anyway, teachers – if they profess to be practicing Catholics - should be reasonable (not perfect, but reasonable) examples of how one lives as a practicing Catholic. 

With that in mind, divorced & remarried teachers, unwed mothers, and gay teachers – and drunks and drug addicts and wife beaters as well - hardly seem the sorts of examples we would want to parade in front of school children every day.

Nobody is perfect of course, but people with such obvious vices/problems, or folks who have made huge, glaring mistakes in judgment, while they should be forgiven and treated with charity, should not be put up in front of school kids each day, with the implied notion that they are good examples to follow.

 

Whoops -- for some reason more than the quote on same sex marriage appeared.  I only pasted that quote in.  The others appeared after I clicked save.  They are, of course, interesting, but not all relevant to this discussion.  Apologies.

An interesting situation is that most people will say that they believe this or that because they are Catholic.  I am in the somewhat peculiar position of stating unequivicably the inverse:  I am Catholic because I believe what she teaches.   Having studied many religions, I eventually settled on Catholicism about 5-6 years ago, not entirely due to, but certainly favorably influenced by Theology of the Body. 

In the past 5+ years of studying the Catholic faith in depth I have come to the unfortunate realization that while no one can safely claim to be an auto-mechanic when he or she doesn't even own a wrench and a landscaper can never get away with claiming to be a doctor, any idiot can claim to be Catholic without ever knowing our faith, and in-fact while preaching nothing but anti-Catholic diatribes.  It ought to go without saying that we believe adulterers, fornicators and sodomites need to change their views and behaviors.  We do not accommondate someone who is anti-Catholic in his or her beliefs--we teach the truth, founded in Scripture and tradition.  And when we *tried* to be foregiving, merciful, indeed *hopeful* that fallen priets would change if given another chance, all we learned is that, as Blessed John Paul II said, "There can be no mercy without justice (and truth)".  Truth it seems is only cold and hard to those who disagree with it.  For those who understand *why* we believe in Theology of the Body it becomes more than acceptable, more than reasonable.  Dare I say it becomes self-evident.  For those who don't get it?  Well, some folks it seems are just close minded.

But you'd be okay with your daughter growing up plagued by same-sex attraction temptation.  Satan comes to us in many forms.  Fornication is just one of many sins, but just because the sinner makes a convincing legal argument in a country where paganism is perfectly legal doesn't mean that we, as Catholics, need to convert to paganism--or pay pagans to teach our children their pagan ways.  Let the pagans teach in their own schools; its a free country.  I want Catholic teachers teaching my children!

Irene Baldwin-  I'd be OK with a transfer to an administrative job as well (among other things, teaching is strenuous and women get tired in the third trimester), but in all these cases the pregnant teacher was not transferred, she was fired.  That of course means that she loses her health insurance when she desperately needs it.  And in terms of the impact on the children, if they know why their teacher was fired (and they probably do, stuff like that gets around) then by the time they are teenagers, if not before, they will realize she could have kept her job if she'd had an abortion and kept quiet about it.

Where are these pagan schools at, because I want to send my kid to Serapis High.

Jack:  it is particularly noteworthy that these comments come from the RETIRED ... repeat, RETIRED ... bishop of Austin.

It appears that retirement is directly related to an increase in testosterone in these men.

Mark Pennington:  the only thing LGBT people are "plagued" by is the attitude of orthotoxic Catholic such as yourself.

Jim McCrea:

No doubt Bishop John McCarthy has been more daring in his book, given that he is no longer an active bishop. But John McCarthy since his ordination as a priest of Galveston-Houston in 1956 has been a tireless voice for those in need and a courageous advocate of Catholic social teachings. During his twenty-two years as an auxiliary and then diocesan bishop (1979-2001), he continued to be a fearless, pastoral activist for all in need. He was one of the best of the Bernardin era, and his retirement at seventy in 2001 probably had less to do with health than with the passing of that era. More and more his was a lonely voice. Clearly he now goes on strongly at eighty-three. A careerist he was not.

Re:  Mark Pennington's comment," But you'd be okay with your daughter growing up plagued by same-sex attraction temptation. "  I don't think you catch it like you do a virus. Whether straight or gay, a teacher is obliged ethically and morally to avoid any inappropriate contact with students. It isn't a new problem for a student to develop a romantic or sexual attraction to a teacher; most teachers know how to discourage this type of thing.

Re:  Mark Pennington's comment," But you'd be okay with your daughter growing up plagued by same-sex attraction temptation. "  I don't think you catch it like you do a virus. Whether straight or gay, a teacher is obliged ethically and morally to avoid any inappropriate contact with students. It isn't a new problem for a student to develop a romantic or sexual attraction to a teacher; most teachers know how to discourage this type of thing.

Sorry for the duplicate comment, I must have hit the button twice.  I don't know how to do a delete.

Not to mention newly grown backbone.

For the sake of precision in this post and these comments, it's worth noting that the magisterium of the church currently declares that it is a sin to divorce and remarry: if one has one's previous marriage annulled, then there was no previous marriage, and it would be erroneous to talk of getting "remarried".

 

Eduardo's observation and question remains: "I am not aware of divorced and remarried teachers getting fired.  The axe always seems to fall on those who are somewhat more easily marginalized:  unmarried pregnant teachers, gay teachers, etc.  Am I wrong about that?  Feel free to post examples to the contrary in the comments."

For the sake of precision, it would also help to make a distinction between the sacrament of marriage, and marriage in the civil realm.

I think it is important there be positive gay and lesbian role models in our schools, for all of our children, but especially for our gay children, it must be very isolating for them. Firing that teacher- for getting married- sends a terrible message to the children.

For the sake of precision, it would also help to make a distinction between the sacrament of marriage, and marriage in the civil realm.

 

Ok, good plan. Go ahead.

 

Just another gay teacher fired?  Not quite.  From the article Jim P linked to above, it seems this particular teacher had worked for the Catholic school for many years without incident.  Only when he decided to marry his man i.e., when he foisted the issue upon the parish and school, did they let him go.

And so no Eduardo; this was not just another case of white, “sexist, racist, homophones” abusing gays.  In fact the parish & school was tolerant enough to allow the man to teach for so many years without problems, as long as he did not rub his sexuality (his sexual issues) in everyone’s face.

Irene – “positive gay and lesbian role models” are people who try to live quiet, celibate lives. 

Modest, decent people, whether they are hetero or homo-sexual, try not to bother the rest of the world, and they certainly do not shout about sexuality from the rooftop.

Ken- that's a terrible characterization. This man didn't foist anything on anyone, he married his life partner; just like I married the man I love.  I think he sets a very good example, when so couples today forego marriage.

 

 

Modest, decent people, whether they are hetero or homo-sexual, try not to bother the rest of the world, and they certainly do not shout about sexuality from the rooftop.

 

Ken,

 

Yes, modest, decent people would never send out wedding invitations, or allow a wedding picture to be published in the newspapers. Why, because it is really just an announcement that they are going to do filty things in bed on their wedding nights!  What is more disgusting than a man and a woman flaunting their sexuality? And they wear special rings so that everyone can tell they are married! Of course in New York City, husbands and wives have been known to hold hands while walking down the street! Or even kiss godbye when one drops the other off somewhere in the car. I personally am offended and usually shout, "Get a room!" And also, some men and women I know have actually sent out birth announcements when they have had babies, as if we didn't know how that happened. Men and women, when winning an award, often brazenly thank their husband or their wife in public. We all know they are having sex, but do they have to rub our noses in it? 

And so no Eduardo; this was not just another case of white, “sexist, racist, homophones” abusing gays.  

 

Ken,

If there is one thing I cannot bare, it is calling someone a homophone. 

Piece!

 

The tricky part is figuring out what kind of violation a man marrying his boyfriend is. Not going to Mass or Confession is also a violation, but I doubt a school will fire even their Catholic teachers for this, let alone their non-Catholic teachers. Many claim that the prohibition on homosexuality and same-sex marriage can be derived from natural law, but in practice very few without a religious background that holds this position accept these arguments.

If there is one thing I cannot bare, it is calling someone a homophone.  Piece!

I don't know about y'all, but the main lesson I've taken away fromn this conversation is that David Nickol needs to comment here much, much more than he has been.  :-)

 

I'm curious.  Have Catholic school teachers ever been fired--should they be fired--for moral offenses that do not fall within the area of sexual behavior or fertility/birth control?   For pride, violence, bigotry, greed, cruetly or any other offenses against the 10 commandments or the two great commandments?  It does seem at time that the hierarchy defines morality primarily in terms of sexual morality.  Genuinely curious--not trying to be contentious.

Kevin

Well, a faculty member at Regis HS here in NYC just got fired  because he was arrested on drug charges.

Is recreational drug use considered a moral offense?  I know its illegal, not sure where it fits in re: morality.  But definitely doesn't set a good example. 

 

Some more cases:

 

"Bronx Catholic school principal Frank Borzellieri fired over ties to white supremacist group."

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/bronx-catholic-school-principal-fran...

"A Queens Catholic-school teacher says he was fired for breaking a previously unknown 11th commandment — thou shalt not appear too ladylike in class!"

http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/queens/gender_bender_booted_EzKXBq638...

"A domestic violence victim has come forward this week after being fired from her teaching job at a San Diego Catholic school because she was deemed a liability for having an abusive ex-husband." 

http://gawker.com/teacher-fired-because-abusive-ex-husband-posed-threat-...

 "A jury found an Ohio archdiocese discriminated against a teacher fired after becoming pregnant via artificial insemination, leaving legal experts expecting an appeal they say could have a much wider legal impact."

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/teacher-fired-from-ohio-catholic-schoo...

 

 

Yes - Good one David N!

 

:-)

 

Interesting that a priest in Rhode Island is reported to have sent a letter to the 26 state Senators who voted to legalize same-sex marriage, telling the Catholics among them that they should go to confession before receiving Communion.

 

For those of you Senators who are baptized Catholics, I invite you to go to the Sacrament of Confession to receive God’s Mercy and Forgiveness for your grave sin of voting against God yesterday, so you’ll be able to receive Holy Communion again in the Catholic Church....

 

Senator Algiere, you betrayed your own Catholic Faith and your constituents in voting for sodomy yesterday.

 

See more at: http://www.rifuture.org/priest-to-legislators-i-will-campaign-against-yo...

My understanding is that the Church does not teach that the goal of the civil law is to enforce all aspects of divine or natural law. Thomas Aquinas wrote:

Reply Obj. 3: The natural law is a participation in us of the eternal law: while human law falls short of the eternal law. Now Augustine says (De Lib. Arb. i, 5): "The law which is framed for the government of states, allows and leaves unpunished many things that are punished by Divine providence. Nor, if this law does not attempt to do everything, is this a reason why it should be blamed for what it does." Wherefore, too, human law does not prohibit everything that is forbidden by the natural law....

Again it must be observed that the end of human law is different from the end of Divine law. For the end of human law is the temporal tranquillity of the state, which end law effects by directing external actions, as regards those evils which might disturb the peaceful condition of the state. On the other hand, the end of the Divine law is to bring man to that end which is everlasting happiness;

 

I-II, Q. 98, Art. 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aquinas has also said (and it has been mention here before: http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/?p=21898#more-21898 )

 

“[H]uman laws do not forbid all vices, from which the virtuous abstain, but only the more grievous vices, from which it is possible for the majority to abstain; and chiefly those that are to the hurt of others, without the prohibition of which human society could not be maintained: thus human law prohibits murder, theft and such like.”     

Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I IIae, q. 96.2c 

"

For the sake of precision, it would also help to make a distinction between the sacrament of marriage, and marriage in the civil realm.

 

Ok, good plan. Go ahead."

 

Methinks a gadfly deacon would be eminently more qualified to do that than little old me, methinks Deacon Jim Pauwels (or the Catholic Schools which make decisions about who to hire/fire, or the hierarchs who rail against gay marriage in the secular realm far more than they do against divorce/remarriage in the secular realm) should in fact do that so that the parameters they choose to argue over (or, in some instances fire/hire over) are clear to all lay observers.

The statement that "The school also states that, by entering into a gay marriage, he violated his employment contract" could surely quite easily be interpolated to statements such as "by entering into any marriage which the church considers "irregular", the teacher violates his/her employment contract". But it begs the question as to which marriages (that are not in the first instance canonically valid sacramental marriages) the church considers to be irregular. The onus appears to be on the "official church" to provide these parameters ... and I would dearly like to see them spelt out by a competent authority.

Clearly, Eduardo didn't have canonically valid sacramental marriages in mind when he wrote "I am not aware of divorced and remarried teachers getting fired." The church doesn't permit divorce for canonically valid marriages, which are considered indissoluble. To raise the question of annulment is a red herring, as already pointed out.

Eduardo's observation and question stand, and have yet to be compellingly answered:  "I am not aware of divorced and remarried teachers getting fired.  The axe always seems to fall on those who are somewhat more easily marginalized:  unmarried pregnant teachers, gay teachers, etc.  Am I wrong about that?  Feel free to post examples to the contrary in the comments."

If straight teachers in Catholic schools can divorce and remarry and retain their jobs (which I presume to be the case until proffered empirical evidence to the contrary), then why was this gay teacher fired for entering into a civil marriage with his life partner? This appears to be a whopping double standard and a grave injustice.

 

Vincent Couling-I agree with you about the injustice part, but I don't think I would assume that straight teachers cohabiting or divorced/remarried Catholic teachers could keep their jobs.  

In the Catholic schools I attended myself and in those my childen attend,  there are no teachers known to be in those circumstances.  A lot of the students' parents are, but  not the teachers.  

I'm certainly not saying there aren't Catholic schoolteachers living those lifestyles, but I think if it were public knowledge and indisputable that a teacher were living with her boyfriend outside of marriage, she might have a problem.  

Do other people here whose  children attended Catholic schools have a different experience?

 

I truly share people's distress at these kind of firings, but I think we're focusing on the wrong target for our distress when we object to Catholic schools insisting that their teachers reflect Catholic values in word and deed. We can certainly object when a school does something which we think is counter to Catholic values, and we can argue that maybe there is something wrong with our values, but I don't think we can blame a school for trying to adhere to them.

I think when we're talking about educating children, Catholic or public schools, like it or not, things that  would be no one's business in another kind of job, are relevant to employment in a school.

If my 9 year old's 3rd grade teacher was unmarried and pregnant, I wouldn't be calling for her dismissal. (But I'd be in a quandary  trying to explain it to my 9 year old).  If I were the principal of that school, though, I would want to have a frank conversation with that teacher about  what she thinks of Catholic teaching on sex outside of marriage and how she proposes to model our values to our students. And I could also understand others'  viewpoint that maybe a Catholic elementary school is not  perhaps the best fit for a teacher whose views or lifestyle is not in keeping with Church teaching. 

When my daughter was in 5th grade, she was kind of pestering her teacher about why there weren't women priests. (Fruit doesn't fall far from the tree, I guess) The teacher kicked it up to the pastor, and no one was giving my daughter the answer she wanted to hear.  A religious sister who my daughter is friendly with pointed out to her that she was putting the teacher in an awkward situation; the only response he could give her is the official position that women can't be priests. Any other response could get the teacher in trouble.  

I told my daughter I completely shared her view, but there is a time and a place for certain conversations and Catholic elementary school isn't the place for that one, but she could talk about it with lots of other people in her life and, hopefully, in Catholic venues when she's older.  

I don't agree with the Church's teaching on women priests, or on artificial contraception, or on condoms to prevent disease, and I'll be teaching my daughter what I believe myself on these things. But I don't expect her school to contradict Church teaching on these issues; I can live with that, and if I couldn't I would take her out of the school, not expect the school to change. 

 

"For the sake of precision, it would also help to make a distinction between the sacrament of marriage, and marriage in the civil realm."

 

For the sake of precision, if the distinction is made to the civil realm - please also clarify the geographic State the union of two same sex persons took place and if the union of two same sex persons is legally protected by the geographic State as a marriage.

 

Tom Peters once quipped, "If your not confused, you not paying attention."

 

If straight teachers in Catholic schools can divorce and remarry and retain their jobs (which I presume to be the case until proffered empirical evidence to the contrary), then why was this gay teacher fired for entering into a civil marriage with his life partner? This appears to be a whopping double standard and a grave injustice.

Right.  Irene replied to your comment, and covered some of the same ground I had covered in a previous comment: I'd think that most Catholic schools, like most employers in general, don't know the canonical details of their employees' marriages, but if somehow it became known to the school, the school would be obligated to do something.  (I'd add that the "something" might not be to fire a teacher in that situation).

That is why I raised the question in a previous comment: what was the teacher in question hoping would transpire: that he could marry his partner, and also keep the marriage secret from the school?  I'm not trying to ask that in some sort of crusading-district-attorney-cross-examination-gotcha way, but I am curious what the teacher intended.  The heroically honorable thing might have been for him to save the school this trouble by tendering his resignation prior to his wedding, but perhaps he didn't see it that way, and I'm not one to demand honorable heroism as a baseline of conduct from anyone (as I know that I don't always meet that standard myself).  For all we know, he might view marriage as a strictly private arrangement that is none of the school's business.  Pretty clearly, that would not accord with the Catholic view of marriage, but I think it is aligned with a certain view of marriage that is abroad in our society.

Having been around the block a few times, I'm inclined to agree with what I think is the basis for your presumption of injustice: that divorce is not uncommon, and neither is a divorced Catholic remarrying without getting an annulment of the previous marriage, and there are a lot of Catholic school teachers, so surely somewhere there is a Catholic school teacher in this situation.  I would add this for your consideration, though: different dioceses, and different schools within the same diocese, might have different standards for how to handle these things with their employees.  Thus School A in Diocese X might find it an unsupportable moral affront to employ a teacher who remarried without an annulment, whereas School B in Diocese Y might decide that it is something it can live with, whereas School C in Diocese Z might see it as a problem but one with a remedy, and would want to work with the teacher to pursue that remedy.  

So I'd suggest that we haven't seen enough facts for you to declare this situation to be unjust.  To show injustice, you need to find an instance of a specific school, or at least a specific diocese or religious order, simultaneously forbidding employment to someone in a same sex marriage, while permitting employment for someone who is divorced from a still-living former spouse and remarried without an annulment.  Just speaking for myself: I don't know of any school teachers who are divorced and remarried in a problematic way, so I can't point to any potential schools who would be candidates for this injustice.  So while not disagreeing that the double standard you describe could exist, I don't know of any place where it is known to exist.

As for the relationship between civil and religiouis marriage that prompted my previous comment, and to which you've now replied (but without diving more deeply into the topic): I wasn't sure (still am not sure) what you think the importance or relevance of the distinction is.  

 

 

Irene Baldwin- Being pregnant and unmarried is different from cohabiting with a romantic partner or being married in violation of Church teaching.  The difference is that cohabitation and marriage require a consistent, ongoing, intent, whereas getting pregnant can result from a single mistake.  (In fact, among women I have been personally close to, all but one of those who got pregnant out of wedlock were those who were trying to follow church teaching- they had sex without protection precisely because they were not planning on having sex and/or they were trying to follow Church teaching about contraceptives.)  It's literally impossible to hire Catholic school teachers who never, ever, sin.  Why is this one sin so much worse than all the other sins that  we all confess to on a regular basis?

I'm also wondering- suppose your daughter's teacher had been raped, and had heroically decided to carry the rapist's baby to term.  Would she still be a bad example?  Do you think the Catholic school principals who fire unmarried pregnant women would make an exception for a woman who had been raped?

Although I'd be OK with transferring a pregnant unmarried teacher to another job for the duration of the pregnancy, I think that if the school was really smart they might consider literally using her as a role model.  A role model for the idea that sometimes people make mistakes and get pregnant when they didn'tmean to, buy here's someone who was too good, too compassionate to abort the baby. 

Although I'd be OK with transferring a pregnant unmarried teacher to another job for the duration of the pregnancy, I think that if the school was really smart they might consider literally using her as a role model.  A role model for the idea that sometimes people make mistakes and get pregnant when they didn'tmean to, buy here's someone who was too good, too compassionate to abort the baby.

Anne - I agree.  I would want to respect the teacher's wishes regarding whether or not she would want to stay in the classroom.  

There is this to consider, too - a large percentage of those in need in our community, and more generally in the US, are single moms and their children*.  In my view, in many cases these women really are trapped by their circumstances: typically they get inadequate support (or no support) from the kids' dad, and the fact that they are rearing children, and with no help from a spouse or partner, really limits their work and school opportunities.  And yet they chose life.  Really, there are quite a few reasons that a Catholic community should rally around a teacher in this situation.

* Given the reality of Catholic school teacher wages, it shouldn't surprise us if a single mom who teaches Catholic school is not able to be financially self-sufficient.  Many of the poor in the US are working poor.

 

Anne Evans- If I were a school administrator, and assuming my hands weren't tied, I would address all of these cases individually, based on the specific circumstances.  Non-profits needs to have a culture of integrity, which includes treating the employees fairly. We can't do good if we aren't good.

I was actually thinking of the single teacher who was fired after purposefully becoming pregnant through in vitro fertilization; she had infomed her school she was taking a leave of absence for the in vitro treatments. I'm not trying to make the case that she should be fired, but I think it would matter somewhat whether she knowingly violated Church teaching or did so unknowingly when she received the treatments. 

Speaking not of what Catholic schools can do, but what they should do (the question posed)  I would expect them to  focus first and foremost on the mission and would expect everyone who worked there to share that same focus on the mission, which I imagine is some dual mission of providing a good secular education and a good grounding in our faith.

If an issue arose regarding a teacher's conduct, or a student's conduct, my question would be, as with any other decision, how does the conduct impact our mission and what response is best aligned with our mission?

In the case of the gay teacher who just got married, the firing itself must be disrupting the mission if it generated 50,000 signatures in protest.  That would make me consider whether there is a better alternative which would let the school return to its focus  of teaching girls. 

But I'm not a school administrator.

The problem with much of this discussion is that it is (incorrectly) based on the presumption that the Roman church considers that the schools it sponsors are engaged in education.  They are not, because the common understanding of education, at least in North America today, is that it fundamentally includes installation and encouragement of the capacity for critical thinking.  Rather, the Roman church fosters these institutions in order to provide indoctrination.  What, exactly, is being indoctrinated has always been ambiguous and a matter of debate, and more so recently (after all, papal infalliability and The Assumption, for example, are relatively new doctrines).  In all cases, these schools fear the reactions of the heirarchy and the laity, which are also lately rendered both more varied and less definitive (modern secular governments do not permit the church's traditional responses to differences of opinion: torture and mass murder).  Avoiding "scandal" is all that is left as a reliable working criterion and that reliability derives not from certainty of what is meant by it, but rather it's endless flexibility to allow school administrators, and boards, and donors, and bishops, and the Vatican, to insist that it means whatever they say it means, with no avenue for disagreement.  No one can predict how this will be applied, or if such an application will survive scrutiny, which factors change with time and place, and allow for wonderful, wonderful disputation.  Very Roman, very destructive, very foolish.  Keep up the good work!

Nothing like a healthy dose of anti-Catholic bigotry to lighten up the blog.  

I would like to respond to the initial question that started this discussion.  I have spent my entire career in Catholic higher education, where (in my experience) there is definitely no consideration of a faculty member's marital status (divorced and remarried, married to a same-sex partner, etc.).  My parents, however, were Catholic high school teachers from the mid-1960s until 2005 (when my mom retired).  I know that the archdiocese (Office of Catholic Schools) had as a condition of employment that teachers could not divorce and remarry.  There were no rules about cohabitation, pregnancy outside of marriage, and so on, but divorce and remarriage (without an annulment) was considered a public act, so it was not allowed.  As far as I know, that rule is still in place in the archdiocese. Interestingly, approximately 30 years ago, a group of 5 or 6 teachers was fired because they had divorced and remarried.  One of these teachers was non-Catholic, and following this incident, after extensive negotiations with the union, a caveat was included in the employment contract that the divorce and remarriage ban only applied to Catholic employees.

Irene Baldwin: I agrre with what you are saying. It is a very poor example to fire someone for being homosexual, showing that it is okay to unfairly treat people for being different.   I also think that although it is a Catholic school, you should still accept everybody. 

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