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The Kids Are Alright

From my hometown diocese, another gay Catholic school employee (this time an administrator) fired for marrying.  And, as in other cases, students have responded by protesting:

Eastside Catholic president Sister Mary Tracy said she discussed Zmuda’s case in person with Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain within the last two weeks and they had what she described as a collaborative conversation. Sartain didn’t give her an explicit order to fire Zmuda, Tracy said. Rather, “We were directed to comply with the teachings of the church.”
“The Archdiocese works through me as the head of the school,” Tracy said. “It was clear that this is the teaching of the church. I know what we need to do.” Patterson said he and Tracy met with Zmuda in a cordial meeting on Tuesday and everyone understood that Zmuda could no longer work at Eastside Catholic.

“It was just one of those situations where he knew ... that he needed to comport with the [teachings] of the church, and his same-sex marriage was not comporting with that,” Patterson [a lawyer for the archdiocese]  said.  Patterson said Zmuda’s same-sex marriage, not the fact that he is gay, is the reason he cannot work for the school. “He’s a great administrator,” Patterson said. "We fully support him. We’re going to give him glowing reference letters, all that sort of thing. But Eastside Catholic doesn’t have the power to change that law,” Patterson said, referring to church teachings.“The students were pretty upset about that so we all came together and rebelled against it,” he said. “Once one person found out it went on Twitter and then everyone found out. He and others started rounding up students for a sit-in at the school commons area around 9 a.m.

He said the students then hiked outside to the turnoff for the street that winds up a hill to the campus to show their support for Zmuda to the media gathered there. “We did not know he was gay before today,” Leider [a student at Eastisde Catholic] said. “He’s always looking out for the best in everyone and he always wants everyone to do their best.” Sophia Cerino, a freshman at Eastside Catholic, said most students support the rights of gays to marry. “Just because I’m Catholic doesn’t mean I need to believe every rule the church has,” Cerino said. “We think the rule over gay marriage is totally unfair. Everyone seems to think the same thing — that we should all be treated equal.”

I have to wonder what effect this kind of thing is having on the younger generation of Catholics and their relationship to the Church.

[UPDATE:  I've modified the post a bit to identify some of the speakers and provide the context.  Go read the whole story, though.]

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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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Here is Christian joy

Thanks for this.  The end of the Seattle Times story hints at one of the problems for the archdiocese when it fires gay teachers for violating the clause in their employment contract to "uphold church teaching".  Does this mean that divorced (straight) employees will now be fired?  Does it mean that the Baptist janitor or Mormon secretary or Lutheran teacher at a Catholic parish or retreat house or school is at risk of losing his or her job? 

And if not, why not?

The high school president, Sr. Mary Tracy, was "directed to comply with the teachings of the church."

Where in "the teachings of the church" do we find anything that necessitated the firing of Mr. Zmuda?

Sure the teachings of the Church contain all sorts of prohibitions against same-sex sexual activity.  Fine. Well, not fine -- but yeah, I get it and look forward to the day our Church loses the bad theology upon which it is based.  But in the meantime, why do any of these anti-gay teachings of the Church necessitate this man's termination?  It is fairly clear Mr. Zmuda lived a fairly open life.  The only thing that has changed is that he is exercising his legal right to access the rights and responsibilities afforded to him in the state of Washington and under federal law. 

Catechism teaches us that gay people MUST "be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity".  Firing this man merely for entering into a civil recognition of his pre-existing same-sex relationship shows little respect and zero compassion or sensitivity.

I will also note it is simply no one's business why Mr. Zmuda married this man or the details of their life together.  The catechism says gay people should live chaste lives -- as  it says for straights too.  Why should anyone assume this relationship violates the call to chasitity?  That is no one's business but Mr. Zmuda's and his conscience.

As Luke Hill suggests, if the Church is really going to be consistent here then we must become a Church of nosy, sexual busy-bodies.

Do we have any sense of how the cases of straight people in irregular marriages are handled? If a divorced teacher at a Catholic school is re-married without a declaration of nullity of the first marriage, is he or she terminated? If a principal at a Catholic school overheard a young teacher engaged to be married in the Church talk about a pre-nuptial agreement, should that principal terminate the teacher because a lack of belief in the indissolubility of marriage?

And one day after this story hit the wires, the state of Utah (UTAH, fer crying out loud!) is not … at least temporarily … performing same-sex marriages:

As far as I can tell, there is no Catholic doctrine against two men who love each other from making a public commitment to each other in a ceremony such as state marriage and living together chastely.

A great deal of damage is being done to the Church by condemning such unions which are not contrary to Catholic doctrine.

God bless the students who stood with this teacher, they know the gospel better than some of those running the Church.

God bless


Very we'll said, Jack.

God bless

On the bright side, the students at Eastside Catholic are exhibiting critical thinking skills, a practical understanding of the Gospel, and way more courage than I think many of us had at that age. They are prophetic.

OK, so the power-that-be were wrong.  What to do now?  I say that just calling those powers ignorant, hypocritical, stupid, , evil, etc., etc., etc.  will only make matters wore.  So how do we persuade those powers and the people who follow them that they are wrong?

I don't think we do it by demonizing them or calling them names.  Even if some of the names we feel like calling them are deserved, that doesn't imply that these people are dishonest nor that they are unloved by God.  (And remember, God is not a fool.  He doesn't love something for no good reason.)  We persuade them by giving reasons to think there is a more truthful way to think. So what are those reasons???

Ann -- Well, we could start by pointing out that the administrator made a life-long, monogamous commitment to his partner -- marriage, in short -- and that marriage, so we were taught, is one model of truthful living.  

Gay people are reviled for promiscuity, and then when they wish to choose monogamy and commitment, they are reviled and punished for that too. Whatever is going on here, it doesn't look much like 'love the sinner."

As for a life of perpetual chastity, I think that only has merit, if it does, when it is chosen, not when it is imposed. And even when chosen, it seems not always to be perfectly fulfilled.




Facts? Facts?? We don't need no stinkin' facts!!!!!

"[F]acts, as history teaches, carry greater weight than pure doctrine." Joseph Ratzinger, HIGHLIGHTS OF VATICAN II, Paulist Press/Deus Books, 1966, p. 17.

"You can believe in facts or you can believe in doctrine, you must choose. There never was a doctrine strong enough to shift a single fact. When facts get lost, it's because someone wanted to lose the fact. And where does it get lost? In some doctrine: some set of words. So the fundamental pastoral chore of the church is to remind people that facts are God's language, while doctrine is our language. What is the saying, the Holy Spirit is known by its works?" (Christopher Rushlau 9/13/2013







Whether Zmuda left voluntarily or was forced out, once he married another man his fate at the school was sealed.  While parochial schools and other Catholic institutions do hire gay people, many employees, particularly those in schools overseen by dioceses, sign a contract promising to uphold the teachings of the church as a condition of their employment. Same-sex unions violate church teachings.

Nobody wants to see a person lose a job, particularly right before the holidays.  But given Catholic teaching, the school's set of policies seem consistent and fair - they seem to me to be the right policies.  Inasmuch as the article states that this is the 15th case of this sort across the country, it may be that this set of policies is being adopted as a more or less standard approach.  It's non-discriminatory, it's in line with Catholic social teaching - in short, there is nothing unjust about it.

He can't simultaneously be in a same sex marriage and work for the church.  Why he would sign a contract that stipulates this if he doesn't agree with it?



From my hometown diocese, another gay Catholic school employee (this time an administrator) fired for marrying.

No, fired for entering into a same sex marriage.  Had he entered into marriage that the Catholic church understands and recognizes as marriage, presumably he would still be employed today.  

A previous time you posted about one of these cases, I believe you claimed the person was fired for being gay, and then declined to make a correction when I pointed out the inaccuracy.  Twice seems to be a pattern.  Why do you consistently misreport the single most important fact in these cases?


 there is nothing unjust about it

It is unjust that a particular way of not upholding church teachings is a cause for termination, and not others. Why fire those who are gay and married, and not those who are divorced and remarried?

If the contracts contain the words "uphold the teachings of the Catholic church", then that's too vague and open for abuse. A legal contract should be much more specific and give a list of concrete offenses that risk leading to termination.

If that list is restricted to gay marriage and gay marriage only, the school can probably be sued for discrimination, can't it? Unless they can prove that gay marriage is the single most serious forbidden public act in church teaching.

If the list contains other items, the school can probably be sued for discrimination by singling out one item of the list in its application of the contract and ignoring the other items in practice, can't it?

Thanks for the clarification, Jim P. @11:38pm. Otherwise, with my limited English and innocence of modernity, I might have thought that a gay Catholic school employee was fired for entering into one of those totally straight, boy 'n girl, open-to-life, heterosexual marriages, which would have been even more disheartening than the truth.

But I don't think anyone else was in danger of misunderstanding.

It is unjust that a particular way of not upholding church teachings is a cause for termination, and not others. Why fire those who are gay and married, and not those who are divorced and remarried?

When a string of twenty vehicles is driving 80 mph in a 65 speed zone, only one is pulled over and given a ticket.  The driver gnashes his teeth at being thus singled out and cries out, "What about the other 19?!".  I'm told, though, that this line of reasoning doesn't hold up in court; if the guy actually pulled over was guilty, he is expected to pay the fine.

FWIW - if employment contracts are to be enforced, then my view is that they should be enforced consistently.  I wouldn't object if an employee who is divorced and then remarried in violation of church teaching is subject to the same discipline as this administrator who was fired.  Same with an employee who is living together with a partner outside of marriage.


Jim, sure, but if it's always the same sub-category of people who are singled out, (if, for example, among all the ones who drive at 80mph, it's always the ones who are African-American who are pulled over), then there's reason to complain about discrimination.

We are told that there have been between 10 and 20 cases of employees being terminated because of gay marriage. How many cases of employees being terminated because of a remarriage after divorce?

Jim, sure, but if it's always the same sub-category of people who are singled out, (if, for example, among all the ones who drive at 80mph, it's always the ones who are African-American who are pulled over), then there's reason to complain about discrimination.

Claire - yes, I agree.  I don't know how many cases there are of termination for reasons besides sames sex marriage.  



Our opposition to legalising same sex marriage hinges on our Social Justice belief that the state is obliged to uphold the unique and distinct institution of heterosexual marriage because of its role in procreation.

That opposition does not extend to individual cases because there is nothing in state same sex marriage ceremonies which conflicts with any Catholic doctrine, and neither is there any problem in two men living together chastely in comitted faithful love.

God Bless

Chris - my view is that the Catholic opposition to same sex marriage is rooted in a desire to protect the integrity of the sacrament of marriage.  Two men living continently in the same household in close friendship does not constitute a marriage, and I know of no reason that  Catholic authorities would object to such an arrangement, whether the men in question are gay nor not. (And in fact, the Catholic church traditionally has housed diocesan and order priests and religious in such households).

 Terms such as "chastely", and "committed, faithful love" are powerful and even poetic but they tend to obscure rather than clarify the critical moral distinctions that must be made.




Jim - I see same sex marriages as essentially Civil Unions.  My Catholic Bishops supported some form of legal recognition of same sex unions 13 years ago. 

I think there are important distinctions between sacramental marriage, natural marriage, civil unions, and the state's legal concept of marriage which we need to recognise.

Unfortunately, today's secular society does not see marriage as permanent or necessarily open to having children.  We need to find a way to live with the state's understanding of marriage even though it differs from ours.

I think the start is to recognise and support the love and comittment in such relationships.  My Bishop teaches that such same sex love can be real and genuine.

The essence of a same sex marriage ceremony is for the couple to make a loving, faithful, permanent comittment to each other.  I see that as something very good and something Christians ought to support.

God Bless

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