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More on the Firing of Mark Zmuda from Eastside Catholic

The Seattle Times stays on the story:

Mark Zmuda, 38, a well-liked swim coach who was vice principal of Eastside’s middle and high schools until Dec. 20, said the school’s president told him he could keep his job if he divorced his husband of five months and had a commitment ceremony.

The incongruousness of this suggestion points towards the rhetorical corner the Church has painted itself into on this issue.  Instead of embracing same sex marriage as a way for gay people to participate in the many legal and human goods that come from stable, long-term relationships, Church leaders have opted for an all-or-nothing approach in which divorce becomes somehow preferable to marriage for same-sex couples.

It's clear from Zmuda's conversations with the school's administrators that it was his marriage -- and not the fact that he was in a long term gay relationship -- that led to his termination.  I'm sure many defenders of the Church's position on same sex marriage will take that as a sensible distinction to draw. Entering into a marriage that is contrary to official Church teaching has a public status that is absent with cohabitation or use of contraception or any other number of common behaviors for which the Church has by and large not seen fit to punish its employees.  And so the Chuch can punish someone for it without inquiring into the goings on in their bedroom.  As others have noted, however, the Church does not appear to have applied this standard consistently to heterosexual educators who divorce and remarry.  

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This shows the RCC hang up on gayness at its most destructive.

Actually no -- this couple have made it all the way to marriage. The real destruction lies in what the church does to isolated and confused adolescents.

I have no doubt that the Church's treatment of gays, past and present, is at least as evil as its contribution to antisemitism.

As others have noted, however, the Church does not appear to have applied this standard consistently to heterosexual educators who divorce and remarry. [emphasis added]

"Others" here sounds lazy.  Has Eastside hired the divorced and remarried?

According to the article,tThe school disputes that Zmuda has his facts straight regarding a divorce.  But even if he does - why is it "incongruous"?  In fact, it's wholly consistent.

 

Hard to prove a negative, Mark.  But I'm basing my claim on the balance of comments in previous posts about people's experience of Catholic school behavior.  A Google search yields only one or two remarried heterosexual teachers over the past 10 years reported as fired versus numerous same-sex couples just in the past year or two.  Given the balance of numbers, that suggests that more heterorsexual remarried teachers are given a pass.  But I'll admit it is not rigorous.

As others have noted, however, the Church does not appear to have applied this standard consistently to heterosexual educators who divorce and remarry.

1.  It was not "the Church" - neither Pope Francis, nor Archbishop Sartain, nor you nore me - that fired Zmuda.  It was the school administrators.  They are not the same as "the Church".  

2. Other members of the church with administrative responsibility, at a different school or even a different set of administrators at the same school, could be presented with identical circumstances and come to a different conclusion.  That is because such decisions and policymaking are exercises in prudential judgment.

3.  Please cite an instance in which a Catholic school "does not appear to have applied this standard consistently to heterosexual educators who divorce and remarry."

 

 

Eduardo - our most recent comments crossed.   Thanks for researching/checking the claim about opposite-sex irregular marriages.

 

Jim P ... my guess is you have enough 'irregular marriages' in your own parish to keep you busy for a long time. (-: 

I think the most interesting part of this story is the continuing protest of the students. They are not giving up. And whatever this school is offering as lessons in sexual morality, the kids are not swallowing it whole, as previous generations tended to do. Maybe the school administrators will have to fire all the students as well. I wonder what the charge will be. How about "refractory and contumacious resistance to the teaching of Holy Mother Church." Or "of Eastside Catholic," if you prefer, Jim P. Just so long as it's clear that there will be no leeway for aberrancy. Let kids think for themselves and pretty soon adults  will be doing it. And then what?

Jim P.

You are splitting hairs.  Is not the school appealing to the authority of the Church on gay marriage in firing the teacher.  If that is not the Church what is it?  Distinguishing between the misguided Church ofthe local school and the real Chuch in your imagination does not really make a difference now does it?

There is no Catholic teaching against entering into a same sex marriage; because there is nothing whatsoever in state same sex marriage ceremonies that is against anything in Catholic doctrine.

Our opposition to gay marriage is at the public policy level, not at the level of individuals wishing to enter into such unions.

A clearer moral theology look at the moral object chosen when entering into a same sex marriage would be most helpful.  Kathy Caveny ?

These kinds of sackings are doing enormous damage to the Church and the New Evangelisation.  It is wonderful to see Commonwel and the students taking a stand for justice and Catholic teaching correctly understood.

God bless

You are splitting hairs.  Is not the school appealing to the authority of the Church on gay marriage in firing the teacher.  If that is not the Church what is it?

Alan, the distinction I wish to draw is between what the church teaches regarding sexual morality and marriage, and how those teachings should be applied in this concrete situation (perhaps in conjunction with other church teachings that may be applicable in this instance, e.g. mercy, forgiveness, justice, etc.).  It is for those who possess teaching authority to put forth what the church teaches.  It is for those of us who are 'in the world' to apply those teachings as best we can to concrete situations.  That is what these school admins must do.  I don't think it can be argued that the school admins are making an idiosyncratic application of church teaching: it's a pretty straightforward, connect-the-dots application of church teaching to this situation.  But clearly, the outcome being reported here isn't the only possible outcome.  I say "clearly" because it seems to be the intuition of virtually everyone posting and commenting at dotCom that this is not a just outcome.  

 

Our opposition to gay marriage is at the public policy level, not at the level of individuals wishing to enter into such unions.

Chris - in a sense, I think the opposite is, or could be, the case: the church really has no choice but to oppose same sex marriage at the individual level.  Parents, sibilings, friends who are followers of Jesus and accept what the church teaches regarding same sex marriage: they have a sort of obligation to let the people they love know what is right and what is wrong, regardless of public policy.

Whether it is prudent or not for the church to oppose same sex marriage as public policy, and how strident that opposition should be, is another matter.  Joseph  Bottum raised this question in what apparently was Commonweal's most-read article of 2013.   For example, those who are vocal in their opposition to same sex marriage as public policy claim that the acceptance of same sex marriage as public policy does incalculable harm to the instiution of marriage.  If it should turn out that this is not the case, then perhaps it doesn't make a lot of sense of the church, at the level of public policy, to expand a lot of resources and risk a lot of goodwill to oppose it.

 

So then, Jim P., is the Church's position to be that it has nothing to say against civil same-sex marriage as an institution, as long as no one enters into it?

Jim P,

Over the years I have spent a good deal of time lobbying against legalising same sex marriage and organising parish meetings against it.

However, the promises and commitments made at a state same sex marriage ceremony contain nothing  which is contrary to Catholic doctrine (there is no promise of sex).  Therefore, the moral object chosen in participating in such ceremonies seems to be fully consistent with Catholic teaching.

Neither is there anything against Catholic doctrine in a same sex couple living together chastely.

God bless

 

 Hard to prove a negative, Mark.

That’s a dodge, Eduardo.   You’re not being asked to prove a negative, you’re being asked to prove a positive, namely, your quasi-assertion that “the Church does not appear to have applied this standard consistently…”.     Sadly, I’m seeing such mean-spirited speculations (wishful thinking?) more and more from Commonweal editors lately.   I’m to understand the decision was made by Eastside.  If you have evidence showing Eastside has acted inconsistently, present it.   Otherwise, the honorable thing for you to do is to retract your vague allegation.

No,  it's a negative, Mark.  The only controversial part of the unequal treatment assertion is a negative -- that the Church is NOT firing remarried divorcees at the same rate (we've got lots of evidence on their treatment of gay couples).  Like I said, the best I can do from here is try to find examples of heterosexual divorced and remarried being fired (no one reports on them if they remain quietly employed).  If I'm wrong, feel free to find examples to the contrary.  There are a couple over the past decade or so that I could find, but not many.  And no, it's not about Eastside Catholic narrowly speaking.  Early reports made clear that Archbishop Sartain was involved in the process and gave it his (at least tacit) approval, if not more.  And, of course, this is just one of dozens of these cases that we've seen across the country over the past couple of years.  This is a problem in the American Church as a whole.  Finally, to be clear, my objection is to firing gay people for getting married, period.  The apparent hypocrisy just compounds the injustice.

And of course you can't talk about the treatment of the divorced and remarried without also raising the liberalization of the annullment process, which gives the lie to assertions about the essential and unchanging nature of marriage.

And of course you can't talk about the treatment of the divorced and remarried without also raising the liberalization of the annullment process, which gives the lie to assertions about the essential and unchanging nature of marriage.

 

I found it interesting that Francis seemed to suggest that many more marriages qualify for annulment. If half of all marriages are "null", that would be about the same number as all divorces. This is a  reversal from past complaints that too many annulments are granted 

We are on the path for a more profound pastoral care of marriage. And, this is a problem for all, because there are so many, right? For instance, I'll tell you of just one, Cardinal Quarracino, (9) my predecessor, said that for him half of all marriages are null. That's what he said. Why? Because they are married without maturity, they get married without realizing that it's for an entire lifetime, or they are married because socially they must get married.

And in this also pastoral care of marriage is a factor. And also the judicial problem of the nullity of marriage, that must be revisited, because the ecclesiastical courts aren't enough for this.

http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/full-transcript-of-popes-in-fligh...

Accepting the liklihood that most people who divorce and remarry were never validly marrried in the first place would sidestep the issue of whether people who were validly married and then divorce and remarry should be allowed to receive communion. 

However, the promises and commitments made at a state same sex marriage ceremony contain nothing  which is contrary to Catholic doctrine (there is no promise of sex).  Therefore, the moral object chosen in participating in such ceremonies seems to be fully consistent with Catholic teaching.

Chris - surely the assumption regarding any marriage - the "default" assumption, so to speak - is that there is sexual activity.  One of the primary purposes of the institution of marriage is for society to sanction a sexual relationship as stable, faithful and permanent.

If the community's expectation when a couple stands before it and declares, "We are married", doesn't include sex, then I think we've created something different than marriage.  We need a new term for it.  Something like, "State-sanctioned friendship, with inheritance rights."  Or maybe a term like "civil union" covers what you're suggesting.

The claim that the community mustn't assume a stable, sanctioned sexual relationship between a couple who is married - I guess I don't find that a persuasive claim.

(As an aside: it appears that the Catholic understanding of "consummation" incorporates the notion of a conjugal act suitable for the procreation of offspring.  Naturally, that "suitability" is lacking in same-sex conjugal acts.  Maybe Zmuda could claim that, inasmuch as his same-sex marriage isn't consummated as the church understands consummation, his same-sex marriage shouldn't be considered an actual marriage. That's a lawyerly argument, and perhaps somewhat along the lines of what I think you're arguing, but the same-sex marriage itself is still an insurmountable obstacle for the church, I'd think.)

(As another aside: decoupling sex from marriage opens up other cans of worms.  E.g. should consanguinity marital prohibitions be set aside?)

 

John Hayes - in my view, the so-called 'liberalization' of annulments runs very much along the lines of what you, and Francis, are suggesting: that the church is adopting a more fully human understanding of what consent entails.  I think the US church has "been there" for some time now.  If Francis gives the worldwide church permission to "go there", too, then that strikes me as a good development.

 

is the Church's position to be that it has nothing to say against civil same-sex marriage as an institution, as long as no one enters into it?

No, the church has had its say, and continues to have its say, regarding the institution of marriage.  In something like 18 states and the District of Columbia, it has lost the argument.  So, now what?  The church isn't going away in those states, and presumably same sex marriage won't be rolled back.  How do the two institutions co-exist?  

 

Jim, as you know there is a lot of hypocrisy in the church. Maybe one looks for a good pastoral solution, then finds an "explanation" that all sides can live with - the pre-divorce marriage was not really a marriage, the gay marriage doesn't imply sex, etc. If that's a way to break out of an impasse and prevent divisions, then is it really a good idea to look into it too carefully? It might work for now, and our descendants will examine the knots in reasoning and provide a "clarification" when the time is good.

 

Claire - that's certainly one approach :-)

If we accept, as a sort of constraint, that the church isn't going to change its fundamental teachings on same sex marriage - i.e., that dissent is not an option for the school - then the problem, if we want to think of it as a puzzle to be solved, seems to be this: on the one hand, we have what the church teaches, in all its uncompromising clarity; on the other hand, we have the intuitions of virtually everyone here, plus the students, plus a whole bunch of other people, that it's unkind or unjust or unfair to fire Zmuda; and can this teaching and this intuition be reconciled in some way?   If it's not right to fire Zmuda, can we pull principles from our treasury of church teaching to support that intuition?  Otherwise, the solution to the puzzle that suggests itself seems to be: Fire Zmuda (and submit our intutions to reform).

 

Jim,

the Church does not require sex for a valid marriage.

Mary and Joseph's marriage was sexless.

i happen to know loyal orthodox faithful gay Catholics who live together continently.  That is certainly possible.

It is not our job to pry into people's bedrooms, that judgemental ism was condemned by Christ.

We need to recognise, accept, and celebrate genuine love and commitment between gay couples even if aspects of their sex lives might not fit Catholic teaching, which is also the case for most heterosexual married Catholics today.

anyway, what the couple might or might not do in the bedroom is not the issue here. The issue is that they got married which in itself is fully consistent with Catholic doctrine.

God bless

Chris - perhaps we can pick all this up at another time.

If we accept, as a sort of constraint, that the church isn't going to change its fundamental teachings on same sex marriage...

Well, certainly, if we accept the status quo, then pretty much by definition, nothing will change. But we are nevertheless in the midst of great change. At such a time, let us by all means submit our intuitions to reform, if a careful review of them shows the need for reform.

But let us also examine the nature of this fundamental teaching of the Church. Is it divine revelation and unalterable? Or is it ancient prejudice hardened into doctrine, with a wash of natural theology coating it, for centuries unchallenged by anyone, and certainly not by those most affected and most fearful, for very good reason, of speaking out.

Maybe the teaching can stand up to rigorous review. Or maybe it will come to be seen in the same light as the horrible persecution of the Jews, which was only acknowledged as error in our lifetimes. Maybe the time draws near for another act of contrition.

Either i don't understand the article or i don't understand the church;For one to be married if one is catholic -one has to be married sacramentaly in the church. Civil marriages[state licened  marriages] are irrelevant one way or the other for the church whether of gays or straights. So how can the school now demand a "divorce" from a marriage that the church does not recognize as a marriage? Did the school go on  an apparant fishing expedition here?Are civil unions [gay or straight]  recognized by the church?no -so what kind of demand is the school makng here? is this school not going outside the perameters  of church authority?Unless a teacher   causes  public scandal  for the school or church-it seems to me the school should not interfere with the private  life of the teachers.

I'm sure that this school will wrap itself in the flag of being part of "the Church" when they do not want to provide contraceptives as part of their employee health care plan.

Two-facedness is patently apparent to the students, teachers and other employees.  Why not to readers here?

" .. public policy claim that the acceptance of same sex marriage as public policy does incalculable harm to the instiution of marriage"

The harm to the current institution of marriage is the abject failure of so many who enter into it to actually take their vows or the institution itself seriously.  The idea that some people wanting to enter into a SECULAR action of CIVIL marriage (when hundreds of thousands already do) causes harm to what purports to pass for sacramental marrage is, at best, specious.

 

The "divorce" solution makes for good headlines, but clearly wasn't a formal position of the school. According to the NPR story this morning, the school's lawyer, Michael Patterson, surmised: 

 

"Out of frustration, to try to keep a valued administrator, Sister Mary Tracy may very well had thrown that out as a hypothetical without consultation with her lawyers or with the church, you know, how do we go about trying to keep you here."

 

 

A catholic school should not have to needlessly provide for what catholic doctrine teaches is evil.That is different from  prying into the lives of its teachers.if teachers are using artificial birth control that too is between them and God.We all have our sins, errors in understandiong, what ever the use of artifical birth control entails for each person. Providing coverage is unwarranted in a  society that allows for freedom of religion.

rose-ellen: a marriage is public, by its very nature.  It is not "prying" into someone else's private business to note that a person is married. 

The more I read threads like this the more I see the wrongness of forbidding people who love on another to build a life together in love and intimacy and constructive collaboration. I wish every blessing to the brave couple who are being persecuted by the Catholic Church like many others and I pray for the speedy arrival of a regime of acceptance, decency, and respect for human freedom and dignity.

There's a public record.So what? Civil "marriages" happen everyday.He's not married according to the church.Civil actions of all sorts happen every day.They're  public records.He's not famous so for all intents and puposes it does no harm to the church,It's his legal right.Its not the church's business what he does legally except between him and his confessor.If he is famous and takes a public stand in a belief that is contrary to church teaching in matter of faith and morals then he is undermining the church.That is actionable by the church.Or if he wrongly indoctrimates students.

The church now  is in the ironic position of havng no problem with someone being promiscuous as a lifestyle choice [getting absolved repeatedly in confession] but sees a committed loving relationship as a problem!There is something wrong with this picture .The church has to fix this aparrant hypocrisy which seems  to support  that  which  is corrosive to human love and well being  rather then that which supports it.  

rose-ellen: suppose your pastor ran off and married the cleaning woman, which is his legal right, is between him and his confessor, and so on and so forth.  Yet he certainly would be fired.  Would you equally rise to his defense?  If you believe the two scenarios are different, why are they different?

 

 

They're different because the teacher never took a vow of celibacy.And the reality is the pastor would most likey  not be fired but transfered to another diocese, if he breaks up with her.Would I come to his defense?No because he, by beaking his vow has scandalizd the people of the parish that  he serves.

rose-ellen - if indeed the school suggested that Zmuda could keep his job if he divorces his spouse, that seems to be pretty much the equivalent of  your condition about this hypothetical priest, "if he breaks up with her".  Perhaps the cases have some parallels after all.

You also shouldn't discount the possibility that some members of this school community would be scandalized by allowing Zmuda to remain his position.  My observation is that whenever a gay church employee is fired for being in a relationship that is sinful in the eyes of the church, it's usually because a scandalized member of the community complains to the authorities.

The vow of celibacy that a priest takes may have some parallels in Zmuda's case, too.  Did Zmuda sign a contract with the school, promising to live as the church would wish him to live?  As a lifelong Catholic, was he confirmed?  I think it's quite likely that he has made some promises from which, for whatever reason, good or bad, he's now decided to disassociate himself.  I'm trying to say this as non-judgmentally as I can.  I think many of feel sympathetic, too, for priests or religious who decide, despite the promises they've made, to marry.

The only point I wish to make in all this is that the school is not being discriminatory (or "incongruous"), or prying into affairs in which it has no business, in choosing to terminate Zmuda. He's a public figure who has made some public commitments from which he's now publicly stepping away.  Terminating him is a defensible action that is consistent with what the church believes (apart from whatever compelling legal reasons the school may have for choosing to enforce its employment contracts).  I'm not arguing and have never argued that these sorts of terminations are the wisest actions.  And I'm trying not to discount the intuitions that firing him is the wrong thing to do.  

 

You also shouldn't discount the possibility that some members of this school community would be scandalized by allowing Zmuda to remain his position.  My observation is that whenever a gay church employee is fired for being in a relationship that is sinful in the eyes of the church, it's usually because a scandalized member of the community complains to the authorities.

 

In theology, "scandal" means something other than it does in ordinary speech.  People who write letters to the editor protesting "scandalous" behavior usually mean that it is distasteful to them 

 

The Catechism definition of "scandal" is that it is "an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil". I doubt that many of those people who claim to be scandalized really think that they are going to be led into doing evil. Their claim is really that other, weaker,  people are going to be led into evil. Before acting, I think you really have to evaluate whether their claim is plausible.

 

if the students already know that the male teacher has been living for years in a relationship with another man, how does their marriage make it more likely that the students will led "into doing evil?"

 

this sort of jumbled slogan came to mind: "Hate the sin and exclude tne sinner." Which isn't really what we teach. 

 

John H - I was  (and I assume rose-ellen was - I was picking up on her usage in the previous comment) using "scandalized" in the common, secular sense.   Perhaps "shocked" would be a better word choice.

 

if the students already know that the male teacher has been living for years in a relationship with another man, how does their marriage make it more likely that the students will led "into doing evil?"

Did they already know?  I knew practically nothing about the personal lives of most of my teachers.  If marriage makes no difference, I'd think that it wouldn't be the culturally divisive and poltical football it clearly is.  Marriage must make a difference somehow.

" ... if indeed the school suggested that Zmuda could keep his job if he divorces his spouse ..."

So the school would, on its Catholic hand, deny that Zmuda is married but, on its "other hand," might be willing to kiss and make up if this non-marriage would be dissolved by means of a divorce?

Really?

And people wonder why so much which passes for Catholicism causes a large amount of head-shaking, smirking and flat-out guffawing.

Jim McCrea  --  the church's dance around gayness has indeed become a joke. Young people see this plainly -- they do not dream of denying to their gay friends the same chances of happiness as anyone else, including marriage. But wiser older heads have the same outlook, deepened by direct experience of the murderous impact of church teaching on so many vulnerable people.

There is no inherent scandal to the fact that  an unmarried lay  teacher sins or errs by not remaining celibate.[we're all  sinners applies here]. There IS a scandal when a priest breaks a vow. The scandal is not that he sins by  having illicit sex[that's between him and God] but that he broke a vow which makes him not what he professes to be to his congregation.He's a fraud to the people he is there to serve as well as to his superiors who put their trust in him  and once that fact is revealed about him that is a scandal and that is why he should be dismissed from the parish.

There's another layer to Jim P's casuistical (I use that term favorably, not critically--I like casuistry!) analogy of the pastor and the cleaning woman. In fact, as we know, lots and lots of priests DO have sexual relationships with consenting adults. What is lacking in those relationships is any real responsibility of the priest to the relationship. (The attitudes of the significant others vary tremendously, from longing to hopeful to also uninterested in commitment. They are not infrequently lied to over and over and over. But the object of our case here is the priest.) Currently, those priests either confess to sexual sin once or repeatedly and rarely if ever experience consequences,or say nothing and rarely if ever experience consequences. Their irresponsibility and immaturity are regarded as insignificant.

Myself, I think it's the lack of adult responsibility in those relationships which IS problematic--grown-ups in long-term relationships SHOULD take on the loving care for the other that is a hallmark of marriage. If priestly celibacy remains required, the priest, if he is a decent man, should resign and get married. If he doesn't love the housekeeper, he should stop sleeping with her and either adhere to his promise of celibacy or resign so he can date honestly.

The teacher took the path of responsible, loving, adulthood and got married. And got fired for it.

Catholics need to stop confusing the Scarmanet of Holy Matrimony, a Cathoic and High Church belief, with marriage, a social institution with variations in different cultures. This social institution is often endowed with religious aspects, but largely with cermonial rites rather than doctrines.

Yes, yes, I know that Catholic opposition to gay marriage is not Biblical or theoological but philosophical, based on the Church's interperpreation of Natural Law. The church has raised this rationalistic, non-scientific philosophy to the level of doctrine, and priests often shove aside discussiing more inspiring doctrines in favor of ranting against gay marriage.

But if the church wishes to impose its interpretations of Natural Law on society, then it must condemn Western Bankingh (but not Islamic banking) because it has in the past decreed that usury (interest on loans) is a grave sin, basing this view on Natural Law. It has also condemned Democracy and Liberty as grave aberations/sins, basing this view on Natural Law. In effect the Catholic hierarchy are cafeteria Catholics when it come to the bagggae of Natural Law.

Did they already know?  I knew practically nothing about the personal lives of most of my teachers.

Fair enough, Jim.  Your question made me realize that I was conflating the Zmuda case with earlier ones  for which my recollection (right or wrong) is that the same sex relationship was reported to have been known to staff or students. 

Whatever they knew before, the Eastside students do know of the relationship now. I would think that a prudential decision would be based on whether keeping Zmuda in his job is likely to lead students or others into sin (scandal) and not on whether someone in the community claims to be shocked (scandal only in non-technical terms)

I don't rule out that there may be diocesan or church-wide regulations that may prohibit employing a person in a same-sex marriage in a Catholic school, but then I think we should own up to the fact that Zmuda is out because of those regulations, not because of a judgment of the Principal. 

Then we could discuss whether those regulations express our values - or those of Francis. 

 

 

 

 

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About the Author

Eduardo Moisés Peñalver is the John P. Wilson Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School. He is the author of numerous books and articles on the subjects of property and land use law.