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Time to throw in the towel? UPDATE

East Side Catholic, widely covered on dotCommonweal, made it big today: Front Page treatment by the NYTimes (print edition, January 23, 2013). Top people at the school have bailed. There is concern about future enrollment and current donors (though the story gives no data). The schools contradictory statements and decisions have it in a tangle. The students are in charge. Story here.

Time to close the school down?

Just for fun: the story is by Michael Paulson, once at the Boston Globe where he shut down Cardinal Law.

UPDATE:  Given the direction of the discourse here and other relevant posts, perhaps I should have headlined this post:  THE TOWEL WILL BE THROWN IN   suggesting that the school is unlikely to survive the controversy, having nothing to do with the bishop or the church's teachings, as such, but with the conclusions, economic and political, of the parents of all the students (protestors and non-protestors as well as next year's applicants).



Commenting Guidelines

This isn't an archdiocesan school - according to the website, it's "an independent not-for-profit school affiliated with the Catholic Church." I'm not saying it's anywhere near this point, but isn't it more likely that a school like this (if it's otherwise prosperous and popular) would ultimately explore de-affiliating from the church? Why close it down? Perhaps there is a parallel here with some of the choices facing independent Catholic hospitals as far as their Catholic affiliation.

As a parent of 2 20-somethings I can attest that gay marriage, or as they say, "we call it marriage" is only an issue to the extent that it isn't available everywhere. It is totally and completely accepted by them and their friends.  Ultimately, this will be this generation's birth control ban, a Church teaching which causes many to leave the Church, but is utterly ignored by most of those who remain.  By holding to this "teaching" the hierarchy continues to undermine its position, just as by continuing to uphold Humanae Vitae an earlier generation of the hierarchy undermined its own credibility. 

Tom: How about a hypotethical? An independent institution (school, hospital, social service agency) that raises its own funds, has its own legal standing, and wants to call itself Catholic, because it's board, administration, employees, etc. are Catholic. Further stipulate that it considers itself Catholic because it accepts Catholic teaching and tradition, or it publically says it is. What if it were a hospital required by law to offer abortion services? Should it acquiesce? Should it stop calling itself Catholic? Should it close down?

Make that a Catholic high school required by law to offer sex education that included information about contraception and abortion. Its student health service would be required to offer referrals to sexually active and/or pregnant students? Should it acquiesce? Should it stop calling itself Catholic? Should it close down? 

So make that East Side Catholic. And make the issue same-sex marriage. It appears that the school's public relations have been a complete muddle. Perhaps the departures of top leaders has removed the pr problem. But that has not resolved its dilemma. Should it acquiesce in the student demands and rehire Mr. Z? Should it stop calling itself Catholic and simply become a private school? Or...should it close down? There doesn't seem to be an easy resolution of its problem.

Just for fun: the story is by Michael Paulson, once at the Boston Globe where he shut down Cardinal Law.

His bio is still on the Globe website:

He was co-author of this week's NYTimes story on the release of the Chicago sexual abuse files:

I hope that this indicates that the Times is going to give him a continuing role in reporting on religion. 

There are other cases of private Catholic schools choosing a route independent of the diocese . A requirement of the bishop of the Arlington Diocese in Virginia led Notre Dame Academy to disassociate itself with the Catholic church. It is now called Middleburg Academy.  This has happened with hospitals as well, as we know, with the most notorious recent case being St. Joseph's of Phoenix, which became "not Catholic" officially when it refused to bow to the demands of the bishop.  It is still run by a religious order and it still calls itself St. Joseph's.

In Baltimore, the former bishop, Edwin O'Brien, made multiple demands of the Legion of Christ and restricted many of their activities in the diocese.  They operated a school called Woodmont Academy - it was not closed by the bishop, but did close in 2011 due to insufficient enrollment.  How much the disapproval of the bishop influenced enrollment along with the news stories about the order is anybody's guess. Probably both contributed to the school's failure.


What a tangled web we weave when we practice to deceive ...

Mostly ourselves, I suppose, when we deny the essential truth(s) of our lives.

Here is a "startup" independent Catholic high school for girls in the Diocese of Trenton.

They sought, and did not receive, the bishop's endorsement to identify themselves as a Catholic high school (with its program of religious instruction approved by the diocese, etc.).  So instead they are proceeding anyway, calling themselves a school "in the Catholic tradition." I don't know anything about whether their lack of official standing is helping or hurting, temporary or permanent. It wasn't an ideological conflct that brought about this lack of formal affiliation, but it's another example of someone going down this path.

I like those questions, Margaret, but it'd take brief to answer them, I think! "Closing down" seems the least favorable...As far as the name "catholic," I haven't checked to see how "eastside uses it.

But the questions you raise do remain.

I think of my daughter currently attending a wonderful NYS college that ws was once "Catholilc" now in the hands of a lay board (with still a religous on the board, I believe) and yet with grat influences of women religious, lay campus minister, a priest Dean and having a better "Catholic" expereince tyhan I hear of from some others... all anecdotes, I know.

Hard identity and integrity questions and worth pondering.

MOS:  “…The students are in charge.

“Time to close the school down?”

I am surprised that so few (any?) have commented on the question of whether the students are in charge, or at leats are driving the narrative.  Much less whether that should be evidence toward whether the school should be shut down, which is how I read the juxtaposition.

I think it is wonderful that the students have acted to exert moral authority in a matter they clearly find compelling in moral terms.  What was the purpose of their moral education if not to be able to analyze a situation and make a judgment as to how they should respond?  Surely, this is exactly what we wish (or should wish) as the outcome of their learning.

Note that they are putting aside as irrelevant the entire range of legal (contract) issues that occupies so many comments here.  They are responding to the form of Christian witness they see (as Francis has instructed then to do as the test of evangelism) – and the answer is that the students align themselves with the witness of Love.  They are all confirmed Catholics, I suppose, so we are to treat them as peers in regard to studying the Gospel.  Right?  Or what is Confirmation all about?   Are we to imagine that they do not understand the moral issues (they may indeed be naïve with respect to Anglo-Saxon common law of contracts, but that is emphatically NOT their issue – nor should it be).

When I was their age (or a bit younger) I reacted to a moral outrage at my parish church, and really to the abject failure of the ministry or senior laity to respond in any Christian way.  In the context given us by Pope Francis, I looked at the witness that was shown to me, and found it so frighteningly un-Christian that I walked away.  I have re-entered a Catholic church twice in 50 years – once for the baptism of a friend’s child and once for the installment of another friend as a Deacon. 

With luck and sensible actions, the Church in the area of Eastside will not lose those kids. 

Mark L.

Mark's comment reflects what I wrote on another previous blog on this subject that the students are learning something, but it is probably to do with integrity, sexual orientation and expression, and intolerance that will at some point soon distance most of them from the "institutional" Church.

As all know, the ship has sailed on this issue in American culture and how this will play out on the American stage and the world stage (with homosexuality yet severely  punishable in some African nation) and the Church's refusal thus far to truly examine issues of sexuality in this era will probably diminish or distract from Pope Francis seemingly resounding messages about the economic disparities throughout the world.



As all know, the ship has sailed on this issue in American culture

That's probably true for the communities in which most of the folks who post, comment and read here live, and/of for the demographic groups with which we tend to hang out.

But America is a vast and diverse nation.  Same sex marriage is not equally accepted in all places and among all gropus.  Probably there are some states in which the courts have legalized same sex marriage by fiat, for which a majority of the residents would be happy-to-indifferent if it somehow became illegal again.

It's possible that the way this all gets resolved is that the school hires a new president who is adept at crisis management; that Zmuda stays fired; that the school community comes to terms with it; and life goes on for Eastside Catholic.  It's quite likely that there are folks in authority who are working at this moment to bring about that outcome.


Eduardo posts above on various strategies that Catholic institutions could deploy to resolve issues such as those at East Side Catholic. And as Cathleen Kaveney might point out (don't know that she would), the church has a long tradition of casuistry that morally permits (if not allows) situations in which Church teachings have been overlooked without necessarily over-riding church teaching (funeral Masses and Christian burial for Mafiosos and convicted criminals, including war criminals, etc.). I am sure better examples could be produced.

What interests me in this case is that it appears that the narrative is driven (as ML observes) by the students' (or at least some students) view that the Vice-President/swimming coach had done nothing to require his being fired (his contractual agreement notwithstanding). That narrative seems to be pulling the school apart with concerns about its future, at least according to the Times' story. We can be pretty sure that there are other views within the school community, including students, that hold a different view, which is unlikely to shape the narrative concerning Eastside Catholic. Those voices are unlikely to be pursued, because they are outside the liberal narrative on this subject (some of those voices may be prejudiced, others may have helpful quesitons to raise).

I am curious, and a bit surprised that comments here avoid the larger issue of what it means to be a Catholic institution, or an institution in the Catholic tradition. Many such institutions, especially educational ones, will find themselves in the hands of lay people, competing with other private or non-profit schools, that is inevitable and a good thing. But what will those lay people have to back up claims, and sincere ones, that they are Catholic? Bracket the same-sex marriage issue and think of other hot-button issues: laws allowing people to carry concealed weapons anywhere, laws requiring schools to provide abortion referrals, laws prohibitng schools from accepting the children of illegal immigrants....I could go on.

All those East Coast prep schools that are the incubators for out nation's elites where once schools run by Protestant churches, then they were schools in the Protestant tradition, and now....?



I think it is wonderful that the students have acted to exert moral authority in a matter they clearly find compelling in moral terms.


But they are still students which means they are still learning.  Its great that they are speaking up so that their teachers can explain the Church's position on the issue.  Personally, I find the Church's teaching intellectually beautiful and rational.  The other side, not so much.

Kudos to Mark's comment above - appear that they have taken in actual catholic moral values - as Kaveny would say - virtues.

More of the institution rides herd on the catholic community - a la sex abuse; a la school/parish closings, etc.

The point about Catholic institutiions is the one I was trying to address and grapple with very personally in my daughter's experience at this fine college she is attending. The" spiritual life" is fostered there by some excellent campus ministries, I suspect, but without the formal "Catholic" imprimatur. I am doing some informal and anecdotal questionings of other parents whose lifestyle and values are similar to our own and how their children/students are nurtured at formally Catholic institutions... will satisfy my own curiosity if not prove a thing...

Let us call for the students to provide us with their moral analysis of the situation, its underpinnings, its arguments and counter-arguments, and the likely outcome of that analysis.

Ms. Steinfels -

Note - plans to host -

"Parents were informed of a new "Effecting Change" workshop, for students to voice concerns on the Catholic Church and its future.  At the same time, they were told if their child protests Zmuda's departure, they will be sent home."

Of course, with the principal's resignation, who knows where this is going now?

Especially note: 

“The archdiocese supports the decision. The decision has been misunderstood and mischaracterized by some, and we now have the opportunity to help our students learn even more about Catholic teaching,” Sartain said in a statement earlier this month."

Not sure if this gets at what you want - "A protest petition to Sartain, at the time bearing 21,000 names, was submitted to the archdiocese last Wednesday.  The petition organizers read a statement, evoking the “Who am I to judge?” spirit of Pope Francis and telling Sartain:

“The year is 2014: It’s time to stop firing teachers for being gay. Please take this bold step and help stem the firing of gay Catholic educators.  Be a shining light for your colleagues in other dioceses.  If you lead, they will follow.” 

The petition urged the archdiocese and its school system to take a transparent and “holistic” approach when considering the fate of married gay and lesbian teachers.  It urged that the community be consulted, and Jesus’ teachings in the Gospels be taken into account.

In terms of Sartrain - the usual: 

Sartain has not spoken to the Eastside Catholic students or their supporters, despite advice by some clergy that he engage in dialogue.


The Eastside students have organized what they hope will be a nationwide “Zday” action on Jan. 31 in which students are urged to wear orange (Eastside’s colors) in a gesture of support.  Already, students at Holy Names, Blanchet and Seattle Prep have joined in demonstrations.

Thanks, Mr. de Haas. Lots going on there, that's for sure. Am hoping that Francis's "Who Am I to Judge," doesn't come back to bite him!!

I don't detect that the "moral analysis" that might give everyone something to think about is in the offing. It is a protest/action that the students are organizing. As students always have done, including me when a student. But the light that might come, as in light and heat, will probably be a long time coming. The students are unlikely to get Mr. Z back if my experience of institutional respones is any guide. Those students who are not part of this protests will say nothing, or mumble among themselve. People, including students, of differing views are forbidden to talk to one another by my reading of your comments, i.e., the first by fiat of the school, the second by the social pressure against speaking becuase "of the ship that has sailed in American culture." What an interesting phrase to describe the situation of gay marriage. Parents will vote with their check books.

But they are still students which means they are still learning.

I'm thinking that not too many are going to learn anything that will cause them to suddenly think that what the Church has to say about gay marriage is better than their current conclusions.

Aren't we all supposed to be *still learning* - in fact, that is one of the marks of evangelization per Francis - bishops start by listening and then dialogue.  Something Sartain doesn't do.

I am of the opinon that the majority of parents are probably in general  support of the students' positions and generally suppor their actions, too.  Things don't get to this level without parents at least tacit support in my experience. 

You mean the majority of the students who are protesting may have parental support. You may be right. On the other hand, some parents don't kow what they're adolescents are up to, including their protest activities.

That leaves the students who are not protesting. Hard to know how many (unless I've missed that vital statistic). No doubt there are parents of these young'uns who are glad they are not protesting for various reasons, others who don't know, etc., etc., etc.

I am beginning to wonder whether readers of dotCwl know more about the matter than all the people in the State of Washington--or perhaps I exaggerate.


If the students don't believe the school ought to follow Church teaching and the principal and staff doesn't either, the jig is up. They ought to found an independent Christian school, where the policies will reflect what their consciences demand.

It is different to doubt, to question Church teaching. I see no questions here, though, only certitude that the Church's teaching is wrong, that it is unjust to uphold it, and that it must be resisted wherever it occurs. It's a situation of seige and demand for an unconditional surrender. The principal resigned in the face of it.

But that unconditional surrender, how likely is that to occur -- today, tomorrow, in our lifetime? Catholicism is a worldwide religion. Because some states in the US have legalized gay marriage in the past year or two does not mean the Catholic Church is ready to jettison its teaching on marriage. Even if it should do so RIGHT NOW, you know it won't. A moment's reflection on what history teaches will demonstrate this. How long did it take to change Church teaching on slavery? On usury? "We think in centuries here" is more than just a cute motto.

Furthermore, as much as people may wish this were otherwise, Pope Francis was not speaking in favor of gay marriage when he asked "Who am I to judge?" He was talking about Holy Orders. Ask him about gay marriage, and you will get a different answer, as was demonstrated in Buenos Aires. If people are expecting the Synod on the Family to produce a resounding affirmation of gay marriage, they are setting themselves up. 

I feel like we have cameras trained on a street corner where we know cars are going to crash.

P.S., I should add that I do believe the Church teaching will change... but in its own time, and that time frame will be a lot longer than some people are able to accept. 


I am saying that for things to have reached this point at that school, it appears to me that the views held by the students are not dissimilar to those held by the parents.  While they might have been clueless when the protests first began, to not know where this has gone by now, those parents would have to be living in caves on Mt Ranier without access to newspapers, tv, internet and radio.  I just believe that like the majorority of Americans (based on the recent ABC News and separate Gallup poll) the majority of parents believe that gay marriage is not wrong and that as a result the vice principal should not have been fired for marrying his partner. Its over 60% among those who are likely to have kids of high school age.  Given that, my sense is that they are supportive of their kids' actions, or if not their specific actions, they are supportive of their kids' views and don't actively seek to stop them from their various protests.  Probably have made their views known to the school adminsistration too.  Most Catholic high schools that I know of have much higher levels of parent involvement than typical public and even other private schools.  So to assume that paretns are not supportive of the student actions and opposed to the administration's activities strikes me as unlikely.  These are still high school kids and parents still have some level of influence and control over the majority of them. 

As I said, "You may be right!"

My point: Human nature being what it is, there is a tendency to not be a majority in every which way. What majority of the parents are you talking about?

Here is some data from the school's web-site:There are altogether 654 high school student and 281 middle school students; 62 percent are Roman Catholic, 38 percent other religious traditions. Does the protest include 6th, 7th, and 8th graders? Does it include all the Catholics? all the other religious traditions? It is possible that all the parent units, i.e., approximately 935 support the protests. It is unlikely. I also notice that protest and facebook web-site is organized by an alum and not a student. She has every right to organize, of course.

I am not picking a quarrel with you, debate points notwithstanding. I am pointing to the media fact that we have heard almost nothing from anybody but the protesters, students and otherwise.



Could it be that these students are applying the principles of justice and integrity that we hope they were taught in this school?

Or are they not allowed to do that when it comes to “Catholic” school practices, whether these practices are just or not?

This is definitely a teaching moment.  One wonders, however, exactly what these students are being taught?

“Good teaching, as good teachers know, is not a process of giving instructions that the pupils will slavishly follow, but rather of sharing what little wisdom and knowledge one has in the hope that some of them at least will carry off some of it into their lives beyond the classroom, where they will construct their own complex selves. It is in that mysterious, nay enigmatic, realm beyond the reach of the teacher that, if at all, they will acquire their own wisdom and insight.”

Paul Lakeland, “Respecting the Enigmatic”, Aug 21, 2011,

And lest we/they forget:  Morality is doing what is right, no matter what you are told.  Micromanaged "religion" is doing what you are told, no matter what is right.

When taking a Cartesian stand to examine, without past assumptions or dictates, Catholic sexual teaching it is hard to stay Catholic in the traditional sense. One can stay out of vtradition or loyalty or community, but it is difficult to agree that the church has successfully reconciled faith and reason.

Even Cardinal Ottaviani, an ultra c onservatives, calle dthe reasoing behind the decree on birth control iraational. Of course out of on]bdeience he accepted the ruling, at least publicly. Who knows what he did when pastoring large working class families (which he did)?

Anceint and superficial understanding s of human biology can support the church's teaching on abortion. But not a modern, more accurate understanding of biology. The church is unable to reconcile faith and biology, but refuses to see the weaknesses in its interpretaion of natural law, which it has raised above the Bible as the source of doctrine.

Finally, when did Mary wed? At 14? 16? Doubtful it was later. People in those days mnaried at the same time, or around the same time, as sexual maturity. Today there is a long dellay bewteen sexual maturity and marriage. Yet the church insistes on teaching old absolutes about sexual right and worng. A mode modern approach would be to teach sexual ethics, the need to have a love and concern for anyone we have sex with, in or out of marriage. And the need to be prudential and focused on the welfare of children when it comes to the issue of getting pregnant or preventing pregnancy.

The church will hold onto a certain portion of the population. But it will continue to shrink in the western world and become a weak political force. Europe is the future of the church in the United States.

I ofetn encounter ex-Catholics who are now Baptists. Why? They fell down in life, became the Lost Sheep, and found the way the baptist churches operate providing the structure - and inner beliefs - needed to be redeemed here in this wolrd. A little scary in that they sometimes try to evangelize me. When that happens we have conversatiosn perhaps too uncomfotrably deep. I'm one of thosep eople who are not really virtuous but live an orderly and kind life and certainly don't violate most of the non-sexual traditional virtues. I also am able to tune in to huamn suffering and conflict, but have no desire to tell people how to live. People like me frighten those who have found their turnaround in religion. But I represent a growoing segment of the Ameeican population. Contray to teh nonempirical claims of the pope and the clergy we do not have a deep, unmet longing for God. We're OK. We are and have good neighbors. And we're not going to hell.

The links that Bill deHaas provided above contain a number of photographs of the protests - 20+ between the two links.  

In all the images but one or two, it appears that most of the protesting students are girls.  Not sure what that signifies; is it possible girls are more up in arms about this than boys?  Maybe the girls are more organized/organizable than the boys?  (E.g. because of social media?)

The images show anywhere from a couple of dozen up to maybe 100 students.  Apparently students from several schools are taking part; they're not all Eastside students.  Hard to tell how many students are actively taking part in the protests.  Most of the images whose captions are dated indicate that the actions took place before the holidays.  Do the student protests continue?

The protestors make a good story and sell newspapers, etc.  The others are hidden; we dont know what we dont know.

Good point, What about those of us who were taught in Catholic school that the primary purpose of marraige is companionable love? I'm sure any thought along these lines has disappeared from Catholic schiools, But many young Catholic people hold this view without necessarily being compeletely conscience of this belief.

I am pointing to the media fact that we have heard almost nothing from anybody but the protesters, students and otherwise.

Is that because the media and others are steadfastly refusing to seek out other points of view or because they are being rebuffed or ignored when they do? Even people who think the dismissal is just may be reluctant to defend it publicly.

If the students don't believe the school ought to follow Church teaching

i think there is a danger in confusing the Church teaching on the sinfulness of homosexual acts with the question of whether a person in a same sex marriage must be excluded from the school community. Is there a Church teaching on that other than that we should avoid scandal?

i went to the first nine grades in a parish school staffed almost entirely by sisters in black robes and white wimples. I suppose that kind of set-apart school community in which we would never encounter anyone who was not a good, holy person who modeled the Church's teachings, provided the same kind of detachment from the outside world that homeschoolers seek today. 

But in a world in which the neighbors across the street may be a same-sex couple and newspapers and TV present frequent coverage of debates about same-sex marriage, will children be drawn into sin (the definition of scandal) because one of their teachers is in a same sex marriage?

i think that is the prudential decision that the school needs to make - and I think that, in most cases, the answer should be "no bad effects - the teacher should stay"

I'd draw a parallel to the USCCB accepting the Boy Scouts' decision to welcome openly gay boys as troop members - despite hurtful comments made by individual Catholics, predicting horrors if their children should encounter gay scouts. 

If you are saying there are probably some people who support the School's decision, of course there are.  Why you haven't heard from them is likely for multiple reasons.  I would list among those:

  • Lack of organization.  Protestors tend to be organized, have spokespeople readily available, have facebook pages and so forth.  Those supporting the status quo are less likely to be well organized.
  • It is difficult to support the School's position and not come across as a bigot.  Rightly or wrongly, regardless of your reason for your position, to an outsider it looks wrong.  Who wants to be portrayed that way? This is a particularly difficult topic on which to speak for th eopposition and not come across as a bigot. Frankly, one of the most embarrassing homilies I ever heard in my life was given by the then Bishop of Portland Maine Richard Malone.  He was trying to oppose the Maine Gay Marriage bill in the legislature.  He managed to insult not only gays, but single mothers, single fathers, adoptive parents...I know Bishop Malone to be a fine man and a good and generous bishop, but he couldn't do it.  Some 16 year old certainly won't. 
  • Firing a person for getting married in this day and age somehow seems pretty archaic.  Even if you agree with the School's decison, you might elect not to broadcast it. 
  • It is hard for kids to go against the majority.
  • In reality, the media isn't going to look overly hard for supporters of the status quo. 

" ... is it possible girls are more up in arms about this than boys? Maybe the girls are more organized/organizable than the boys?"

I'm willing to bet that a lot of the boys are quiet out of fear of being tarred with the "fag" brush, so commonly used in schools and their corresponding age group.

Re Girl supporters: They all had a crush on Mr. Z?

No, Margaret ... maybe they took their lessons to heart!

Their swimming lessons?

It is difficult to support the School's position and not come across as a bigot. 

Certainly, whenever anyone publicly opposes same sex marriage, activists rush to tar him/her as a bigot.  It's not just fear of "coming across" - it's also fear of being the victim of a detraction campaign.


My guess is that the school is in a "tangle" largely because of an ultimatum from Sartain and his unwillingness to let the leadership of the school make its own decisions. 

It certainly appears to me that the Archbishop threw a smart, talented, gospel-orientated woman religious under the bus.  The church can not continue to force women like Sr. Mary Tracy into these pointless defenses of ill-concieved notions of what constitutes ethical human sexuality.  That's the towel whose time to be thrown in has come.  We simply can no longer afford to toss aside our best and brightest.  Sr. Mary Tracy seems like the kind of person who should be leading our church and not someone forced to follow the order of someone who lack the foresight and vision to solve this problem more creatively.

I read this article linked below about Sr. Tracy written well before this Archbishop Sartain-created crisis occured.  It pains me to think her gifts are sacrficed at the altar of misguided loyalty to simplistic, legalistic purity.

Jack:  haven't you learned by now that uppity (or acquiescent as well) nuns are particularly expendable in holy "mother" church? .. and Sartain is right in line to enforce that, currently as well as historically?

And people wonder why women are walking from this church at record numbers!

Robert john Araujo argues for the teacher as role model:

When it comes to role modeling the virtuous life of one who wishes to be an example for young people, a Catholic educational institution would not be unjustly discriminating against someone if he or she claimed the virtues but did not, in fact, exercise them in his or her personal life. Thus, Catholic parishes and dioceses have not unjustly discriminated against financial stewards whose employments were terminated when it was discovered that these employees were embezzling funds from the parish or diocese.

Mr. Zmuda is teaching by his example, and his teaching is contrary to the Church’s clear teaching on the subject of marriage....students are led to believe and accept something that they should not be led to believe and accept as true or as proper or as virtuous or as something only involving one’s private life.

which is a reasonable response to the question of whether the school has legal grounds for firing Mr. Zmuda 

But it simply asserts that Mr. Zmuda's continued presence will cause students to be "led to believe and accept something that they should not be led to believe...."

That's certainly what people would have believed back when I was in a school staffed by habited school sisters and none of us had ever met (or realized we had met) a gay person.

Whether it's true today is something that I think the school needs to think about carefully. 

Because the downside teaches that gay people must be shunned rather than welcomed.

But it simply asserts that Mr. Zmuda's continued presence will cause students to be "led to believe and accept something that they should not be led to believe...."

John - interesting comment.  The word "accept" has more than one connotation.  You allude to the possibility that Eastside is teaching the wrong lesson: that, inadvertently or not, it runs the risk of teaching " ... that gay people must be shunned rather than welcomed."  I agree that this non-acceptance - shunning is an apt word - would be contrary to Christian discipleship.

In an era in which same sex marriage is both legal and (to some degree or in some circles) culturally accepted, my view is that the church must accept - that is to say, must accommodate itself to - existing alongside the reality of same sex marriage.  

There are three components to this form of acceptance:

  • ​The church recognizes that same sex marriage is a cultural reality
  • The church holds that same sex marriage's cultural reality exists outside of the church - it is not part of the church.  It is something from which the church, because of its religious beliefs, distances itself
  • Even though same sex marriage is not of the church, the church acknowledges the prudence of existing amicably alongside the institution of same sex marriage.  It treats people who are in same sex marriages with respect and love.

These three components (which we might think of as "weak acceptance") may represent a framework for Zmuda to be reinstated.  The position of Eastside would be: "Because of his same sex marriage, Zmuda cannot fully be part of our Catholic community; but we don't insist that all our employees be fully part of that community, so long as they agree to teach what we believe and to teach nothing that contradicts what we believe; and while we don't approve of all of his life choices, it's important that we teach the members of our faith community, particularly impressionable students, that we should strive to live in peace alongside those who don't adhere to our beliefs and practices but who otherwise are respectful and honorable citizens of our civic community."

Another connotation of "accept" ("strong acceptance") would be what has been suggested here many times now: that the church accept that there is an essential goodness to same sex marriages, and the church should acknowledge and even embrace those goods.  Strong acceptance would entail accepting that the institution of same sex marriage can exist within the Catholic community. Strong acceptance would affirm Zmuda as a full member of the school's Catholic community.  Pretty clearly, the church leadership is not ready to go there.  Zmuda being reinstated and welcomed as someone whose same sex marriage can be a source of Catholic witness - I don't think that's a possible outcome.

From Francis to the Rota (curial officials).  Althou title says annulments, it is about the role of *law* as *pastoral* - not black and white.


In his speech to the Rota, the pope said a judge on a church tribunal must sympathize with the "mentality and legitimate aspirations" of the community he serves, and thus render "justice that is not legalistic and abstract, but appropriate to the needs of concrete reality." 

Such a judge "will not be content with superficial knowledge of the reality of the persons who await his judgment, but will recognize the need to understand deeply the situations of the parties," the pope said.

Would suggest that Sartain (like Burke) needs to pay attention.  Has his decision caused *unity* or *division*.  This Sunday's Pauline reading is about his theme that folks have to respect each other in a community even in the midst of differences.  When the local bishop refuses to even dialogue, he has created division; not unity and has violated the Pauline theme of this Sunday's reading.


Jim, I like your three points. We are a church of sinners (Pope Francis keeps telling us the he is a sinner). Table fellowship with sinners was part of Jesus teaching method ("He eats with prostitutes and tax collectors"). It's over a hundred years since the Church ordered someone to be shunned and even  the possibilty was dropped from the 1983 code.

i wouldn''t say that "Zmuda cannot fully be part of our Catholic community." We don't say that about divorced and remarried (without annulment) Catholics we see at Church each Sunday. The Church teaches that they (and Mr Zmuda, and anyone else) shouldn't receive Communion if they are conscious of being in mortal sin, but it still recognizes them as members of the Catholic community, with the same obligations to attend Mass, etc. and the same dignity as children of God. 

Bill de Haas: Not sure exactly how your pope quote reflects on the current situation so, Point of information: What exactly has Archbishop Sartain said about the Eastside Catholic situation.

I find this statement on Catholic parishes and gay marriage in the California Catholic Daily following the state vote to permit gays to marry; his January 15th statement in response to a petition for the reinstatement of Mr. Zmuda; and Sister Tracy's report that she met with him before Mr. Z was asked to resign and/or fired. Most of these have Sartain repeating church teaching on same-sex marriage without rendering a judgement on Mr Z.

What else, if anything, has he said? Am I missing something?

Ms. O'Brien Steinfels-

I think the point is not what Sartain has said -- it is what he has done or allowed to be done in his Archdiocese.  There is a lot in the public record to suggest that the school was forced to fire Zmuda because of pressure from Sartain.  The current principal for example said this in an email:

“The dismissal of the Vice Principal was based on the Archdiocese of Seattle’s authority over a Catholic school,” Principal Polly Skinner wrote in an e-mail to an Eastside graduate the day news of Zmudas’ dismissal broke. “We are saddened and as a Catholic school, bound by Catholic Teaching regarding Same Sex marriage.

It is also in the record that Sr. Tracy met with officials from the Archdiocese before taking any action.  The Archdiocese did not have to force this resignation/firing.  A creative, pastoral leader could have come up with a better plan, certainly a plan that was not rushed as this one appears to have been.

Most of these have Sartain repeating church teaching on same-sex marriage without rendering a judgement on Mr Z.

Is there a Church teaching that people in same-sex marriages may not teach in Catholic schools? - or is that the Archbishop's own decision?


Thanks Mr. Marth. My question to Mr. de Haas was what did the pope quote have to do with the situation in Seattle and what had the Archbishop said. I went searching for any statement by him and posted what I found. You've added a quote from the principal of Eastside speaking of the authority of the Archdiocese. Everyone seems to have conceded that point whether or not they agree with the decision. You say that it is not what the archbishop has said but what he has done or allowed to be done. I repeat my question then: what has he done or allowed to be done. It strikes me that he has been reactive rather than active.

Was Sister Tracy ordered to fire Mr. Zmuda? She didn't say that. Did she think he should be fired because of his contractual agreement? And did she agree that he had violated his contract. We know remarkably little about what she thinks. I wish a good reporter would go interview her.

In my prowling around in the news stories I read that Mr. Zmuda married last summer, which means between then and his resignation/firing, he was working at the school. Did no one know? Did many people know and let if fly under the radar. I suppose somewhere there is a story about how this became a public issue. A complaint from someone opposed? A provocation by an activist in favor?

When these matters become public officials are forced to take action. When and how did it become public?

John Hayes: Is there a church teaching? I don't see it in the Nicene Creed. So maybe not. But according to news stories there was something in his contract that he violated.