Signed by nine teachers who have been forced from jobs at Catholic schools for identifying as LGBT or being an ally to the community, an open letter has been delivered to the Vatican by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).
The letter reads, in part:
We have devoted years, some of us even decades, to serving our communities as teachers, leaders and role models. We have made a conscious choice to work within the Catholic Church because we strongly believe that a Catholic education prepares our young people to be responsible citizens, men and women for others. For each and every one of us, our employment was far more than just a job – it was a reflection of core Catholic values.
Unfortunately, we are a group bonded together not just by Catholic values. We are a group of teachers, administrators and lay people who have all lost our jobs simply because of who we love. We are good teachers and role models. The economic hardships and emotional impact we have experienced from losing our jobs, not for inability or lack of dedication, but for who we love, is devastating.
After each termination, school and Church officials have told us we violate Catholic Church teachings on homosexuality. Yet, such directives have not only caused great harm to our families, but also contradict your pastoral priority for the Church to reflect the beauty of God in ways that attract and entice rather than alienate.
Your Holiness has said that "[u]nless we train ministers capable of warming people’s hearts, of walking with them in the night, of dialoguing with their hopes and disappointment, of mending their brokenness, what hope can we have for our present and future journey." We agree and we respectfully submit that it is time for our Church to reflect on how it treats lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Catholics, and the family members who embrace them. Love thy neighbor as thyself is at the foundation of the gospel and the Church’s social teaching, and yet we are not treated as neighbors.
All of us are called to lovingly serve one another. Thefounder of the Society of Jesus, Saint Ignatius of Loyola teaches us “love is shown more in deeds than in words.” Yet how are we to fulfill the words of St. Ignatius if we are barred from showing our love through our deeds? We are eager and willing to do the work of educating our youth, yet we have been denied the opportunity to do so by the very Church that has instilled in us an understanding of the sacred dignity of work. Rather than evaluating our abilities based on our job performance, the Church has instead turned a blind eye to its own founding values and denied those who would lovingly serve an opportunity to do so.
Tippi McCullough (Mount St. Mary's, Little Rock, Arkansas), Nicholas Coppola (St. Anthony's Catholic Church, Oceanside, New York), Flint Dollar (Mount de Sales Academy, Macon, Georgia), Michael Griffin (Holy Ghost Preparatory School, Bensalem, Pennsylvania), Richard Hague (Purcell Marian High School, Cincinnati, Ohio), Richard Miller (St. Rita School for the Deaf, Cincinnati, Ohio), Kristen Ostendorf (Totino-Grace Catholic High School, Fridley, Minnesota), Brian Panetta (Sandusky Catholic High School, Cleveland, Ohio), and Molly Shumate (Cincinnati Archdiocese, Cincinnati, Ohio), all signed the letter.
This move is a response to an increase in reported firings of and resignations from LGBT employees and allies within Catholic institutions. Most recently, Hague, after nearly half a century of teaching, declined to sign his new contract that forbids public support of the LGBT community and the issues it faces. This policy, decreed by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, also led to Miller being fired and Shumate quitting in support of her gay son.
Meanwhile, in Georgia, Dollar was fired from his position of band director because he is engaged to his partner of six years, who is a man. Parents and students have rallied in his support, even creating a Facebook page titled "Saved Flint Dollar."
Earlier this month in Kansas, Colleen Simon, a cancer-survivor married to a Lutheran minister, was fired from her job as food pantry director and social ministries coordinator at St. Francis Xavier Church. She believes that feeding the hungry is God's call for her, and the church had known for years that she is a lesbian. Regardless, the diocese called for Colleen to lose her job after a local paper ran a profile on her dedication to community service and mentioned that her wife was equally devoted.
In as many as 29 states (including Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Pennsylvania, and Ohio), employees can be fired on the basis of their sexual orientation, and in 33 states because of their gender identity. You can visit glaad.org/ENDA to learn more about the movement for nationwide, inclusive workplace protections for LGBT employees.