When Will the Catholic Church Stop Firing Gays?
Philadelphia teacher Margie Winters was fired for being a married lesbian. Far from becoming more open, the Catholic Church is doubling down on its homophobia.
In a sense Nell Stetser, the principal of Waldron Mercy Academy, a Roman Catholic elementary school in Philadelphia, did her job.
She fired Margie Winters for not following the official Church teaching on same-sex love and same-sex sexual relationships.
Stetser faithfully followed the teachings of the Church as outlined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
It’s not her fault that she had to do her job. Winters is a married lesbian: she is the person not living a “rightly ordered Catholic lifestyle.” She’s the most recent LGBTQ person (sic scapegoat) to be fired by a Roman Catholic institution.
Why the public outrage over the firing? First, the employees, parents, and children at Waldron Mercy Academy are rightly upset because Margie Winters dedicated her life to forming the spiritual and intellectual lives of her school’s students.
In firing Winters, the Catholic school is unequivocally informing LGBTQ persons that they cannot under any circumstances contribute to the spiritual or intellectual formation of children.
In spite of her eight years on the faculty, and countless enhancing contributions to the living/learning environment, Winters is considered (by official Church teaching) to be intrinsically disordered and morally culpable for not following the directive to be chaste; therefore, she lives in mortal sin, a graceless state that the Church teaches separates her from God; thus, to return to a relationship with God she must confess her sins to a priest and receive his absolution.
Second, the Church applies a syllogism attributed to the Greek philosopher Aristotle, one that is interpreted through a narrow lens of the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas.
The argument is: Any sexual act must lead to life—such a specious claim demonstrates the Church’s war on culture, not nature.
As to the Church’s Aristotelian argument that sex must lead to life, well, it certainly doesn’t apply to men and woman beyond the child-bearing age.
Their lovemaking is exactly that: They make love just as gay men and women do. Any reasonable person understands that love always leads to life no matter whether or not a child is conceived, for after love, each person has a taste of Christ’s “life more abundant.” Yes, it is quite clear to people of reason that the Roman Catholic Church is out of step with modern society.
Third, in the wake of the Irish vote approving same-sex marriage and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage, many in the Roman Catholic world argue that Church leaders should wake up from their medieval sleep and recognize that they should treat LGBTQ people with dignity, and dare I say it, love.
How does the Church do this without rewriting her Catechism? Is it just and merciful for the Church to ignore official Church teaching? At Waldron Mercy Academy is it possible that divorced faculty and staff will also be fired? Or will faculty and staff having premarital sex or affairs be fired?
Even after the victories on same-sex marriage in Ireland and America, gay Catholics are still plagued by witch hunts.
Married LGBTQ people are being fired from their jobs in high schools and/or parishes, and they are denied tenure at higher institutions of learning.
Universities like Notre Dame and Seton Hall shamefully recruit gay athletes to fill stadium seats, to sell tickets, but they cannot guarantee the safety or well-being of these “fringe characters” on campuses where student populations are often hostile, believing that they are being faithful to Church teaching.
Priests who support marriage equality are also fired from jobs, although there is now evidence that the number of gay-friendly parishes is increasing. However, the United States Jesuit Conference, the Jesuit Secondary Education Association and the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities refuse to make a public statement supporting the employment of single or married LGBTQ people in their apostolates.
While the Church hierarchy argues that the primary function of sacramental marriage is to make babies, Pope Francis remains unwilling to answer his most famous rhetorical question, “Who am I to judge?”
His subsequent silence on this issue is sad as well as confusing because by saying this he raised the hopes of every gay Catholic in the world for embracing inclusion in the Church.
While Pope Francis is warming up the world to climate change and helping reopen Cuba to international travel and Christianity, he is no longer disguising his views about same-sex love and same-sex desire.
At the coming Synod on the Family (in Philadelphia), the Pope will canonize the parents of St. Therese of Liseaux. This is an affirmation of heterosexual marriage and confirmation of the sacrament as being between a man and a woman.
The truth is that the Church remains adamant about homosexuality being against nature, and thus sinful (Isn’t it against nature when a man or a woman chooses celibacy?)
As the world embraces science and reason, the Church’s stand (its last stand?) on homosexuality becomes weaker and weaker in an ethics that is becoming for many inconvenient and insensitive, for some incongruent, and for me incoherent.
Such is a Church that emphasizes diplomacy over and above the needs of the spiritually poor, those LGBTQ Christians who want more than to be near our Lord’s table, receiving human dignity, but want a seat next to Christ, and the Pope who represents Him on Earth.
Remember: The beloved disciple John was the only disciple, male or female, to be recorded as placing his head on Jesus’ breast. Is not the world moved by this icon of love?
I’ve watched this discrimination play out across America in cities like Seattle, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Fridley, Moorhead, Bensalem, Glendora, and now Philadelphia.
A Jesuit parish in Kansas City fired Colleen Simon because she is a married lesbian; the Jesuit parish in Oceanside, New York, fired Nicholas Coppola because he is a married gay man. Other dioceses are planning to implement new, stricter, more personhood-denying contracts for employees of Roman Catholic institutions.
The bishops who run these dioceses think like Ireland’s Bishop Kevin Doran. The latter believes homosexuality is still not a part of God’s plan, as if he were privy to God’s plans.
When he was a Cardinal in Argentina, Pope Francis I once told listeners that our Church has at times become too insular, leading to spiritual sickness, that we must avoid a “Church [that] remains closed in on itself, self-referential, [one that] gets old.”
Isn’t that what is happening in the Church, in America, in the West where LGBTQ people are finding Christ in the secular world and the free market, but not at the Lord’s table on Sunday?
Christ said, “Love one another.” Love means acceptance. The Church must learn this. Christ said, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” The Church must follow this.
Ben Brenkert’s A Catechism of the Heart: Memoir of a Gay Jesuit will be published by Bloomsbury in Spring 2016