Over 150 self-identified Catholics, including social justice leaders, theologians, and lay people, are standing up for LGBTQ teachers at Catholic schools who have been fired in recent years due to their sexual orientation.
According to New Ways Ministry, since 2008, there have been at least 80 cases in which LGBTQ people were fired from their positions at Catholic institutions due to their sexual orientation, their decision to speak out against Church criticisms of same-sex marriage, or being in a same-sex civil union or marriage.
Most recently, the issue came to light after two high schools in Indianapolis, Ind., were ordered by the Archdiocese to fire teachers in same-sex marriages.
In both cases, Archbishop Charles Thompson threatened to revoke the school’s Catholic affiliation if the teachers in question were not fired.
One of the schools, Cathedral High School, complied, but Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School refused to fire the teacher, resulting in the Archdiocese dropping it from its list of schools and telling Brebeuf that it could no longer promote themselves as being affiliated with the Catholic Church. The school is instead referring to itself as an “independent Catholic” institution.
A year earlier, the Indianapolis Archdiocese was successful in getting two openly gay teachers at a third high school, Roncalli High, fired under similar circumstances.
In response to the situation in Indianapolis, many Catholics are speaking out. The organization Faith in Public Life began circulating a pledge, asking Catholics who disagree with the firings to stand in solidarity with the fired teachers and call for Church officials to stop targeting LGBTQ employees for termination.
The pledge states: “As a Catholic, I was taught that we’re all created in God’s image. I believe it is wrong to fire dedicated LGBTQ teachers or deny children of same-sex couples an opportunity to receive a Catholic education.
“At a time of crisis in our Church, when so many have been wounded by clergy sexual abuse and the covering up of crimes, what message does it send that Catholic schools are cracking down on LGBTQ employees? Heterosexual teachers never face the same kind of scrutiny into their personal lives, and this double standard is a painful wound to many who love our Church,” the pledge continues. “I stand in solidarity with LGBTQ teachers, affirm their dignity, and urge Catholic leaders to reconsider these unjust firings.”
Prominent signers of the pledge include Fr. James Martin, S.J., the editor-at-large for the Jesuit publication America Magazine; Patricia McGuire, the president of Trinity Washington University; Patrick Carolan, the executive director of the Franciscan Action Network; Laura Peralta-Schulte, senior government relations advocate at NETWORK; Lisa Cahill, a professor of theology at Boston University; Terrence Tilley, a professor of theology at Fordham University; and Michael Duffy, the director of the McGrath Institute for Jesuit Catholic Education.
“As a graduate of a Jesuit school, I was proud to see Brebeuf Jesuit Prep show courage and conviction in refusing to fire a valued teacher,” John Gehring, the Catholic program director for Faith in Public Life, said in a statement. “But these unjust firings are becoming more common and driving young people away from the faith. At a time when church leaders are struggling to reclaim moral credibility in the wake of clergy abuse revelations, targeting LGBTQ teachers only undermines the process of healing a wounded church.”