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Minn. Catholic schools continue to grapple with how to approach gay rights

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Recent remarks about inclusiveness by the new president of the University of St. Thomas have heartened gay and lesbian advocacy groups on the Roman Catholic campus, but recent departures of gay employees from a suburban Catholic high school left a different impression.

In a state that recently legalized same-sex marriage, it’s clear that the Catholic church and affiliated schools in Minnesota continue to grapple with how to approach gay rights. A tension underpins it all: traditional church doctrine on homosexuality versus the fundamental Catholic belief in accepting all human beings.

Catholics-for-LGBT-equalityIn Julie Sullivan’s convocation address, the first female St. Thomas president sent hope to gay faculty and students.

“We are called to love and support everyone in our community regardless of their sexual orientation,” Sullivan said. “And, I might add, regardless of the gender of their spouse.”

Leaders of pro-gay campus groups told the St. Paul Pioneer Press they saw it as a move to make the school more gay-friendly.

“It was a pretty pointed statement,” said Alfonso Wenker, a St. Thomas graduate and founder of the Minnesota Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Ally Campus Alliance. “It’s no secret that St. Thomas has climate issues for gay students and staff. She took that head-on.”

According to the Maryland-based New Ways Ministry, an advocacy group for gay employees at Catholic institutions, more than half of all Catholic campuses are now on its gay-friendly colleges list. They wound up there by approving nondiscrimination policies that include sexual orientation, launched gay student support groups or taken other measures. In the Twin Cities, St. Thomas, St. Catherine and St. Mary’s universities are all on the list.

But the conservative Catholic education advocacy group Cardinal Newman Society has questioned Sullivan’s remarks. Society president Patrick Reilly said a growing number of National Coming Out Day celebrations and even drag shows on Catholic campuses blatantly challenge church teachings.

“This issue is particularly difficult for Catholics because we have such a strong position on the grave sinfulness of homosexual acts,” he said.

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Earlier this year, Bill Hudson resigned as president of Totino-Grace High School in Fridley after board members learned he had a longtime male partner. A female teacher who revealed she was in a same-sex relationship has said she was fired from the school because of it.

The Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis said many schools have Justice in Employment documents that would-be Catholic school employees sign. The policy says staff members can be fired for “public conduct that is inconsistent with the faith, morals, teachings and laws of the Catholic church.”

Spokesman Jim Accurso said the policy is meant to “ensure clarity of teaching and avoid moral confusion.” But he said the archdiocese also believes “all people, including those who experience same-sex attraction, must be treated with respect, compassion, sensitivity and dignity.”

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19 more reader comments:

  1. It’s just sad that people have to be told to love everyone. It should be a basic human ability.

    Posted on Wednesday, September 25, 2013 at 3:40pm
  2. I honestly think you can say your religion is against it and won’t recognize those unions and whatever and still be for legal recognition of their rights. Why? Well, the idea that your religion does not rule over every person in this country is not a hard concept to grasp. I am not catholic, or any type of christian for that matter, so why should YOUR religion and its “moral” guidelines effect ME? It shouldn’t , how would you like it if the moral guidelines and obligations of Hindus and Muslims was forced upon you? You wouldn’t , but since Christians are the majority in this country they can’t see that that is exactly what they are doing to the rest of us .

    Posted on Wednesday, September 25, 2013 at 3:44pm
  3. :v

    Posted on Wednesday, September 25, 2013 at 3:56pm
  4. NO HATE !!!!!!

    Posted on Wednesday, September 25, 2013 at 4:05pm
  5. They barely get thru Birth Control… I have Zero expectation that they will do anything good with gay marriage..

    Posted on Wednesday, September 25, 2013 at 4:55pm
  6. I agree with Samantha, you got it girl!

    Posted on Wednesday, September 25, 2013 at 6:00pm
  7. Sorry but I’m a “fallen” Catholic who believes God is for EVERYONE. Aren’t we created in His image? Is His image gay or straight, black or white, male or female???? God provided me with a brain to think with Not to blindly follow others. People are people, simple as that.

    Posted on Wednesday, September 25, 2013 at 6:51pm
  8. religion – robotic thinking

    Posted on Wednesday, September 25, 2013 at 7:38pm
  9. we can;t be catholic and be gay….the pope has shuned us

    Posted on Wednesday, September 25, 2013 at 10:24pm
  10. SAME AS YOU DO ALL RIGHTS JUST GIVE THEM.

    Posted on Thursday, September 26, 2013 at 12:41am
  11. Why don’t they simply say that affording people rights required by law isn’t approval, is accepting the astablishment they work within. I don’t really car if the catholic church or, any other church approves of me. I car if they are denying people their legal rights.

    Posted on Thursday, September 26, 2013 at 1:34am
  12. All they have to do is stop making assumptions about people they don’t know.

    Posted on Thursday, September 26, 2013 at 1:48am
  13. no way to handle this other than this, if you are an american citizen, of legal age of concent, things like gay rights should be treated like religious rights and privacy rights, theyre given and protected by the constitution. If you want me to respect your religious rights, than you should respect the rights of everyone. its that simple. american rights are human rights. no more no less.

    Posted on Thursday, September 26, 2013 at 3:15am
  14. Keep up the good fight <3 Thank you

    Posted on Thursday, September 26, 2013 at 3:22am
  15. Really?

    Posted on Thursday, September 26, 2013 at 4:36am
  16. I guess they are forgetting just what Jesus, in the Gospels really teaches us, God children…Love, Compassion and Humility…Oh those stupid people, if they say I am going to hell, then I tell them I’ll save a seat down their!

    Posted on Thursday, September 26, 2013 at 4:51am
  17. Share this to end LGBT discrimination, within our courts. Due to biases that have surfaced within the nez perce county court room The ALLY ROBLEDO trial was postponed, until thursday Oct. 17th recommended By the plaintiffs prosecutor which has an attempt to block, LGBT support in the courtroom. Please share this post to support Ally Robledo, and the LGBT community as she faces biases in rural Idaho.

    Posted on Thursday, September 26, 2013 at 5:24am
  18. Catholics for LGBT equality = All four of them in one historical photo.

    Posted on Thursday, September 26, 2013 at 8:31am
  19. Just teach the lesson. Teach facts only.

    Posted on Saturday, September 28, 2013 at 4:03am