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Fired teachers seek audience with Pope over Catholic Church’s anti-gay stance

Tuesday, May 27, 2014
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WASHINGTON — The Human Rights Campaign on Tuesday delivered a letter to the Vatican on behalf of nine teachers who have lost their jobs at Catholics schools for either being LGBT, or supporting an LGBT family member.

The letter, delivered to the Nuncio, or diplomatic representative of the Holy See, requests a meeting with Pope Francis “so that you may hear our personal stories firsthand and see the impact the Church’s actions have had on us all.”

The move comes as Catholic dioceses in Cincinnati and Oakland have implemented new teaching contracts which contain morality clauses that require teachers to conform to church teachings in their private lives or face dismissal.

The contracts state that teachers could be fired for engaging in or supporting the “homosexual lifestyle.”

Earlier this month, Molly Shumate, a first grade teacher in Cincinnati for 14 years, resigned in protest of the contract, which she said would force her to choose between her job and supporting her gay son.

In Oakland, Calif., at least five teachers at Bishop O’Dowd High School have refused to sign the new contract and risk unemployemnt next fall as a result.

Earlier this year, Brian Panetta was forced to resign from his job as band and choir director at a Catholic school in Sandusky, Ohio, after officials learned he and his boyfriend became engaged to be married.

And last week, Flint Dollar, and openly gay band director at Mount de Sales Academy in Macon, Ga., was fired after announcing plans to marry his partner.

Shumate, Panetta and Dollar are among the nine teachers who signed the letter, which 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 our core Catholic values.

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‘Our families are hurting. We feel scorned by our church, which we have dedicated our lives to … We know God has not abandoned us. Our friends, loved ones, and many others in our community have not abandoned us. But we feel the hierarchy of our Church is denying us the pastoral care and love they are called to do.

“We take hope from your messages of acceptance and see in your pastoral leadership the possibility for the Church to correct these hurtful injustices. We ask for a Papal audience with our families, so that you may hear our personal stories firsthand and see the impact the Church’s actions have had on us all.”

A copy of the letter is here.

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