News (USA)

Should we be surprised when LGBTQ teachers in Catholic schools are fired?

In the latest episode of Catholic schools going after LGBTQ employees, a guidance counselor at an Indianapolis high school has been fired because she is married to another woman. After 15 years as a guidance counselor at Roncalli High School, Shelly Fitzgerald was told she was out of a job unless she was willing to dissolve her marriage, which she was not.

Students are rallying to Fitzgerald’s defense, pressing Archbishop Charles Thompson to change the employment policy so that Fitzgerald can keep her job. That seems unlikely, however, as Thompson said in an open letter that school employees are “ministers of the faith” who are contractually obligated to “be supportive of the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

If you think you’ve heard this all before, well, you have, repeatedly.

In just one example, the Seattle Archdiocese fired teacher Mark Zmuda after he mentioned to other teachers that he was getting married to his male partner. Zmuda was also given the option to divorce his husband to keep his job, a mind boggling offer that is itself not supportive of the teaching of the Catholic Church.

Fitzgerald is also the victim of the amateur Inspector Clouseaus determined to ferret out any sign of LGBTQ employees in Church hire. A parishioner presented the Archdiocese with proof of Fitzgerald’s marriage.

In similar cases, employees have been fired after parents complained. The worst example was Carla Hale, who was fired from her job at a Cincinnati school after she listed her wife as among the survivors in her mom’s obituary. 

Supporters of the Church’s crackdowns, like Archbishop Thompson, point to the employment contract as justification. Employees know what they’re signing up for, so there’s no excuse when they’re found out.

Probably more than a few readers agree. You lie down with homophobes, and you get up with pink slips. What’s surprising about that?

It’s true that LGBTQ people work at Catholic institutions at their own peril. But that doesn’t mean they deserve what they get.

Let’s put aside, if possible, the irony of the Church’s habit of firing a beloved teacher or guidance counselor while protecting pedophile priests at schools. The issue is that being LGBTQ is about the only doctrinal offense that the schools care about.

There are plenty of other Church teachings that schools could use to fire employees. The fact of the matter is, other teachers who are in violation of their contract get a free pass. The biggest offense would be using birth control. Yet no one is pressing teachers of child-bearing years to explain why they don’t have large families.

If you are LGBTQ, working in a Catholic institution will never be the path to employment security. But if you want to work with kids and help mold their future, it is an option.

You just need to know that at any moment, the powers that be may decide that you don’t meet the Church’s standards. But then again, neither do the students who rally in your support.

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