Friday, April 19, 2013

Carla Hale, Catholic Teacher in Columbus, Ohio, Fired for Mentioning Partner in Mother's Obituary

Meanwhile, here's a taste of what's happening in some sectors of American Catholicism, as some French Catholic leaders predict violence against gay folks (and, in their underhanded way, bless it and set it in motion via their predictions) if church and society accord gay people equal rights and treat them as fully human:

As Zack Ford reports for Think Progress, Carla Hale, who had taught for 19 years at Bishop Watterson high school in Columbus, Ohio, was fired shortly after her mother's obituary named Hale's partner Julie when Hale's mother died at the end of February (see also Thom Curnutte's outstanding analysis of this story). Just as in the case of Nicholas Coppola, who was removed recently from the various ministries in which he was involved in his Catholic parish in Oceanside, New York, after an anonymous letter complained that Coppola was a homosexual who refused to be silent and hidden, Hale was fired after someone sent an anonymous letter to officials of the Columbus diocese.

As she states in the video clip embedded in Ford's article, after diocesan officials received the letter, her school authorities called her in, showed her the letter, and fired her then and there. After 19 years of teaching at a Catholic school which, one presumes, is informed by Catholic values that call on us never to reduce workers to the status of things, to respect the human rights of workers, to see that no one goes without bread on her table and healthcare coverage . . . .

Zack Ford says that Carla Hale's case echoes what happened in Normandy, Missouri, last February when Al Fischer was fired from his position as a music teacher at a Catholic school when church officials learned he planned to marry his partner, and what happened in the same month in Charlotte, North Carolina, when a Catholic parish fired its music minister because he married his partner of 23 years. 

Ford notes that "[m]any more such incidents likely go unreported." This echoes what Ross Murray of GLAAD has just said about the removal of Nicholas Coppola from ministries in his parish in Oceanside, New York: Murray said, "This is not an isolated incident," and that he had heard "numerous stories" of Catholics denied communion or fired from jobs in Catholic institutions for supporting gay rights or for reasons of sexual orientation.

So what are some of those "numerous stories" that have been in the news in the past several years? Here are the ones I can think of off the top of my head. Perhaps Bilgrimage readers can think of more:

1. As Zack Ford notes, there was the firing of Al Fischer in Normandy, Missouri, in February 2012 when the diocese learned of his plans to marry his partner. 
2. As Ford also points out, there was the firing of Steav Bates-Congdon by St. Gabriel parish in Charlotte, North Carolina, when church officials learned he'd married his partner of 23 years. 
3. In the same month last year in which the preceding two events occurred, Barbara Johnson was denied communion at her mother's funeral in Maryland because the pastor celebrating the funeral, Father Guarnizo, objected to her lesbianism and the presence of her partner at the funeral.*
4. In July 2012, Trish Cameron was fired by a Catholic school in Moorhead, Minnesota, for supporting marriage equality. 
5. In November 2012, Lennon Cihak was denied confirmation by the same diocese in Minnesota, the Crookston diocese, when he supported marriage equality; there were reports his whole family was denied communion. 
6. Going back a few years further, in March 2010, a Catholic school in Boulder, Colorado, denied admission to the children of two parishioners who were a lesbian couple.

As I say, perhaps you can think of other examples of these stories, readers of Bilgrimage. If Zack Ford and GLAAD are correct, they're actually common--and this is precisely what National Catholic Reporter told me in 1993 when I sent them the details of my firing by Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina and asked them to cover the story. They wouldn't do so. They told me these stories of injustice to gay employees in Catholic institutions are a dime a dozen and just aren't newsworthy. (But how will the Catholic community learn about these stories if major Catholic publications and the secular media refuse to tell the stories?)

If it is the case that these stories are a dime a dozen in Catholic institutions, then what to make of Cardinal Timothy Dolan's recent claim that the Catholic church just looooves the gays? Or of the claim of Ms. Barjot that she and other French Catholics trying to block the civil rights of gay folks also just loooove the gays? Or of the claim of Mr. Ocean at NCR, who has taught theology at Catholic seminaries and has sat on the boards of several Catholic schools, that Catholic institutions neeeever discriminate against the gays, and that I'm making up stories of discrimination because I'm a polemical propagandist?

It's almost as if these people are, well, not to put too fine a point on it--lying--as they claim to be about love, while they practice and defend the opposite of love. Isn't it?

P.S. Note the petition mentioned by Zack Ford, calling on the Columbus, Ohio, diocese to revoke the firing of Carla Hale.

*The diocese later issued an apology for this. Am I missing apologies issued in the other cases?

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