Friday, January 31, 2014

It's Getting Better Under Francis? Two New Stories of Raw Anti-Gay Discrimination in U.S. Catholic Church

It happened in Ohio this month, when a band and choir director at a Catholic school was fired just hours after telling the school’s presidents of his plans to marry his boyfriend. Last month, a French and Spanish teacher at a suburban Philadelphia Catholic school was fired after applying for a wedding license, even though he says he had been with his partner through his entire 12-year tenure at the school, and brought him to several school functions. In 2012, when a Catholic school in Missouri learned that its music teacher was planning to marry his partner, it ordered him to abdicate his post on the day of the wedding (Sheila MacVicar, "Gay Educator's Departure Exposes Rift in Catholic Church," Al Jazeera America)

And it has happened again, apparently. Yesterday, the Boston Globe reported that Matthew Barrett of Milton has filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination after Fontbonne Academy, a school run by the Sisters of St. Joseph, rescinded a job offer to him when the school discovered he was married to Ed Suplee.

Barrett says that Fontbonne had offered him the position of food services director last July, and then rescinded the offer after he listed his husband as his emergency contact on forms he filled out as he accepted the job. He was then called in for a meeting with school administrators and informed that the school would not hire him because he was gay and married to a man.

As David Zimmerman notes for, Barrett was raised Catholic and has extensive experience in the field of food services. As Zimmerman also notes, the group Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) is assisting Barrett, and is challenging the claim of religious institutions that they should enjoy a "ministerial exception" to state and federal non-discrimination laws, which would permit these institutions to ignore non-discrimination laws if they maintain that such laws infringe on their free exercise of their religious belief.

GLAD and Barrett are challenging such claims because food services?! What does managing the food services of a Catholic school have to do with upholding the ministerial character of the school? 

The media tell us that it's getting better with Pope Francis, but the steady drumbeat of these stories about the trashing of gay lives and careers by Catholic institutions--one a week now, it appears--seems to me to call that meme into question. And I for one am becoming increasingly convinced that if the pope wanted this kind of behavior to cease, he'd address it directly.

The fact that it continues, and is actually growing stronger in American Catholicism under Francis's papacy, makes me think that we American Catholics are being treated to a good cop-bad cop scenario in which the bad cops enjoy the papal blessing, the blessing of the good cop. If it is getting better for American Catholics under Pope Francis, then why do these stories persist--or other horrific stories like the one that Carol Parker and Josie Martin are now telling in Missouri?

Parker and Martin have been together nearly 20 years, and have been regular participants in liturgy at St. Columban parish in Chillicothe, Missouri. They are now telling the media that when Parker's mother died last month and Martin was listed as Parker's partner in the mother's obituary, the pastor of St. Columban, Father Knieb Kneib, contacted them to say that they would not be permitted to receive communion at Parker's mother's funeral.

Does this behavior reinforce the things-getting-better-under Francis meme, I ask myself? And do these two women look like any kind of plausible threat to Catholic values?

Carol Parker and Josie Martin

P.S. If any reader experiences problems with the video at the head of the posting, I'd appreciate your letting me know. The video is from CBS Boston. I also want to note my gratitude for a good reader of Bilgrimage who contacted me to tell me of the story about Carol Parker and Josie Martin.

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