Monday, August 29, 2016

In New Jersey and Virginia, Lawsuits Filed Against Catholic Institutions Firing Gay Employees: Pretty Talk Not Getting Us Down the Road to Mercy and Justice

Last week, I pointed you to a story recounted at the Bondings 2.0 website about the firing of Paramus Catholic high school (New Jersey) teacher Kate Drumgoole after the school found out that she had married her same-sex partner Jaclyn Vanore. Today, Bob Shine reports at Bondings on the firing of John M. Murphy by the Saint Francis Home (a care facility for the elderly) and the Catholic diocese of Richmond, Virginia. 

Murphy was hired last year as director of St. Francis home in Richmond. Eight days after this, two officials of the Richmond Catholic diocese showed up at his office and told him they'd found he was gay and married (to Jerry Carter), and he was fired. The order for this action appears to have come right from the bishop of the diocese, Francis Xavier DiLorenzo.

He states that before he was hired, he had told the chair of the St. Francis board, Tina Neal, that he was gay and had a husband, and she responded that this would not be a problem, since "it's 2015." Murphy has now filed a lawsuit.

So there's that. All those pretty words we've heard from church leaders and their defenders in the recent past, and this is still going on, the overt, mean-spirited, outright cruelty to gay* people within the Catholic institution and outside it, too, since the pastoral leaders of the Catholic church have made it their business to try to block gay* rights everywhere they can do so, and have spent untold millions of dollars to that end in the past few decades.

"Who am I to judge?" seems to be getting us not far down the road to actual lived mercy and justice, as the institution actually relates to real-life gay* folks, does it?

There's that, and there's this scathing, truth-telling editorial yesterday from the New Jersey Star-Ledger commenting on the firing of Kate Drumgoole at Paramus Catholic high school: 

How far we allow religion to go is a genuinely difficult legal question. What if a religion holds that races should not mix, as many Christian churches once did? Should that church have the right to fire teachers based on race? When does a claim of religious freedom become an excuse to justify bigotry? 
Regardless of the legal debate, though, one thing is certain: The archdiocese has acted abysmally. Since learning that Drumgoole is gay, after photos of her 2014 wedding were circulated by a vindictive relative, the archdiocese has referred to her as "a poor role model." 
That's rich. Countless teachers, parents and students at Paramus Catholic have vouched for her admirable leadership. Drumgoole was once a two-time captain and star player of the Paramus Catholic girls' basketball team. She had risen through the ranks at her alma mater, and recently been promoted to an administrative role. 
[Newark archbishop John] Myers, meanwhile, was protecting pedophile priests and using church money to build himself an opulent retirement mansion, while removing a popular gay priest from Seton Hall against the will of parishioners, accusing him of having an "agenda." Right.

And then the editorial concludes:

More than 50 gay or lesbian people across the nation have been fired or had employment offers rescinded since 2010, New Ways Ministry, an advocacy group for gay, lesbian and transgender Catholics, told the Bergen Record
The church's hypocrisy is striking. Other faculty members at Paramus Catholic are divorced and remarried, at least one has a child out of wedlock, some cohabitate with members of the opposite sex, at least one other teacher is gay, and nude photographs of another teacher have been circulated online, according to Drumgoole's lawsuit. 
None of those teachers have been fired for violating church tenets. Drumgoole, apparently, was singled out. Her lifestyle is not "particularly odious" because of church tenets -- it's because of church bigotry.

Need I remind you that in 2014 Americans ranked the Catholic community as the religious community most unfriendly in the U.S. to gay* folks? I can't see that ranking shifting anytime soon, can you, as stories like the preceding ones continue to break in the news? I suspect that both for the American public and the sizable majority of American lay Catholics who support gay* rights, these stories will continue to put the lie to the media meme that the Catholic church has become more gay-accepting and gay-welcoming under Pope Francis.

The pretty words just aren't getting us anywhere productive, anywhere real, as long as stories like these continue to come down the pike. And as long as the leading "liberal" Catholic journals in the U.S. continue to feature statements lambasting the movement for transgender rights and claiming that the first-person testimony of people experiencing gross injustice should be unwelcome in the Catholic community because "identity politics" is an attempt to bully the community into submission to an agenda antithetical to its values, as people on the margins speaking out of their experience of gross injustice pretend a position of moral superiority in order to shut others up . . . .


I find the graphic used at quite a few sites online, with no clear indicator of its source — though I have a vague memory of having seen somewhere in the past information that it was part of an art exhibit. If anyone knows more about the original source so that I can give due credit to it, I will be happy for more information.

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