Dismissal of publicly immoral Church employees

This story caught my eye because of the name of the place involved.  When I see this name I always think of Daffy Duck.

From the San Bernardino Sun:

A Rancho Cucamonga man who taught 17 years at a Catholic high school was fired from his job days after he married his gay partner in a San Bernardino civil ceremony.

While school representatives declined comment on the matter, an attorney representing 45-year-old Ken Bencomo says he was fired because of the same-sex ceremony.

“The reason given was that the marriage occurred and the school’s position was that it violated church teachings,” said Chatsworth attorney Patrick McGarrigle.

Bencomo, 45, was head of the English department at St. Lucy’s Priory High School in Glendora, but also worked as a yearbook moderator and dance coach.

Students say they were aware of Bencomo’s sexual orientation.

“He never talked about his personal life to his students, but it’s something that students and faculty knew,” said former student, Abigail O’Brien, 19, of Upland.

McGarrigle also said the school was aware long before he got married.

[...]

This raises some interesting points.

At what point does immoral behavior have enough public notoriety that ecclesiastical authority must, or can prudently according also to civil law, dismiss employees?

During the canon law conference I just attended, these issues came up.

In this case, while the school probably could have moved earlier, when there is a public, civil act that would have been listed also in the newspaper (I believe in most places marriages are posted in the paper), then there is no question that you can act.

When hiring, ecclesiastical authorities can still include “morality clauses” in contracts.  They have to make it clear in the contract what is expected.  I heard about a case in which the school – I believe it was a school – handed the prospective employee a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and had the person sign something to affirm that she had received it.  In that case, the employee would not easily be able to claim that she was unaware of what the Church teaches.

Isn’t this dreadful?

Also as part of the Canon Law Conference, we had a presentation from a civil lawyer who does a lot of work for church entities about the care which must be taken to protect assets as well as to protect the Catholic identity of those entities.  It was enlightening and, frankly, a little frightening.

My respect for the huge weight of responsibility diocesan bishops bear in these matters rose enormously.

In any event, this is the hand we have been dealt.  We have to play with the cards we have.

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56 Responses to Dismissal of publicly immoral Church employees

  1. Jeannie_C says:

    If the teacher never talked about his personal life how did students and staff know about his activities? Marriages are not published in newspapers in all jurisdictions.

  2. JamesA says:

    Thanks for the Daffy link, Father. I’m a big fan.

    This got me to thinking, in part because I used to be employed by my parish which also has a school.

    Why is it that Catholic schools do not (in the absence of all the good Sisters who used to run them) perform their due diligence and hire only teachers who are faithful, practicing Catholics ?! Is this such a revolutionary idea ? It seems if they were more careful about who they hired in the first place, the children would be taught properly and they wouldn’t have all these other problems as well.

    Catholics teaching in Catholic schools. What a concept.

  3. qmbarque says:

    Ignorantia juris non excusat.

  4. jameeka says:

    It sounds like more of the Catholic high schools and elementary schools are having the teachers sign something similar to a “mandatum” to be hired or keep their jobs, which I think is a good thing–heard something similar on “Handel on the law” radio show– it must be coming up more now, at least in California.

  5. acardnal says:

    Jeannie_C wrote, “If the teacher never talked about his personal life how did students and staff know about his activities? ”

    Did you read the article Father Z linked to? It explains.

    I would add that speech is not the only way of communicating.

  6. JMR says:

    An administrator at my old Catholic high school in MN recently resigned (probably by request of the school) because he did not want to end his relationship with his male partner, which was common public knowledge. Many people are upset with the school having policies that reflect church teaching in the first place, but this event has also caused a lot of uproar because there have been instances of teachers who have been divorced, had affairs with other teachers, had children out of wedlock, etc. and the school barely batted an eye in those cases. Major inconsistencies in enforcing policies.

    Jeanie, even if teachers don’t openly discuss their private/family life at school, students are aware of a lot. And they hear/notice everything, especially teenagers. You can’t be one person at work and a different person at home. This is why it’s so absurd for people to refer to marriage as ‘not affecting anyone else’s life.’ It’s a public relationship.

  7. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    Notice, please, that the lawyer tries to make an identity between an “orientation” and marriage. If a man’s philandering became widely known, this would be evidence of his moral turpitude, and thus grounds for dismissal. If he manages not to be faithful to his wedding vows more privately, there is the question of how public behavior may be before it qualifies. If, on the other hand, he divorces his wife and attempts to marry someone else civilly, surely this would be grounds for dismissal. One’s proclivities are not, necessarily, cause for dismissal; one’s knowing public violation of the moral norms of one’s employer have always been cause. (“Same-sex marriage” is, therefore, NOT the issue.)

  8. Bob B. says:

    This brings up a point that I have repeatedly witnessed. There are a lot of teachers, aides, administrators and clergy who do not believe in what the Church teaches. Those who attempt to teach the Faith, correct errors by those who slander or wink at the Truth and stand-up to intimidation are often swept away and replaced by those who will submit or also believe the Church is wrong.

    What can be done? First, hire only Catholic teachers, aides and administrators for every school and university. It strains credulity to believe that that there aren’t enough Catholics to fill these positions.

    Second, a mandatum for each and every person associated with education to sign. Even those who do not teach a religious subject should be role models in the Faith. A mandatum should also bring to a halt non-Catholic and secular reasoning and rationale.

  9. Lisa Graas says:

    We have to make a choice between Catholic identity and gay identity. The sooner we all realize this, the better.

  10. The Masked Chicken says:

    ” I heard about a case in which the school – I believe it was a school – handed the prospective employee a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and had the person sign something to affirm that she had received it.”

    They should have made them sign something to affirm that they had READ it.

    The Chicken

  11. Lisa Graas says:

    I can’t imagine that anyone, regardless of who they are, who thinks homosexuality is in any way okay would be a good teacher for a Catholic school.

  12. servulus indignus Christi says:

    Why was such a person ever teaching at a “catholic” school to begin? Until the Catholic identity of the school becomes top priority then they will just keep making their own problems.

  13. Bob B. says:

    @Lisa I’ve had middle school students tell me that their parents felt the SSM was okay and, therefore, they did too. Teaching religion helped though – no one had ever introduced them to what the Church had to say about it (including their parents).
    Unfortunately, you also have to fight an administration that doesn’t want you to tackle your student’s questions (in part, because they don’t agree with the Magisterium) – these are arguably the Fifth Columnists that are insidiously inimical to the Faith.

  14. Jack Hughes says:

    I wouldn’t have a problem with someone like the Bones teaching girls in a Catholic school as although he suffers from SSA he has made a conscious (and commendable) decision to live his life by the teachings of the Church and wouldn’t have any truck with heresy. I would however have a problem with him teaching in a boys school as it would (by anyone’s stretch of the imagination) be a near occasion of sin for him.

  15. APX says:

    When I was in high school we had a teacher who had SSA. He didn’t talk about it, but everyone sort of knew. He was a faithful practicing Catholic who taught what the Church teaches and was actually an active Catholic on both the parish and diocesean level as he is a very accomplished organist. He lived with his mother and wasn’t out flaunting his SSA and advocating the homosexual lifestyle. At school he was the most strict teacher with enforcing the school’s dress code and girls dressing modestly. Parents complained that a male teacher should not be looking at their daughters that way and that it is inappropriate for him to send them home to cover up.

    I see no issue hiring such a person to teach, especially when on the other end of the spectrum the women’s phys ed teacher gets drunk at the bar on weekends and “makes inappropriate advances” (thaf’s a euphemism, btw) on your classmate’s brother, a former student. Umm…

  16. Supertradmum says:

    Just have all teachers sign these, as I did when I taught in NAPCIS schools. http://www.ewtn.com/library/curia/cdfoath.htm

  17. The Sicilian Woman says:

    @Lisa Graas,

    If the person with SSA is living a chaste lifestyle in keeping with Church doctrine, and teaches and lives Magisterium teaching, that person would be an excellent example to all students, especially those having SSA and who are surrounded 24/7 with immoral lifestyle advocacy from all sides. Firing (or not hiring) someone like that would probably fall under “unjust discrimination” as mentioned in the CCC (in my unofficial opinion). You cannot claim that the Church loves all people – which would include our SSA brothers and sisters – and shut doors on those with SSA who live according to Church doctrine. Leading by example is required of all of us, hetero and SSA.

    The teacher in San Bernardino was leading astray, and I totally agree with his being fired. You know media outcry and a lawsuit will follow, though.

    Those who are observant can usually figure out the subtle signs of those having SSA.

  18. Ben Kenobi says:

    Such as a predeliction for showtunes? ;)

    Catholic teacher here going into my 4th year teaching. Had to sign a contract stating that I would conduct my personal life in a manner faithful to the magisterium of the RCC. No muss no fuss. Have an excellent administrator and I am very thankful for the work. Have had one incident with a parent, but other than that, there’s been no troubles. I was very happy to see the standards they set there, if a diocese believes that high standards will drive teachers away ask yourself, “do I want to have the teachers who do not want to follow the Catholic church teaching?” if your answer is no, you will have your answer. There are many Catholics looking for work – the more exclusive we are in insisting on Catholics, the more likely we will get the Catholics we are trying to find.

  19. Jeannie_C says:

    acardnal:

    No, I had not read the link but did so now, thanks for pointing it out – explains it all.

  20. Chuck Ludd says:

    I think these situations are going to get more and more complicated and the right answer may not always be to dismiss the person from employment. If the person in a SSM is keeping their off-hours life separate from their teaching duties and is not rejecting the Church’s teaching in any notorious manner, then it may be a prudentially sound judgment to keep the person employed. Let’s face it, the U.S. is a litigious society and the laws are not clearly on the side of the Church in many States. A lawsuit would be costly. Would it be better to keep the teacher on (particularly if he is a good teacher) or spend hundreds of thousands of dollars (if not $1M+) defending and possibly settling a lawsuit? If the person is agitating against church teaching, then that is a different matter and the risk of litigation is worth it in order to defend the Church.

    While any behavior which is contrary to Church teaching is sufficient grounds for dismissal of employment, surely not every bad act rises to the level of it being prudent to dismiss a teacher. After all, we all must go to confession so a strict liability policy would leave the schools with no teachers! But on a serious note, what happens to teachers who are in SSMs will impact what is done with teachers who are in notorious irregular marriages or are notoriously co-habituating.

    But let’s take a few more hard cases. What if a Catholic teacher divorced his wife and married his mistress? If this was open and notorious, then he should be dismissed from his post. What if this was done quietly and no one in the school knew and then someone learned of it 3 years later through a whisper campaign. Should he be dismissed? What if he is applying to a new school? Is that grounds for not hiring him? What about a man who gambles away his wages and has his house foreclosed because of that? It would be public — should he be dismissed? What if he kept on gambling away his wages? What if he declared bankruptcy (an even more public act)?

    None of these are easy cases and SSM is equally difficult. I do not think the automatic answer is dismissal — sometimes it will be dismissal and other times it may be prudent not to dismiss. I hope the priests who find themselves in this position consult carefully with their Bishop because these matters could end up being very costly and might inadvertently be construed as setting policy within the diocese. The prudential judgment of the Bishop must be consulted for the good of stewarding the Church’s assets.

  21. APX says:

    Such as a predeliction for showtunes? ;)

    Or having an inordinate amount of doilies in their classroom, which looks like it was decorated by an interior designer?

  22. frjim4321 says:

    Won’t come as any surprise to anyone here that my support would be with the teacher. I don’t think it teaches the right thing to the students to take away the livelihood of a person like that. I wonder what the student reaction will be?

  23. ” Even those who do not teach a religious subject should be role models in the Faith. ” yes and i would think even if the teacher did not sign anything that it would be understood. Church teaching on certain matters is not a big secret. Common sense tells me that if you accept something to be true but permit behavior that is contrary it is at the least hypocritical.Education is not just lessons in a class.You teach by example too.

  24. acardnal says:

    frjim4321 wrote, “I don’t think it teaches the right thing to the students to take away the livelihood of a person like that.”

    We don’t have all the facts now, but assuming it was a requirement of his employment contract, do you “think it teaches the right thing to the students” to commit fraud on your employment application by acknowledging that one understand and is faithful to the moral teachings of the Church? To deceive/be untruthful to one’s employer and supervisors about one’s conflicting and sinful lifestyle?

  25. Ben Kenobi says:

    “I do not think the automatic answer is dismissal.”

    Well, let’s ask ourselves a question. Say we were communists. We knew that we had a teacher in one of our communist schools who was from the nobility and while he was an excellent teacher, what would the Communists do? Would they bend over backwards to accommodate the noble teacher or would they attempt to find someone who was a better fit? The point is this – education is not about the needs of the teacher, but of the students. Catholic education is the core of what we are going to pass onto these children. We have Catholic teachers who do not suffer from this who are going without work. Rather than compromise what we believe, we need to hire those teachers who are willing to follow what the magisterium teaches.

    There are too many Catholic teachers like this fellow who are willing to cast scandal about the Church, and for what? Because he believes that his sexual desires are more important to him than what the Church teaches. What lesson does it teach the students? “It’s ok to defy the Church so long as you keep it hidden?” “It doesn’t matter if I’m faithful to the Church, it’ll all work out in the end anyways?” “Lawsuits are more significant to us than doing the right thing?”

    There are Catholics – plenty of them without all these caveats and issues. Let’s hire them instead. There’s a reason why only 2.5 percent of the population are getting hired for these position and it isn’t for lack of qualified candidates.

  26. Bob B. says:

    @frjim4321 I’ve witnessed the reverse being true, being accused of being “too conservative” in upholding the Faith by a principal who, despite having a MA in Theology from a Catholic university, thought that, “we worship Mary – versus Jesus – too much” and changed the words of the song “As I Kneel Before Thee” in reaction to this. Also, the Angelus was banned from being said, the Parent Handbook was changed to reflect, “Necklaces with a cross or holy medal are allowed but not encouraged” and this person had no idea what the Memorare is, etc, etc, etc.
    The teacher was forced out, the principal stayed and the school closed shortly afterwards.

  27. Chuck Ludd says:

    Ben: But we aren’t communists.

  28. maryh says:

    Excuse me. Marriage and civil unions are by definition public. So yes, however discreet the teacher otherwise is, once he “marries” his same sex partner, he is causing public scandal and ought to be removed from his teaching position. It’s the same with the man who divorces his wife and remarries. The whole point of marriage is to make public a certain kind of relationship.

    The case of a “known practicing homosexual” may have gray areas depending on how discreet the teacher is, but marriage or civil unions mean you’ve gone public. It’s the same with a man who has a mistress. Perhaps he’s discreet enough that people don’t know. But once he divorces his wife and marries the mistress, his actions are public.

    It seems to me that not hiring someone who is a practicing Catholic in agreement with the teaching of the Church, on the grounds of ssa alone, is wrong. And it also seems to me that hiring someone who has divorced and remarried, especially but not only if they are Catholic, is also wrong.

    Certainly, we have to worry about lawsuits. But shouldn’t that mean we must be especially careful to remove or disqualify people who publicly repudiate the Catholic doctrine on marriage by entering into same-sex civil unions or remarrying after divorce? Law is strongly affected by precedent, isn’t it? So isn’t it important to set the right precedents?

  29. APX says:

    And it also seems to me that hiring someone who has divorced and remarried, especially but not only if they are Catholic, is also wrong.

    We really have to be careful here. Let’s not make ourselves more strict than the Church Herself.

    First, if you’re not going to hire a divorced and remarried Catholic, you better be darn certain that they are indeed not in communion with the Church. If their first marriage was deemed invalid and there was an annulment, they’re not sinning.

    If you’re refusing to hire divorced and remarried persons who were married civilly, you’re refusing to hire people who were not really doing anything against Church moral theology. It says right in the moral theology books that such marriages can be dissolved by the Pauline Privilege, and if they’re not Catholic, they’re not obligated to follow the Church’s rules.

    Look, I’m all for hiring morally upstanding teachers, but what some of you think is acceptable is just outlandishly ridiculous and more strict than what the Church herself requires. No wonder so many people have issues with the Church if people are presenting it as some uber exclusivist’s club where only the morally elite may dwell. It’s time we get over ourselves. We’re all sinners.

  30. maryh says:

    OK, I didn’t understand the bit about people divorced and remarried outside the Catholic church. I was wrong there.

    When I said not hiring divorced and remarried people, I was not counting someone who’s first marriage was annulled as divorced. According to the Church, they aren’t divorced – they were never validly married.

    So those two cases – divorced and remarried, same sex civil union or marriage – seem obvious cases where the teacher in question should not be hired or should not be kept on. They are public actions that explicitly contradict Church teaching.

    Do you think that is being overly strict?

  31. Random Friar says:

    The more charitable thing would’ve been to speak with the fired teacher long before, and ask him if he could uphold Catholic moral teaching. Having him teach that long is an implicit approval, or at least toleration of his choice.

    “Everyone knew” is not really a good reason to fire anyone in itself, since rumor and innuendo spreads like sparks through dry brush in a closed environment like a school. “Everyone” is often mistaken in these situations in a place like a high school, but if “everyone knows,” it should at least be investigated.

  32. “Look, I’m all for hiring morally upstanding teachers, but what some of you think is acceptable is just outlandishly ridiculous and more strict than what the Church herself requires. No wonder so many people have issues with the Church if people are presenting it as some uber exclusivist’s club where only the morally elite may dwell. It’s time we get over ourselves. We’re all sinners.” the last 3 words. Good point! on the other hand the Church teaching re homosexuality is darned clear and i don’t see how you can have a Catholic institution then keep someone on who is living an immoral life style.It’s one thing to sin-we all do. It’s another to choose to live a life of immorality. Doesn’t that look like a mixed message to you? We oppose same sex marriages/ relations but we’ll hire someone who is involved in it? Would it be any different if it were male/female and they were shacked up?

  33. Elizabeth D says:

    The “presentation from a civil lawyer who does a lot of work for church entities about the care which must be taken to protect assets as well as to protect the Catholic identity of those entities” sounds very interesting to me and I wish you would post the insights from that talk.

  34. frjim4321 says:

    “We really have to be careful here. Let’s not make ourselves more strict than the Church Herself (sic).” – APX

    Agree wholeheartedly.

    “We don’t have all the facts now, but assuming it was a requirement of his employment contract, do you “think it teaches the right thing to the students” to commit fraud on your employment application by acknowledging that one understand and is faithful to the moral teachings of the Church? To deceive/be untruthful to one’s employer and supervisors about one’s conflicting and sinful lifestyle?” – cardinal

    Well, we haven’t seen the contract, so you are right we don’t have the facts. Does the contract forbid a person from marrying according to civil law? Until we start giving blood test to determine whether or not our employees are on contraception and treating them in the same manner this is truly and unjust application of the law. It there was a million dollar verdict against the diocese in question I would not be surprised, nor would I be particularly displease. If you deal in the public sector you are obliged to operate in accord with the laws that are applicable.

    I suspect by now most pastors are very much aware of the many pitfalls entailed in age discrimination and are quite careful when dismissing an employee for cause to not hire a replacement much younger that the dismissed (and probably incompetent) employee. It’s because of a civil law that we might not agree with (because it forces us to retain incompetents).

    In the same way, the law does not permit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Them’s the breaks.

  35. Giuseppe says:

    As long as there was something in the teacher’s contract that he was required to adhere to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, then this is a valid firing. If it was simply understood that a teacher in a Roman Catholic school would not publicly contradict church teaching, but it language was not written into the contract, then diocese will be liable in a lawsuit. The exception would be the ‘ministerial exception’ of Hosana-Tabor, in which someone who is a minister, but not a lay person, can be fired for violations of religion, regardless of employment law. How ‘minister’ is defined is still to be played out. Clarence Thomas’s concurrence explicitly tried to extend the ministerial exception to a wider range of membership in a church, but no one else joined it. (Although it is likely that Roberts and Scalia would agree, but probably not a majority.)
    http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/11pdf/10-553.pdf

    “The Diocese of San Bernardino said its Catholic schools prohibit discrimination against teachers or other school employees based on their lifestyle choices. ‘However, if a teacher or school employee makes a public display of behavior that is counter to church teaching – such as homosexuality, sex outside of marriage, having a child outside of marriage – that can impact their employment status,’ said John Andrews, diocese spokesman. School policies outlined by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles say a staff member can be counseled or disciplined if he or she engages in ‘behavior counter to the moral teachings and standards of the church’.”

  36. Ben Kenobi says:

    “Ben: But we aren’t communists.”

    True, for us, it’s eternal life that’s at stake. Would that not compel us even greater caution?

  37. dcs says:

    If you’re refusing to hire divorced and remarried persons who were married civilly, you’re refusing to hire people who were not really doing anything against Church moral theology. It says right in the moral theology books that such marriages can be dissolved by the Pauline Privilege, and if they’re not Catholic, they’re not obligated to follow the Church’s rules.

    Pauline Privilege applies to the non-baptized only. The marriage can be dissolved in favor of the faith (one spouse gets baptized and wishes to enter into a Christian marriage). Civil marriages can be invalid when contracted by Catholics because of lack of form. They would be annulled in such cases and not dissolved.

    People who are not Catholic are not obligated to follow ecclesiastical laws on marriage (though they could be as the Church has jurisdiction over all the baptized), but they are of course obligated to follow the natural law and Divine positive law. So they also should not be getting divorced and remarried any more than Catholics should.

  38. Ben Kenobi says:

    “If you’re refusing to hire divorced and remarried persons who were married civilly, you’re refusing to hire people who were not really doing anything against Church moral theology. It says right in the moral theology books that such marriages can be dissolved by the Pauline Privilege, and if they’re not Catholic, they’re not obligated to follow the Church’s rules.”

    This is an excellent point. Not all of us are Catholic to start with, and some, (not me), come into the Church having already been married civilly. Canon law seems pretty explicit about this that prior dissolved civil marriages would not be an impediment. As for SSA, it’s prudent to not place people in situations that touch upon their weaknesses. We don’t drink in front of recovering alcoholics to try to help people avoid temptation. It would seem prudent to do the same with those recovering from SSA to keep them outside of ministries involving children.

  39. frjim4321 says:

    Giuseppe, I hear what you are saying with your statement, “As long as there was something in the teacher’s contract that he was required to adhere to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, then this is a valid firing.” It could be that you have a JD or some other expertise that entitles you to such an opinion, but in all due respect, your opinion or my opinion in this regard is insignificant. The only opinion that matters is that of the court, the appeals court, and the Supreme Court. You and I can have whatever opinions we like regarding what the law might or might not say regarding a particular case, but its the final judgement rendered by the courts that really matters. I would predict a final decision against the diocese. Maybe I will be wrong.

  40. Elizabeth D says:

    frjim4321 I don’t really believe you are real because no one could be quite so perverse quite so continually, but you write: “The only opinion that matters is that of the court”: The opinion of God does not even matter in your understanding? Objectively, the Church has a right, precisely because it has a duty, to choose teachers for the young who present wholesome moral witness.

  41. Minnesotan from Florida says:

    The discussion on this thread seems of high quality.

    Someone asked, “It’s [OK] . . . to defy the Church so long as you keep it hidden?” I.e., I suppose, the commenter was implying that it is not OK for a teacher to live, and presumably, sexually lie, with his partner of the same sex and keep it hidden and yet not be dismissed from his or her position as a teacher in a Catholic school. I suggest that some of the thinking of moralists concerning the sin of detraction and the obligation not to reveal bad things about a person that are not generally known may be relevant here. Perhaps Father Zuhlsdorf could give some elucidation. In the particular California case, entering a (same-sex) marriage pursuant to law is a public act. (Noticing or not noticing it in newspapers is, in my opinion, irrelevant.)

  42. “Objectively, the Church has a right, precisely because it has a duty, to choose teachers for the young who present wholesome moral witness.” Yes and i don’t know when it was we started to expect less. Well said Elizabeth. (Saint Elizabeth of Hungary?)

  43. frjim4321 says:

    My point was regarding legal opinions . . . the court will have the final say on the determination of this case. Obviously the courts and legal decisions are not to be equated with ultimate justice. I thought that was implicit in my statement but evidently not enough so.

    “Objectively, the Church has a right, precisely because it has a duty, to choose teachers for the young who present wholesome moral witness.”

    Yes, but thus far it seems like the only ones that are being targeted are gay teachers. So there is an inherent injustice in the unevenness of enforcement. If were are genuinely concerned about the effect on the young we should take notice of the effect of these kinds of actions on GBLT youth in the church and curtail our encouragement to them to leave and never come back.

  44. Chuck Ludd says:

    These discussions are very good. I would like to add a couple of additional points which would need to be sorted through:

    Civil marriage is a public act and a matter of public record but very few jurisdictions require it to be posted in the newspapers. Newspapers carry marriage notices as filler either because they have nothing else to put there or out of habit. A SSM civil marriage is technically a public act, but is it on its own sufficiently open and notorious? It doesn’t seem to me to qualify in itself. Now, allowing yourself to be taped in the ceremony to be put on the news and the internet seems certainly to be the case.

    frjim4321 makes what I think is an excellent point: there needs to be equal discipline for irregular opposite-sex relationships which are open and notorious. They fall under the same category of poor role models, and in some situations may even be more harmful than SSM if the two people have children who are subjected to the confusion which comes about with multiple “marriages.”

    Others have made the point that why are schools even hiring people who are inclined to this behavior. I think that is an impossible standard to expect schools to have scrubbed so thoroughly and schools cannot predict future events. Don’t we all at confession resolve to sin no more and avoid the near occasion of sin? But then we end up needing to go back to confession because we do not live up to that resolution. I think the options of having staff sign affirmations is a good thing and certainly providing them the Catechism cannot hurt! It would be helpful if there were on-going classes for Catholic school teachers so that they can understand what is in the Catechism from an adult-learning perspective. So many people, including highly educated adults, have a grade school understanding of doctrine. I like the affirmation because it is an assent to the magisterium, not a commitment that they will never sin.

    Lastly, those who are expecting a very high standard from teachers must ask themselves, does this high standard extend to employment by all Catholic ministries? What of the diocesan administrative staff? What off a Catholic hospital? What of a Catholic nursing home? There are some good arguments that schools need a higher standard but an argument must be clearly articulated, otherwise the high expectations discussed in this post’s comments spill over into other Catholic institutions — and frankly, there aren’t enough saints to staff all the institutions of good works the Church undertakes, if sainthood is what is the standard for employment.

  45. Bruce says:

    “but in all due respect, your opinion or my opinion in this regard is insignificant. The only opinion that matters is that of the court, the appeals court, and the Supreme Court.”

    Government and Politics is the opium of the people!

  46. Bender says:

    The problem with personal morality contracts, and clauses that an employee lead a life that is always in conformance with the Magisterium and teachings of the Church, etc., is that any time that employee is thereafter seen entering the confessional that is proof positive that he has violated his contract and should be terminated.

    The issue is not whether one always and everywhere is a “faithful Catholic” — none of us are to the extent that we are all sinners and imperfect — the issue is whether our personal failings rise to the level of public scandal, whether they lead other people away from the faith or otherwise harm the interests of the Church.

  47. robtbrown says:

    I taught in a Catholic high school in 1975-6. It was well understood that no teacher, no matter what religion, could do or say anything that undermined Church doctrine. In fact, I know of one Catholic teacher/coach at another school in the same diocese who was divorced and shacked up with another woman. His contract was not renewed.

    I’m not so sure what the situation was at that high school, but it should be made clear at the beginning of every school year the responsibilities of the staff toward Cath0lic teaching.

  48. APX says:

    As for SSA, it’s prudent to not place people in situations that touch upon their weaknesses. We don’t drink in front of recovering alcoholics to try to help people avoid temptation. It would seem prudent to do the same with those recovering from SSA to keep them outside of ministries involving children.

    This is absolutely the dumbest thing I’ve ever read (and I’ve read Margaret Atwood).

    If we follow this logic, we would have to keep priests away from altar boys because a few priests in the grand scheme of priests committed horrendous crimes against altar boys and girls, BTW). After all, priests being celibate males are all sex-deprived men unable to live chaste lives and are tempted by altar boys. Obviously we as educated Catholics know that’s a load of garbage and find it rather offensive and enraging, but the logic still applies.

    The majority of pedophiles are not of SSA, but are usually already involved in heterosexual relationships whether they be dating a woman with young children, or are currently married. I have never worked with a pedophile who was SSA. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, but in the grand scheme of things, it is very rare.

    Stop looking for excuses to discriminate against SSA under some guise of “prudence”, “charity” etc. People with SSA living chaste living in conformity with the Church have a heavy enough cross to bear. They don’t need fakes “looking out for them” who only really care about pushing their homophobic (normally I don’t use this word, but I think in this case it legitimately refers to be people who have an irrational fear against people with SSA.) agendas.

    Those who unjustly discriminate against people with SSA will be held accountable before God. The Church is clear on how we are to treat people with SSA:

    2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition

  49. robtbrown says:

    FrJim4321,
    You and I can have whatever opinions we like regarding what the law might or might not say regarding a particular case, but its the final judgement rendered by the courts that really matters. I would predict a final decision against the diocese. Maybe I will be wrong.

    A good argument can be made that such a decision would violate the right to freedom of religion of the First Amendment.

  50. SKAY says:

    frjim said–
    “Yes, but thus far it seems like the only ones that are being targeted are gay teachers”

    I am aware of a situation in a parish where a woman was removed from her job in a Catholic elementary school (not a teacher) because she divorced her husband (both well known Catholics within the parish) of many years and married someone else. The second marriage was the problem.
    Perhaps situations like this happen more often than you think but they are not well publicized because it does not involve a homosexual employee.

    “I wonder what the student reaction will be?”

    Many high school students are not good judges of character-particularly when it comes to adults.
    A homosexual teacher in a local public high school was very popular with many of his students. They said he was a great teacher and loved to joke around with them. As it turned out–he was also allowing the high school boys to bring girls to his apartment for sex and was secretly making videos. He was prosecuted and is now in jail.
    There needs to be a good background check for any teacher if our children are as important to us as we say they are. If Catholic schools insist on all of the moral teachings of the Church -I think they will soon be over run with applications.

  51. Bob B. says:

    Has anyone noticed that you never hear from the NCEA (National Catholic Educational Association), USCCB (US Conference of Catholic Bishops), NCA CASI (North Central Association), NWAC (Northwest Accreditation Commission), or WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges), etc – all of which have a degree of responsibility to insure that each Catholic school is Catholic.
    No one asks them anything and, it appears, they haven’t volunteered anything either.
    It’s not surprising really, their idea of a school being Catholic is if they see a crucifix somewhere on campus.

  52. ” is that any time that employee is thereafter seen entering the confessional that is proof positive that he has violated his contract and should be terminated.” actually it would be just the opposite. If we see a person entering the confessional we could probably assume that person is living their Catholic faith. I would be more concerned with someone who MIGHT be violating a contract and NOT entering the confessional.

  53. Imrahil says:

    You and I can have whatever opinions we like regarding what the law might or might not say regarding a particular case, but its the final judgement rendered by the courts that really matters. I would predict a final decision against the diocese.

    This is (this time :-) ) not an attack against you, rev’d dear @Fr Jim (as it were, I do not like it but I think you are right, however much this runs against the U. S. Constitution), I only take that as an occasion to say the following thing.

    There is certainly much to be said for prudence. However, we must at least maintain the interior ability to say at some point “only over my dead body”. We do not have to comply. If courts break the law, so much the worse for the courts. If positive law breaks natural law, so much the worse for the positive law. And if, for suchlike reasons, some confiscate Church money – well, certainly inconvenient, but not different from robbers extorting money at gunpoint.

  54. Johnno says:

    Make it such that employees in Catholic Schools that suffer from SSA can be hired providing:
    - They disclose honestly that they have that condition. Even in the case of it being after-the-fact.
    - They can provide reference from a local priest that they are striving to live chastley and according to the teachings of the Church and have a spiritual mentor/confessor.
    - They sign a document saying they will observe the Church’s moral teachings about homosexuality in public life and in school.
    - The school is allowed to be reasonably extra-vigilant with regards to them. Of course the details of their condition will not be advertised by any on the school board, their privacy will be respected. What they disclose to others is up to them.
    - They agree to the terms that they will be fired if caught violating them.

  55. Giuseppe says:

    As I mentioned above, the extent of the ‘ministerial exception’ in employment law is not fully clear. The Hosanna-Tabor case was easy, as the woman who was fired from her Lutheran church school had been given a title of “Minister of Religion, Commissioned” (as opposed to a lay employee). The 9-0 Supreme Court opinion included the lines below, where they held off defining the boundaries of the term ‘minister’. This will be the crux (ahem) of future cases.

    http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/11pdf/10-553.pdf
    P.20: “The case before us is an employment discrimination suit brought on behalf of a minister, challenging her church’s decision to fire her. Today we hold only that the ministerial exception bars such a suit. We express no view on whether the exception bars other types of suits, including actions by employees alleging breach of contract or tortious conduct by their religious employers. There will be time enough to address the applicability of the exception to other circumstances if and when they arise.”

  56. letchitsa1 says:

    I wonder how they treat teachers who have divorced and remarried civilly without an annulment if there are any on staff? The reason I ask is because it seems discriminatory to me to enforce morality on people with SSA while ignoring that same morality when it comes to heteros who are not measuring up. That seems to me it would be unjustly discriminating against the folks who have a SSA, also contrary to Church teaching.

    I dunno…maybe I’m overthinking it.

    Otherwise, I agree with the others who have said – more or less – the best solution is to be more selective in your hiring practices.