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US: Catholic school teachers request audience with pope

The nine teachers lost jobs for being gay or supporting a gay family member

After the new employment contract was issued by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Molly Shumate (left), a first-grade teacher in Cincinnati for 14 years, quit her job rather than compromise her freedom to support her gay son, Zachery. Credit: cincinnati.com

Nine teachers who lost their jobs at Catholic schools in the United States because they are gay or supported a gay family member have written to Pope Francis requesting an audience.

“We take hope from your messages of acceptance and see in your pastoral leadership the possibility for the Church to correct these hurtful injustices,” the letter reads. “We ask for a Papal audience with our families, so that you may hear our personal stories firsthand and see the impact the Church’s actions have had on us all.”

The letter also states, “We have devoted years, some of us even decades, to serving our communities as teachers, leaders and role models. We have made a conscious choice to work within the Catholic Church because we strongly believe that a Catholic education prepares our young people to be responsible citizens, men and women for others. For each and every one of us, our employment was far more than just a job — it was a reflection of our core Catholic values.”

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which delivered the letter on behalf of the nine, noted, in particular, the new employment contract issued by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati that calls on teachers to refrain “from any conduct or lifestyle which would reflect discredit on or cause scandal to the school or be in contradiction to Catholic doctrine or morals.”

The contract includes “public support of or publicly living together outside marriage, public support of or sexual activity out of wedlock, public support of or homosexual lifestyle, public support of or use of abortion, public support of or use of a surrogate mother, public support of or use of in vitro fertilization or artificial insemination,” as examples of positions or behaviour that conflict with Catholic doctrine.

Molly Shumate, a first-grade teacher in Cincinnati for 14 years, quit her job rather than sign the new contract and compromise her freedom to support her gay son.

HRC says the issue in Cincinnati is part of a “frightening trend” being duplicated in other cities and states. 

A gay vice-principal who says he was fired from Eastside Catholic High School in Washington State after officials found out he had married his partner is suing the school and the Archdiocese of Seattle for wrongful termination.

Mark Zmuda’s dismissal sparked protests Dec 19, with Eastside students walking out of class or not bothering to show up, chanting, Keep Mr Z and Change the church. It was reported that students in other Catholic schools in surrounding cities staged sit-ins and other forms of protest in solidarity with Eastside students.