John M. Becker

HRC Asks Pope Francis to Meet With Fired LGBT Teachers

Filed By John M. Becker | May 28, 2014 1:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: HRC, Human Rights Campaign, LGBT Catholics, papal audience, Pope Francis, pro-equality Catholics, pro-LGBT Catholics

pope-francis-marriage-homily-april2.jpgYesterday, the Human Rights Campaign sent a letter to Pope Francis requesting that he meet with nine teachers who've lost their jobs at Catholic schools because they're LGBT or an LGBT ally.

The letter reads, in part:

We write to you today with humility to request a Papal audience. With loving eloquence you have explained that the role of the Church is to restore what is broken and unite what has been divided. In this spirit of wholeness and reconciliation, we hope you will agree to meet with us and our families to hear our stories.

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...

After each termination, school and Church officials have told us we violate Catholic Church teachings on homosexuality. Yet, such directives have not only caused great harm to our families, but also contradict your pastoral priority for the Church to reflect the beauty of God in ways that attract and entice rather than alienate.

Too many LGBT Catholics and their loved ones feel abandoned by the Catholic Church, unwelcome and judged by Church regulations that simply do not align with the Catholic values that we strive to live our lives by. This must end. While Catholics are among the most welcoming and embracing of all people of faith, the hierarchy is doing an incredible amount of damage by emotionlessly wielding discriminatory policies against faithful Catholics.

Our families are hurting. We feel scorned by our church, which we have dedicated our lives to. From coaching sports teams, to leading canned food drives, to going to Church every single Sunday - we feel abandoned by the Catholic Church. We know God has not abandoned us. Our friends, loved ones, and many others in our community have not abandoned us. But we feel the hierarchy of our Church is denying us the pastoral care and love they are called to do.

Signers of the letter include Kristen Ostendorf, who was fired for coming out; Brian Panetta and Tippy McCullough, who were fired for getting engaged and getting married, respectively; and Molly Shumate, who refused to sign an anti-gay contract that would have forbidden her from publicly supporting her gay son.

It's worth noting that the current version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which HRC supports, contains a broad religious exemption that would allow these kinds of firings to continue. Nevertheless, putting the voices of LGBT Catholics who've been harmed by that church's anti-LGBT teachings in front of the pope is an important step and one that I fully support.

I do think, though, that HRC should broaden its focus here just a bit to also include the perspectives of Catholics who speak out for LGBT equality while still working for the Church -- and who risk their jobs by doing so. I happen to know two such people myself. Pope Francis would do well to learn about their experiences, too.

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