Chaput: Firing religion teacher in same-sex union simply shows common sense…
(CUSA) – They don’t mention in this story that she taught theology. Yes, theology. As though those responsible for teaching the faith to the young have no responsibility to live a life that publicly represents Christian virtue. —Ed.
(NewmanSociety) – Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M., of Philadelphia yesterday publicly praised a Catholic school which fired a teacher in an eight-year same-sex relationship, saying the school demonstrated “character and common sense at a moment when both seem to be uncommon.”
Waldron Mercy Academy in Merion, Pa., fired its director of education on June 22, after parents noted that she had been legally married in Massachusetts to another woman in 2007. Archbishop Chaput addressed the situation on Monday:
Schools describing themselves as Catholic take on the responsibility of teaching and witnessing the Catholic faith in a manner true to Catholic belief. There’s nothing complicated or controversial in this. It’s a simple matter of honesty.
I’m very grateful to the Religious Sisters of Mercy and to the principal and board members of Waldron Mercy for taking the steps to ensure that the Catholic faith is presented in a way fully in accord with the teaching of the Church. They’ve shown character and common sense at a moment when both seem to be uncommon.
The statement clarifying Archbishop Chaput’s position comes amid protests against the school’s action by some parents and students, but it was welcomed by Patrick Reilly, president of The Cardinal Newman Society.
“In usual fashion for Archbishop Chaput, he has stood strong and clearly in defense of the faith and in support of the faithful,” Reilly said. “The Archbishop’s statement is very helpful and will be applauded by Catholic families.”
Nevertheless, the situation has raised serious concerns about the Catholic identity of Waldron Mercy Academy.
In an interview last week, the fired employee, Margie Winters, claimed that the school had known for a long time about her lesbian relationship and sought to hide it from parents:
“I actually had a conversation with the principal a few weeks after I was hired to say, how should I handle this,” said Winters, adding that she was advised that she could be open about her life with the faculty but to avoid discussing it with students’ parents.
And in a July 3 letter to parents, Academy Principal Nell Stetser explained that the school is obedient to its bishop, but she also appeared to accept homosexual relationships.
“[M]y duty is to protect our school’s future,” Stetser reportedly wrote. “In the Mercy spirit, many of us accept life choices that contradict current Church teachings, but to continue as a Catholic school Waldron Mercy must comply with those teachings.” She added that “our school recognizes the authority of the Archbishop of Philadelphia, especially in the teaching of religion, because we call ourselves Catholic.”
That letter, and the subsequent claim by Winters that the school acted to protect its “Catholic identity” from adverse action by the Archdiocese, led last week to an Archdiocese clarification that it had no role in the firing.
Waldron Mercy Academy is legally independent from the Archdiocese and makes its own personnel decisions.
What’s clear is that the Archdiocese has strong standards for the schools that it does control. As documented in a Newman Society report on diocesan policies for Catholic school teachers, the Archdiocese claims “the sole right and duty to operate its school system in accordance with the philosophy of Christian education, the doctrines, laws, and norms of the Catholic Church,” and its policies allow for the “dismissal of a teacher for serious and public immorality and/or public rejection of official doctrine or laws of the Church.”
Philadelphia will continue to be in the spotlight as it prepares to host Pope Francis during the World Meeting of Families in September. The meeting will act as a prelude to the Synod on the Family in Rome in October, where one of the major topics discussed will be the challenges of the family and “education in sexuality,” according to the recently released Instrumentum Laboris for the Synod.