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BY Jimmy Akin
“It’s happening again.”
So begins a column over at Irish Central by Cahir O’Doherty (pictured).
“What is ‘it’—the it that is happening again?” you ask.
I’m not entirely sure. The headline, which is the logical lead-in for the first line of the piece, says, “Catholic Church fires Mass woman for marrying.”
I know; I know. What is a “Mass woman”? A woman who serves at Mass? This is not an established term in the Church’s liturgical books. But it turns out that “Mass” in this case means “Massachusetts.” O’Doherty or his editor failed to include a period that would have clarified a bit.
But as far as I know, the Catholic churches in Massachusetts are not in the habit of firing women when they marry, so that doesn’t seem to be quite the “it” that is happening again.
The “it”—though O’Doherty never actually tells us what “it” is—seems has to do with homosexuality, because the piece states (excerpts):
Cathedral High School in Springfield, Massachusetts has forced out the school’s athletic director, Christine M. Judd, after she married her female partner in August.
The local diocese has listed her departure as a resignation, but Judd said she is currently exploring her legal options. It’s believed that matters came to a head when an unidentified person made a photograph of Judd’s wedding available to the diocese. Judd also clarified that the Cathedral High School had nothing to do with her departure, it was strictly a diocesan decision she said.
‘Without being specific to this matter, it should be clear that all employees of our Catholic schools are made aware of our policies and regulations,’ [diocesan spokesman Mark E.] Dupont told the press. ‘This includes language that clearly states that whenever by public example, an employee engages in or espouses conduct which contravenes the doctrine and teaching of the Catholic Church, that employee may be subject to disciplinary action. To do otherwise would be in contradiction to the values we believe in and are teaching in these same schools. So while we certainly want to be compassionate and understanding, we must be true to who we are.’
So far, so good. An employee of a Catholic school publicly undertook an action (simulation of marriage) that gravely contravenes Catholic teaching (and biological reality) and made herself unsuitable for the position she occupied. The diocese then took action which led to her resignation. I’m not seeing a problem here. Sounds like the diocese did what it should have and did so in a discreet manner, refusing to comment on the case specifically.
O’Doherty, though, starts to throw a tantrum:
We must be true to who we are. So any teacher in contravention of Catholic dogma at Cathedral must be sweating right about now - I mean all the divorcees, the married people who use birth control, the men who have had vasectomies, and anyone who’s privately pro-choice on abortion.
Call me a cynic, but somehow I imagine they’ll all be spared. The Church is highly selective over which sins it puts up with, after all. Call it cafeteria contrition - or just call it what it is, text book religious discrimination.
It’s being gay that seems to really incite Catholic purges. The question is why? What’s so inherently more sinful about being gay that any trace of it must be eradicated? Do Church authorities think that just the mere fact of being gay put’s you in total contravention to every Catholic teaching? Judd, 35, never discussed her sexuality during her 12-year employment at Cathedral High School.
Okay, let’s pause the rant here and answer O’Doherty’s questions. First off, having same sex attraction is intrinsically disordered but it isn’t itself a sin. Sin involves an act of the will, and merely experiencing a feeling, even a disordered one (provided you aren’t deliberately fostering it), is not a sin. So if that’s what you mean by “being gay” (experiencing same sex attraction) then it doesn’t “put you in total contravention to every Catholic teaching.”
Deliberately acting on same sex attraction, either fostering it internally or actively going out and committing sexual acts with members of your own gender, is sinful, and gravely so. If done with adequate knowledge and deliberation, it is thus mortally sinful. If this is what one means by “being gay” (fostering and/or acting outwardly on same sex attraction) then it is gravely and potentially mortally sinful, though even that doesn’t trigger the high-flown descriptor “in total contravention to every Catholic teaching.”
There is a further distinction to be made between grave sins that are committed privately and those that are publicly known. It is one thing for a person to engage in gravely sinful acts in private. It is another to publicly announce the fact that one engages in them and is unrepentant concerning them.
This is what attempting a homosexual “marriage” does. It is a public statement that one rejects the Church’s teaching—and simple biological reality—regarding marriage. For a teacher in a Catholic school to do this makes the person unsuitable for their position.
It isn’t, contrary to what O’Doherty says, the fact that it’s homosexuality that makes this so. The same thing applies in the case for any grave sin. If a teacher were to get up and say, “I don’t care what the Church says about contraception; I want the world to know that I contracept and I’m proud of it” then that person likewise would be unsuitable as a teacher in a Catholic school. The same goes for one who says, “I don’t care what the Church says about abortion. I think abortion is fine.” And it goes for those who Christ’s teachings regarding the permanence of marriage (Mark 10:2-12) or who publicly reject the Church’s teaching on any matter concerning grave sin.
It is the act of publicly rejecting the Church’s teaching on a grave matter—regardless of what that matter is—that makes one an unsuitable as a teacher in a Catholic institution, particularly one devoted to the education of children.
So, despite O’Doherty’s desire to see homosexuals as uniquely singled out, here, that isn’t the case.
He states that Judd had not discussed her sexual orientation during her time at the school. Had she continued this practice, she would presumably still be employed there. But by choosing to publicly simulate matrimony, she publicly repudiated Church teaching on a grave matter and thus made herself unsuitable.
One could quibble and suggest that perhaps she could have kept her “marital” status from the children, and perhaps she could have. But a person who publicly announces his or her opposition to Church teaching by going down to the courthouse (or wherever) and officially registering it has performed such a profound rejection of Church teaching that parents (and administrators) of a Catholic school cannot have confidence that this person will be able to keep this fact from the children at the school.
Parents are paying good money to have their children receive a Catholic education, and they’re entitled to getting their money’s worth. Any person who publicly registers opposition to Catholic teaching has fundamentally compromised their ability to serve as an authentic witness to Catholic values. They clearly find Catholic values so onerous that they do not choose to refrain from publicly registering their opposition to it, and even if they are (somehow) able to keep their mouths shut in front of the children about it, others may discover the fact (as seems to have happened in this case) and word may get back to the children that way. Either way, the person has compromised their witness to basic Catholic values and parents would be entirely within their rights to find such a person an unsuitable provider of a Catholic education for their children.
So could it be that her firing was predicated on one the most frequent charges we hear about marriage equality - if it’s passed at the federal level eventually gay people will start suing to have their marriages performed in church?
The fact that this has never happened anywhere in the world, ever, hasn’t deterred conservatives from making this argument. It could happen, they say. The Cleveland Spiders could win the World Series, too - hey, you never know.
Judd’s resignation (and firing, if it had come to that) was already entirely justified completely apart from the hypothetical that O’Doherty raises. He’s punching a straw man here, though the homosexual lobby has already demonstrated its willingness to use lawsuits to force compliance with its agenda on numerous fronts. Here in America the First Amendment may provide some protection against the specific case he raises, but it’s still a straw man.
But hypotheticals are unreal things, what’s happening to Christine M. Judd is a terrific reality.
Points for knowing that “terrific” used to mean “terrifying.” Loss of points for not seeming to know that “terrifying” is now the appropriate word in this case.
Critics who say that it’s a private school run by the Catholic Church, and that she knew the rules and got what was coming to her, need to examine their own reasoning for cognitive dissonance - marriage equality wasn’t legal in the state twelve years ago. And it may be worth mentioning that many gay people work these jobs because they’re an economic necessity.
As far as it being a private school and Judd knowing the rules in advance, yes. The fact that homosexual “marriage” wasn’t legal in Massachusetts 12 years ago is irrelevant. She knew the rules in 2010 and chose to simulate marriage anyway. The idea of economic necessity is also irrelevant. Having a job may be an economic necessity but having a homosexual wedding is not.
However you look at it, it’s a sad story. In recent months children as young as five have been thrown out of Catholic schools in the United States for simply having gay parents. It’s a new and disturbing tactic.
Correction: Children have been denied enrollment in Catholic schools for having same-sex caretakers who are publicly simulating marriage in open opposition to Catholic teaching.
When Massachusetts’ Saint Paul Roman Catholic Elementary kicked out an eight-year-old boy with two mommies, Boston’s archbishop Sean Patrick O’Malley stepped in to condemn the move. Let’s hope he won’t sit silently this time.
Unlikely. Springfield is in the Diocese of Springfield. Cardinal O’Malley is unlikely to publicly criticize a decision made by a brother bishop, especially in a matter like this.
What are your thoughts?