Though Pope Francis has referred to same-sex marriage as “a move of the father of lies who wishes to confuse and deceive the children of God,” a nun who is president of a Seattle-area Catholic high school has said that an openly-engaged lesbian drama coach is “welcome” to continue working at the school.
As local NBC affiliate King5.com reports, Sister Mary Tracy of Eastside Catholic High School in Sammamish said Tuesday that part-time freelance drama coach Stephanie Merrow’s engagement to her partner was not discussed by the school board, the same one involved in the dismissal of Vice Principal Mark Zmuda, who was fired when he announced he was marrying his male partner and, thereby, in violation of Catholic teachings.
The Seattle Times reports that, as a part-time musical coach, Merrow said her employment agreement was narrow in scope and did not discuss Catholic teachings on issues such as same-sex marriage.
Merrow reportedly said she was not impressed by the school’s handling of Zmuda.
She said she was “extremely proud of and supportive of the kids and the way they handled this. I’m doing this to support the kids, and what the kids are trying to do is get to the pope and change the church.”
According to King5.com, the students believe Sister Tracy is sympathetic to their support of same-sex marriage. One student, Julia Burns, reportedly said Tracy allowed them to quote her as saying, “I look forward to the day where no individual loses their job because they married a person of the same sex.”
In a YouTube video posted Saturday, Zmuda said that he had not resigned his position as vice principal, as Eastside Catholic officials reported. The Associated Press indicates that Zmuda said he was terminated and that Tracy suggested he get a divorce to keep his job.
“It was a piece of paper, they said, that was the reason that I was being let go,” Zmuda reportedly said in the video, an interview conducted by one of his former students. Zmuda also said he was shocked that divorce was an option for him and rejected the idea.
School attorney Mike Patterson told AP that he had two conversations with Zmuda in December, during which the former vice principal said he was resigning from his job, not being fired. Patterson also indicated that Tracy’s divorce suggestion was hypothetical and never seriously considered.
Patterson reportedly said Zmuda was resigning because he understood that, under his contract, he must follow church teachings regarding same-sex marriage. He added that Zmuda, who is Catholic, was offered a positive letter of reference and assistance in finding another position.
Though Eastside Catholic has about 900 students, most of whom are likely Catholic, some who spoke in various YouTube videos appeared to be unaware of the basis of the Church’s teaching that marriage is only between one man and one woman. Several students said they felt that since same-sex “marriage” is legal in Washington State, state law should supersede church law. Hundreds of students protested at the school in support of Zmuda, and dozens reportedly rallied on Saturday in front of the Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle.
Zmuda praised the students for leading efforts on social media and within their school to make their voices heard. “They’re the ones really making and starting this change,” he said.
In mid-December, a gay teacher from Holy Ghost Preparatory School in Philadelphia was also dismissed after sending an email to his principal stating that he and his partner were going to obtain a marriage license.
According to philly.com, Michael Griffin, 35, a French and Spanish teacher at the school, said Sunday that though he had attended gatherings at the school and in the priests’ residence with his partner, Vincent Giannetto, it was not until he sent an email to school principal Jeff Danilak last Tuesday, stating he was applying for a marriage license prior to an in-service meeting, that he was told by the school president that he would be dismissed.
Rev. James McCloskey, president of Holy Ghost, told Griffin on Friday that the email he sent to Danilak made Griffin’s relationship public. In a statement on Sunday, McCloskey said:
Unfortunately, this decision contradicts the terms of his teaching contract at our school, which requires all faculty and staff to follow the teachings of the church as a condition of their employment. In discussion with Mr. Griffin, he acknowledged that he was aware of this provision in his contract, yet he said that he intended to go ahead with the ceremony. Regretfully, we informed Mr. Griffin that we have no choice but to terminate his contract effective immediately.
Griffin, an alumnus of Holy Ghost, a boys only preparatory school, said he was shocked by his dismissal because he and his partner attended an April fundraiser at the school together. He also stated that a school administrator had been a guest at a reception in 2008 in which he and his partner celebrated their civil union.
“Clearly, we were a couple. We both wear rings, and we were together,” Griffin said. “To me, that was much more public than me emailing the principal, so I don’t understand, if [they] were going to fire me, why not in April, why not for the civil union, why not at the first time I brought my partner to the school?” Griffin said. “That’s why it’s sort of a shock to me.”
Griffin added, “The mission of the school, it talks about dedication to the poor and the oppressed, the value of an education, and the value of diversity of thought and tolerance.”
McCloskey posted a letter on the Holy Ghost website about Griffin’s dismissal.
In November, Breitbart News reported that Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco reminded Catholics that, when Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis fought to oppose the redefinition of marriage to accommodate same-sex couples.
Cordileone also criticized Illinois lawmakers who claimed to be Catholic and cited Pope Francis’ words in an interview, regarding treating all with dignity, to justify their votes in favor of same-sex marriage.
It is “disgraceful that some legislators would manipulate the words of Pope Francis to suggest that he would support marriage redefinition,” said the archbishop. He added that the redefinition of marriage is a “serious injustice” and that Church law exists to protect “authentic rights, especially the right of children to have a married mother and father.”