Philly Archbishop Defends School Decision to Fire Married Lesbian Teacher

Catholic Archbishop Charles J. Chaput answers questions following a news conference on July 20, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. Chaput was announced Tuesday as the Archbishop-designate for the diocese of Philadelphia, one of the country's largest dioceses in the United States. The church in Philadelphia is still reeling from a sex …
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Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput praised the directors of Waldron Mercy Academy for their “character and common sense” in letting go a teacher who entered into a same-sex marriage, contrary to Catholic teaching.

In a statement, the archbishop likened the decision to the principle of “truth in advertising,” saying that 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.”

Chaput expressed his gratitude to the Religious Sisters of Mercy, who run the Catholic elementary school, and to its principal and board members “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,” he said.

Margie Winters, the director of religious education, was fired this summer, but now her partner, Andrea Vettori, is appealing the decision directly to Pope Francis. “Her offense?” Vettori writes to the Pope. “She was asked to leave because we are married and, according to Church teaching, living in sin.”

Waldron principal Nell Stetser sent parents an email in early July informing them that the religious director was no longer working at the school, and reiterated the school’s dedication to Catholicism.

“In the Mercy spirit, many of us accept life choices that contradict current Church teachings,” Stetser writes, “but to continue as a Catholic school, Waldron Mercy must comply with those teachings.”

Winters said she had told the school about her same-sex marriage when she was hired in 2007 and was told she could be open about her marriage with faculty but not with students or parents at the school.

Apparently a few parents found out and complained to the school administration and the archdiocese, which led to her dismissal.

On June 26, Archbishop Chaput criticized the Supreme Court ruling that imposed same-sex marriage on the country.

“The mistakes of the court change nothing about the nature of men and women, and the truth of God’s Word,” he said. “The task now for believers is to form our own families even more deeply in the love of God, and to rebuild a healthy marriage culture, one marriage at a time, from the debris of today’s decision.”

The Philadelphia archdiocese will be hosting Pope Francis this September when he comes for the celebration of the World Meeting of Families Congress as part of his three-city visit of the United States.

Earlier this year, Pope Francis said that marriage and the family “are going through a serious cultural crisis.” This doesn’t mean “they have lost importance,” he said, but rather “the need for them is more acutely felt.”

The Pope also has reiterated the right of every child “to grow up in a family with a father and a mother,” and that man-woman complementarity “is the basis of marriage and the family.”

As archbishop of Buenos Aires, then-Cardinal Bergoglio called same-sex marriage “the envy of the devil” by which Satan “cunningly seeks to destroy the image of God: man and woman.”

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome


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