U.S. Bishops Laud Court’s Defense of Church Right to Choose Teachers

Instructors from Raphael House lead a classroom discussion about consent and healthy relationships with a class of sophomores at Central Catholic High School in Portland, Ore., on April 15, 2019. What’s happening at this Catholic school in liberal Portland represents a larger debate unfolding in blue states and red, as …
AP Photo/Gillian Flaccus

The United States bishops praised Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision confirming the right of Catholic schools to choose teachers “who will teach and model the Catholic faith.”

In the consolidated cases of Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru and St. James School v. Biel the Court ruled in favor of the schools by a vote of 7-2.

Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski, chairman of the Bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty, and Oakland Bishop Michael C. Barber, chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education, issued a joint statement lauding the ruling that limits government’s ability to interfere in the autonomy of faith-based schools.

“Education is a central aspect of the Church’s mission,” the bishops noted, and indeed, teaching is one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy.”

“Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. James schools continue the Catholic tradition of offering Christian education,” the bishops continued. “As institutions carrying out a ministry of the Church, Catholic schools have a right, recognized by the Constitution, to select people who will perform ministry.”

“The government has no authority to second-guess those ministerial decisions,” they said. “We welcome the Supreme Court’s decision, which rightly acknowledged this limit on state authority.”

The bishops’ positive assessment of Wednesday’s ruling was not shared by all Church figures, and Jesuit Father James Martin, an LGBT activist, was quick to denounce the ruling because it allows Catholic schools to fire teachers who publicly flout Catholic moral teaching by engaging in homosexual marriage.

“If Catholic leaders use this ruling on ‘ministerial exceptions’ to continue targeting and firing LGBTQ employees in Catholic institutions, they may be within the law but outside of moral behavior,” Father Martin tweeted.

“In recent years, the main targets for firings have not been the type of case brought before the Court, but LGBTQ people, who have been fired for not conveying or supporting church teaching,” he continued. “The problem is that many others whose lives also do not support church teaching are not targeted. Religious liberty cannot be used as a cover for discrimination.”

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