The Case of Mike Moroski

The case of Mike Moroski[1]

Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati dismissed Mike Moroski, the assistant principal of Purcell Marian High School (Dayton, OH) after he refused to remove a private blog expressing support for same-sex marriages.  Here are the words of Mike Moroski describing the situation that has been imposed upon him:

On Monday, February 4th [2014] I was given an ultimatum by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.  Namely, to take down my post on this site entitled, “Choose Your Battles,” sign a number of documents assuring my silence and keep my job — or, resign.

After much deliberation with my wife, family, trusted clergy, professionals from all walks of life and my own meditative silence, I decided not to take the post down, nor to recant my position that “I unabashedly believe gay people SHOULD be allowed to marry. . . .”

If I take that post down I would not be able to look at the thousands of former students and families with whom I have worked for twelve years in the eye. . . .   What would I say to all of them if I were to go against my OWN conscience[2] so that I could keep my job for four months?

I refused to agree to the Archdiocese’s terms BECAUSE OF my faith formation at Catholic schools and relationship with Catholic family members & clergy — not in spite of it [. . .]

If any of you Cavaliers [students at Purcell Marian High School] are reading this, please know that I love you and I am in your corner.  I hope that someday you may come to understand why I am not in my office to share a laugh, a cry or a story. . . .   As I always tried to teach you — NEVER compromise who you are for someone else — and NEVER let anyone make you someone THEY want you to be.  Be strong and take care of one another [. . .]

The “Morality Clause” in Teacher Contracts

After the dismissal of Mike Moroski and after the Archdiocese was successfully sued in court by a fired teacher for $171,000,[3] it appears that Archbishop Schnurr met with his lawyers and was advised to include a “morality clause”[4] in all teacher contracts so as to better protect the interests of the Archdiocese in future court cases.[5]  This “morality clause,” would make it perfectly clear that teachers acknowledged certain ways of acting as incompatible with their employment in the Archdiocese.[6]

The “morality clause” of the new teachers contract for the 2014-2015 school year permits not only for the firing of gay and lesbian school employees, but also for anyone supporting of the “homosexual lifestyle” [which presumably includes same-sex marriage] as grounds for dismissal.

In response to Archbishop Schnurr’s “morality clause,” Dr. Sharon Groves, director of the Human Rights Campaign published the following analysis:

At a time when Pope Francis is talking about support of civil unions, the Cincinnati Archdiocese, in a throwback to past times, is talking about firing gay and lesbian teachers and silencing their straight supporters.  This isn’t in keeping with the olive branch Pope Francis has extended to LGBTQ people around the world, but even more importantly, it’s not in keeping with the living message of God’s love of all people.

The majority of Catholics and people of faith believe LGBTQ people deserve dignity, respect, and equal protections under the law,[7] and at the same time leaders of the Cincinnati Archdiocese are determined to weed out supporters of LGBTQ equality.  This must stop.

The new contract also prohibits membership in an LGBTQ equality organization, such as the Conference of Catholic Lesbians or DignityUSA.  Creating a safe space for LGBTQ young people, by placing a multicolored-rainbow sticker on your car bumper, for example, could [presumably] be grounds for dismissal.[8]

I had the opportunity to interview some Catholic teachers perplexed by this change in policy.  All of them were angry at the heavy-handed coercion involved in the imposition of the “morality clause.”  One teacher noted that “signing this new contract effectively meant that we [the teachers] would lose our civil liberties outside the classroom as the price for continuing to teach inside the classroom.”  In contrast, Paul Kindt, a high school religion teacher, reported that he proudly signed the contract because he believed that the Catholic Church has “THE TRUTH” about love and marriage and that is precisely what he presents to his students—”no human opinions,” he emphasized, “just God’s point of view.”[9]

Another teacher I interviewed was much more personally distressed by the “morality clause”:

My own brother has just recently come out that he is homosexual.  I personally want to listen to him deeply but also to publicly support him in the changes that this will produce in his life.  In signing this contract, I feel that I am endorsing a Catholic education that forces young people to suppress or deny any homosexual leanings because they are indoctrinated from their earliest years that such a condition leads to serious sin and the threat of eternal hellfire.  This was what my brother was saying to our family.  That he was scared out of his mind to even admit the truth to himself while he was in Catholic schools.

“So how is this to be resolved?”, I asked.  She continued:

I’m damned if I do and I’m damned if I don’t.  I love teaching and I had made the choice of Catholic schools because they give kids a challenging moral code.  But on this issue of homosexual unions, I’m completely at a loss.  If I sign, I will feel that I am betraying the best interests of my brother.  If I don’t sign, there is no way in hell that I could find a full-time opening in a public school this late in the summer.[10]

My third interview was perhaps the most critical one:

Our pastor gathered us in the rectory and heard some of the grievances surrounding the “morality clause” in the new contract.  By way of an action step, he proposed the following:

“I have no investment in policing your private lives or in scrutinizing those causes you are supporting in our society.  In fact, I detest the Archbishop’s senseless meddling.  I’m more concerned with our ability, as a parish, to welcome with dignity all the diverse sorts of families that we have in our midst.  When we celebrated the baptism of the twins adopted by Karl and Adam, I was proud of the diversity of our parish and proud of the way that everyone accepted gay parents with enthusiasm.

“This is the kind of worshipping community that Jesus would have championed had he been present.  So, I don’t see any reason to mount a protest in the face of the Archbishop’s senseless meddling—it would only put us in the limelight and give him a reason to begin disrupting the excellent ministries that we already undertaken.  Hence, I trust you and our parents trust you with their children.

“I would, accordingly, ask you to sign the contract for this greater good and to let go of your anxieties.  Be not afraid.  I will stand behind you.  How many would be able to live with this?”

Everyone gave a visible sign of relief.  Not a single voice opposed the resolution this pastor proposed to his teachers.[11]

This interview illustrates how a local pastor had compelling reasons to take the side of his teachers and, for grave pastoral reasons, to deliberately subvert the intentionality of Archbishop Schnurr to purge the ranks of the 2,200 teachers employed by the Archdiocese.

Molly Shumate, a first-grade teacher, was directly touched by one of the newly highlighted restrictions because she has a son who’s gay.  She’s ending her career teaching at her childhood school rather than agree to the restrictions spelled out in the “morality clause” that she says “could restrict her from publicly supporting her son.”[12]

“In my heart, I know I need to go.  I need to find another avenue because I am going to support my son,” Shumate told CNN.  “If in five or ten years he finds a partner and he wants to be with that person, I’m going to be in the front row with the biggest bouquet.” [13]

The Cincinnati Chapter of the Voice of the Faithful mounted a campaign in support of teacher rights.  They petitioned to be able to discuss this issue with Archbishop Schnurr, but he declined to meet with them or with representatives of the 2,200 teachers.

The situation in the archdiocese of Cincinnati is not unique.  Toughening up teacher contracts and getting rid of persons in same-sex unions or persons visibly supporting same-sex unions is growing.[14]

Analysis

Archbishop Schnurr is in a real bind.  He believes that his divine mandate is to be a courageous shepherd and “to protect the faith of his flock” in the face of doubters on the inside and critics on the outside.  Archbishop Schnurr argues quite correctly that those parents who send their children to Catholic schools do so in the good faith that their teachers themselves affirm that faith in both their hearts and in their conduct.  What is in the heart of a believer cannot be seen or judged.  The conduct of their lives, however, is very much open to public observation and public judgment.  This is why the “morality clause” deals with issues of conduct that is to be expected of exemplary Catholic teachers.  “By their fruits, you shall know them” (Matt. 7:16)

So far, so good.

Needless to say, Archbishop Schnurr has not called for workshops designed to persuade his teachers that the Vatican has “the truth and the whole truth” regarding sexual morality.  Moreover, notice also that Archbishop Schnurr has not called for open dialog or for further research or for sensitive listening groups with gays and lesbians present precisely because he takes for granted that it is too late for such “soft measures.”  In his mind, these issues have already been investigated and authoritatively settled by virtue of the Cardinal Ratzinger decrees (all approved by John Paul II) that were sent out to all bishops by the Vatican.

This is also the reason why Archbishop Schnurr deliberately avoids meeting with “distressed teachers” or their supporters.  As the Archbishop sees it, these distressed teachers have signed on to be “Catholics,” so let them step up to the plate and deliver the goods.  If they cannot, perhaps their gift as teachers needs to be used elsewhere.

In this instance Archbishop Schnurr has adopted an authoritarian leadership style.  He is committed to purging Catholic schools of teachers unwilling to accept his “morality clause.”  But does that go far enough?  In the face of any call for open discussions among the parents and maybe even mild protests from among the students, does Archbishop Schnurr expect to play the authoritarian card when dealing with parents and students as well?  You can bet he does!

Did Archbishop Schnurr act justly?

While it may be the case that Archbishop Schnurr has the right to hire and fire whomever he wishes, this does not mean that he can act arbitrarily.  In other words, he must act justly.  Here are some reasons to think that he did not.

Bishops are required to protect homosexuals from unjust discrimination in employment.  When Archbishop Schnurr formulated a “morality clause,” he effectively barred the way for any qualified gay or lesbian faculty member from teaching in Catholic schools.  Their only crime would be their sexual orientation.  And since “sexual orientation” is never a sin; it would be a gross miscarriage of justice to fire someone solely on the grounds of their sexual orientation.  Hence, the morality clause is prejudicial and a direct violation of the Vatican ruling that Bishops are required to protect homosexuals from unjust discrimination in employment.

Archbishop Schnurr went even one step further.  He fired a teacher solely because he was unwilling to cover up his advocacy of “same-sex marriages.” Yes, I want to make clear that Archbishop Schnurr never met with Mike Moroski to see whether he could change his mind.  And why not?  Was he too busy to do so?  Was he aware that open dialog on this point had little promise of success?  Was he aware that even Pope Francis had argued that “civil marriages”[15] would be of benefit for same-sex couples?

We will never know the answer to these questions.  What we do know, however, is that Archbishop Schnurr was clear that if Mike Moroski removed his online post then the Archbishop would allow him to continue as a teacher in good standing.  Sad but true.  Archbishop Schnurr goal was to silence Mike Moroski.  Then Archbishop Schnurr could go back to that person or those persons who originally objected to Mike Moroski’s post and say, “Mike Moroski has withdrawn his statement.  I, accordingly, have removed my threat.”

But make no mistake here.  Archbishop Schnurr was party to creating a public deception. He was effectively saying to Mike Moroski, “I know and you know that your mind is made up in favor of same-sex marriages.  When you remove your online post, this will not change.  What it will do, however, is to remove you from being in direct violation of the ‘morality clause’ in your teacher’s contract.  Your private views are of no consequence.  It is only your public advocacy that is troublesome and punishable.”

Mike Moroski was correct in understanding that “marriage” would help to protect the civil rights afforded “same-sex unions.”  Dozens of high-ranking bishops and cardinals have already gone on record to advocate the civil protection of “same-sex unions.”  Pope Francis himself has favored for a long time the legalization of “same-sex unions” while reserving the term “marriage” in its traditional meaning.

All in all, Archbishop Schnurr’s decision to dismiss Mike Moroski on this issue alone is a gross violation of justice.  The Catholic Church has made it clear . . .

  1. That no one ought to be coerced to act against their conscience;
  2. That since the hierarchy of the Catholic Church has already made room for a diversity of views[16] respecting how the rights of gays and lesbians are to be best protected, it follows that Mike Moroski was entirely justified to express his opinion on this matter;
  3. That a just punishment must always be measured by the gravity of the crime committed.

Archbishop Schnurr thus acted rashly and unjustly.  Instead of honoring Mike Moroski’s rights, he effectively trampled over them.  He imposed grave harm on Mike Moroski and on his family.  He deprived Purcell Marian High School of a capable, dedicated teacher and administrator. Even beyond this, Archbishop Schnurr betrayed the trust that he has as an administrator—he has given grave scandal by mismanaging the affairs of the Church.

Furthermore, Archbishop Schnurr acted against the interests of gays and lesbians within the Catholic Church by lashing out at Mike Moroski.  Archbishop Schnurr has the obligation to honor and protect gays and lesbians as loved by God and as deserving the pastoral care of his office.  He also has the obligation to “act justly” as an employer and not to punish Mike Moroski by imposing a “gag order” designed to hinder his well-intentioned and legitimate support for same-sex civil marriages.

In Boston, meanwhile, this very issue was being discussed by Cardinal O’Malley:

At the end of the event [a panel discussion on Pope Francis held in Boston on 14 Sept 2014], after the crowd had dissipated, I [Francis DeBernardo] had the opportunity to thank Cardinal O’Malley one-on-one for his compassionate remarks earlier in the evening about the LGBTQ community.

As we spoke, the cardinal told me that we must first convince people we love them before talking about the Ten Commandments. I pointed out that it has been hard to convince LGBTQ Catholics and their allies of this love when so many church workers have had LGBT-related employment disputes with Catholic schools and parishes. Responding to my comment, Cardinal O’Malley said this trend was a situation that “needs to be rectified.”[17]

Meanwhile, in far-flung Australia, another voice sounds that upholds the “deviance” of Mike Moroski and pushes against the forces of oppression in the Church represented by the Archbishop:

Australian Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen has said that it is not good enough for the Church to treat gay people with compassion and then define their lifestyle as “intrinsically disordered,” “We cannot talk about the ­integrity of creation, the universal and inclusive love of God, while at the same time colluding with the forces of oppression in the ill-treatment of racial minorities, women and homosexual persons,” said Bishop Long of Parramatta diocese in western Sydney.

“It won’t wash with young people, especially when we purport to treat gay people with love and compassion and yet define their sexuality as ‘intrinsically disordered.’ This is particularly true when the church has not been a shining beacon and a trailblazer in the fight against inequality and ­intolerance.”[18]

The position of Archbishop Schnurr

Archbishop Schnurr will be seen by some to join himself with those parents who rashly disown their own children when they “come out” as lesbians or gays.  These are the children who are forced to live on the streets and who are forced to commit petty thefts and sometimes even to sell their own bodies in order than they might stay alive.  These are the children who, despairing of ever being truly understood and loved, are tempted to cut themselves and to bring their misery to an end.

Archbishop Schnurr will be seen by some as joining himself with those parents who hate “queers” and who send their children to a Catholic high school because they mistakenly believe that teachers openly condemning the lifestyle of “queers” offer their children a measure of immunity from ever being “queer.”  The parents who took notice of Mike Moroski’s website and who reported him to the Archbishop Schnurr might indeed have had this frame of mind.  They might even have threatened to withdraw their children if appropriate action was not taken.

If Archbishop Schnurr was concerned about protecting the spiritual lives of gays and lesbians enrolled in Purcell Marian High School, do you not think that he might have included in his morality clause a warning against “those teachers who demonstrate by word or action an irrational fear or unchristian prejudice against gays and lesbians”?  And what if a teacher would post a blog that includes this: “I hate gays and should any child of mine admit to being gay, I would immediately disown him”?  Would Archbishop Schnurr take quick action here as he did in the case of Mike Moroski?

Sad to say, I expect he would not.

On the other hand, Catholic teaching distinguishes between the person, the inclination, and the act. Persons with homosexual inclinations are not to be condemned or excluded from the Church. On the contrary, they are children of God who have an equal dignity with every other human being.  If they yield to the inclination to homosexuality, they might commit a serious sin.  But just as in the case of any other Catholic who gives in to the temptation to sin, they are urged to trust in God’s mercy, to confess their failings, and to reform their lives. At no time do they become unlovable or unforgiveable in God’s eyes or in the eyes of the Church.  This is why the Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of the inclination toward homosexual acts as “objectively disordered” while, at the same time, insisting that persons with such inclinations “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.

This is why administrators must weed out teachers who demonstrate by word or action an irrational fear or unchristian prejudice against gays and lesbians.  They are excluded for the very same reason why racists were excluded from the ranks of teachers in the 1970s.  The same goes for the teacher who claims that he would disown his own child should they identify themselves as gay or lesbian.  This is an unnatural and unchristian impulse that must be challenged rather than championed.  And I would fully expect Archbishop Schnurr to remove any teacher who would make such menacing claims in his private blog.

What is troubling, however, is that Archbishop Schnurr is so decidedly one-sided when it comes time to disqualifying teachers.  Anyone who supports same-sex unions or who enters into a same-sex civil marriage has to be excluded.  Okay.  One can allow that this issue is important for the Archbishop.  But why then does the Archbishop not be consistent by excluding anyone unable or unwilling to accept gays and lesbians with “respect, compassion, and sensitivity”?[19]  Is this not the greater sin?  Is this not the far greater danger to our youth?

When students at risk have nowhere to turn

It is the lack of compassion and sensitivity that drives young people to acts of desperation.  Some feel alienated from their own school chums because they feel left out by their dating games.  Some even despair that God cursed them with the abnormality of being “queer.” Many run away from intolerable situations at home and live, vulnerable and exposed, in the dark alleyways and flop houses of our urban jungles.  Many resort to cutting themselves or overdosing on drugs.  Here are the essential facts to guide us on our way:

  • 1 out of 6 students nationwide (grades 9–12) seriously considered suicide in the past year.[20]
  • LGB youth are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual youth.[21]
  • LGB youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide as LGB peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection.[22]
  • Each episode of LGBTQ victimization, such as physical or verbal harassment or abuse, increases the likelihood of self-harming behavior by 2.5 times on average.[23]

Providing a safe environment in Catholic schools

With this in mind, does Archbishop Schnurr understand that, within the student body at his high school, there are cliques ready to extend “respect, compassion, and sensitivity” to those with a LGBTQ orientation?  Other cliques, meanwhile, may be mildly or brutally antagonistic to anyone they brand as “queer.”  Members of these latter cliques take relish in verbally and physically badgering “queer” students who do not know how to defend themselves.  This is sometimes called “bullying.” It shows up everywhere, even in Catholic schools.

Does the Archbishop know which members of the faculty and staff are prepared to effectively intervene when queer baiting or bullying takes place?  Are students given training programs that use role-playing and peer-on-peer counseling such that every student at Purcell Marian High School might feel safe, secure, and accepted within whatever color of the rainbow our loving Creator assigns to them?

Does every student and faculty member know the Trevor Lifeline (1-866-488-7386)—The only national 24/7 crisis intervention and suicide prevention lifeline for LGBTQ young people[24]?  Does the Archbishop recognize his own limitations when it comes to counseling a youth in crisis?  Would he be prepared to recommend the Trevor Lifeline (1-866-488-7386) as a vital resource for those at Purcell Marian High School who will inevitably be approached by troubled youths?

My purpose in posing these questions is not to embarrass Archbishop Schnurr but to alert him and my readers to the sorts of questions that parents need to be asking of the administrators of any school to which they intend to send their children.  Our children are too precious and too vulnerable to figure these things out for themselves.  As a parent, I am responsible for assuring myself and my child that “yes, this is a safe place for you to learn and to grow.”

As for Archbishop Schnurr, I would expect that he is intelligent enough to recognize that when he fires someone like Mike Moroski, he effectively removes a man extraordinarily capable when it comes to taking the steps to ensure that everyone at Purcell Marian has a safe place to grow up and discover their sexual orientation.  For the moment, let’s imagine a dangerous scenario.  What would happen if Archbishop Schnurr hired private detectives who extended his witch-hunt?  Let’s further imagine that these detectives were able to identify everyone who was “soft” on homosexuality and “prone” to support same-sex marriages.  Then, let’s imagine that every one of these administrators and faculty were fired.  Would everyone then feel that Purcell Marian was entirely compliant with the Vatican norms and that every student was safe to grow into the sexuality that the Creator assigned them without being shamed, taunted, or coerced by faculty or students?

Hardly!  The successful witch-hunt and purge would have the effect of insuring an outward compliance but, at the same time, such dismissals would invariably diminish the availability of that “respect, compassion, and sensitivity” whereby those with a LGBTQ orientation are to survive and thrive.  In this atmosphere, cliques that enjoy queer bating would most probably become more brazen because they would be expected to be rewarded by faculty members rather than challenged and redirected.  Then “queers” would cringe in abject misery and have no one to turn to for a sympathetic ear or a word of support.  Programs for “reparative therapies”[25] would again flourish.  When they failed, as they most certainly must, despairing “queers” would be tempted to resort to cutting and suicide in order to relieve their abject misery.  But now no faculty member or student would even be aware of any crisis intervention or suicide prevention lifeline for LGBTQ young people.

Public support for the homosexual lifestyle

While I admit that I am presenting here a worst-case scenario, it does, nonetheless, have the benefit of showing how Archbishop Schnurr’s taste for purging the faculty of “deviants” has the ugly side-effect of putting LGBTQ students at risk.  Archbishop Schnurr might explain to his close friends that the firing Mike Moroski had the good effect of silencing parents who suspected that he had gone soft on deviant faculty.  And, since Archbishop Schnurr is quite intelligent, he might also tell his lawyers that by firing Mike Moroski he sends a loud and clear message to all other faculty that he will not brook even the slightest “deviance”[26] from the “morality clause” that is written into their contracts.

The text of the “morality clause” clearly focuses upon a list of sexually deviant behaviors:

“Public support of or publicly living together outside marriage, public support of or sexual activity out of wedlock, public support of or [publicly living a] homosexual lifestyle, public support of or use of abortion, public support of or use of a surrogate mother, public support of or use of in vitro fertilization or artificial insemination” (excerpt from Teacher’s Contract for 2014-2015).

One can see here that broad sweeping categories are named but not clearly defined.  Does a mother who attends the civil marriage ceremony of her son and his male lover fall under this rule that prohibits “public support”?  Does she fall under this rule by merely sending out invitations (even if she herself does not attend)?  Does the blog of Mike Moroski constitute “public support”?  Does the public reception of same-sex couples by Pope Francis constitute “public support”?  Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston says that the recent trend of firing gays and lesbians from Catholic jobs because they decide to enter into legal same-gender marriages “needs to be rectified.”  Does this constitute “public support”?

Notice what is absent from the Archbishop’s list of unacceptable conduct: “public support of or the use of hate speech against gays and lesbians, public support of or the use of mob action to provoke acts of hatred directed toward gays or lesbians.”

In sum, here is where we have come and where we are going:

  • Archbishop Schnurr unlawfully dismisses Mike Moroski because he supports same-sex marriages.  Nearly a hundred bishops and cardinals have gone on record for supporting same-sex marriages.  No matter.
  • Archbishop Schnurr, in his “morality clause,” gives no evidence that faculty members need to create and maintain a safety zone wherein students of all sexual orientations can survive and thrive and be mutually supportive.  His “gag order” shows that all he was interested in was outward compliance.
  • Archbishop Schnurr denies the free speech rights of Mike Moroski both as a citizen and as a Catholic.  More importantly, the Archbishop leaves the impression that Catholic schools do not build character based upon informed consent.  Rather, the Archbishop implies that thought-control and conformity to pre-made decisions are the necessary substitutes for the demanding skills of respectfully entering into free and open discussion of contemporary issues.  As such, Catholic education falls victim to substituting “mindless conformity” for open discussion and informed consent.

 

It is to this last point that our attention must now turn.  I decided to join change.org and to sponsor a petition asking Pope Francis to investigate and to rectify the injustices imposed on Mike Moroski.  My petition was formulated as follows:

Justice for Catholic high school teacher fired because he supported same-sex marriages

Dr. Aaron Milavec started this petition to Pope Francis

The Case of Mike Moroski   

Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati dismissed Mike Moroski, the assistant principal of Purcell Marian High School (Dayton, OH) after he refused to remove a private blog expressing support for same-sex marriages.

Here are the words of Mike Moroski describing the situation that was imposed upon him:

On Monday, February 4th [2014] I was given an ultimatum by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.  Namely, to take down my post on this site entitled, “Choose Your Battles,” sign a number of documents assuring my silence and keep my job — or, resign.

After much deliberation with my wife, family, trusted clergy, professionals from all walks of life and my own meditative silence, I decided not to take the post down, nor to recant my position that “I unabashedly believe gay people SHOULD be allowed to marry. . . .”

If I take that post down I would not be able to look at the thousands of former students and families with whom I have worked for twelve years in the eye. . . .   What would I say to all of them if I were to go against my OWN conscience so that I could keep my job . . . ?

If any of you Cavaliers [students at Purcell Marian High School] are reading this, please know that I love you and I am in your corner.  I hope that someday you may come to understand why I am not in my office to share a laugh, a cry or a story. . . .   As I always tried to teach you — NEVER compromise who you are for someone else — and NEVER let anyone make you someone THEY want you to be.  Be strong and take care of one another [. . . .]

Archbishop Schnurr delivered his ultimatum because he saw himself as responsible for insuring the parents who sent their sons and daughters to Purcell Marian High School that they would encounter teachers entirely supportive of the official Vatican norms that oppose granting civil “marriages” to same-sex couples. Mike Moroski refused to capitulate because, according to his informed conscience, civil same-sex marriages would provide gays and lesbians with a measure of dignity and the protection of their civil rights as “married partners.”

According to Archbishop Schnurr, it would appear that free and open discussion of the merits and liabilities of granting civil marriages cannot take place within Catholic schools.  The case here does not imply that Mike Moroski ever promoted any such discussions of this issue among his students. Rather, the issue turns entirely on the unwillingness of Mike Moroski to accept the “gag order” mandated by the Archbishop.

The “gag order” of Archbishop Schnurr denies the free speech rights of Mike Moroski both as a citizen and as a Catholic.  More importantly, the Archbishop leaves the impression that Catholic schools do not build character based on informed consent.  Rather, the Archbishop implies that thought-control and conformity to pre-existing decisions substitutes for the free and open exploration of contemporary issues.  As such, Catholic education falls victim to becoming a coercive indoctrination in the service of a false piety.

By signing this petition, you are calling upon Pope Francis to intervene in this case (a) by exonerating Mike Moroski of all charges against him, (b) by praising him for his exemplary fortitude in resisting unjust oppression, and (c) by reinstating him with a ten-year teaching contract [should he be willing to accept this].

Furthermore, at a time when free and open discussion is the necessary landscape whereby Catholics everywhere might hope to arrive at an informed understanding of the issues surrounding same-sex marriages, signing this petition urges Pope Francis to challenge Archbishop Schnurr to mend his ways and to reverse the damage he has done by publicly acknowledging to Mike Moroski and the students of Purcell Marian High School that he failed as a Christian and as an Archbishop when he imposed a “gag order” on Mike Moroski.

Please sign this petition and join in the discussion:

https://www.change.org/p/pope-francis-justice-for-catholic-high-school-teacher-fired-because-he-supported-same-sex-marriages

As a long-time teacher in Catholic schools, I have felt the silent terror of working in an authoritarian environment.  Not a week passes when I don’t hear of another dismissal of the kind reported above.  A single intervention on the part of Pope Francis would give hope to tens of thousands of teachers who face dismissal should they support same-sex marriages.  Pope Francis’ intervention would send a clear signal: “Indoctrination is not the heart and soul of Catholic education.”  This intervention would alert administrators everywhere that “mindless conformity” is the toxic authoritarian substitute for the hard work of developing skills for sensitive listening and compassionate acceptance that is at the heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

When teaching is reduced to indoctrination

No learning can take place if the experiences and the thoughts of students cannot be acknowledged and explored.  Authoritarianism may succeed in forcing teachers to toe the line, but any successful teacher knows that authoritarianism in high school inevitably leads to indoctrination, intimidation, and quiet conformity.  As soon as students are free of the school atmosphere, they say what they really think among their chums and, in some cases, they also discuss their “doubts” with their parents as well.

If parents blindly enforce the authority of the Archbishop, then these parents effectively “bully” their own children by “setting them straight” and, wittingly or unwittingly, collude with the Archbishop who demands submission of mind and heart.  This, of course, has limited results because it sets children on the road to rebellion and prepares them to throw off everything that has been “crammed down their throats” the moment that they leave home.

But let’s face it.  When Archbishop Schnurr plays his authoritarian card, he effectively treats his own teachers much like the authoritarian parents that unwittingly alienate their children and set them on the road to rebellion.  If children need acceptance, trust, and openness to their grievances, then, with an even more urgent care, even an archbishop needs to do the same when it comes to teachers.  Vatican II makes this abundantly clear:

It is in accordance with their dignity as persons-that is, beings endowed with reason and free will and therefore privileged to bear personal responsibility-that all men should be at once impelled by nature and also bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth.  They are also bound to adhere to the truth, once it is known, and to order their whole lives in accord with the demands of truth.  However, men cannot discharge these obligations in a manner in keeping with their own nature unless they enjoy immunity from external coercion as well as psychological freedom.  Therefore, the right to religious freedom has its foundation not in the subjective disposition of the person, but in his very nature (Declaration on Religious Freedom = Dignitatis Humanae, §2).

Part II deals with how nonviolent resistance applies to the Moroski Case.

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Endnotes

[1] Mike Moroski served at Moeller High School for 10 years as a teacher, service learning coordinator, and House Dean. Concurrently, he ran a nonprofit, Choices Cafe, that bridged the gap between those with means and those without. Mike finished his time in secondary education as the Assistant Principal at Purcell Marian. He was terminated from his post at Purcell Marian by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati for his public support of marriage equality. Mike earned his B.A. & M.A. in English from Xavier University, and an M.B.A. in nonprofit administration from the University of Notre Dame (M.N.A.). Currently, in addition to his role as executive director of UpSpring (working to keep children experiencing homelessness connected to their education), Mike is a trustee on the Southwestern Ohio Workforce Investment Board, a member of Cincinnati’s Human Services Advisory Committee, and a member of Mayor John Cranley’s Hand Up Steering Committee. (https://www.ted.com/tedx/events/16655) For an interview with Mike Moroski, see http://abcnews.go.com/US/video/assistant-principal-fired-over-gay-marriage-blog-18482240.

[2] The appeal to “conscience” takes priority over all other sources for discerning “what is truly right and just by God’s standards” as opposed to following “a political ideology.”  Archbishop Schnurr clarifies this point as follows:

The answer is to consult our conscience, which is a judgment of reason about the good to be done and the evil to be avoided in a concrete situation (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, §1778 & Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, 17). A conscience must be well-formed by using reason to discover the natural law and faith to understand Sacred Scripture and official Church teaching.  We then submit our judgment to God in prayer, striving to discern His will. By humbly committing ourselves to the lifelong journey of developing our consciences, we more clearly distinguish the Truth of God in a complex, sometimes manipulative world, and make choices that promote the life and the dignity of all.  (http://thecatholicbeat.sacredheartradio.com/
2012/09/archbishop-schnurrs-letter-on-elections-and-citizenship/#sthash.FJo8h3db.dpuf
)

In effect, therefore, both Archbishop Schnurr and Mike Moroski both appeal to “conscience” by way of justifying how they acted.  Archbishop Schnurr delivered his ultimatum because he was responsible for insuring that teachers in his Catholic schools both teach and live according to the norms published by the Vatican.  Mike Moroski refused to capitulate because, according to his informed conscience, the Vatican had arrived at a defective judgment when it came to same-sex unions.  When such differences arise, the expectation might be that open dialog must begin and to continue until they can work out some middle ground between them.  Both are Catholic pastors; yet, due to the authoritarian modality preferred by the Archbishop, he decided against any dialog.  He moved directly to have Mike Moroski removed from his office by a police escort.

[3] “Jury awards Christa Dias $171K in suit against Archdiocese of Cincinnati,” Associated Press 03 June 2013 (http://www.wcpo.com/news/local-news/jury-awards-christa-dias-120k-in-suit-against-archdiocese-of-cincinnati).

[4] The term “morality clause” has been used by newspaper and television reporters and is not the language of the contract itself.  The “morality clause” is on page 6 of the contract.  A complete contract can be found here: http://votfcincinnati.org/
yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/teachercontract2014-15.13990432.pdf

[5] If interested, see news video here: http://www.wlwt.com/news/archdiocese-of-cincinnati-expands-moral-clause-in-teacher-contracts/24846662

[6] Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco has initiated a course of action that is quite similar to that of Archbishop Schnurr.  The teachers and their supporters in San Francisco, however, were much more pro-active in confronting Archbishop Cordileone on his presumed “orthodoxy” in representing Catholicism.  Jim McGarry, a retired educator who taught Catholic theology for twenty years at San Francisco’s St. Ignatius College Preparatory, a Jesuit Catholic high school in San Francisco that his children attend, supported student protestors saying:

“[The archbishop] is not in compliance with Catholic teaching,” McGarry said. “He is very selectively choosing a small number of doctrines and putting them forward in a selective way and, I think, distorting the tradition . . . in a way that first of all endangers the health and well-being of our children.” McGarry argued that Cordileone’s hardline stance on homosexuality, which would permit the firing of teachers who wed same-sex partners, directly contradicts a line in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that reads, “Every sign of unjust discrimination [against homosexuals] should be avoided.” He also noted that Catholic teaching is well-known for guaranteeing freedom of conscience, allowing Catholics to disobey their government—or each other— when they feel that their morals have been violated.

For details, see http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2015/03/10/3631727/san-francisco-catholics-fighting-lgbt-rights-testing-limits-pope-francis-rhetoric/https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/teachers-protest-as-san-francisco-archbishop-insists-schools-uphold-catholic-teaching-on-marriage

[7] Recent polling found that 86 percent of Christians believed the very tenets of their faith compelled them to support protections for LGBTQ people under the law and 59 percent of lay Catholics support marriage equality.

[8] Archbishop John Nienstedt refused Communion to about twenty people wearing rainbow buttons and ribbons at a mass at St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, MN, in 2010.  See Madeleine Baran, “Archdiocese: Communion too sacred to be used as protest,” MPRNews, 06 Oct 2010 (http://www.mprnews.org/story/2010/10/06/denied-communion).

[9] Paul Kindt, “I’m Signing the Contract — in Sharpie,” The Catholic Beat, 30 April 2014  (http://thecatholicbeat.sacredheartradio.com/2014/04/im-signing-the-contract-in-sharpie/).

[10] The teacher interviewed wished to remain anonymous.

[11] The teacher interviewed wished to remain animus.

[12] Notice how this mother is being torn by her love for teaching and her determination to support her son.  The 1986 statement to parents in “Always Our Children” makes the point that parents have a primary role in walking with their children as they explore their sexual identity.  See Appendix 1 for details.

[13] Source for this paragraph is Susan Candiotti and Chris Welch, CNN, “A litany of ‘thou shalt nots’: Catholic teachers challenge morality clause,” 31 May 2014 (http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/30/living/catholic-teachers-morality/).

[14] A survey of firings and “morality clauses” can be found here: http://www.hrc.org/press-releases/entry/hrc-delivers-letter-to-vatican-addressing-growing-concern-on-anti-lgbt-stan

[15] The New York Times reported that “Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio . . . spoke out in a heated meeting of bishops in 2010 and advocated a highly unorthodox solution: that the church in Argentina support the idea of civil unions for gay couples” (https://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/20/world/americas/pope-francis-old-colleagues-recall-pragmatic-streak.html).

[16] See Appendix 4: Catholic Church Leaders Who Made Positive Statements about Civil Unions and Same-Gender Marriages

[17] Francis DeBernardo, Boston’s Cardinal O’Malley: LGBTQ Church Worker Firings “Need to be Rectified,” New Ways Ministry 15 Sept 2014 (https://www.newwaysministry.org/2014/09/15/bostons-cardinal-omalley-lgbt-church-worker-firings-need-to-be-rectified/)

[18] Global Pulse staff, “Australian bishop challenges Church on homosexuality,” 16 Sept 2016 (https://international.la-croix.com/news/
australian-bishop-challenges-church-on-homosexuality/3819)

[19] If this is true, then the Catholic teachers of Cincinnati should expect Archbishop Schnurr to provide them with a much more balanced “morality clause” in their future employment contracts.

[20] CDC. (2016). Sexual Identity, Sex of Sexual Contacts, and Health-Risk Behaviors Among Students in Grades 9-12: Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

[21] CDC. (2016). Sexual Identity, Sex of Sexual Contacts, and Health-Risk Behaviors Among Students in Grades 9-12: Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

[22] Family Acceptance Project™. (2009). Family rejection as a predictor of negative health outcomes in white and Latino lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults [Pediatric, 123(1), 346-52].

[23] IMPACT (2010). Mental health disorders, psychological distress, and suicidality in a diverse sample of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youths. American Journal of Public Health. 100(12), 2426-32.

[24] For the online life-saving and life-affirming resources of the Tervor Project, go to https://www.thetrevorproject.org/about/
programs-services/#sm.0000ngko2xq79etwpyn285db2g81v

[25] Reparative Therapy (also known as Conversion Therapy) claims that adolescent homosexuality may arise from traumatic events in the past and that, with careful psychological counseling, part or all of same-sex attraction can be dispelled.  For a strong and persuasive advocate, see Joseph Nicolosi, Ph.D., What Is Reparative Therapy? Examining the Controversy (http://www.josephnicolosi.com/what-is-reparative-therapy-exa/).  Please be aware, however, that this form of therapy has been widely shown to be non-productive and even harmful to the degree that even the American Psychiatric Association warns against crediting its claims.  See “The Lies and Dangers of Efforts to Change Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity” (http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/the-lies-and-dangers-of-reparative-therapy).

[26] The text of the “morality clause” clearly focuses upon a list of sexually deviant behaviors: “public support of or publicly living together outside marriage, public support of or sexual activity out of wedlock, public support of or [publicly living a] homosexual lifestyle, public support of or use of abortion, public support of or use of a surrogate mother, public support of or use of in vitro fertilization or artificial insemination” (excerpt from Teacher’s Contract for 2014-2015).  One can see here that broad sweeping categories are named but not clearly defined.  Does a mother who attends the civil marriage ceremony of her son and his male lover fall under this rule that prohibits “public support”?  Does she fall under this rule by merely sending out invitations (even if she does not herself attend)?  Does the blog of Mike Moroski constitute “public support”?  Does the public reception of same-sex couples by Pope Francis constitute “public support”?  Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston says that the recent trend of firing gay and lesbian people from Catholic jobs because they are in legal same-gender marriages “needs to be rectified.”  Not all church jobs require church marriages, he added.  Does this constitute “public support”?

Notice what is absent from the Archbishop’s list of unacceptable conduct: “public support of or the use of hate speech against gays and lesbians, public support of the use of mob action to provoke acts of hatred directed toward gays or lesbians.”

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