Nonviolent Resistance in the Moroski Case

The case of Mike Moroski revisited

Mike Moroski enjoys supporting young people and their dreams.  He tells them to take pride in being “who you are.”  He also recognizes that those with homosexual leanings are petrified at the thought of losing all their friends and of “coming out” to their parents.  But Mike Moroski knows how to listen deeply and to support each of them, especially if they identify themselves as “queer.”

Some well-connected parent gets wind of this, reads Moroski’s blogs, and informs Archbishop Schnurr by asking him, “Is this the kind of man we want teaching our children?”  The Archbishop, being a fundamentalist, could not just let this pass.  So, he responds by drafting a letter, consulting his lawyers, and then informing Moroski of his ultimatum: either agree in writing to be silenced on the homosexual issue or you will be dismissed immediately “for breach of contract.”  You know what happens next:

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[1] so that I could keep my job for four months?

It came down to the issue of personal integrity.  How could he promote integrity “at all costs” and then back down in the face of the Archbishop’s coercive threat in order to save himself and his family?

Notice here that Moroski gives no hint of having read the Ratzinger documents and having discovered how flawed the Vatican arguments actually are.  Notice too that Moroski appears to know nothing of how Ratzinger avoided all forms of public collaboration before, during, and after he ramrodded his documents through the system.  Moroski does not argue that 57% of Catholics already favor “same-sex marriages”; hence, the Archbishop would be following a self-defeating strategy if he imagined that removing him would help to preserve a doctrine that is already so broadly rejected by the “healthy good sense” (sensus fidelium[2]) of the faithful?  Moroski does not bring forward the names and words of various bishops and cardinals[3] who have gone on record as favoring “same-sex marriages.”  Moroski does not cite Vatican II when it upholds the right of Catholics to be “free from coercion”[4] and that, as a consequence, he might say that he cannot respond to the Archbishop’s ultimatum until he clarifies how and why he avoided any dialog and jumped immediately to drastic coercive measures by way of resolving the issue.  Moroski appeals, instead, to his integrity but he does not cite the writings of the younger Dr. Joseph Ratzinger who wrote the following by way of explaining the doctrine of Vatican II regarding “conscience”:

Over the pope as the expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority, there still stands one’s own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else, even if necessary against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority.  This emphasis on the individual, whose conscience confronts him with a supreme and ultimate tribunal, and one which in the last resort is beyond the claim of external social groups, even of the official Church, also establishes a principle [that enables one to act] in opposition to increasing totalitarianism.[5]

Moroski does not cite the documents of the Church regarding justice, as when the U.S. Bishops wrote, “We must not only act justly but be perceived as acting justly if we are to succeed in winning popular support against same-sex marriages.”[6] Moroski does not ask the Archbishop how his conduct squares with the bishops’ own standards.  Finally, Moroski does not take the route of telling the Archbishop that his first and non-negotiable mandate is to continue serving his students and serving his faculty and that he intends to continue to do so for the duration of his contract and then and only then will he give his answer to the Archbishop’s ultimatum.

Strategies for implementing nonviolent resistance

This last route clearly moves toward nonviolent resistance.[7]  The Archbishop might decide to wait until the contract expires when all the cards would be in his deck.  Most probably, however, the Archbishop will be impatient and will make more threats.  For example, he might impose a deadline or he might insist that Moroski leave his office within five hours and not return.  When he ignores this, the Archbishop would probably proceed to have him arrested and forcefully removed “as a trespasser.”

The students could organize themselves in preparation for this eventuality.  At the arrival of the police, a prearranged signal would be given, and immediately students in sympathy with Moroski would, in absolute silence, immediately vacate their classrooms and surround Moroski in his office.[8]  If the police have not yet reached him, then students would join arms and block the halls or merely sit down and force the police to climb over them.  Once they reach Moroski, however, they would be told that they are invited to speak with him but not to leave with him.  They might decide to handcuff or chain Moroski’s ankles to a heavy desk, for example, to make certain that he could not easily be removed.  The students might hiss or hum, but they would not insult or restrain the police in any way.  All interactions with the police would be captured on multiple cell phones.  Meanwhile, other students would alert newspaper reporters and TV stations that a “nonviolent protest blocking the arrest of Moroski” was in progress at Purcell-Marion High School.  Legal advisors (parents of students) would also be brought in to advise both the police and the students of their rights.  Significant songs or even silly songs could be at the ready to keep the mood non-aggressive yet focused.  A protest statement detailing the injustice of the process to remove Mr. Moroski would be prepared in advance and given to reporters, to concerned parents, and other adult bystanders.

Educating students to use nonviolent confrontation

Even if, by some circumstance, Mike Moroski was removed and prevented from returning, concerned students of the school could hold a memorial in honor of Mr. Moroski.  At this memorial, a microphone could be passed around that would allow students to tell their stories regarding “What I learned from Mr. Moroski that I will never forget.”  Teams of students with video recorders would not only record what students said but to have students sign release forms allowing them to use their memorial message on the internet.

Following the memorial, four to five ten-minute YouTube videos could be prepared that would artfully present the grievance of the students followed by five to eight student statements.  At the close of each YouTube video would be an invitation to sign an online protest letter demanding the reinstatement of Mr. Moroski.  The letter and signatures would be addressed to the Archbishop and to the Catholics of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and delivered to him personally by a hundred students just prior to the Sunday liturgy.  The students then would distribute copies to the entire congregation and stay with the people to join in the Eucharist presided over by the Archbishop.

If this protest letter did not receive a favorable response from Archbishop Schnurr, then students could decide to shut-down the school for two hours on a couple of Friday afternoons and have “teach-ins” prepared in which the injustice of the situation were carefully and systematically presented followed by an hour of brain-storming strategizing on how to restore justice using principles of nonviolence confrontation.  Hopefully the students could work together with the full support of the administration in bringing this into realization.  It could be explained to them that this is a test case in Catholic Action and that it is preparing them to learn nonviolent confrontation techniques that would be invaluable for redressing injustice later in their lives.  If the administration falters, interested students could decide to merely silently walk out of their classrooms and assemble in the gym at the prearranged hour.

The “teach-ins” might even bring in nonviolent social activists who would strategize with the students how to put pressure on Archbishop Schnurr to meet their demands.  Who knows what the genius of these students could produce?  They could imaginatively create an internet fury that would knock the socks off the people of Cincinnati and have Archbishop Schnurr too ashamed to step outside his million-dollar mansion.  Or they might bring their parents on board and have one hundred of them contributed $500 each to rehire Mike Moroski as “their” vice-principle who was no longer under the authority of the Archbishop.  They could rethink band concerts, school plays, and athletic events in such a way as to perform them “in honor of Mike Moroski.”  The Archbishop would always be personally invited to attend.  If he failed to show, a copy of the program would be given to him with the tribute to Mike Moroski clearly visible.

If after all their efforts, Archbishop Schnurr would ultimately refuse to reconcile himself with Mike Moroski, then, as a final protest, the parents and the students could refuse to reconcile themselves with him as well.  When he visits, they could deliberately shun him by avoiding him or turning their backs to him.  When he addresses them, they could silently block their ears with their hands.  If he continues to ignore them, they could begin softly humming or whispering “Mike Moroski.”  A hundred students doing this could easily unnerve even an Archbishop.  He can’t have all or even one of them expelled[9] because he doesn’t know who they are.

All in all, it would only take a few instances like this to teach an unruly and menacing Archbishop that there are severe limits to his abuse of power.  They might even be able to convince him that teachers like Mike Moroski who support “same-sex marriages” are doing the entire Church an immense service in so far as they bring a level of welcome and support to Catholic gays and lesbians that has been decidedly curtailed by the Ratzinger Doctrine.

Shunning the Archbishop

Another strategy would be to shun[10] the Archbishop.  How so?  By drafting a letter something like the following:

To: Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr

From: Students of Purcell Marian High School

Re: dismissal of Mr. Mike Moroski

Your dismissal of Mr. Mike Moroski is an act of injustice and a sin against God.

It is an act of injustice in so far as the character and worth of a teacher in our school should never be decided on the basis of his/her position on same-sex marriages.  Many priests, bishops, and cardinals have openly favored offering some blessing and civil recognition of same-sex unions.  Pope Francis has, already for ten years, favored such a proposal[11] but he hesitates to call it “marriage.” Furthermore, to summarily deny a talented and worthy teacher his income without some due process is an injustice against his family.

It is a sin against God in so far as it is not for us to judge what measures same-sex couples should or should not employ to protect their loved ones.  God has assigned to each of us a dignity and a calling.  No one can be justly blamed or menaced for what God has created them to be.

Furthermore, as a Catholic bishop you are committed to respect the dignity and safeguard the God-given rights of gays and lesbians.  The “morality clause” that you placed in teacher contracts has the effect of menacing those teachers who promotes compassion and understanding for LGBTQ students.  This is a sin against God and a violation of your episcopal calling.

As Catholics, we urgently need faculty like Mr. Mike Moroski who actively promote compassion and understanding for LGBTQ students.  You should be humbly learning from him rather than trying to silence him.

For all these reasons, we have taken it upon ourselves the task of overturning your sins of injustice.  Mr. Mike Moroski is now employed by us and his salary has been increased because we cherish his character and his worth as a Catholic teacher among us.

Since you have sinned against God and against those gays and lesbians among us whom God loves, we no longer regard you as a suitable minister fit to officiate at any Eucharist held here in our school.  As Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew, “If you are bringing your gift to the alter and remember that someone has something against you, go first and reconcile with him/her and then go and offer your gift.”  Be reconciled, therefore, so that we can, at some future point, again embrace you as our God-appointed pastor and Eucharistic celebrant.

Here below are our signatures.

 

================================================

[1] 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 has to 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 wasted no time with any dialog.  He moved directly to have Mike Moroski removed from his office with a police escort.

[2] Two theological terms have come to express the understanding that all believers participate in elaborating Christian truth: sensus fidei and sensus fidelium. The first refers to the Christian’s possession of the fundamental truth of his faith. The second refers to his role in actively defending and elaborating that faith. Though the Second Vatican Council employed both terms (sensus fidelium : GS 52; sensus fidei : LG 12, 35; PO 9; see also John Paul II, Christifideles laici 14 and Ut unum sint 80) writers since the council have generally preferred the more active-subjective term, that is, sensus fidelium.

Historical Considerations. Historically, the common teaching in the Church saw an active role of all the faithful in determining Christian belief. The whole community attested to the apostolicity of the faith. Though the bishops increasingly taught with authority and defined the emerging orthodox synthesis at synods and general councils, the concrete life of the community was always considered and the faithful were routinely consulted. Chapters 6 and 15 of the Acts of the Apostles give us a glimpse of the inclusiveness of the whole community’s participation. In the first five centuries, the characterization of a local church as “apostolic” pointed to its whole life: its Scriptures, sacraments and liturgy, authorized leaders, moral norms, ecclesiastical discipline and polity, interaction with pagan culture, socialization of its members, and its explicit beliefs (https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/sensus-fidelium).

[3] See Appendix 5.

[4] 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. 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.  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).

[5] Joseph Ratzinger, Commentary on the Doctrine of Vatican II, ed. Herbert Vorgrimler, Volume V, p 134.  One wonders whether Cardinal Ratzinger thought of himself as contributing to the totalitarianism of Vatican control over the worldwide Church.

[6] This statement is rather catchy because it ties together the intimate interplay between truly acting justly and the public perception thereof. To my recollection, the U.S. Catholic bishops first used the initial half of this statement in their “Pastoral Letter on the Economy,” written in the 80s.  Then, it next shows up in their 9/11 statement and is tied into formulating principles to be used by the President in the fight against “terrorism.”  The final word, consequently, is not “same-sex marriages” but “terrorism.”  Thirdly, this same principle gets cited in the bishop’s letter complaining about the miscarriage of justice in the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo.  If the statement is true, and clearly the U.S. bishops think so, then they might very well apply it as a guiding principle in their own vicious fight against “same-sex marriages.”

[7] To understand nonviolent resistance, one needs to look at the efficacy of Mahatma Gandhi in ousting the British colonization and military domination of India without needing to resort to guerrilla warfare.  Closer to home, one needs to think of the Montgomery bus boycott and the lunch-counter sit-ins (an invention of dissatisfied youth) that eventually overthrew a host of Jim Crow laws bent upon keeping “those damn Niggers in their place.”  Martin Luther King, Jr. called the principle of nonviolent resistance the ‘‘guiding light of our movement. Christ furnished the spirit and motivation while Gandhi furnished the method’’ (Papers 5:423).  For more details, see http://kingencyclopedia.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/encyclopedia/enc_nonviolent_resistance/.   The U.S. Catholic bishops strongly supported the Civil Rights Movement under King’s direction precisely because of its principled application of nonviolent resistance.  Meanwhile these same bishops encouraged dialog with Black Muslims but positively rejected the Black Panthers.

[8] For a story that demonstrates just how effective this can be, see Lauren FitzPatrick, “Students launch “read-in” at DuSable High to protest losing librarian,” Chicago Sun-Times 11 Dec 2015 (http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/7/71/1174223/
students-launch-read-dusable-high-protest-losing-librarian
) and Lauren FitzPatrick , “CPS reinstates DuSable librarian using ‘anonymous gift’,” Chicago Sun-Times 17 Dec 2015 (http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/7/71/1189151/dusable-librarian-reinstated-protests).

[9] Needless to say, “expulsion” is an excessive and unwarranted penalty for someone acting in behalf of justice.  Malicious obstruction is one thing; mindful protest is quite another.  Even should the administration not understand this and try to identify and expel some of the ring leaders of the protest movement as a favor to the Archbishop, students could then turn their attention to teaching the administrators that they also are not free to abuse their authority and to punish those who are using Catholic principles in their struggle for justice.

[10] For an understanding of shunning, see http://www.apologeticsindex.org/
10751-shunning.

[11] For his published views, see “Pope Francis Allows For Civil Unions for Lesbian and Gay Couples (https://www.newwaysministry.org/2017/09/02/pope-francis-says-he-supports-civil-unions-for-lesbian-and-gay-couples/)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).

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