When Catholic schools fire gay teachers, laity push back

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Ken Bencomo, 45, right, and his partner of 10 yrs, Christopher Persky, 32, left, both of Rancho Cucamonga, get married at the San Bernardino County Hall of Records in San Bernardino on Monday, July 1, 2013. Bencomo was fired from his teaching position at a St. Lucy's Catholic School days after he married his gay partner in this San Bernardino civil ceremony. Photo by Rachel Luna / courtesy Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

Ken Bencomo, 45, right, and his partner of 10 yrs, Christopher Persky, 32, left, both of Rancho Cucamonga, get married at the San Bernardino County Hall of Records in San Bernardino on Monday, July 1, 2013. Bencomo was fired from his teaching position at a St. Lucy's Catholic School days after he married his gay partner in this San Bernardino civil ceremony. Photo by Rachel Luna / courtesy Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

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(RNS) The firing of a gay teacher's from a Catholic school used to be a private affair. But with a majority of Catholics supporting the spread of legalized gay marriage, more and more, the laity is calling the church out.

  • Joe Murray

    Sadly these firings represent a mindset in the Church hierarchy that is not going to change anytime soon. While I agree that the younger generation is more supportive of Gay Marriage than the older this should not be understood as a cause for hope of change in the Church.

    The Church is not a democracy we do not take a vote on dogma, lay people have absolutely no input in these matters as the upcoming synod of Bishops to be held later in Rome later this year will attest to.

    Even with Pope Francis’s change in tone in this matter his reach only goes so far. As the USCCB’s aggressive warfare on gay marriage can attest to.

    Unless the Pope implements serious reform within the governance of the Church and opens the door to the laity’s input change will not take place. What is needed now is a Vatican III.

    From a gay perspective the Church’s Teaching on the Homosexual person must be changed if the Pope’s words are truly to have any meaning. Sadly even he has said he supports this Teaching.

    I know like other Catholics I am struggling to stay in the Church so the focus on good words is really not adequate to our needs so I would disagree with Frank DeBernardo, and remind him the Church is not a democracy..

    Joe Murray
    Executive Director
    Rainbow Sash Movement.


  • Tom Miller

    “Culture peace” is better than “culture war”.
    Empathy is better than alienation.

  • Tom Miller

    I agree, while the Pope’s words give me a glimmer of hope for reconciliation with the church, I don’t see that happening in my lifetime.
    One of the great teachings of religion is that if you hurt someone, you apologize to them. When I was growing up, the church considered me “inherently evil” for being gay; that hurt me a lot, and I and the rest of the gay community deserve an apology.

  • Joe Murray

    Tom, I think you speak to the heart of the situation. So much pain, hurt and alienation has been felt by not only members of our community, but so many in the Church community, and that it continues in spite of Pope Francis’s change in tone.

    We can no longer be willing not to speak the truth to the Church authority for fear of alienating them. That infers there is a relation and those of us who have felt the Church’s hate understand there is no relationship.

    Joe Murray
    Executive Director
    Rainbow Sash Movement

  • John

    I still have trouble getting past the christian church letting go of its beliefs about homosexuality. It’s as if morality changes with the culture and that this is both the highest good and biblically supported, under the all encompassing and all accepting concept of love. The part about the younger generation especially concerns me. Of course they are more accepting because they have grown up in a cluture that has cast off any sexual discretion, have been heavily influenced by the entertainment culture which espouses very low standards of any moral nature, have been educated by those “tolerant” of every belief and lifestyle and told that this is a higher virtue than christianity, and have not been taught in the church youth group how to think, discern, and reason biblically. Once again people prefer to live in the darkness because the light exposes the sin.

  • Danny Berry, NYC

    Nothing like keeping close to the letter of the law–and thumbing your nose at what Jesus said were the most important commandments.

    Same s**t, different day.

  • Ahhhh! The Ecumenical Catholic Communion! What a wonderful way to be Catholic! http://www.ecumenical-catholic-communion.org

  • Joe Murray


    I think we are different pages, but I don’t think that should stop a conversation.

    I always have difficulty understanding how any can consider the Bible as anything other than a very deceptive tool. I say this primarly because we have so many variation of interpitations in Christian world on a variety of issues. The book is simply that for us Catholics we hold tradition known or unknown in high esteem. The Bible has been used to justify the existance of so many Christian Churches, and yes different interpataions of morality. There is division in Christian world over this. Each claims their division is suppoted by the Bible. So forgive me if I see the Bible just a book that has been abused by so many of its adherants .

    Biblical morality has always been open to interpotation so why the problem with LGBT Both catholic and Protestant asking for reasonable understanding of whatthe Bible is saying.

    My Civil Rights should not be put the vote and trying to justify it with religious belief is another example of much Democracy is not understood.

    Joe Murray
    Executive Director
    Rainbow Sash Movement

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  • Kate

    Tom-I am sorry that someone may have stated “you” were evil…no…it is Satan who is evil…we are made in God’s image and likeness. I think society has a very hard time understanding the fact that we can love a person but not condone their actions which oppose our beliefs.

    Our beliefs come from Apostolic tradition handed down from Christ himself who said He taught what God the Father spoke to Him…Scripture is plain to us as Catholics that homosexual behavior is disordered behavior. It is not right for a man or a woman to have sex with a person of the opposite sex and marriage between same sex will never be condoned within Catholic teaching no matter if 3/4 of Catholics leave the Church over issues they do not believe.

    Lots of people feel they are homosexual but I have seen lots of young teens and adults get caught up in this sexual identity confusion strictly because of the culture and TV, Music industry where everything is ok…and we all see has led to entertainers being confused about all of life in every way and leading horribly empty lives. That’s not to say there are same sex couples who do love each other and lead productive lives…that is not the point though for us as Christians….Marriage has a purpose and that is for the generation of children and family life and the cohesive bonds that should ideally form.

    Our Church…any Church is full of sinners- we come to learn and be reconciled to God which means we desire as a Christian to follow the teachings of Christ as taught in our Catholic Churches…other Christian Churches have sadly departed from these teachings to please people but really can offer no sound explanation doctrinally as to why God would permit such unions…as Catholics we can support our beliefs and why we hold fast to them.

    Look…people go to watch baseball teams, they don’t expect them to play baseball following the rules of basketball…you can’t attend a Catholic Church and expect them to change all of our beliefs to suit the various whims people follow and adhere to which do not follow our beliefs. No one is forced to attend a Catholic Church- you go cause you believe- if you don’t- why go in first place ?
    You are certainly free to attend the Catholic services but as Catholics we require certain efforts from those who claim to believe what we teach-we profess that in our creed and prayers and follow the teaching laid out in the Catechism- same as if a baseball player went on a field and wanted to change all the rules of the game to suit how he felt like playing the game. Players have no problems following the rules laid out for the games and know they are not in a position to change them cause that’s how the game is played…period end of story. Catholics have a game plan, rules laid out, doctrines to believe and accept- no one is forced to believe them….Jesus gives us a choice but we as humans want everything our own way to suit ourselves.

    I know a lot of homosexual people, I know a lot who practice the faith and do not enagage in sexual behavior because they understand the teaching- is it easy- NO…but they do it…do they fail…probably as do all of us…but as Pope Francis says- it is the effort to try and follow Church teaching that counts. Going to Reconciliation….studying Church teaching…all counts…Heterosexual people are also to practice chastity and wait for marriage to have sex- and yes almost all fail…but that is their failure not the Church- it worked in ages past and now after 2000 years we have to change it all cause we are unable to follow and adhere to a belief ? If we kept lowering our expectations and beliefs to suit the public we soon would have no Church and only secular society which scares me to death cause the young people are unable to sacrifice much anymore…have to have everything NOW, expect things handed to them…I could go on for hours but that’s it in a nutshell…think baseball team.

  • RM

    Does the phrase “Hate the Catholicism, love the Catholic” offer you any solace?

  • etseq

    Are you related to Scalia? He is also obsessed with this make believe character you call Satan. How about joining the 21st century?

  • etseq

    The reporter is incorrect when she says religious schools have a constitutional right to breach anti-discrimination laws. Churches are granted exemptions by the first amendment for ministers and other officials in in their direct employment; however, that exemption does not extend to public accommodations subject to existing civil rights laws via the commerce clause such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, such as schools and hospitals. Unfortunately, despite over 20 years of effort, Republicans have consistently blocked any efforts to extend such laws to cover sexual orientation and gender identity.

    Finally, Garnett, the “expert” you quoted from Notre Dame, is a right wing Catholic apologist who subscribes to Natural Law and is not considered an impartial scholar by any means. He has consistently opposed gay rights and has worked to transform the concept of “religious liberty” into the current right wing effort to widen existing religious exemptions so large they would gut current civil rights laws.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    All that stories like this prove is how a decadent Western culture is working insidiously to corrupt its religious institutions. Fortunately, Anglicans who believe in traditional Christian morality are more and more looking to Africa for leadership. Likewise news accounts report Eastern Europeans and Russians are pushing back at the decadent West. Meanwhile Islam thrives and grows in membership while the West commits self-genocide courtesy of millions of abortions and the sterile dead-end of determined contraception and Gay sex.
    Unless it is stopped we are creating and promoting a Fool’s paradise doomed to biological extinction.

  • Marco Luxe

    The author overstates the right of religious schools to fire teachers on religious grounds and thus promulgates theocratic propaganda. As harsh as it sounds, her irresponsible reporting makes the writer at best uniformed or possibly a rank propagandist.

    She stated: The reality is that when churches and church schools terminate employees in same-sex relationships, they stand on firm legal ground. Religious institutions have a right, grounded in the First Amendment, to hire people who support their religious tenets and fire those who don’t.

    That is a complete misstatement of the law regardless of what theocrats want. The Supreme Court has acknowledged that only parochial teachers of religious doctrine, even if their religious duties are shared with secular subjects, fall under the 1st Amendment’s ministerial exception to employment laws. No such ruling has been made that cover “religious institutions” such as hospitals and charities.

    Certainly school janitors and secretaries can make a claim of wrongful termination if fired for failing a religious test, and so can teachers of secular subjects, along with workers at religiously sponsored hospitals and charities. .
    The author irresponsibly promulgates a false legal position that is championed by theocrats. Please see Hosanna-Tabor v EEOC.
    Sorry to be so harsh, but her forceful misreporting of the law calls for it.

  • Marco Luxe

    I think young people have been taught to think, discern and reason biblically, and generally come to reasoned conclusions that you just don’t like. Maybe it is you who are not reasoning biblically but just parroting old and unexamined sermons? Still own slaves, do we?

  • RM

    High Church Anglicans, the Taliban, and Vladamir Putin — These are the shining lights we are to follow to a bright and shiny future?!?


  • This doesn’t surprise me in the least. It is so heartwarming though that children of this generation are much more welcoming and understanding of equality on all ends. It’s strange; it’s almost like they were born with this new generational notion of the equality push.

  • Marco Luxe

    What Bishop Frederick Campbell of Columbus said is telling. He spoke to The Columbus Dispatch about why [phys ed teacher Hale] had to go: It’s his responsibility to maintain the Catholic identity of institutions* he oversees.

    What the Bishop opportunistically leaves out is the fact that Ms. Hale IS NOT Catholic, even though she successfully taught phys ed and coached for nearly 20 years at his Catholic institution. This fact was known when ‘he’ hired her for ‘his’ school. Seems like someone wasn’t doing the job* he professed to be doing for all those years.

    Translation: it’s OK to be a successful gay teacher for 20 years, but just don’t be outed and thus point out the 20year failure [and hypocrisy] of the bishop in fulfilling his job duties as protector of Catholic identity.

  • John

    Eventually this issue leads to discussion of truth; what is it, who decides what it is, and what should be our response. A man-centered approach gives people the authority to decide for themselves what is right and wrong. Thus it changes over time, is dependent on culture and can become totally subjective to opinion and personal whim. Christianity places truth objectively in the hands of God, communicated through the Bible and embedded in both creation and the human conscious. Never-the-less, much of society no longer supports this foundation and we have the resulting slide in contemporary morality coupled with a nice, soft lets just love everyone message. The tragedy is that the catholic church(and much of evangelicalism) is casting off that which has always defined them, namely the belief in objective truth that can be known through scripture. The current debates on gay rights will usher in the cultural persecution of the church and further divide the church. When truth is compromised by those entrusted to live and proclaim it, then the message is lost and becomes powerless to change peoples lives for Christ.

  • Frank

    “We can no longer be willing not to speak the truth to the Church authority for fear of alienating them”

    This is exactly how the church feels. They are simply speaking the truth.

  • Frank

    There is no love in supporting sinful behavior.

  • David Lloyd-Jones


    I don’t see why it should take so long It’s a simple flat/round proposition: if the Earth flat or round, “se muovi” or not?.

    The Church itself took hundreds of years to come around and say Galileo was right, but in the meantime Catholics simply ignored the church on the issue and the Church ignored the issue. Then, quite recently, some Pope said “round,” and that was that. It was trivial and didn’t need an encyclical or anything at all, just an off the cuff remark.

    Pope Francis has taken the first step, and said “Let’s slack off and ignore the issue.” That’s half way there. In the next little while people will get used to reading up on DNA and all that stuff, and they’ll take on board that it’s a perfectly ordinary scientific fact that everybody has been ignorant about, and most have been aggressively wrong about, for all these tens of thousands of years. That needn’t take the four hundred years from Galileo to the present. In American civil society it happened in maybe fifty years flat, from 1960 to 2010.

    The last little flick of th e papal wrist, the off the cuff remark, saying that Leviticus was just an ignorant priest writing a pamphlet, can happen any time.



  • David Lloyd-Jones

    I’m not sure I understand the good Deacon’s metaphor. Surely a Fool’s paradise is a bad thing, and he ought to welcome its extinction? And I’m not sure what he is conveying by capitalizing “Fool.”


  • CarrotCakeMan

    These denominations will marry same gender couples in 14 US States and the District of Columbia:

    Affirming Pentecostal Church International
    Alliance of Christian Churches
    The Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists
    Conservative Judaism
    Disciples Of Christ
    The Episcopal Church
    Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
    Global Alliance of Affirming Apostolic Pentecostals
    Metropolitan Community Church
    Reconstructionist Judaism
    Reform Judaism
    Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
    Unitarian Universalist Church
    United Church of Christ

    While it’s true that the Catholic Church still shares the interpretation of Scripture of the Westboro Baptist Church and other anti-gay cults, the many other Christian and Jewish denominations that reject that interpretation suggest the Catholic hierarchy will one day soon catch up with American Catholics, who support marriage equality for LGBT Americans 2 to 1.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    “I know a lot of homosexual people”

    If that was true, Kate, you would refer to them by a respectful term, such as LGBT Americans and not use an epithet. At least you didn’t repeat the more common anti-gay claim that you “have gay friends who don’t want equality.”

  • CarrotCakeMan

    I remember when the Church said eating meat on Friday was a sin–and when it magically was no longer a sin.

    American bishops have been working overtime claiming the Pope didn’t say what he said. Let’s hope he contacts him and urges them to stop poisoning our political process, if for no other reason than the obvious threat the bishops themselves have created for their tax-exempt status.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    That “truth” of the hate-based mistranslations? Fortunately, more major Christian and Jewish denominations every year come to debunk the anti-gay hate speech falsely inserted into the mouth of God.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    It’s so sad seeing someone so desperately trying to demean tolerance. Oh, well, the vicious anti-gay Hate Speech flung at LGBT Americans has backfired on the anti-gays, any attempt to denigrate tolerance will suffer a similar fate.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    Committing criminal acts to throw anti-gay Hate Votes is sinful, Frank. Didn’t Jesus say something about rendering unto Caesar? We know for a fact that Catholic bishops admitted in writing they planned to commit criminal acts in California in 2008 to throw the anti-gay H8te Vote, because that email was exhibited at the federal trial that ended in revocation of the H8te Vote and restoration of marriage equality in California as affirmed by the US Supreme Court.


    “Documents unveiled during today’s federal same-sex marriage trial revealed close links between the Proposition 8 campaign and leaders of the Catholic and Mormon churches.

    Over the objections of defenders of Proposition 8, challengers presented an e-mail that said the Catholic Church played a substantial role in providing volunteers and money to get the measure qualified for the ballot.

    That e-mail, sent by the executive director of the Conference of Catholic Bishops to bishops and a cardinal, also said that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints provided “financial, organizational and management contributions” to the campaign.”

    Neither the Catholic bishops nor the Mormon bosses reported these contributions as required by law. The US Supreme Court is in possession of that document–if they have not yet sent it to the California State Attorney General.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    Well, it was unintentionally hilarious of Deacon to tell us he is thinking about “gay sex.”

  • CarrotCakeMan

    It is simply absurd to claim the Bible is “truth objectively in the hands of God, communicated through the Bible” when we know the Bible has been translated–and mistranslated so many times. Modern Biblical scholars have proven the Bible was intentionally mistranslated relatively recently in order to provide “Biblical cover” for then-rising levels of homophobia. For example, the word “homosexual” didn’t even exist until 1870. Many major Christian and Jewish denominations condemn misusing the hate-based mistranslations to attack their fellow Americans and are marrying same gender American couples now. About 400 years ago, a group of religious authorities (sanctioned by King James I of England), secretly manipulated the English version of the Bible to reflect their own heterosexual attitude; they opposed the King kissing other men in public. But in revised versions, religious authorities re-defined the Greek word “arsenokoites” of 1 Corinthians 6:9. The most accurate translation, abusers of themselves with mankind [KJV], was pretty vague. Nevertheless, they replaced this vague 5-worded text with the not so vague and purposely targeted 1-word text, “homosexual(s).” Either way you cut it, this text does not describe loving, committed same gender couples. This campaign gave those who were looking for a reason to justify their own homophobia a license to openly express their bigotry.

  • “… it cannot realize the full potential a marital relationship is meant to express.”

    Translation: Forget all the stuff we said about marriage being a sacrament of God’s love, it’s really about sticking tab A into slot B.

  • Anonymous

    Give it time. In a couple generations the only ones to appoint as bishops will be much more tolerant.

  • John

    So, I guess the part about God making them male and female with specific purpose, design and intent was just a suggestion? Your crudity is very telling about how much you (dis)respect God’s creation and the beauty contained therein.

  • Frank

    Yes the wheat is being separated from the chaff. Just as predicted.

  • Frank

    There is no justification for either homosexual behavior or other sinful acts.

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  • Veylon

    Who the heck is left in the Church then? Last election cycle, I saw the church leaders line up to anoint Mitt Romney, prominent devotee of Mammon and a cult leader, as their Chosen One to run these United States. Also note: he previous ran on his pro-gay agenda and profited from both abortion and pornography.

    I guess the Amish are still Christian (though the Quakers are out), it might be due to their willingness to abide by tough biblical rules themselves rather than forcing them on others.

  • Eric

    If thats what you believe ,then you are not a Catholic, and have no buisness making a comment. In fact if you disagree with the Pope you are no longer Catholic. Like it or leave it. It is doctrine, not democracy. I spend good money to keep my child away from this mental illness. Now even the Psychiatric field have given in to Political Action Commitiees and lobbyists willing to pay to disrupt to moral character of our nation. If you think they give one iota about homosexuals “rights” ,and not just headlines and profit your absolutly niaeve.The further our nation becomes a playground for cultural marxists, the better chance they have pedaling their filth and drugs. Next pedaphiles will be whining about rights. Theres a lot to be said for the effectivness of an angry town mob.

  • Jay

    Thank The Lord they fired him, if a person cannot respect there place of work rules they need to go. Just like if I want to work In a Jewish schools I must respect there rules and teachings if. It they should can me also.

  • Jay

    Blah blah you have no idea what you are talking about. Pick up a Greek bible and the same things you see in a catholic one you will see in the original. Kjv is great for toilet paper . Use the bible jesus quoted the Septuagint