Catholic School President Fired After Being Falsely Accused of Homosexuality

Regis Catholic Schools (in Eau Claire, Wisconsin) has been searching for a new president. But it won’t be Tim Nelson, as the parochial-school organization originally announced; they’ve withdrawn their announcement from early April that he was the best candidate for the job.

Nelson is hopping mad, and claims that decision is based on erroneous information about his sexual orientation. He says the organization approached him with misgivings about a name connected with him in his father’s obituary — almost the same way another Catholic school discovered that Carla Hale was a lesbian. Nelson insists the name, which was in parentheses next to his, belonged to a close family friend who is his roommate and prayer companion, but not his partner or lover. The format of the obituary may have misleadingly implied a romantic relationship, but Nelson pleads ignorance of obituary-writing etiquette.

In any case, he notes that even if he were gay — and he’s really, really not! — the Church does not condemn the orientation, as long as the individual in question remains perpetually celibate. That’s cold comfort for most gay Catholics, but Nelson sees no problem with it, and Regis affirmed that it’s their position as well. But they seem to have less confidence in Nelson’s celibacy than he’d like; they have announced their intention to hire another candidate, a Regis alumnus by the name of Mark Gobler. (Hemant’s note: I’m in awe of Sara’s ability to refrain from making a joke here.)

The parochial school denies that sexual orientation had anything to do with their decision, arguing that Nelson displayed “a lack of candor about his affiliations with religious communities during the interview process,” an allegation Nelson calls “a complete lie.”

Understand that Nelson isn’t angry at the school for refusing to hire gay people. He has no problem with judging homosexuals or refusing them employment based on what they do when they’re off the clock. No, he’s just angry because he’s not a homosexual, and he thinks it’s unfair that even people who aren’t gay should be subject to anti-gay bigotry because of someone’s incorrect perceptions.

In other words, it’s not fair to discriminate against perceived gays, only actual ones.

But, of course, that’s part of the reason why prejudice is bad and should be opposed at every opportunity. Being part of the powerful group that enforces discrimination is no guarantee that such discrimination won’t one day get turned around and used against you.

About Sara Lin Wilde

Sara Lin Wilde is a recovering Catholic (and cat-holic, for that matter - all typographical errors are the responsibility of her feline friends). She lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, where she is working on writing a novel that she really, really hopes can actually get published.

  • WallofSleep

    “Hemant’s note: I’m in awe of Sara’s ability to refrain from making a joke here.”

    Heh, you and me both. Good job taking the high road, Sara. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be down here paving the low road.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

    i’m having difficulty mustering sympathy for this guy.

    • decathelite

      He works for an organization that feels compelled to monitor and control people’s sex lives. Now that his own sex life is under a microscope, maybe he will see how unhealthy and demeaning that actually is.

      • TheBlackCat13

        I doubt it.

    • Tom Erickson

      Again, I think you have it all wrong. He does not say one way or the other if he is gay. He stated, he has a lot of gay friends on Facebook. The bottomline, it shouldn’t matter if he is gay or not in my opinion. Don’t be so to quick to write him off. Not everyone is as open about their sexual orientation and it is really none of their business.

  • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ Bubba Tarandfeathered

    Awe, (his ears a pushed back and his eyes are narrowed) he is mad over being collateral damage of a mass discrimination campaign. But at least he came out of the closet to tell us, 25-50 years ago someone in his position would have been embarrassed by this and would have kept it to themselves. Avoiding any shame placed onto their family.

  • LesterBallard

    I have no sympathy for him. He doesn’t care if a GLBT person gets fired, he cares that he got fired, by mistake, right? Fuck him.

    • RobMcCune

      Couldn’t have said it better.

      • BobMorris

        I think you have it all wrong. He does not say one way or the other if he is gay. He stated, he has a lot of gay friends on Facebook. The bottomline, it shouldn’t matter if he is gay or not in my opinion. Don’t to quick to write him off.

        • Anna

          I think the relevant point is that he doesn’t have a problem with church firing gay people. He’s not objecting to the way the Catholic church treats homosexuals; he’s just objecting to being (so he says) mistakenly fired in one of their witch hunts.

          • Pseudonym

            I think the relevant point is that he doesn’t have a problem with the school firing gay people.

            Do we know that for sure? I skimmed the article and couldn’t see anything which indicated that. The closest that I could see was that he said that he considered the claim that he was in a homosexual relationship would tarnish his name and reputation.

            However, that could be taken in several ways, too. One analogy would be a sex tape becoming public. I can see how that could ruin someone’s livelihood even if nothing in the tape was illegal or immoral.

            • Anna

              Well, he said this:

              “Some people speculate that just because I live with a man I am automatically gay, and that is not the case at all,” he said. Even if it were, Nelson said, Catholic doctrine indicates it is acceptable for an individual to be homosexual, provided the person isn’t sexually active with another person of the same sex, which the church considers a sin.

              Which certainly seems to imply that he doesn’t have a problem with the church firing non-celibate gay people.

  • anniewhoo

    Well now he knows a little bit about how the Salem witches must have felt. At least he’s not getting prest to death.

    No sympathy here either.

  • Anna

    Nelson insists the name, which was in parentheses next to his, belonged to a close family friend who is his roommate and prayer companion

    Well, I guess that’s another term for it…

    • Stev84

      Saying “oh my god” a lot may count as prayer

  • RobertoTheChi

    I’m really having a hard time feeling any sympathy for this guy.

  • Compuholic

    This is awesome. He is getting a taste of his own bigotry. Poetic justice.

    • observer

      Shame he won’t learn anything from this.

  • Anna

    What I want to know is who are these people trolling obituaries for signs of gayness. Is this what priests do in their spare time?

    • rhodent

      Hey, they gotta read something once the choirboys go home…

    • Stev84

      There is probably a whole Vatican office for it

    • ShoeUnited

      Well, the Obituaries section is usually one of the more read columns by older adults. That’s why in a lot of little local papers it can be found as soon as page 2 in a newspaper.

      That said, all it’d take is “Isn’t that that principal at the local school?” and then report it to the local priest. I seen something similar happen when an assistant manager who was working at wal-mart got fired for drunken driving and burglary because it violate’s wal-mart’s code of ethics. The local newspaper printing regular police reports. The problem? It was someone else with a different middle name.

      • Anna

        It looks like the guy hadn’t even gotten the job yet, and his father died more than two years ago. It was an old obituary, so the person who brought it to the administration’s attention would have to have been hunting for details about his private life.

        More from the article:

        Nelson also alleged that Regis officials expressed concern about a homosexual group he had “liked” on his Facebook page. Nelson, who acknowledged having some gay Facebook friends, said he doesn’t know anything about the group and must have inadvertently “liked” it. He immediately deleted it when it was brought to his attention.

        Honestly, it looks like this guy was doing a bad job of hiding his personal life. First he pleads ignorance about obituary traditions, and then he mistakenly “likes” gay organizations on Facebook?

  • Lee Miller

    What I don’t get is why anyone would continue to publicly identify as a Catholic, or want to have anything to do with the nasty old organization in any way, shape or form. (I keep thinking about what it must have smelled like in the Vatican during the convocation to elect the new pope, with all those elderly men living together in cramped quarters). Nasty old priests in a nasty old church.

    • Carmelita Spats

      My family continues to identify publicly with the Pedo-Cult because they
      TRULY believe that creepy Jesucristo is stuck somewhere on that goddamn cookie and that he makes regular appearances: on a large tortilla at a roadside taco stand; as a curiously shaped oil stain on a freeway underpass in Zacatecas, Mexico and in a pile of instant mashed potatoes in a truck stop in Bowling Green, Ky. It is extremely difficult to leavewhen economic, cultural and family systems are at play and you’ve been brainwashed from the time you were knee-high to a disturbing dogma. The “fowl” devotees just cannot fathom abandoning the stale cookie. They actually view the desecration of the magic cookie as a bigger moral evil than raping a four-year-old. In the RCC, you are instantly
      excommunicated for messing with the cookie but not for the sexual
      torture of children.

  • Librepensadora

    Love reading Sara Lin Wilde’s contributions to Friendly Atheist, maybe because I am a recovering Catholic. I always add I was only raised Catholic, becoming a Protestant 32 years ago after the Church I grew up in was gutted following the “second Vatican Council.”

  • Karen

    Another ex-Catholic here, having trouble mustering support for the guy. And what the hell is a “prayer companion”? I was always taught that unless it was part of an established Church ritual, praying was best done alone. But that was a long time ago, when Vatican II reforms were still echoing through the church.

    • Anna

      Sounds a bit strange for Catholics. I was under the impression prayer partners were more of an evangelical thing.

      From the article:

      Nelson said he explained to Konopa that he considered the man his best friend and that the man was close to Nelson’s family. “I said, ‘If you think we are intimate or sexually active, you’ve got another think coming.’ We are not like that at all,” Nelson recalled telling Konopa. … Regarding his relationship with the man, Nelson said, “The two of us live in community, we share expenses and live a devout Catholic lifestyle and meet daily in a chapel in our home for daily prayers.”

      Who the heck has a chapel in their own home? An altar, maybe, but an entire chapel?

  • Baby_Raptor

    No sympathy for the dude.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Hugh-Kramer/1217598709 Hugh Kramer

    Who says Catholics haven’t evolved with the times? They used to hunt witches but now they’ve switched to gays.

  • Aspieguy

    What kind of crazy religion obsesses about sex continuously? Catholics really need to objectively evaluate their dogmas.

    • Drakk

      > What kind of crazy religion obsesses about sex continuously?

      Uh…which ones don’t?

    • Emmet

      “…a Regis alumnus by the name of Mark Gobler. (Hemant’s note: I’m in awe
      of Sara’s ability to refrain from making a joke here.)”

      “Stev84
      Saying “oh my god” a lot may count as prayer”

  • eric

    If the RCC priesthood can’t believe that a man would live platonically with another man out of shared religious interests, what does that say about RCC seminary dormitories?


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