What does it mean to provide a Catholic education? What are the challenges that commitment poses when Catholic teaching runs counter to societal norms and civil laws? Some young women in Glendora, CA, are getting a lesson in those challenges this month. And they’re not alone.
I’m closely following the local news story about a Catholic school’s firing of a long-time, very popular teacher following the publicity surrounding his recent marriage to his same-sex partner. Media coverage is, predictably, heavily weighted in favor of the fired teacher, who has garnered the support of a large number of current and past students, parents, and faculty members. Some important points are being lost in the noise, however, and I raise them here because this isn’t the first such case making news (I addressed a couple of others that occurred in the Cincinnati Archdiocese here), nor will it be the last.
The Los Angeles Times covered the story this way:
“Ken was one of the school’s star educators and the decision to terminate him because he lawfully married a man is just heartbreaking to him — it’s crushing,” McGarrigle [Ed. Bencomo’s attorney] said. “It shows a terrible error of judgment and complete disregard of Ken and what he has brought to the school.”
On multiple occasions over the year, McGarrigle said, Bencomo has introduced Persky as his partner to administrators at school events.
In a statement released through an attorney, the school said it is “a community of faith for those who wish to express, practice and adhere to values in education based on the Roman Catholic tradition.”
“While the school does not discriminate against teachers or other school employees based on their private lifestyle choices, public displays of behavior that are directly contrary to church teachings are inconsistent with these values,” the statement reads. “These values are incorporated into the contractual obligations of each of our instructors and other employees.”
Bencomo hopes to resolve the situation without legal action, but he has not ruled out filing a lawsuit, McGarrigle said.
“The school went to the draconian measure of firing him without warning and without legal reason,” he said. “They haven’t expressed any interest in finding a way for Ken to return.”