Yesterday Mark Zmuda the vice principal of Eastside Catholic High School was fired for marrying his male partner (you can read about it here), joining dozens of other Catholic employees across the country who have been similarly fired or forced to resign for making their love official. This news, while not surprising or even unexpected in light of the luddite misogynist (who shall remain unnamed here) leading the Seattle Archdiocese, kind of broke my heart. I know that the parents who send their children to this school are not, for the most part, bigots or homophobes. For eight years I worked (as a mostly out lesbian) for a Catholic elementary school that fed directly into ECHS. I loved that job—I loved the people, the families, the community. I wasn’t crazy about the Church as an institution, but hands down it was the best job I’ve had in my career. This in spite of our differences on topics such as birth control, abortion, LGBQT issues, women’s place in the church, and pedophiles. I was able to separate the institution at large from the community in which I worked.
The job was so good, in fact, that when a change in administration occurred and I learned my boss would be leaving, I looked within the archdiocese for another position. Five years ago I was offered a job at Eastside by an administration that was quite familiar with my lesbian status. (Ultimately, I declined the job offer for reasons completely unrelated). It doesn’t take much to connect the dots between my wedding this past weekend and the “there but for the grace of the universe, go I” feeling that swam uncomfortably in me yesterday afternoon and into the evening. I even woke up feeling nauseated by the whole thing this morning.
So what gives? Why this guy? Why now when the Catholic Church seems to be crawling out of its hole and into the 21st century with Pope Francis? As my good friend and former boss pointed out yesterday, it doesn’t matter what is happening in Rome. The henchmen installed by Pope Benedict are still in control. The church isn’t going to turn on a dime, if indeed it will turn at all. Good people are still going to lose their jobs because some Catholics are still wedded to doctrines like The Baltimore Catechisminstead of the gospels. They’ve forgotten all about being true Christians, ignoring Christ’s own words about love and compassion. Here are a few bible verses I remember from my church going youth:
Matthew 7:1—Judge not, lest you be judged.
Matthew 7:5— You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye
Luke 6:31—Do unto others as you would have them do unto you
1 Corinthians 13:13— And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
The church owes its very existence to the gospels, but because of its status as religious institution, it (and by extension its schools) is not compelled to pay into programs that other employers are required by law to pay into: unemployment, COBRA, OSHA. So, Mr. Zmuda who was fired for participating in one of the Catholic Church’s seven sacraments, Marriage, will not be receiving an unemployment check next week. He will not be offered to continue his healthcare insurance through COBRA. He has no safety net.
Since leaving the employ of the Catholics, I’ve become a much more strident non-believer. My atheism springs from an inability to reconcile the hypocrisy of the church, and not just the Catholic Church, but most churches. The whole do as I say, not as I do sort of theology has poisoned organized religion. The gospels urge care for the sick and the poor, and the Catholics even have a social teaching to that effect, but the church continues to flaunt its wealth while vast majority of its members live in abject poverty. When I worked for the Catholic elementary school not only did none of the employees qualify for COBRA or unemployment, but healthcare did not include birth control. Even women in menopause who needed to go on the pill for reasons unrelated to contraception had to get notes from their doctors stating as much.
For an institution that holds the Holy Mother in such lofty regard, it treats the rest of the world’s women with utter contempt, from the nuns to third world women to women who want to enter the priesthood. But, I guess that makes sense given that the Holy Mother is such a bundle of nonsense: virgin mother. Right. Inseminated by God. Right. No earthly woman could ever achieve what this mythical creature did.
And don’t even get me started on the pedophile issue. To articulate my thoughts on that issue will require an entire series of blogs.
What I am trying to say is that I am sad and furious. Sad because good people are being fooled into complacency, people like Mr. Zmuda who felt safe enough in his role at Eastside Catholic High School to come out to his coworkers about his marriage. People like me who thought I could be an exception if I just behaved myself and kept my mouth shut. Furious because we continue to let our rules and laws and lives be dictated by an ancient and cruel institution that clearly has no regard for real human life. How long will we allow ourselves to be lulled into complacency by those who will try to tell us “it’s not the people, it’s the institution.” The people are the institution, dammit. We need to stop fooling ourselves.