Participants gather during a rally celebrating the Supreme Court's gay marriage ruling at Ilus W. Davis Park in Kansas City, Mo. on Wednesday (June 26).  RNS photo by Sally Morrow

Participants gather during a rally celebrating the Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling at Ilus W. Davis Park in Kansas City, Mo. on June 26, 2013. RNS photo by Sally Morrow


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(RNS) Gay and lesbian Catholic students in Pennsylvania are joining alumni and others in pushing a Catholic high school near Philadelphia to reinstate a teacher who was fired after he applied for a marriage license with his partner.

The effort is one of several in support of Michael Griffin, who was dismissed by Holy Ghost Preparatory School, and they include a petition at Change.org that had drawn nearly 4,000 signatures as of Friday (Dec. 13).

“Michael Griffin did not deserve to be treated in a way that does not clearly reflect Christ and His teachings,” says the letter sponsored by the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition. “He has dedicated his life to the Holy Ghost Community. He is just as much a part of the Holy Ghost family as any other member.”

Griffin was dismissed after a Dec. 6 meeting with the school president, the Rev. James McCloskey, and the principal, Jeffrey Danilak. Griffin had emailed Danilak earlier in the week to say he might be late for an in-service day because he was applying for a marriage license with his partner in neighboring New Jersey, where gay marriage became legal earlier this year.

Even though it was widely known in the school that Griffin — who had taught at Holy Ghost for 12 years — was gay, and he often appeared at events with his partner, McCloskey and Danilak said that by seeking to formalize his relationship Griffin had formally violated his contract.

On Monday, McCloskey posted a statement on the school’s website acknowledging that the decision “has been difficult for everyone involved — for Mr. Griffin certainly, but also for students, families, faculty and staff, our alumni and all who are a part of the Holy Ghost community.”

“We regret the pain that this has caused to any and all involved,” he added.

But the priest said that because Griffin’s action violated the terms of his teaching contract, “which requires all faculty and staff to follow the teachings of the Church as a condition of their employment,” he had “no choice” but to fire him immediately.

Several Holy Ghost alums are also protesting. Former student Dan McQuade wrote a column in Philadelphia Magazine saying the action would lead to reduced support for the school, a private all-boys high school in Bensalem, Pa., operated by the Congregation of the Holy Spirit religious order.

“What McCloskey has done is tell gay students and alums that you’re welcome in the community as long as you don’t ask for the same rights as straight people,” McQuade wrote.

Another Holy Ghost graduate, Zachary Nalbone, a student of Griffin’s during the 2006-07 school year, also protested in a press release from the Human Rights Campaign.

“Mr. Griffin was one of the hardest-working and most dedicated teachers who undeniably embodied the spirit of Holy Ghost Prep,” Nalbone said. He “deserved a better end to his tenure as a teacher at Holy Ghost, and I sincerely hope my alma mater will rectify this hasty decision.”

The publicity over Griffin’s firing is likely to complicate efforts by church leaders like New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who said this month that the bishops have been “outmarketed” on gay rights and “caricatured as being anti-gay.”

But it’s also likely that Griffin will not win his job back no matter how big the protests grow.

When a teacher at a Catholic high school in suburban Los Angeles was fired this summer for marrying his partner it prompted an outpouring of support, including more than 90,000 signatures on a Change.org petition. But the school maintained its stance and would not rehire the teacher, Ken Bencomo.

Gay and lesbian teachers aren’t the only ones finding themselves under fire. An unmarried couple in Lawrence, Mass., Sean Houlihan and Natalie Ferland, were fired from their jobs as teachers at a Catholic school after revealing that they were expecting a baby together.

KRE/AMB END GIBSON

15 Comments

  1. CarrotCakeMan

    When are these power-drunk right-wing Catholic bishops going to learn that just because they “can” attack LGBT teachers, there’s no reason for them to think they should?

    Just today, a US Senator from Utah introduced a “Special Rights for Right-Wing Churches” bill, obviously to avoid the coming end of IRS 503c3 tax-exempt status for churches like the Roman Catholic Political Action Committee and LDS, Inc, but it’s going nowhere. Americans are increasingly angry at the abuses of IRS 503c3 status by these political organizations that masquerade as “churches.”

    • Carrot, we’d like to hear your take on recent revelations about the IRS being used to harrass conservative political groups but giving a pass to every liberal group seeking tax exemptions.

  2. Rev. McCloskey absolutely did the right thing, (and I’m honestly wishing that McCloskey was the Pope instead of Francis, because Catholic and Protestants alike need McCloskey’s kind of strength right now).

    • CarrotCakeMan

      It wasn’t that long ago the former Pope and American Catholic bishops attacked the good Sisters for being “insufficiently homophobic,” and now this Pope is being attacked on the same quicksand. I don’t see Pope Francis’s influence waning based on these desperate personal attacks. You don’t really think yours will advance your anti-gay agenda, now, really, do you, Doc?

      • It’s not about whether one sees Pope Francis’s influence “waning” or not. The fact is that Rev. McCloskey did the right thing, the risky thing, the Christian thing, the courageous thing, *regardless* of the Pope’s popularity and influence.

        THAT kind of spiritual strength is what is needed by individual Catholics (and Protestants equally) at this increasingly dark hour in America.

        • CarrotCakeMan

          You really want us to agree with you that HURTING PEOPLE is the “Christian thing to do”? Gasp, no wonder more Americans every day consider being called a “Christian” a personal attack!

          Please keep showing everyone how deeply immoral anti-gays are, Doc.

  3. Now, isn’t it a shame that a church would expect its employees to abide by its own code of behavior! And then the story about the unmarried couple expecting a baby. Yeah, just what this country needs: shining examples of people who will not commit to one another before bringing a child into the world.

    We know what today’s moral code is: “I” decide what’s right or moral. This works, of course, until the “I” confronts another “I” who does something that negatively impacts the first “I.”

    There has yet to be someone posting here who will take up this very argument and debunk it. Sometimes even the morally-culturally doltish know when they’ve met an impossible task and simply “move on” to other topics.

    • CarrotCakeMan

      Are you really suggesting that in this instance, Catholic employees owe their superiors obedience in their private lives, while in another thread, you insist the Catholic bishops need not obey Pope Francis’s clear direction that they cease and desist their crass political machinations regarding their official actions in the matter of LGBT Americans, Mr. Lame? You consistently indicate you think anti-gays should have some “special right” to do whatever they want, even when their superior tells them to stop, I see.

      Your defense of the anti-gay misdeeds of the bishops won’t weaken the faith of American Catholics, but that defense will reduce the influence of these bishops as American Catholics transfer to The Episcopal Church.

  4. You can be sure that the managers of Holy (Spirit) Preparatory School would not dare to avoid action they know their Archbishop Joseph Chaput would require. Chaput is one of the most conservative bishops in the United States, a man in the design of John Paul II and Benedict who promoted him. The president and principal of Holy Spirit are saving their own jobs before Michael Griffin’s right to marry a person he loves “scandalizes” Chaput and the church he would have, the church of John Paul and Benedict, not the church of Jesus.

  5. Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Three Cheers to those who are courageously defending traditional Catholic and Christian morality. Let those who want to follow a different moral code start their own church and open their own schools.

    • CarrotCakeMan

      You just don’t get it, John. Jesus said the second most important Commandment was to love your neighbors as yourself, but you always present Christianity as a weapon you want to use to hurt your many, many enemies.

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