Cor Jesu, an all-girls Catholic high school in St. Louis, Mo. Photo courtesy of St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Cor Jesu, an all-girls Catholic high school in St. Louis, Mo. Photo courtesy of St. Louis Post-Dispatch


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ST. LOUIS (RNS) The termination of two lesbian faculty members at Cor Jesu Academy, an all-girls Catholic high school, has prompted an outcry from alumnae who have vowed to withhold donations to the school.

In the last several weeks, alumnae have created a private Facebook group with more than 2,000 members in support of the couple, Olivia Reichert and Christina Gambaro, urging supporters to call and write to Cor Jesu leaders and voice their concerns.

Cor Jesu is in the midst of its “One Heart, One Spirit, One Vision” capital campaign for a new chapel, gym, student commons and additional parking.

Reichert said she and Gambaro were asked to resign after the school said in late July it received a copy of a mortgage application with the couple’s names. The couple had married in New York over the summer and the school said they had violated the moral contract faculty are required to sign as part of employment.

The firing comes as news that a chemistry teacher at a Catholic, all-girls high school in Bloomfield Hills, outside Detroit, said she was fired before the semester started because of her “non-traditional” pregnancy. The teacher, Barbara Webb, 33, is a lesbian in a committed relationship with another woman. She worked at Marian High School for nine years, the Detroit Free Press reported.

A statement from St. Louis’ Cor Jesu said the school “does not publicly discuss personnel matters.”

Many there are concerned not only about Gambaro and Reichert, but how the decision to fire gay faculty will affect current and future Cor Jesu students.

In response, the Chargers Allies, another Facebook group with more than 200 members, was created as “a safe space where both members of the LGBTQ community and those who support them can connect and hopefully find a way to create change at Cor Jesu Academy.”

Chargers Allies member Coco Fernandez, 22, an alumna of the school who now lives in Chicago, said she wants all who work and attend Cor Jesu to “feel welcomed and accepted as who they are, regardless of sexual orientation.”

Fernandez also said Reichert had been one of her favorite teachers at the school.

“She was a great role model for the girls. She was always kind,” Fernandez said.

“We are being taught to be open and accepting of everybody, and yet teachers are being fired because of their sexual orientation,” Fernandez said when speaking about her education at Cor Jesu.

In a Facebook post, Gambaro wrote that although alumnae support for her and her wife had been overwhelming, “the law is not on our side, nor is the church, so we have no ground to stand on.”

As in many other states, it is legal in Missouri to fire someone based on sexual orientation. And while the Roman Catholic Church says gays should be treated with compassion, the church rejects gay marriage and considers homosexual acts a “grave depravity” and “intrinsically disordered.”

Gambaro and Reichert are only the latest in a string of recent gay faculty firings at Roman Catholic schools.

Last year, Ken Bencomo, who taught English at St. Lucy’s Priory High School in the Los Angeles suburb of Glendora for 17 years, was fired after an article in the Southern California newspaper Inland Valley Daily Bulletin published a story and video about his wedding.

That same year, teacher Carla Hale was fired from a Roman Catholic high school in Columbus, Ohio, after someone pointed out that she listed her lesbian partner’s name in her mother’s obituary.

In Pennsylvania, Michael Griffin, an openly gay teacher at Holy Ghost Preparatory School, was fired in December 2013 for obtaining a marriage license with his longtime partner in New Jersey, according to news reports.

That same month, high school vice principal Mark Zmuda of Eastside Catholic High School in Seattle was fired for marrying his same-sex partner, according to news reports.

And in 2012, Al Fischer, a popular music teacher at St. Ann Catholic School in north St. Louis County, was fired after church officials learned that he planned to marry his male partner of 20 years in New York. Fischer also subsequently lost his position as a music director at St. Rose Philippine Duchesne Catholic Church in Florissant.

Cor Jesu Academy is a ministry of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and operates independently of the Archdiocese of St. Louis. The archdiocese said that it would expect any Roman Catholic school to follow the church’s teaching.

According to a recent poll by Quinnipiac University, a growing number of Catholics support same-sex marriage. The 2013 poll, which surveyed close to 500 Catholics, found that 54 percent of Catholic voters support same-sex marriage, while 38 percent oppose it.

Gambaro and Reichert, for their part, said they hoped their terminations would “guide the Catholic school system towards greater tolerance and acknowledgment of LGBTQ issues.”

“We are both grateful for the time we had at Cor Jesu Academy,” Gambaro and Reichert wrote to the Post-Dispatch. We “will cherish the memories and experiences created with students, athletes, and colleagues over the years.”

(Lilly Fowler is the religion reporter at the Post-Dispatch. Follow her on Twitter @LillyAFowler)

YS END FOWLER/BOCK

28 Comments

  1. To be brutally honest, part of me thinks when I read a story like this, “what was she thinking working for a Catholic school?” Its not like Catholic organizations are going to be remotely reasonable, fair or civil when dealing with gay staff in any way. Its pretty much a given that gays will be mistreated in such a setting.

    The real question is, how long will the laws which allow such clearly discriminatory dismissals stay on the books?

    • @Larry,

      “how long will the laws which allow such clearly discriminatory dismissals stay on the books?”

      Good question.
      I suspect this is a case where the institution of Catholicism will fade away before anybody has to deal with this barbarism.
      Fewer people will support this backwardness, and fewer people will go to church.

      The church’s evil behavior is being rewarded with cold shoulders.
      Let the church fade away. There is no saving it, and no reason to do so.

    • Larry,

      One very arbitrary point to be made is: why haven’t the RC schools and parishes dismissed the priests, bishops, cardinals, archbishops (did I forget to list any) … married to their Male God?

      Peace and Love

        • So wow. The thought associations there went from “married to their male god” as a contradictory accusation to the confirmation that said accusation is “practical thinking” despite the implication they cannot think practically given the (buzzword alert) status as bigots.

          You are both stupid. I don’t even know where to begin….other than to highlight it for others when I see it. I mean, not just dumb. Short bus variety dumb.

          But its cool that you two can still communicate that way….despite the logic vacuum in the content of the message. Miracles do happen I suppose.

          • Lles Nats,

            Clearly you miss the point. Lighten up. If I told you I was Israeli would you make threats at my work site like the militant Rcs :)

            Better watch your step … You just might be investigated …

            Peace and Love

          • Awesome. So you prefer to dance in, make a ridiculously logic absent slam on religion, then dance out. I assume thid makes you feel good, right? Then when I give you an honest response, you request I “lighten up” so that u may again feel good.

            Then, whether israeli or not, you prove the double standard mentality is alive in america by insinuating a gov of some fashion may “investigate” me due to my brutal honesty. No doubt that make you giddy…and no doubt you have no idea your need for protection of a few is a call for an absence of freedom.

            All followed up by “peace and love”!?!?!?!

            Good thing you’re pretty.

  2. To: Lles Nats,

    He writes to my response: Awesome. So you prefer to dance in, make a ridiculously logic absent slam on religion, then dance out. I assume thid makes you feel good, right? Then when I give you an honest response, you request I “lighten up” so that u may again feel good.

    Then, whether israeli or not, you prove the double standard mentality is alive in america by insinuating a gov of some fashion may “investigate” me due to my brutal honesty. No doubt that make you giddy…and no doubt you have no idea your need for protection of a few is a call for an absence of freedom.

    All followed up by “peace and love”!?!?!?!

    Good thing you’re pretty.
    ********************************

    Lles Nats, the comment I made about the clergy being married to their male God was referencing what the nun, S, made on another article. She said, and I quote: I AM MARRIED TO JESUS CHRIST.
    Okay, and what of the male clergy of her RELIGIOUS denomination? Different God? One is married and the other is not?

    You snapped out calling Larry and I stupid, but not just stupid …

    You have yet to share EXACTLY WHAT troubles you about that comment!

    And as far as being investigated … your angry rants may just get you into hot water. That is merely word of caution.

    “Good thing I am pretty?” What are you implying by this?

    PEACE AND LOVE!

  3. As so often, C S Lewis got it right,

    “When the world says to us aloud, “You may be religious when you are alone”, it adds under its breath, “…and I will see to it that you are never alone.” “

  4. They are guilty of sexual misconduct. Why would they expect to remain employed at a Catholic school and why would the schools constituency expect that? You see this over and over again: adolescents who think and act in ways normal for adolescents but who are around about 35 years old and giving this shizz to their employers rather than their mother.

    • Right, because any sane person would know that Catholic organizations are going to discriminate against gays in the workplace, under any condition. If they are already hired within such places, any pretext will be found to fire them. One should not expect reasonable, professional behavior from such people.

      • Right, because any sane person would know that Catholic organizations are going to discriminate against gays in the workplace, under any condition.

        Most certainly any person not an ignorant and self-absorbed fool would know that bar under one set of circumstances: they were employed by the corrupted middle management who collect a salary but pay little or no attention to the Magisterium. Such types are very common in Catholic institutions, but the dismissal of these characters demonstrates that such types did not have the upper hand where they were employed, and with little doubt these people knew perfectly well their situation was precarious and were pushing the envelope.

        Catholic schools well run impart Catholic teaching. If you are outside the fold, you get out of the way and do not interfere with the work of the administration, the other faculty, or the chaplain. Making a public point of your sexual disorders is a challenge to your employer. The Church is under no obligation to provide ‘equal time’ for the secular culture in that manner or any other.

        • Glad you agree with me that gays are going to be discriminated against and treated poorly in general if they choose to work for Catholic organizations.

          Of course to turn around and fire someone for some aspect of character which was apparent at the time of hiring makes them simply look like opportunistic hypocrites. They gave the appearance of not being concerned with the fact the teachers were gay and assented to such by keeping them employed for so long.

          They hired the teachers, kept them employed for a fairly long period of time (9 years) without a word or incident. This is simply political winds shifting towards taking malicious action against gay employees where they were largely ignored in the past. The teachers were naive to expect to be treated humanely by Catholic officials.

  5. Leave it to Lles to laugh at employment discrimination. Who knows what his point was. Its awash in a sea of non sequitor.

    But it begs the question as to why anyone should expect Catholic organizations to treat people with a modicum of respect and dignity. Obviously such notions are far beyond the church and its instruments.

    If you think uncivil, malicious behavior towards others is worth holding dear or a worthy tradition, then you should expect people to turn away from it. The rest of the world can stop keeping up the pretense that the church has anything of social value.

  6. Behold, the relabling and rebranding for optimal palatability by the inventors of “media relations”.

    What once was freedom of associations is now “uncivil & malicious”.

    What once was a choice of moral activity in accord with the schools mission is now an absence of “respect & dignity”.

    See, respect and dignity only flow in one direction for the relabelers. They deserve it cause they are special and protected. You do not as you are common and traditional.

    Rebranding concepts once hideous for a new acceptance is their art and skill. See the fluidity with which one may accuse the other of being a “terrorist”, or how you can acceoptably kill thousands of unarmed people as long as the “terrorists are hiding among them” Oops. Good news is we got that bad guy, but we killed 100 civilians to do it. Oh well…hey look! Free land!

  7. Leave it to Lles to laugh at employment discrimination.

    All employers discriminate in their hiring. In this case, the school has an architectonic mission and the faculty in question are not on board with that mission. Case closed.

    Start your own apostolates, instead of trying to take over someone else’s like some parasitoid wasp.

  8. You are not even trying to make a coherent point here. Just slinging barbs and nonsense.

    I can’t help it if you think maintaining prejudices and engaging in malicious behavior is what you consider moral. Just more evidence that religious belief can a great enabler of sociopathic behavior.

    Complaining about complaints of bigotry has never been a refutation. Just proof how thin skinned and childish one can be. If you don’t like to be called a bigot, give me a reason to consider it erroneous. So far I see nothing which would demonstrate that.

    Again, I question the sanity of gay people to work for such an organization. It is a foregone conclusion they will be treated like crap given the first opportunity.

    Why bother?

  9. Larry,
    I don’t care what u call me, because I don’t think much of your opinion.

    I recognize only that the hard truth is that people are free to think whatever they want. Given the environment such freedom can create, what is bigoted to you is freedom of association to me, and you have no ground to stop me as you are just the next monkey. Nor I you. In a society of absolute freedom, morality is perfectly relative.

    I can embrace it. Suck it up and maybe you can too. Your truth is not mine and vice versa.

    I can criticize your need for protection from such an organic society though. Calls for laws on the books to establish a supra social power that rules us all only kills freedom.

    You called for that at the top of thr posts. I find that weak. Probably the effect of a weak worldview relavitve to the rest of society.

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