It seems self-evident, the Church’s position in several cases now filed with various courts across the country — and beware, more may come — in which the Catholic Church or Catholic interests are being sued for not hiring, or dismissing, persons involved in personal practices that conflict with Catholic moral teaching.
For example, in Massachusetts, a man living in a civilly legal marriage with another man is contending a Catholic school refused to hire him because of his relationship. In Indiana, a suit is underway in which a woman maintains her teacher’s contract with a parochial school was not renewed because she revealed that she had conceived by a method morally unacceptable under Catholic theology.
Popular opinion probably is mixed, and each case is different, but reports of such cases invariably include charges that some Catholic authority is discriminating or unreasonable. Public opinion must be enlightened and hopefully corrected.
The issue is not about the legal right to same-sex marriage. Of course, the Church is utterly opposed to same-sex marriage. Still, in many places, such as Massachusetts, it is legal.
It is about the mission of Catholic schools, a mission that should be quite clear to anyone.
When a case along these lines came to the forefront in Washington, Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain hit the nail on the head in his defense of a Catholic school’s refusal to keep a person living in a relationship objectionable in Catholic thinking on its payroll. He said what should be obvious to everyone. Catholic schools exist first and foremost to teach Catholic values to the young. They achieve their goal not just by what is said by teachers in classrooms or printed in textbooks.
The personal example of employees is an exceedingly powerful part of imparting what is right or wrong in the mind of the Church. It might be argued that this example is the most enduring lesson. For instance, I could not attempt to say when I was taught that two and two make four. I now have not a clue as what teaching technique was used, but I shall never forget the gentleness and dedication of the Dominican Sister of St. Cecilia in Nashville who taught me that equation.
She taught me much more than arithmetic, as she intended, as my school intended and as my parents intended by sending me there.
Church authorities, Catholic parents, teachers and donors invest untold millions of dollars and billions of hours in maintaining schools primarily to put forward the Catholic ideals of living.
Conformity of all Catholic school employees with these ideals logically has to be. Who should argue with that? Some, by their criticism of the Church in such situations, do argue with this fact. Their argument is hard to follow. Using a secular example, no company would hire for its sales staff a person who thinks the company’s product is no good and that efforts to sell the product are not that important.
The Church is just as entitled to hire persons who believe in what it is seeking to accomplish or persons who certainly will not frustrate the process.
It is not about live and let live, as entrenched as this philosophy is in American Catholic culture and in American society in general. It is about Catholics who have all the rights of American citizenship, and who come together, precisely as the Church, to serve a particular objective: to present, and draw people to, what the Church sees as right and proper.
It is not discrimination. It is having a purpose and working to fulfill this purpose. It is marshalling persons who are willing to serve the purpose and give good example of what the purpose has in mind. No brainer. Period.
Msgr. Owen F. Campion is OSV’s associate publisher.