The Vice Principal Strikes Back

eagle obverseEastside Catholic School’s fired vice principal sues his former employer and the Archdiocese of Seattle. One had to figure this case would eventually lead to litigation. It’s almost a religious ritual in American society today. Not only do high-profile disagreements get tried in the court of public opinion, but they become adjudicated in a system where the priests of justice preside over rules and rituals. Advocates for religious freedom seem to have little hesitation seeking wisdom from that belief system, when it suits.

Mark Zmuda claims his role as an administrator renders the matter of his same-sex union irrelevant. And indeed, if he doesn’t teach and advocate for positions contrary to the Church, will a court consider his ground solid?

Christians also believe that one’s life witness constitutes a key element of passing the faith to others. Schools must be considered prime settings where the behavior of leaders is scrutinized by students. All lessons are absorbed, even the ones unintentionally taught.

However, if all public persons are open to such scrutiny, be it from students or anonymous complainers and others in between, is every work transaction between the Church and potential sinners open to review? In other words, if the archdiocese hires a law firm that advocates for same-sex unions, is that wrong? Would the Church have to terminate agreements with divorce lawyers? Or firms that include them? Would schools have to vet every business with whom they enter into a financial agreement? Consider the people who service vending machines, who operate snowplows, who buy raffle tickets and win a prize. Where does an organization’s claim to liberty end? In order to claim freedom to pursue practice of religion, is the church, school, or business obligated to make a sincere effort to do no business with sinners? And does singling out sexual sins constitute a discrimination, by the wider definition of the term?

Probably most troubling in this case to my eyes is the double standard so often applied. A pastor or administrator hires someone, knowing full well the person is in a same-sex relationship. All it takes is one anonymous complaint to set wheels in motion.

Church leaders implicitly abdicate their authority to complainers, and a populist pecking order is established:

  1. anonymous
  2. pope
  3. bishops
  4. pastors
  5. employees

That seems traditional.

And in the case of state-recognized same-sex unions, there’s actually nothing morally wrong about this. The Church has always taught that genital action on same-sex impulses is morally wrong. But for two adults to share legal benefits in American culture is acceptable in many forms outside of marriage. So if gays and lesbians are different, is that not another discrimination?

My cynical conclusion is that moralists and complainers have no power over what others do. So they attack the supporting structures of the life of the person who appears to be the sinner in their eyes. And now the targets are pushing back. And now the lawyers will be enriched. And the issue remains in the public eye. And the scrutiny will be more uncomfortable before it is resolved.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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