When asked why long-time Catholic high school teacher Ken Bencomo was fired, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles had this to say:
“‘However, if a teacher or school employee makes a public display of behavior that is counter to church teaching – such as homosexuality, sex outside of marriage, having a child outside of marriage – that can impact their employment status,’ said John Andrews, diocese spokesman.” [emphasis added]
Bencomo, who is gay, married his partner in a civil-ceremony when same-sex marriage became legal in California after the US Supreme Court’s recent ruling on California’s Prop 8.
Why do institutional Church leaders always limit their understanding of “church teaching” to things related to sex? Is this what they understand Christian life to be mainly about? Is this what they believe Jesus suffered and died for, i.e. so that gay people wouldn’t have sex and that the Church’s rules about marriage would be followed?
How many Catholic school teachers or administrators have been fired for inadequately living up to the Gospel values of faith, hope and love? What Church workers have been disciplined for failing to do works of charity, or putting into practice the demands of social justice? How many diocesan employees — including bishops, priests, deacons, and religious sisters and brothers — have lost their jobs because they failed in doing the corporal works of mercy of …
- feeding the hungry?
- giving drink to the thirsty?
- clothing the naked?
- sheltering the homeless?
- visiting the sick?
- ransoming the captive?
- burying the dead?
My point is not that anyone should lose his/her job for failing to do these things, or otherwise inadequately putting into practice the mandates of the Gospel — because every Christian falls short in one way or another of our call to discipleship. And yet, even if one accepts the particular “Church teaching” Mr. Bencomo is supposed to have violated, did Jesus Himself ever condemn or punish or harm anyone whom He believed to be failing in some virtue or Gospel value? For those unfamiliar with the Gospels, the answer is No. Even to the so-called “woman caught in adultery,” Jesus says, “Nor do I condemn you.”
Despite Pope Francis’ recent declaration of “Who am I to judge?” when asked about gay priests, apparently many Church leaders feel quite well-equipped to judge and condemn their gay brothers and sisters.