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A credibly Christian church would respect gay employees



Debates about social issues tend to bring out blanket statements, sweeping claims, dire threats and feverish reporting. They usually carry historical baggage that needs to be unpacked and the contents tested against contemporary reality. This is true also of the coming plebiscite on gay marriage.

Rainbow flagA threat reportedly made, and later denied, by some church leaders was to dismiss from employment in Catholic organisations people who contract same-sex marriages. Regardless of what was said the threat will be featured in the coming debates. It may be helpful to set it in its broader context.

The argument for taking such action is that Catholic organisations must uphold the teaching of the church, and that this implies living in a way consistent with it. Where the public relationships of people working in Catholic organisations are inconsistent with Catholic teaching they call into question the teaching itself.

Whatever the abstract merits of this argument and its applicability to dismissal in limit cases, its general use belongs to a past age. It presupposes a tightly bound Catholic world in which Catholic faith is accepted and shared, where the Catholic Church is a primary allegiance for its members and where Catholic schools, hospitals and welfare agencies are staffed by Catholics. Faith is maintained and transmitted through adherence to the close and disciplined Catholic community.

In such a world it is understandable that Catholic authorities might exclude from employment in their organisations people in relationships not countenanced by Catholic teaching. But even there such action undermined the church it was supposed to protect. It identified the Christian gospel with repulsion rather than attraction. The novels of Irish writer John McGahern show clearly how such authoritarian behaviour gave birth to resentment and bred the present disowning of the Catholic Church in Ireland.

To carry out such a threat would now be suicidal for the Catholic Church. In large Catholic institutions involved in education, health care or social services, neither the officers of the organisations —administrators, doctors, nurses, auxiliary staff, teachers etc. — nor the people whom they serve are united by religious or church allegiance. Some belong to other churches or religions; others have no religious belief.

In addition, few of the baptised Catholics among medical staff and patients, or among teachers and their students' families, are practising Catholics who have an adult understanding of their faith. They have only a secondary allegiance to the Catholic Church.

What attracts many people from diverse backgrounds to work in these Catholic organisations with children, the ill and people who are marginalised is their ethos. The tradition they inherit appeals to the unique value of each human being regardless of faith, worthiness of life, gender or sexual preference. That appeal is rooted in the belief that each human being is deeply loved by God. It is embodied in the story of Jesus Christ, and in the stories of the religious congregations inspired by him to found the organisations.


"The credibility of Catholic organisations as Christian and as humane is at stake."


If such a tradition is to retain its power in organisations where not all people share the religious faith that lies behind it, those who work in them need to share the radical respect for human beings, and especially for the most vulnerable, that is embodied in the tradition, and to be open to draw on the stories of the faithful people in whom it is embodied. This will require that people in positions of responsibility for handing on the tradition embrace it fully, are enthusiastic about living its values, and able to commend them effectively and ensure that they govern their relationships with the people whom they serve and with one another.

Their capacity to commend the tradition will depend on mutual trust between the leaders of the organisations and the staff that both hold and live by its values, and that they are united in respect for the dignity of each human being, and particularly for the most vulnerable. If that trust breaks down, the tradition will become a source of division and not of unity.

Trust would certainly break down if people were dismissed for contracting same sex marriages. In the context of the plebiscite gay people are particularly vulnerable and so deserving of respect by church organisations, whose members are also particularly sensitive to their claims. They have endured a long history of prejudice and violence, some of it claiming Christian warrant. Catholic organisations therefore have a particular responsibility to respect them, particularly by honouring their own gay staff members and clients. The credibility of Catholic organisations as Christian and as humane is at stake.

In short it would be inconceivable for Catholic based organisations to dismiss people who contract gay marriages. It would both be inconsistent with their own tradition and would make it impossible to for them to commend that tradition to their own members of staff.



Andrew HamiltonAndrew Hamilton is consulting editor of Eureka Street.

Topic tags: Andrew Hamilton, marriage equality, Archbishop Denis Hart



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Existing comments

Today's title says it all, Fr Andrew. That is how it must be in claiming a Christian allegiance. But in saying that, it doesn't mean that an institution responsible for teaching the Catholic faith to the young is obliged to employ any person who may be perceived to threaten the teachings the institution is required to promote. In the same way, it would be inappropriate for a Catholic teaching Hospital to employ an outspoken supporter of euthanasia or abortion in the public sphere particularly if the proponent demanded to practice these procedures in a Catholic hospital in accordance with his or perceived rights even though those rights are at odds with Catholic morality and practice.. Even more importantly such demands should not be supported by changes in civil legal governance The "problem" that has arisen for the Catholic Church in its attitude towards the gay community would not exist at all if the gay community had the maturity to keep the sexual lives of its members private as most sensible people do including many in the gay community. Surely there is nothing of value to be had in proclaiming one's sexuality from the rooftops while at the same time demanding the attention of the rest of society, the changing of its laws and the removal of the rights of a religious institution to employ only those people who are going to be faithful to the religious teachings it promotes, It is a hackneyed phrase that the young learn most from example. Religious institutions are also entitled to social justice and the protection of their rights.

john frawley | 30 August 2017  

For as long as I have been involved in them, and longer, Catholic institutions have employed people whose private "life-styles" have not been consistent with Catholic teaching. Problems have only arisen when these institutions' apostolic mandate and exercise of pastoral care towards staff have been openly flouted or exploited by staff, provoking leaders and authorities responsible for the defining beliefs and values of the institutions' ethos to take appropriate action.

John | 30 August 2017  

As a heterosexual married man I think I can say that the Catholic Church in this country could very well be regarded by many of it former members or so/so members as "The Church I left behind me." Many couldn't give a damn. Despite the regular appointment of conservatives to the episcopate, the same snake oil doesn't work. The Irish ethnic side to the Church has been diluted. As someone of English descent I think 'About time!' Is there a future? The more I see of Church governance in this country and I would see the same problems with the Anglicans and Uniting Church, the more I feel myself moving towards the Society of Friends.

Edward Fido | 30 August 2017  

I agree, Father Andrew, that to dismiss a gay employee who is married to a same sex partner and who has done nothing in their teaching role to cause complaint would be an injustice according to our modern lights. But what convinces you that it is the “tradition” of the Church to respect human beings (for what they are)? The Church has never done so! Sure, it has formulated a nice systematic theological schema to use whenever it wants to argue a particular point, including why heretics should be burnt or people deprived of sacraments. But let’s not kid ourselves here: what you are proposing is a kind of “middle way”, but it’s too far by halves. The real, practical, relevant tradition of the Church is that it alone has truth, its only teachers of authority are the clergy, and that anyone whose cause or interests do not mesh with the agenda of the official structure, are personae non gratae (where not actually punished). Don’t project your own aspirations onto historical reality: there are many traditions of the Church that are deeply flawed and this is one of them.

smk | 30 August 2017  

Radical respect indeed. Thanks for the bigger picture offered here.

Julie Perrin | 30 August 2017  

Andrew, thank you, an excellent analysis. So much of ministry today is pre-evangelization, tilling the ground in preparation for the seed of the Word to be planted. It seems to me that that is our ministerial call: to prepare our culture for God's Spirit to work. As you say, an inclusive, genuinely Catholic church is open to everyone, not just the committed.

Paul Collins | 30 August 2017  

You get to the heart of this issue, Andrew. Many thanks!

Jo Jordan | 30 August 2017  

Well said, Andrew. Your last paragraph will raise blood pressure in certain quarters. Your attitude and that of Xavier and Riverview do credit to the Jesuits. And John Frawley, I hope you realise that your tying euthanasia/abortion with this simple issue is the very thing that is the core of the hurtful No campaign - Tony Abbott would be proud of you.

Frank | 30 August 2017  

The coming postal plebiscite, as Fr Andrew observes, brings into sharp focus issues affecting Catholic institutions, not the least, Catholic schools.The religious, social, cultural, and economic complexion of most Catholic schools has undergone significant change since their founding years, and particularly since the 1960s. Schools have largely become in all these dimensions a microcosm of change in Australian society,This phenomenon, increasingly, and now with some urgency, raises the question of how Catholic schools are to practise and signify in a more than nominal way the distinctive marks of the Catholic tradition - for instance, sacramental participation, which includes instruction on sexual morality and marriage. Already many Catholic parents intent on raising their children Catholic as they promised in their marriage vows, have abandoned their expectation of support from the school environment in their efforts to raise their children in a recognizably Catholic way, either home-schooling or sending them to a State school. For many such parents it is a case, as one recently put it, of " . . . being deprived, bit by bit, of our and our children's birth right." When I responded to this mother of four that schools these days do promote an ethos based on social justice, a practical expression of faith, she replied: "We can get this down the road" ( i.e, at the local State school.") She also expressed dismay and indignation at feeling " . . . we're the exception rather than the rule in what is supposed to be our home environment." Though she and her husband take their children to Mass on Sundays, their efforts are made more difficult by the lack of support experienced by their children from the majority of their peers, for whom the mantra-like "You don't have to go to church to be a good Christian" appears to supply sufficient theological justification. In these circumstances, a doctrinally informed and faith-practising staff is a critical part of the evangelizing rationale of a Catholic school.

John | 30 August 2017  

What an appalling article by Andrew Hamilton! ! Of course proponents of gay marriage should be treated with respect, but this does not mean that the Christian, Jewish and Islamic message that has been the bedrock of society for thousands of years is now seen as irrelevant. Perhaps the writer could brush up on Genesis 18 and 19, and the Letter of Jude.

Judith Gibbs | 30 August 2017  

"where the Catholic Church is a primary allegiance"..... Religious people, in general, see God as a Universal and Constant Father. providing us with a Reality to which we respond (usually), as part of a communal 'family' that we regard as our religious 'Mother.' As Catholics we see the Catholic Church as this 'Mother'. Muslims and Jews embrace other 'Mothers'. In every case our 'primary allegiance' should be to God, NOT to our communal 'family, or 'Mother', which is always an all- too-human interpretation of God's Reality. This misplaced 'primary' allegiance is the cause of most of the conflict between religions, and the world-wide decline in respect for religion and our ability to respond positively to Faith in, and Love of God.

Robert Liddy | 30 August 2017  

What you have vocalised of your experience of Catholic education in your second comment, John, is a far greater concern for Catholic education than is the employment of a gay teacher. The Catholic education system is besotted by the delusion that social justice is the essence of Catholicism and has abandoned the teaching of Catholic doctrine and in particular the significance of the core of Catholicism the enduring presence of the risen Christ present with his people through the sacraments. Most Catholic [un]educated children have any idea of the significance of the sacramental church. A parent feeling that she /he is the exception rather than the rule with their own Catholic family is a very poignant and sad truth for many whose children have been uneducated in Catholic schools. A great sadness!

john frawley | 30 August 2017  

Thanks Andrew for such a good piece. Our tradition is inclusive and our mission is to keep it that way.

Francis Sullivan | 30 August 2017  

Frank. I don't see this article as being about gay marriage and the "NO" campaign. It has a far wider vision which includes all employing institutions including Catholic hospitals. I was simply drawing as an illustration the parallel of employment of doctors or nurses who proposed euthanasia and abortion, the two major ethical issues faced by such hospitals. I have not tied these to the issue of gay marriage which is largely irrelevant to what I understand Fr Hamilton to be talking about. I am not a "No" campaigner, am not a fan of Tony Abbott and regret having offended you, even though I find no reason why you should have been offended. Hope you accept my apology.

john frawley | 30 August 2017  

Your apology was unnecessary, John, and accepted. Is it something in my mathematical background that has me picking small points in an argument rather than the core? Which is what I do now in reference to the other John's comment. At the very end he speaks of the 'evangelising rationale of Catholic schools.' A fine Headmaster, a religious Brother, once explained to me that he saw our and all Catholic schools as a service OF the church rather than a service FOR the church.

frank | 30 August 2017  

Judith, I can't speak for the Jewish or Islamic faiths, but as an ordained Christian minister I feel I must speak up for the Christian faith, which very clearly bears witness to the infinite, expansive love of a God who embraces and enables a rich variety of expressions of loving human relationships. It is that divine love that 'has been the bedrock of society for thousands of years', as it will continue to be when my gay friends are able to marry.

Lisa Stewart | 30 August 2017  

John Frawley - it is indeed a great sadness. It is also a task to be taken up with faith and intelligence: for Christ and his Gospel; for parents and children; and for society. The Catholic tradition, for all its historical failings identified by recent popes, is blessed to have luminous forerunners relevant to its contemporary renewing enterprise, including our own St Mary of the Cross MacKillop.

John | 30 August 2017  

Andrew starts his article with a line that is true but not necessarily the truth, "A threat reportedly made, and later denied". The structure of words generates doubts in the denial. I would hope that Andrew himself spoke to the Archbishop before accepting a reporter's version. When one reads a learned position paper as Andrew has just presented the opening is key. I know as a teacher of many years in the Archdiocese of Melbourne that schools do not look into the private lives of staff unless a public position is taken challenging Church teaching. Perhaps the Church in Melbourne is more inclusive than Andrew is aware.

Kevin | 30 August 2017  

Ethos brings to my mind the image of Teilhard de Chardin, "the rising eddy on a descending current". More and more we have to accept that ethos is a descending current of atomised opinions among us, whether they be moral, political, economic etc. There's not much value in trying to tread water. Equally more and more, then, do we need to find like-minded folk who might share our values, and with them hope to become 'successfully' rising eddies in the quest of the 'ought to be' of life, albeit in keeping with the "law of modest returns" that will run with the "big numbers" of large institutions. In any macro institution e.g., church, hospital etc., I see the value of a small group that willingly meets the downward current head on, so that people know we subscribe to a difference we think worth defending. The group will not be enslaved to social media; at the same time it will not ignore it's value as here on Eureka St.

Noel McMaster | 30 August 2017  

Well, Frank, perhaps it's the influence of Jesuit spirituality, where those making retreats based on the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius Loyola are directed to ask themselves practically: "What I have I done for Christ, what am I doing fro Christ, what will I do for Christ . . . ?

John | 30 August 2017  

It would appear, from articles in this magazine and through public statements by people such as Chris Middleton, Rector of Xavier, the Society of Jesus in this country is supporting nondiscrimination in the employment of Catholics or others who do not conform to Church teachings on matters regarding sexuality and marriage in Catholic institutions, including those they run. This, to me, is not a conspiracy but a progressive public stance. ++ Dennis Hart has also made a conciliatory statement on the subject. As Lisa Stewart points out there are differences on sexuality amongst Christian thinkers. These differences have, in fact, led to a deo facto schism in the Anglican Communion. When I see the increasingly acrimonious, sometimes downright abusive debate on same sex marriage and not-that-occasional threats from extremists on the fringe I am sickened. The process, including the High Court challenge to the associated referendum, is like the Death of 1000 cuts. It puts you off Churches for life.

Edward Fido | 30 August 2017  

Andy, great thanks for your generous and judiciously argued contribution to this necessary debate, especially in terms of the many qualifiers inevitably expected and expressed by some nay-sayers here. Years ago, while teaching in the Archdiocese of Perth, I witnessed the dismissal of a Religious Education Co-ordinator who went out of his way, and into Christ's as I have always been taught to appreciate, to stand up for gay men struck down by the first phase of the AIDS/HIV epidemic. His attitude was brave, yet nonchalant, refusing to discuss whether he was gay or not, which indeed was irrelevant to the public Christian position that he took. Even though he taught in a Girls' Catholic school and therefore posed no threat to the formative gender identity of adolescent boys, his employment prospects were so jeopardised that he was forced to relocate interstate. I hope your tender but assiduously well argued and availing essay, emphasising the pastoral over the juridical, ensures that such a scandal is never repeated. And Great Thanks also to Eureka Street for the courage to face this issue head on, when so many other Catholic media have caved into the assumed conservatism of local archdiocesan censori deputatis.

Dr Michael Furtado | 31 August 2017  

Well said cousin Andrew!

JIm Coghlan | 31 August 2017  

There seems to be hypocritical when it's okay to employ people in same sex relationship, until they get married. As Shaun Micallef said on Mad as Hell, it seems a bit extreme - couldn't they simply be moved to another parish!

Stephen N | 31 August 2017  

Well said.Your comments will raise blood pressure in some people who don't care for many others. The stance and attitude and that of Xavier and Riverview do credit to the Jesuits. Regards, John B. Wilson. (OIU 1960)

John Wilson | 31 August 2017  

All I want to say is thank God for people such as Andrew Hamilton who is able to explain to people just like me what is going on about these contentious issues at the moment. But, I do feel that it is not entirely up to us to make our own judgements until we have come before the Lord who sometimes seem to be ignored in all these issues. I strongly agree that a person's sexuality, gay or not, defacto or not, adulterous or not, strictly speaking should not determine a person's teaching position in a Catholic School or Catholic Hospital, is in total adherence to the teachings of the Catholic Church. As someone has written in one of these published comments, God loves us all - the question is - do we love Him enough? Peggy Spencer

Peggy Spencer | 31 August 2017  

Well done Father Andrew .. spot on! And likewise by the Jesuit Rectors of Xavier and Riverview. At the Last Supper, Jesus gave his "love one another" instruction a total of FIVE times, thereby making it clear this was his central instruction. See John 13:34 (twice), John 13:35, John 15:12 and John 15:17. I interpret the instruction to mean that each and every one of us – regardless of whatever religious beliefs (including Catholic beliefs) or spiritual beliefs we hold and regardless of holding no such beliefs at all – must love ALL others. The Catholic Church and all its members need to follow the instruction. Gerald

Gerald | 31 August 2017  

Gosh.Fr Hamilton is exercising quite a it of constraint and diplomacy I suspect - suggesting that those commenting who seem to be offended by his compassion would prefer a return to the "don't ask don't tell" regime where unmarried staff (hetero/homo) simply lift a life a promiscuous abandon- as long as they keep it quite. Brilliant. Civilised Christian society? OK let's suggest celibacy. It's a bit like the argument against masturbation - only 99% of the human race masturbate - the rest lie.

AURELIUS | 31 August 2017  

Congratulations on putting this view so eloquently. As a staff member of a catholic hospital I agree completely

Anthony Dodds | 31 August 2017  

There seems to be an underlying theme that the Church should serve the contemporary wants of its parishioners in the same way that service providers, for-profit and non-profit, work to keep their customers and clients, losing business when they lose touch. The Church has only one customer, God, to whom its numerous members are products offered up for final acceptance or rejection, and for the quality of whom the Church itself will be held to account. The ‘field hospital’ is not a sop to the feelings of the product but an indictment of him or her, and a chance to review specifications to achieve minimum quality. It’s only human egocentricity that deems the person as the entity to be served. If, as Scripture says, the person doesn’t even own his or her own body, who is there to serve but the actual owner of that body?

Roy Chen Yee | 31 August 2017  

Eureka Street must be one of the safest and sanest places to discuss same sex marriage in Australia. I find the debate outside and the associated carryings on are sometimes a wee bit exaggerated on both sides. I have little doubt SSM will come in. It is the icing on the cake for some older same sex couples who now enjoy all civil rights. My main concern is the younger people who do not have as much financial and political clout and who, both according to themselves and the Australian Psychological Association, which supports SSM, do feel psychologically fragile and threatened. I accept this without demur. I am beginning to be increasingly considered about mental illness and suicide in our young people, who are, indeed, our future. Despite what many of the 'No' camp say, the sky will not fall in. It has not in Ireland, nor Spain. I understand and respect the position of someone like John Frawley. It is the traditional Church position on teaching religion and mentorship and cannot be airbrushed away. I can only hope the dialogue continues respectfully as in the book 'Two views on homosexuality' edited by Preston Sprinkle.

Edward Fido | 31 August 2017  

Thank you for your courteous comments which have taken the issue further. A little further comment on SMK's posting about tradition. I take your points about a fairly constant practice of authoritarian disrespect for people who are divergent and its tendency to develop justifications for itself. My own point was rather different. By tradition I meant the way that faith is lived out in the church, not simply doctrine. I see in the life of the churches constant initiatives being taken that do embody respect for people who are vulnerable and marginalised - the assistance given to strangers (refugees) in the Roman world, the origins of hospitals in the care of sick pilgrims, the ministry to slaves, plague victims, orphans and poor children later on, and the varied outreach of young Catholics today through the Vinnies and elsewhere. Of course the lived tradition is flawed - care for orphans and children can become brutal and abusive etc. But faith centred on Jesus does seem to keep leading people to recognise and defend in practice the human dignity of the disregarded.

Andy Hamilton | 31 August 2017  

Edward Fido, "The sky will not fall in" in the context of the current debate is a formulaic euphemism utilized frequently by proponents of same-sex marriage to obfuscate the escalation of specific items on the LGBTI's legislative agendum; for instance, the Gail's repeal of Section 37 of Employment Equality Act that protected freedom of religion in Ireland's religious,educational and medical institutions.

John | 31 August 2017  

In calling Edward Fido to account, John has missed the simple fact that the repeal of exemptions permitting employment discrimination in Ireland's Catholic schools relates to a broader universal social justice principle. Most (97%) Irish Catholic schools are state (or public-sector) schools that are simply administered for historico-cultural reasons by the Catholic Church. Through this dispensation, all Irish children have access to a fee-free Catholic education (as in the UK, NZ and most other OECD polities), unlike the situation in Australia, where such access is incumbent upon the payment of a fee. It would appear to be not just fair but also consistent that, since the Irish voted en messe for same-sex marriage, any discriminations attending the previous but by now outdated employment exemptions in regard to Ireland's teachers should be removed. This has nothing to do with the LGBTIQ community but is a flow-on effect of administrative law. I might add that, given the difficulty that Australian Catholic schools now have in raising enough public revenue to meet their costs, and bearing in mind that the arguments surfacing here submit that Catholic schools should only discriminate against unprofessional teachers, it makes complete sense to apply for full Catholic-school funding.

Dr Michael Furtado | 31 August 2017  

Dr Furtado: " . . . this has nothing to do with the LGBTI community . . . " Are you suggesting legislative change occurs in a political vacuum without initiative and advocacy on the part of interest groups?

John | 01 September 2017  

With respect, John, what I'm saying is that you appear in your last comment to embrace a conspiracy theory because it suits a line in this debate about a surreptitiously introduced LGBTIQ-influenced slippery slope. No bracket creep here, except for those with more imagination than policy literacy. The measure was explained before the plebiscite by the Irish Civil Service and accepted as a logical consequence of the legal change subsequently endorsed by the Irish people and enacted by the parliament. It is no different from the roll out of administrative practice following legislative change in any other democratically elected polity and does not apply to private Irish Jesuit/Loreto institutions like Clongowes, Belvedere and Rathfarnham, because they remain unfunded by the Irish state. I wrote to the National Catholic Education Commission, in my capacity as a specialist postdoctoral researcher in global Catholic school funding, pointing to the opportunity for integrated Catholic systemic schools (as in NZ, once on offer in this country) that such a change offers for the provision of a fee-free Australian Catholic education in the context of much greater public demand for accountability in upholding the principle of just differential school funding apportionments, but so far without reply.

Dr Michael Furtado | 01 September 2017  

Thank you for this article which is of help to me as I ponder my response to the plebiscite.I certainly do not see why some people (often homosexuals) proclaim their sexuality in situations where it is not needed to be discussed. I wonder if some, the vociferous ones. want "marriage equality"simply to make a statement . If teachers find themselves in a school with different values from their own, it would be helpful not to engage in discussion with students .

Mary | 02 September 2017  

Refreshing and more in line with how Jesus wants us to live. The 'establishment's position' on so much has encouraged me to no longer claim to be a Catholic. I am a Christian.

Pauline | 02 September 2017  

Dr Furtado: The reality of the change to Section 37 is that it was initiated by an amalgamation of several lobby groups, including LGBTQ. This is well and widely documented, but let it suffice here to refer to just two sources: Dr Aoife Neary's (Limerick University) "Unravelling 'Ethos' and Section 37 (i): the Experience of LGBTQ Teachers"; and Solidarity's (Ireland) Newsletter of the week before the Gail vote, following closely upon the legalization of SSM. One does not need recourse to terms like "slippery slope" and "conspiracy theory" to recognize a programmatic approach in effectively re-defining Catholic schools and other institutions, and an international network of common interest in promoting ideology, strategies and campaign methods.It would be, at very least, naive to think otherwise. Moreover, since, when Ireland's law approved SSM it was very common for her to be regarded as a flagship of marriage redefinition by Australian supporters, what reason is there for thinking other than that similar legalized restrictions on religious freedom will be initiated here? With respect, Doctor, your legal and technical explanation does not eclipse the facts of what has been politically designed and effected.

John | 02 September 2017  

Mary, as a teacher educator I undertook to convey that one is bound to uphold the ethical standards of the profession, which means that personal disclosure should only be in context and not imposed as an act of self-indulgence. This would apply as much in a Catholic school as any other. That said, your insinuation that LGBTIQ teachers are publicity-seekers is somewhat naive as well as unjust. Teachers come in all shapes, colours and, in gendered terms, sizes. To be closetted is to assume that heteronormative standards and practices must prevail to the exclusion of difference, especially in minorities. All schools, whether Catholic or otherwise, are required by virtue of their social studies programs as well as through the moral education inherent within religious education, to celebrate diversity as well as inclusiveness. And, most importantly of all, if the hidden curriculum is not addressed, any wise principal would tell you that it emerges in unfortunate ways until someone is forced to open it up in damage control. The Christian Gospels also speak to the importance of creating opportunities for this kind of virtuous insurrection, as Jesus Himself did in turning the established values and respectabilities of his time upside down.

Dr Michael Furtado | 02 September 2017  

John, Dr Neary, like me, specialises in education sociology, and not in Irish constitutional law. Her research was appropriately conducted enroute to the Irish plebiscite and not after it, as a result of which there could be no suggestion that the Irish electorate, or even a sample of Irish teachers, voted on Marriage Equality and its ramifications with their eyes closed. Far from sounding a warning, Dr Neary makes her objectivity explicit, declaring instead her interest in how discourses of heteronormativity and homonormativity in teachers impact on teacher practice and especially teacher identity disclosure in terms of the extensions that were always planned to be lifted from public sector schools. To all intents and purposes, the Catholic Church in Ireland is still the major provider of public education at the primary and secondary levels (and in my view, long may it continue to remain so, because, as a Catholic, I subscribe to the view that parents, including all who voted in the plebiscite, are the first educators). When I researched the question of LGBTIQ threat to the ethos of Catholic schools in NZ, their Executive Director informed me that proselytising on any front would continue to be grounds for dismissal.

Dr Michael Furtado | 03 September 2017  

Well done, Andrew. It is also to be remembered Catholic & independent schools and other welfare organisations are also significantly funded through government finance (our taxes) and by other legal/taxation exemptions. It is not a good look to receive such generosity and not be generous in return. I feel that what one does outside ones working hours is ones own personal right and business. Agree while at work one must work according to the general ethos of one's employer.

Ivan Tchernegovski | 04 September 2017  

Mes excuses; in my last post I mistakenly typed 'extensions' instead of 'exemptions'. Pardon.

Dr Michael Furtado | 04 September 2017  

Dr Furtado: I don't suggest that Dr Neary is "sounding a warning"; rather, I indicate simply that her cited report evidences significant involvement in the reform of Section 37 on the part of LBGTQ.

John | 04 September 2017  

I couldn't agree more Ivan. I thought that we had got beyond the 'no Catholics needs apply' era. It seems that some archbishops are slow learners.

Ginger Meggs | 04 September 2017  

John, there is no evidence that the lifting of exemptions within Section 37 was either initiated by or solely the work of the Irish LGBTIQ community or teachers. In fact, the legislative change was introduced, as one might expect, by the Dail's Education Minister, TD Aidan O'Riordan, as is appropriate for any change of this kind, rather than by a backbencher or non-aligned member of the Dail, or perhaps even a Dail member who happens to be LGBTIQ. Moreover Dr Neary does not say so but instead points to the threat that the exemptions as they stood imposed on LGBTIQ teachers and doctors and others working in fully-funded Irish government institutions administered by the Church. In fact, a further article by Dr Amy Dunne, and cited below, emphasises the disproportionality of the exemptions before their subsequent amendation, in comparison with similar exemptions in other European community jurisdictions, it being the case that such extravagant exemptions for Ireland's government schools have been under the critical scrutiny of human rights and constitutional lawyers for several years so as to bring Irish legislation into line with Europe's in this regard. https://utrechtjournal.org/articles/10.5334/ujiel.dh/

Dr Michael Furtado | 05 September 2017  

John Frawley, it is not true that Catholic schools have abandoned the teaching of doctrine. They have not. the "To Know, Worship and Love" series of texts underpins the Catholic primary and secondary school religious education programmes in Melbourne. These programmes were initiated at the turn of this century under the direction of then Archbishop George Pell. Secondary students in Catholic schools have a minimum of five hours religious education tuition per fortnight and this increases to eight at VCE level. Yes, eight! Yet to whom is the Catholic school now teaching its doctrine is moreso the question. Today 30% of students attending Catholic schools across the country are not Catholic. Leadership has decided that the enrolment of non-Catholics is the way to go while maintaining a doctrinally-rich Catholic Religious Education programme. To what avail? What is the point of teaching Catholic doctrine to non-Catholics? If the role of a Catholic school is to disseminate the Catholic faith then it is understandable that it would not allow for people who openly contravene Catholic teaching to serve as teachers: of the Catholic faith. This is different from hospitals where patients are not being 'taught' a faith, but rather experiencing one. If schools are to become like Catholic hospitals then perhaps it is time that they abandoned the teaching of Religious Education or at least made it an elective! (My personal position is that I would love to see the blessing of sacramental marriage extended to people who were created gay.)

Brenda | 16 September 2017  

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The intended postal plebiscite is profoundly undemocratic. It will be conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in the hope that it will be considered a 'gathering of statistics', not an electoral matter requiring oversight by the Australian Electoral Commission and an appropriation of funds by the parliament. The federal government is circumventing the will of the parliament. This is part of a broader trend to attack, undermine, defund, and erode the democratic institutions we rely on.


Inside the 'glass closet' of a gay Catholic teacher

  • Alex Ryan
  • 29 August 2017

Being both gay and Catholic leads to a somewhat fraught existence. On one hand, we have our Catholic peers who, frequently, have trouble empathising with what it means to be 'intrinsically disordered'. On the other, we have our queer friends who are, understandably, sceptical of our allegiance to an organisation that has a deep history of discrimination towards people like us. This existence is further complicated for those of us who choose to partake in ministry that sees us employed by the Church.