Oppose Catholic Employment Discrimination

In North Carolina, a Catholic bishop is arguing in court that the church must have a fundamental right to fire LGBT Catholic employees who exercise their legal right to marry.

Lonnie Billard, left, with husband Richard Donham (pic – New Ways Ministry)

A bishop has claimed that the diocese over which he presides would be “irreparably damaged” if it is unable to fire church workers at will.

Bishop Peter Jugis of Charlotte, North Carolina, made his remarks while being deposed in the federal workplace discrimination court case of Lonnie Billard, who was fired from Charlotte Catholic High School in 2014 when his engagement to a man became public.

Jugis said in the deposition that continuing to employ church workers who advocate against or violate “fundamental moral tenets” of church teaching would be a cause for “scandal.”

-New Ways Ministry

What is truly scandalous, is when church bishops ignore both the Gospels’ clear message of inclusion for all, and the Church’s own teaching on the primacy of conscience and the importance of social justice – including employment justice.

Bishop Jugis should also remember that by no stretch of the imagination, is Vatican doctrine about same-sex marriage a “fundamental tenet” of church teaching. The most fundamental tenets are those proclaimed in the creed, and below those, the decrees of ecumenical councils, and papal encyclicals. None of these have anything at all to say about gay marriage.

What we have, is a couple of letters from the CDF – outranked in importance by Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “The Joy of Love”, which states that the church is opposed to same-sex marriage – but also emphasises the importance of pastoral accompaniment for gay people, listening to them, freedom of conscience and discernment on moral choices. It also notes that what may well be true in the abstract, is not necessarily so subjectively, for individual persons. Many would infer from this document that gay Catholics who in good conscience choose to marry a same-sex spouse, are acting in full accord with the full magisterium. At worst, even if there is a conflict, it is not remotely with any “fundamental tenet” of teaching.

In addition to the magisterium from the papacy, there is also the magisterium of the bishops. It is from these, that the bulk of the arguments against gay marriage have come in the past – but even this is changing. As this site has carefully recorded, a steadily increasing number of Catholic bishops are coming to accept the value of legal protections for same-sex civil unions. Some (eg, in Australia at present) are now starting go further, and accept that because there is a fundamental distinction between civil marriage and the sacrament of matrimony, there “is a case” for supporting gay civil marriage.

Finally, there is the important but frequently overlooked “magisterium of the laity”, also known as the “sensus fideii“. Abundant social research has shown that right across North America, Western Europe and many other areas, ordinary Catholics in fact support marriage equality. In the broader field of sexual ethics as a whole, there is no evidence at all that the Catholics globally have accepted the core Vatican doctrine of no sex at all, outside of marriage and open to procreation.

Without reception by the sensus fideii, it is not even clear that Vatican statements against gay marriage have any sound legitimacy as teaching at all – let alone far-fetched claims of “fundamental tenets” thereof.

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