ARCHDIOCESE of Seattle authorities can and should reinstate Mark Zmuda. He is the beloved teacher, administrator and coach at Eastside Catholic High School who was forced to resign his position (i.e. fired) because the archdiocese found out he married his male partner last summer.
Mike Patterson, an attorney for the school, stated that those who work in Roman Catholic schools within the archdiocese must “abide by church teaching, and one of those teachings is they do not approve of this marriage.”
Since Zmuda did not adhere to this teaching, the church had no choice but to ask him to terminate his employment. “Everyone who works for the school understands this,” Patterson said.
Really? Does every person who works in Catholic schools, Catholic parishes, Catholic Charities, Catholic hospitals and Catholic colleges know, understand and adhere to all church teachings?
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Do the administrators of these institutions fairly and equally enforce this? Recent surveys report that more than 90 percent of practicing Catholics use some form of artificial birth control, a practice that is contrary to Catholic Church teaching.
Large numbers of Catholics divorce and remarry outside of the church, a practice that is in direct conflict with the magisterium of the church. Many of these Catholics work for Catholic institutions within the Archdiocese of Seattle, yet they are not being forced to resign, nor should they be. Gay married persons are being singled out.
Catholic institutions continually make choices about which violations of their rules they will tolerate based on the populations they serve, the funding streams that support their mission and the nature of their employee base. Some Catholic programs cannot enforce discriminatory policies because it would jeopardize their public funding, which provides the vast majority of their revenue.
Forcing an employee to resign is not automatic. It is a local decision
In an interview last summer, Pope Francis said, “Who am I to judge?” when asked about our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters. Maybe it’s time for the Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle to take this to heart.
Can our church leaders put fairness, inclusiveness, and love above rules — especially man-made rules that no longer make sense in light of modern science, psychology culture and the working of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Catholics worldwide?
All of us who work or have worked for the church and who have not adhered to every church teaching should stand with the students of Eastside Catholic High School in their protest of Zmuda’s termination. They see their beloved Mr. Z’s ousting for what it is: arbitrary, unfair and discriminatory. They, and we, feel he should be reinstated.
Our church leaders do have a choice. They can shun all of us who, in following our consciences, have chosen not to adhere to all of the teachings of the church.
Or they can follow the example of Pope Francis, who said, “Our church should be the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people.”
We hope our archdiocesan leaders will welcome Mark Zmuda back home so that he can continue to serve students, faculty and parents of Eastside Catholic High School.
Barbara Guzzo is a Catholic in Seattle who has worked in education, management and human resources. Kirby Brown is a Seattle-area Catholic now retired after working in pastoral ministry and social services.