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Newman Society Responds to Catholic School Controversies Over Same-Sex Marriage

A number of news organizations have recently featured The Cardinal Newman Society’s reaction to controversies over Catholic school employees who have lost their jobs after announcing same-sex weddings.

In December, The Cardinal Newman Society reported on a Catholic high school in the Archdiocese of Seattle which ordered the resignation of Vice Principal Mark Zmuda after his same-sex wedding. Zmuda has argued that he was fired.

Students at Eastside Catholic High School created a petition at Change.org,with encouragement from Zmuda, calling on the Catholic Church to end its opposition to same-sex marriage. The students are also reportedly planning a “Z day” nationwide protest on January 31 to support Zmuda and urge a change in Church teaching, according to the National Catholic Register.

Newman Society President Patrick Reilly told LifeSiteNews last week that the School appeared to have acted appropriately:

“A contract is a contract, and Catholic is Catholic,” Patrick J. Reilly, who analyzes Catholic education trends as president of The Cardinal Newman Society, told LifeSiteNews.com. “It seems that Eastside has been most respectful and generous to Mr. Zmuda in how they handled the situation, but it would be ridiculous for a Catholic school to compromise clear Catholic teachings.”

“There’s nothing admirable in encouraging students to challenge Catholic teaching,” Reilly told LifeSiteNews. “That’s encouraging them to deny truth – the very basis of our Catholic faith.”

…Reilly said the First Amendment allows parochial schools to ask teachers to live up to their own religious teachings.

“A Catholic school cannot be Catholic if it doesn’t regard Catholic teaching to be true,” he said.

This week, Reilly was interviewed by the Catholic News Agency, after an Eastside leader was alleged to have wavered on support for Catholic teaching, and a contract employee announced plans for a same-sex wedding:

“A Catholic school does great damage by appearing inconsistent or embarrassed by the Catholic faith,” said Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, which works to promote Catholic identity in education.

“This is a great opportunity to stand up for the faith, or at least for the rights of a Catholic school to determine its own personnel policies.”

CNA asked whether the Eastside High situation was a sign of danger for other Catholic schools:

Reilly said that in contemporary cultureit is “increasingly dangerous” for a Catholic school to hire employees without requiring “explicit support” for its Catholic mission and policies.

“School leaders should be faithful Catholics who celebrate the school’s Catholic identity,” he said, adding that while students should not have to be Catholic, they should know that their school is “firmly Catholic” and their parents should support its policies.

“Jesus Christ had perhaps his harshest criticism for those who lead young people astray,” Reilly said. “There’s no room for scandal in a Catholic school.”

Reilly suggested that Catholic schools being “consistently faithful” to Catholic teaching and hiring only employees who “expressly guarantee” their support for the school’s mission would avoid these kinds of controversies.

“Certainly one wouldn’t expect so many students and others to be shocked when such a school upholds Catholic teaching – but there’s no question that being faithfully Catholic is increasingly counter-cultural,” he said.

Also this week, the National Catholic Register asked Reilly about the outlook for Catholic schools:

“There seems to be an increasing number of such cases. The Catholic Church is becoming more countercultural, not because the Church’s teaching is changing, but because the culture is changing, and many Catholics are changing with it,” said Patrick Reilly, who directs the Cardinal Newman Society, a group that is working to strengthen the religious identity of Catholic schools and universities.

LifeSiteNews.com again cited Reilly this week, following news that a Catholic school in the Diocese of Toledo, Ohio, had fired a teacher planning a same-sex wedding—all with strong support from the Diocese, which issued the following statement:

In light of the Church's clear teaching on sacred marriage and the fact that Mr. Panetta himself has publicly indicated his marriage plans are contrary to Church teachings and are the issue at the heart of this matter, the leadership of Sandusky Central Catholic School properly determined that his employment could not continue. When Sandusky Central Catholic School informed the diocese of the situation, the diocese fully concurred it was the correct decision and in keeping with the terms of his Teacher-Minister contract.

Asked if school controversies over same-sex marriages are becoming a pattern, Reilly said:

“Clearly we’re going to see more of this in our Catholic schools and other institutions, so it’s essential that we learn how to respond and get it right from the beginning. That’s what is so encouraging about this case: the school and the Diocese are setting a great example for Catholics instead of shying away from a thorny issue.”

“Catholic educators nationwide can be thankful for this precedent,” Reilly said.

Catholic Education Daily is an online publication of The Cardinal Newman Society. Click here for email updates and free online membership with The Cardinal Newman Society.

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