A Jesuit parish priest who marched in a homosexual parade is now citing Pope Francis to protest the dismissal of an Eastside Catholic High School vice principal following his same-sex marriage, according to the priest’s Facebook site.
In December, The Cardinal Newman Society reported on the forced resignation of Vice Principal Mark Zmuda at a Catholic high school in the Archdiocese of Seattle.
Students at Eastside Catholic High School subsequently created a petition at Change.org, 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.
In light of the burgeoning protests, Father John Whitney, S.J., wrote in his piece entitled “The Acts of the Orange and Blue Apostles” that he believes Pope Francis would approve of the students’ protests and that they are an example that other Catholics should follow:
…Over the last year, and especially as I have listened to Pope Francis speak of the need for “uproar” by religious, or call young people to make “a mess” in their dioceses. Like many, I have been refreshed and renewed not by some great doctrinal changes, but by the absence of fear expressed in the words of the Holy Father; by his trust in the workings of the Holy Spirit and his passion for courageous acts of faith—even acts that risk error or end in failure. For Francis, it seems, the timidity of tightly held borders, the safe-harbor of accepted opinion and doctrinal purity risks a greater sin—a greater loss to the Church—than the dangerous paths of love and welcome. Ships may be safe within the harbor, but that is not what ships are for. Like the Church of Acts, Francis calls today’s Church to a fearless proclamation of Christ and the Gospel, even though trying to understand such a proclamation may lead us to conflict and disruption.
In the last few weeks, the students of Eastside Catholic High School, and their companions from other schools in the area, have given us an example of the kind of passionate discernment, motivated by the Gospel, that characterizes an important dimension of Catholic education—and, indeed, should characterize our faith both in and out of school. Regardless of the particulars of this situation (and personnel issues may have complexities I do not know), these students have spoken up as products of Catholic education, as women and men motivated by the Spirit and by their own experience of grace. Though it is a painful time, their teachers and their parents should be proud of the Gospel spirit that has been planted in these young hearts. Likewise, we in the broader Church should be grateful for the mess these young people bring, and should listen with compassion and openness to the Spirit that moves within them. Their love, their gentleness, their quest to make of the Church “the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people,” demands more than the silence of authority; it demands communion and engagement with the Church—i.e., education, direction, dialogue—since their spirit is a sign of the Church and is life-blood for the Church. May we engage, with fearless love, at the side of our younger sisters and brothers; and may we trust in the God whose Church we are all becoming.
Fr. Whitney defended his marching in the Seattle gay pride parade in his parish bulletin and invited parishioners to join him. In that bulletin, he compared the Church’s teaching to Old Testament dietary restrictions.
In a 2012 interview with NPR, he called the bishops’ position defending traditional marriage “a denial of civil rights.”
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