Will the pope be a rule-changer for schools like Eastside Catholic?
Could the pope change the rules that have compelled Eastside Catholic School to fire a gay teacher?
At Eastside Catholic, the firing of Vice Principal Mark Zmuda led to demonstrations that got national attention, and to the resignation of the school’s president – who carried out the firing – but there’s no indication Zmuda will get his job back.
Michael Paulson, religion editor for the New York Times, says firings like this have been happening around the country as gay marriage is legalized. He told me there are indications the Church is searching for a new approach.
“The Vatican has asked bishops around the world to survey Catholics about attitudes on a variety of issues relating to families and sexuality – including homosexuality and same sex marriage. There have already been results released, just in the last few days, from Catholics in Germany and Switzerland suggesting widespread disagreement among Catholics in the pews on Catholic teachings on these issues,” says Paulson.
As this survey continues, the wildcard in the debate appears to be Pope Francis. There seems to be a feeling he could do anything, and he’s even inclined to shake up the church.
Students at Eastside Catholic have even used one of his messages on World Youth Day last summer, to “make a mess” of things in order to shake the church, as a part of their protests.
But Paulson says we need to acknowledge what we’ve seen so far from the pope, has been a change in tone, not a change in doctrine. “While he’s been much more generous in his comments thus far, there’s no basic change in rules and I don’t know that I’d expect that in the short term future.”
So I asked, if the letter of the law is not going to change, what would happen if at some point, at another school, a staff member gets married in violation of their contract, and the principal just ignored it?
Paulson says that it means a school like Eastside Catholic wouldn’t be able to identify themselves as “Catholic.”
“They use the word Catholic in their name, they market themselves as a Catholic school to Catholic families and technically the Archdiocese of Seattle, in this case has the power to tell them they’re no longer a Catholic institution if they’re not abiding by Catholic rules, and they need to stop selling themselves as a Catholic school. That’s the fear,” says Paulson. “Has that happened? We don’t actually know because that hasn’t been publicly tested.”
MyNorthwest.com’s Alyssa Kleven contributed to this report.