When a Church worker is fired because of who they are or for exercising their civil right to marry a same-sex partner, the situation often disrupts the community they served. If you are a member of a parish, school, or other community where this has happened, you may be feeling upset, angry, sad, or helpless. Here are some steps that have been taken in other communities that may be helpful for you.
Acknowledge that you have a right to your responses, and the ability to act on them in a spirit of love.
It is not only the fired person who has been impacted. Situations like this challenge our sense of community and our expectations of how a Catholic organization should behave. It is natural to have questions, to want to understand more, and to express any opposition you may have to what occurred. It is important to do so respectfully, as well as firmly, and to stay rooted in the core elements of our faith in your response.
Express your support to the person fired, if possible.
Employees and volunteers who have been terminated for being LGBT, a vocal ally, or for getting married often feel very isolated. If you know the person, it is helpful for them to know of your support, and to receive any offers of help. Please do not be insulted if you don’t hear back right away; the fired person often has a great deal to process or may be overwhelmed with the response to her or his situation.
Thinking about a public response? Let the fired person take the lead.
Some people who have been terminated are fine with a public witness that demonstrates solidarity with them and opposition to the dismissal. Others, however, believe this will be harmful to attempts to get another job, or could expose them or their family to unwanted, perhaps even dangerous, attention. It is vitally important that their wishes take precedence.
If a public witness will take place, it is important to be clear on tone and desired outcomes. Will this be a prayerful witness? A press conference? A rally? Who will speak, and what are the key messages? If you need assistance with planning an event, please contact us.
Set up a private or small group meeting with the person in charge.
If you have questions or concerns, it is fine for you and perhaps a few others to request a meeting with the pastor, principal, or director who terminated the worker. Be sure to start the meeting by saying you are motivated by your commitment to the parish, school or organization, and want to understand how something so out of character with your experience of the community could have occurred. Ask for the leader’s report of what happened and listen without interruption. If you still have questions, ask for clarification of anything that is unclear. Then talk about the values you appreciate in the community that you feel have been violated. Is there anything that can be done to rectify the situation? Are there steps you and others can take to ensure something similar does not happen again?
Is a large group meeting needed?
Some communities have found it helpful to come together to discuss the termination and its impact, as well as to get any questions answered. Such a meeting should be carefully structured, well-facilitated, and grounded in prayer. It is important that ground rules for the session be established, articulated, and adhered to. If you need suggestions about who might be available to help with this, please contact us.
There are some groups that use situations like this merely to build their own social media, marketing, and fundraising lists. They have no grounding in or commitment to Catholic values and community. While it may seem like a good way to build awareness of what has happened, having online petitions or politically oriented groups set up actions can backfire and do more damage to an already traumatized community. We urge you to connect with one or more of the partners of Equally Blessed, who are motivated by a vision of an inclusive and just Catholic Church. You can reach out to us and we will direct you to the right person.
We at Equally Blessed are very, very sorry that your community has experienced this injustice. We will do our best to accompany you through the weeks and months ahead.