Will the Catholic Church Save Itself From Itself?

Vatican Pope Easter

“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?

Pope Francis seemed to reveal a new tone, if not a new doctrine, on the Catholic Church’s stance on homosexuality. The Pope delivered his statement in an impromptu news conference aboard his papal jet on July 29, 2013 while returning to the Vatican from Brazil after completing his first international trip as Pope where he spoke to millions celebrating “World Youth Day.”

Young people at Eastside Catholic High School, a private school in a suburb of Seattle, Washington have taken this Pope’s words as infallible, but, unfortunately, the administration under the archdiocese of their school must not have received the memo.

Eastside students protested in large numbers by staging a walk-out of classes to support their respected and much-loved vice principal, Mark Zmuda, whom the school terminated, according to Zmuda, because last summer he married another man. Though the Church has a record of terminating school administrators and faculty throughout the country on the “charge” of being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, students at Eastside are demanding the archdiocese follow the lead of their Pope by relinquishing judgment and reinstating their esteemed vice principal.

Students have circulated an online petition, which has already gathered tens of thousands of signatures. The petition reads in part:

“The student body is outraged that an incredible administrator, coach, and human being was fired solely because of his love and marriage for another human being. We are uniting in order to change the Catholic Church’s opposition of gay marriage.”

Students at other Catholic schools have been holding solidarity rallies and protests, and some Eastside alumni have threatened to withhold future donations to the school.

In an interview with one of the students, Zmuda said: “I asked [the administration] if [my marriage] was a breach of contract. They said ‘no.’ I said, ‘did it have to do with my job performance or evaluations’ and they also said ‘no.’” Zmuda went on to say that the administration expressed to him that his firing was the result of his violation of Catholic teaching.

According to local Seattle TV station King 5 news, the school president, Sister Mary Tracy, said: “I suggested to dissolve the marriage to save his job. I was trying to hang onto him.”

Though they were taught and some may have even come to personally accept Church teachings and tenets related to same-sex sexuality and romantic relationships, students, nonetheless, are acting on a higher, wider, deeper, and broader moral plane, a universal moral code built on a foundation of fairness and justice, compassion and care. They, therefore, have much to teach Catholics and others everywhere, and even the Pope himself.

These inspired and emboldened young people have called into question the obvious paradox imposed by the Church, where it proclaims the sanctity of marriage and so-called “family values” and opposes divorce, while simultaneously pushing for the dissolution of two men’s vows, thereby showing its absolute contempt for their family.

To be sure, no one, neither the new Pope nor anyone within the upper hierarchy of the Church has proposed actually changing long-standing policy – from the Catholic catechism that terms homosexuality as “intrinsically disordered,” to its official stands opposing marriage equality, and for that matter, opposition to women’s reproductive freedoms, ordination of women priests, and priestly marriage – even though more and more Catholics stand in opposition to the Church’s proclamations on these issues.

In a recent survey released by Quinnipiac University on October 4 last year, 68 percent of adult Catholics polled said they agreed with the pontiff’s recent statements that the Church has focused too much on issues of homosexuality, abortion, and contraception.

In addition, directly following Francis’s installation last March, a Pew Research poll found that 76 percent of U.S. Catholics want the Church to sanction birth control, 54 percent support marriage for same-sex couples, 64 percent want priests to be able to marry, and 59 percent would like to see women priests.

I don’t have any illusions that the current Catholic leadership, and even the new pontiff, will either want or be able to fully resurrect itself and bring the Church into the modern era, though any movement out of the Middle Ages where it stands entrenched is better than nothing.

With the vision, talent, and energy of its youth, maybe they will continue to shine as a bright gleaming star of hope and change in the night sky. Only then will the Catholic Church have a chance of saving itself from itself.

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–Photo: AP

About Warren Blumenfeld

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); co-editor ofReadings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), and co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press).


  1. It constantly amazes me when people say the Church is forever and time-less and must not come into the current era. But these same people are selective in their references to which parts of scripture they are willing to follow. While they may highlight scriptural proscriptions of same-sex sexuality, they often forget to uphold numerous others, for example. Here are only a few of these from the Christian testaments:

    On Slavery:
    Ephesians 6:5-6: Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as you obey Christ; not only while being watched, and in order to please them, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.

    Scriptural justifications were used to SUPPORT slavery. Many slave ships had on board a Christian minister to help oversee and bless the passage. Slave ship names included: “Jesus,” “Grace of God,” “Angel,” “Liberty,” & “Justice.”

    On the Jews:
    1 Thessalonians 2:15-16 [T]he Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and drove us out, the Jews who are heedless of God’s will and enemies of their fellow man….All this time they have been making up the full measure of their guilt, and now retribution has overtaken the good of all.

    And Jesus said: “If God were your father, you would love me…[but] your father is the devil and you choose to carry out your father’s desires” (John 8:44). The Jews…are Satan’s synagogue (Revelation 2:9). I will make those of Satan’s synagogue, who claim to be Jews but are lying frauds, come and fall down at your feet (Revelation 3:9).

    On Women:
    1 Timothy 2:11-12: Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent.

    1 Corinthians 14:33-35, 37: As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church….what I am writing to you is a command of the Lord.

  2. the key statement is “he searches for the Lord”. Lets put in perspective. Would the principle be allowed to keep his position if he was openly promiscuous?? Or if he was openly gambling? Or if he was cheating on his wife and kept cheating?

    • Well said Ron. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear”. And why exactly should the Catholic Church, or any church for that matter be brought into the “Modern Era”. To what purpose. What makes the author, and others like him, think that the “Modern Era” is so great that we should drop all moralities of the past and embrace the morality of today?

    • You seem to be comparing a committed same sex marriage to a hetero adulterer. Most people these days don’t accept the premise of your argument, this Pope seems to be one of them.

      When I was growing up in the RCC, the nuns and priests drank booze like fish as they gambled all night at the fish fry. It’s one of the few things I appreciated about Catholicism, we weren’t nearly as uptight as the Protestants.

    • Or he’s not paying taxes? Or stealing? Even killing? So what if he searches for the Lord!
      The great evil doers of the world soon will be justified.
      It’s so close to the attempt of editing the Bible, close to ‘The Legend of The Great Inquisitor’ by F. Dostoevskiy

  3. Actually, the Church’s teachings aren’t just medieval, they are timeless–true in all times and places and not subject to being reversed–because they come from the teachings of Jesus (whether direct or implied) which he himself handed down to the apostles and through the Church to us. The Church has always taught to love the sinner but hate the sin when it comes to homosexuality, so Pope Francis said nothing new in terms of dogma or doctrine. Pope Francis is publicly against gay marriage and gay adoption and has even encouraged bishops to speak out on these issues.

    • the RCC cannot withstand the power of social change forever. It has repeatedly eased its position on social issues when it becomes too embarrassing to cling to Medieval and immoral views. Just as its position on slavery, Judaism, even divorce and birth control have become much more moderate and sane, it will come around to treating LGBT pople as human beings because the larger society will demand it. How many Catholics really believe that divorced people are living in sin? People who use condoms or have sex only for pleasure? The church authority, Thomas Aquinas condemned sex for pleasure in an equal way to homosexual sex. Since the Cultural Revolution of the 60s and 70s, this position on sex has become nothing but comedy. It has absolutely nothing to do with Jesus.

  4. Chris Hicke says:

    I love how many people the RCC loses when it tries to tighten its grip. It’s so entertaining watching Catholics openly disagreeing with Francis’ attempts to drag them into the modern era. And it’s really weird to agree with him about anything, though I’m going to remain skeptical of any reform until it involves prosecuting their rapist infestation, and giving gays and women equal rights under RCC doctrine, holy texts be damned.

    • Eduardo García says:

      Pope Francis goes even further. He said that the bible is not to be taken literally, and it is mostly symbolic (hell does not exist). He kicked out and had arrested several currupt bishops, the church confiscated their assets and used the money for charity. He established that is was good actions and not blind faith that saves, so a good atheist is better than a bad Catholic. Greed and the agressive search for money is Idolatry. AND Last one….”Pedofile Priest are monsters”.

      I really hope that some conservative nut does not get any weird ideas about killing him.

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