Friday, January 17, 2014

Archdiocese makes first comments on Eastside Catholic firing

The Seattle Archdiocese today made its first public comments about the former Eastside Catholic vice principal who was terminated in December after school officials learned he had married his gay partner.

Spokesman Greg Magnoni said the archdiocese would “take into consideration” the nearly 21,000 petition signatures of people from around the world who are asking Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain and the administration at Eastside Catholic High School to reassess their position on homosexuality and gay marriage and end these kinds of dismissals.

Until today, the archdiocese had remained silent on the matter, pointing out that Eastside is an independent private school, affiliated with the diocese but overseen by its own board of directors.

About 40 people marched to the archdiocese offices to deliver the signatures, and in a move that surprised everyone, Magnoni agreed to make himself available briefly for questions.

He repeated that the decision to dismiss Vice Principal Mark Zmuda was not made by the archdiocese, but by the privately run school.

“To fulfill their mission, Catholic schools have a right to expect school leaders not only pass on Catholic teachings, but model it,” Magnoni said. “We have a responsibility to support Catholic schools in their efforts to uphold their principles and their traditions.”

Catholic doctrine rejects same-sex marriage.

Magnoni told those gathered that Zmuda’s decision to marry presented the school with myriad challenges. 

“Ultimately, the school decided that it had to be faithful to its mission as a Catholic school and the archdiocese supports the school board and the administration in its decision,” he said.

Asked if the archbishop would engage the students in a dialogue on this issue, he said, “We’ll take that under consideration.”

Zmuda’s termination triggered a sit-in by students at Eastside and another Seattle Catholic school and has led to a series of rallies and protests. Students at Eastside also presented the petition signatures today to administrators at Eastside.

They, along with Eastside alumni and supporters of Zmuda, have vowed to keep the pressure on. 

“The year is 2014,” Corey Sinser, a 2006 graduate of Eastside wrote in a letter to Sartain that was presented along with the signatures.

“It’s time to stop firing teachers for being gay.”

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