An unholy spirit

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Last week, a local high-school teacher notified his employer he may be a bit late to work — and his honesty won him immediate termination.

Michael Griffin, a longtime teacher at Holy Ghost Preparatory School in Bucks County, was fired Dec. 6 after he told school officials he was applying for a marriage license with his partner in New Jersey, and thus may not be on time for class.

“Unfortunately, this decision contradicts the terms of his teaching contract at our school, which requires all faculty and staff to follow the teachings of the Church,” said school president the Rev. James McCloskey in a statement.

So, just like that, the 12 years Griffin invested in the school, not to mention the four he spent there as a student, were over. And, seemingly, there’s nothing he can do about it.

There are no federal or state workplace protections for discrimination based on sexual orientation. But, since Griffin worked at a religious institution, such laws wouldn’t help him anyway, as employment nondiscrimination measures tend to have exemptions for religiously affiliated entities.

Even though the school appears to be within its rights to fire Griffin for his same-sex marriage, the action is yet another stain on the Catholic Church.

While the school president argued that Griffin’s marriage put him at odds with church teaching, he failed to note that school officials have known about his same-sex relationship for years; Griffin has stated that he brought his partner to school events, and a school administrator even attended their civil-union ceremony. So having a same-sex relationship was permissible, but taking their relationship to the next level and recognizing it under law, and potentially in a church setting, was not?

By all accounts, Griffin was an exemplary teacher. And this could have been a wonderful teaching moment. Having an out, partnered teacher in an all-boys Catholic school could have done wonders for the young gay men who doubtlessly attend Holy Ghost and who may, or may not, yet be out. If pressed on Griffin’s marriage by opponents of equality, the school could have easily noted it does not condone his relationship but cited his long tenure and commitment to the school and its students. But, as has been echoed across the nation, the Catholic Church instead chose to turn back the clock. and summarily dismiss an otherwise capable and qualified teacher, days before Christmas.

If Griffin’s marriage is in opposition to church teaching, does that mean the school is going to take the same pains to ensure every member of its faculty and staff are abiding by Catholic theology? What if a teacher donates to Planned Parenthood, another sworn enemy of the Church? Or a janitor’s child becomes an avowed atheist? Or a librarian stops going to Sunday Mass?

While Griffin’s termination is likely devastating for him and his fiancé, the students are the real ones who lose out here. Again, the church has sacrificed its future to keep up with a past that should be relegated to the history books.

If the Catholic Church is seeking to create a community lacking in diversity and free thought, it’s doing a damn good job.