How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in't.
-- William Shakespeare, The Tempest
* * * * *
A remarkable thing happened this week.
On Wednesday in Albuquerque, New Mexico: Tippi McCullough, a teacher in Little Rock, married Barb Mariani, a prosecuting attorney. As you can guess from the names, Tippi and Barb are both women, and they were partners for 14 years before tying the knot.
I presume--I don't know them, and haven't spoken with them--that they went to New Mexico to marry because it is legal to do so there and it is not in Arkansas, and not because it is a beautiful place to get married (it is beautiful) or because they are fans of Breaking Bad or that show about witness protection...In Plain Sight.
Of course, none of the above facts are particularly remarkable any more. Same-sex marriage has been around for a while, de jure for a few years and de facto for a lot longer than that. What is remarkable is that Tippi McCullough teaches English at Mount St. Mary Academy, a girls-only Catholic school.
And what is sadly unsurprising is that she was fired on Thursday.
Today's entry is not really about the legal aspects of what happened. I'll say now that legally the school's decision to fire this teacher is almost certainly OK. There is no Arkansas or federal law barring discrimination in employment on the basis of sexual orientation, and I have to think that if one were to be passed it would almost certainly carve out an exception for religious institutions, which MSM is.
And it's not really my place to tell the Catholic Church what its doctrine is or should be, or how they should deign to follow whatever it might be. Our disagreements are too primary for that.
And really, the Catholic Church can be as hypocritical and unfair as it wants to be, and it has demonstrated singular excellence at both of those for a long time.
But--and there is always a "but," because without it this would be an even more boring blog--it is certainly my place, when the Church gets out of line, to say so. If the Church and the Catholics who make it up want a place in our politics, then they are going to have to submit to some criticism from those of us who see this as massively hypocritical and massively unfair.
My understanding, based on reports, is that the school was aware of Tippi McCullough's sexual orientation and the fact that she was in a long-term homosexual relationship, and it had no problem with her teaching there. Perhaps there were ground rules, perhaps not...I can't imagine a teacher's sexual preferences and activities ever being the proper topic of classroom discussion, so I would expect that she would no more need to be told to keep her private life private than would any other teacher, straight or gay.
I'm sure Tippi McCullough is just as excellent an English teacher (29 years under her belt, 15 at the school) as she ever was.
So, what's changed? She's entered into a more committed form of the same relationship she's already been in for 14 years. It's still not a relationship that the Church recognizes as valid. Her marriage is regarded by the Church as a nullity--it never happened.
I believe, although it has never occurred to me until now to inquire, because who cares?, that the Church regards my (heterosexual, long-term, but not solemnized in a Catholic Church) marriage as a nullity.
I have to think that if Tippi McCullough had gone down to the clerk's office and married Bob Mariani instead, in a ceremony that the Catholic Church would not regard as a marriage, then she would still be employed.
And the Church has proven that if there are reports that Father McTouchyfeely has been taking indecent liberties with the plaid-skirted schoolgirls--something far more horrible, even in the fevered imaginations of the repressed prudes that run things, than a woman marrying a woman--he just gets reassigned. (Sorry if that offends my Catholic friends, but the history of that is indisputable.)
For her part, in a response to a letter of protest from outside the MSM community, MSM principal Diane Wolfe wrote, in part, that "would be instructed and bound to do the same action were documentation provided to me that an employee of a Catholic school divorced and remarried without an annulment or if an employee had a side line business of performing abortions." She also claimed that what changed was that a "public document was generated," proving a violation of the morals clause of the contract. "Do you not think," she wrote, that "it took moral courage to carry out and uphold the tenets of the church and the directives of those responsible for giving oversight to those tenets?"
O brave new world, that has such people in't, indeed. Moral courage?
If that is truly what animated this decision, then the inescapable conclusion is that the Church is crying out against our cultural sea change, hoping to shove gays back in the closet. It would rather not have LGBT teachers, of course, but if it is going to have them, could they at least keep quiet about it, and not make too big a fuss?
The problem with that, of course, is that it is a failure of the Good Shepherd to attend to the needs of the sheep, to borrow a metaphor. Putting gays in a closet is inherently damaging. That's not an act of moral courage, no matter how carefully you apply the gloss.
I am told that Tippi McCullough was a "beloved" teacher. For many young women, the teen years can be lonely and isolating, a time of repression and regression. Those are the years when girls' achievement falls behind boys', for reasons that are not yet fully understood. I wonder if what made Tippi McCullough a "beloved" teacher was the kind of perspective and identification and respect that an outsider, who nevertheless overcomes and achieves, brings. Every school could use more of that.