Roncalli High School is a catholic school on the south side of Indianapolis, about 20 minutes or so from where I live. Shelly Fitzgerald is a guidance counselor at the school, at least until four weeks ago when she was suspended for breaching her contract.
Administrators were made aware of the breach of contract after someone forwarded a copy of Mrs. Fitzgerald’s marriage license, which proved her horrible, awful crime in the eyes of the Catholic Church: that she was married to a woman.
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In what I imagine is a modern-day example of McCarthyism, a member of Fitzgerald’s church gave the certificate to the pastor, who then escalated the issue up the chain of command to the Archdiocese, who notified the school. Because the Catholic Church doesn’t tolerate shenanigans like happily living your life and being a decent person. No, secrecy and inclusion is reserved only for the predator priests who rape children.
According to one of our local news channels, WTHR, Fitzgerald has been employed at Roncalli for 15 years, has been with her wife for the past 22 years, married her wife in 2014, and they have a 12 year old daughter they adopted as an infant. She told WTHR:
“I told them, you know, I’ve been quiet for 15 years so why is this different? I mean I’ve hidden everything from social media. I’ve hidden from people I love because I knew I was at risk for losing my job over this,” Fitzgerald said. “I have no intention of resigning. I have no intention of being quiet. And I didn’t need the counsel that they were offering from priests. My goal, my intent is just to be a catalyst for change. That’s it.”
“There’s a piece of me that is shameful for the message that I’ve taught my daughter in the last 15 years that this is OK to stay quiet to keep a job. But I will tell you the lesson she has seen in this now is one of incredible love,” Fitzgerald said.
I can’t imagine having to publicly hide who you are as a person for most of your adult life. The stress must have been overwhelming, but hopefully she’s feeling some level of catharsis amidst the chaos. As it turns out, Fitzgerald will be on Ellen later today.
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But regardless the language included in her contract, it’s clearly discrimination on behalf of the school/church to ban anyone who is homosexual from employment. But despite this being common sense to any decent person, Indiana’s current anti-discrimination law (IC 22-9-1-1) does not apply to sexual orientation. So legally, there doesn’t appear to be much recourse for Fitzgerald, even if her contract didn’t include the language regarding her sexual orientation. But she has options. The Archdiocese told her that she could either quit or get dissolve her marriage.
You read that correct – the Catholic Church told her that she could get divorced. Let the hypocrisy of that sink in for a moment, then contemplate the fact that one of their top concerns is an upstanding and well-liked member of their community loving someone of the same sex. Christian priorities.
But, it gets worse. Today, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis released a statement with the juxtaposition of claiming Fitzgerald’s suspension isn’t discrimination, but that the “Catholic Church welcomes and embraces all individuals as God created them.”
The full statement regarding Fitzgerald was:
My heart aches along with so many in our church and her ministries and my prayers are with all those who are suffering. As church teachings stand, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis will continue to hold ministers of the faith accountable. We will also continue to listen to the needs and concerns of community members and, particularly, our students.
While it is a difficult time for the church at large, this has also been a difficult time for our diocese and the Roncalli High School family. Misunderstandings, differences of belief and highly-charged emotions have resulted in individuals believing the personnel issue of a guidance counselor at Roncalli is one of discrimination based on sexual orientation. This is not true. Our Catholic Church welcomes and embraces all individuals as God created them.
In the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, high school presidents, principals, guidance counselors and teachers sign contracts and agree to fulfill their ministerial role. If a person violates that contract, leadership must look into the matter and work toward the ideal as identified in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The employee then chooses whether he or she wishes to walk that path of accompaniment.
So they’re saying that it’s not discrimination based on sexual orientation, but based on a breach of a term of the contract that discriminates for sexual orientation. Makes sense if you don’t think about it.
This demonstrates the Catholic Church’s misguided priorities. They would rather break apart a loving family who has been together for 22 years instead of simply allowing them to continue living their lives.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep saying it: it’s time to quit the Catholic Church.