When Pope Francis was questioned on homosexuality, his reply was, “Who am I to judge?” Although the Pope might not feel comfortable judging one’s sexual orientation, administrators at Cor Jesu Academy, a Catholic all-girls school in St. Louis, are perfectly comfortable doing so.
According to insiders forbidden from discussing the situation, two women – a coach and a teacher – were in a relationship, a fact not known by staff or students. This summer they had a low-key civil union and applied for a mortgage together. When school officials learned about the mortgage application, they promptly dismissed the women. Terminating employment because of one’s sexual orientation is legal in Missouri.
“Discrimination of any kind is unacceptable,” says State Rep. Genise Montecillo. “Workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation is wrong, and I am disappointed that Cor Jesu officials are sending the wrong message to their student body. It’s time that the State Legislature put an end to the legality of work termination based on one’s sexual orientation.” Cor Jesu is in Rep. Montecillo’s district.
“Students, now aware of the situation, haven’t formed any kind of movement in response, and sadly, just seem to accept it,” says a faculty member, “but there may be a move afoot by constituents of good conscience to withhold funds from the annual ‘One Heart – One Spirit – One Vision’ fundraising campaign.”
Alumna Mary Mcdermott Benoist expresseed dismay when hearing about the terminations.
“I am sad to learn of CJA’s decision in light of what our Catholic leader, the Pope, teaches us about acceptance of all people,” she says. “We need to hire teaches who are great at their jobs and set aside their personal lives.”
Another alumnus, who wished to remain anonymous, expressed concern for those in the student body who might be LGBT: “Clearly, this sends the message they aren’t welcome.”
Brian Sieve, a former leader in Catholic Schools in St. Louis and Chicago, wonders why there’s no vocal outrage from alumni.
“I know that the incredible young ladies that graduate from Cor Jesu KNOW that this is wrong,” he says. “Where are their voices? Where are the hundreds, if not thousands of lesbian alumnae? Do the Apostles of the Sacred Heart really have no lesbian members? Do they really see justice in this, or any other LGBT witch hunt?”
On Cor Jesu’s website, President Sr. Barbara Thomas writes: “The environment at CJA fosters spiritual development and concern for others.’Sharing the Love of the heart of Christ’ is not only a phrase that we say, but it is how we live each day at Cor Jesu.”
By all accounts, the two women were dedicated and highly respected at the school. Now that they find themselves purged from their academic community – and unemployed – simply for being lesbians, I think it’s safe to say feel neither concerned about nor loved.
This is a developing story with more updates as they become available.
Update 9/1: One of the women fired, Christina Gambaro, broke her silence in defense of the Cor Jesu community.
“They have not gone public with this story out of respect, and we are beyond grateful for that,” she begins. “Instead, they have written letters to the administration informing them that they have pulled their financial support. You might not think this is much, but it has made enough of an impact that the administration has had to address the dip in support. That, to us, is a victory.”
Gambaro says students and parents have sent many supportive messages and have congratulated her and her partner on their marriage. She also says that not going public was a tough decision.
“When it came down to it, we still have to find new jobs, support ourselves and essentially start over,” she explains. “The stress of any negative responses to our story would have made moving on that much harder. And when it was all finished, the impact would have been minimal to say the least. The law is not on our side, nor is the church, so we have no ground to stand on. If we seriously thought it would make a difference, we would have taken a different approach”.