A Catholic school’s lesbian counselor dismissed upon discovery she is married to a woman is receiving the support of students and parents.
Shelly Fitzgerald, a longtime guidance counselor at Roncalli High School, Illinois, has been on indefinite paid leave since 14 August.
The counselor was offered the choice to dissolve her marriage or resign. The decision which sparked the outrage of the community.
Fitzgerald and her partner married in 2014. They have been together for 22 years, and have one child.
Parents support the counselor
Demonstrators who support the counselor were outside the school on Thursday night (23 August).
They played Lean on Me, a sort of anthem for the Roncalli community. They also waved flags and signs at other parents leaving the first of several small group meetings with Roncalli administrators.
The demonstration was a chance for the parents to weigh in on the issue.
‘Hopefully, we really need to band together to go against what the establishment is so we can provoke change, get the contract changed, to let people in Shelly’s circumstance do their job,’ parent Heather Prentice told WTHR.
Students express their solidarity to Fitzgerald
‘Who you love has absolutely nothing to do with your ability to do a wonderful job,’ said Andrea McHugh, a pro-Fitzgerald demonstrator.
‘My mom was a Catholic school teacher for years and years. I am a devout Catholic and I can tell you it is shameful that Roncalli can’t change with the times as they should,’ said Kathy Keating, a Roncalli grad.
Fitzgerald says ‘our churches are these kids’
Fitzgerald’s sister said Shelly feels ‘that our churches are these kids. And the parents who are standing up for me’.
She reported her sister’s comments on parents threatening to pull their children from school.
‘Our church isn’t the hate and she doesn’t want, she loves Roncalli, and she doesn’t want anybody to pull their kids from Roncalli. That’s the last thing that she wants them to do because she loves Roncalli, she still does.’
The archbishop’s letter
The Archdiocese of Indianapolis defended the school’s decision to put the counselor on leave.
In an open letter, Archbishop Charles C. Thompson wrote Fitzgerald ‘is living in a civil marriage to another woman that is not valid in the eyes of the Church’.
He also entered the conversation about the reasons for the dismissal. The school, in fact, considers Fitzgerald not apt to fulfill her contractual obligations.
‘The issue concerning Ms. Fitzgerald’s employment is not about sexual orientation, but about the Church’s teaching that marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman as established and revealed by God,’ he also wrote.
He also provided a very thorough definition of marriage according to the Catholic church.
‘By its very nature, marriage is a permanent partnership between one man and one woman ordered to the good of the couple and the procreation and education of children.’
The Archbishop also clarified that ‘there is nothing in Church teaching that says being gay or lesbian is a sin’.
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