Ethics Dunce: The Archdiocese of Detroit

Terry Gonda has been a loyal member and supporter of the Catholic church for decades, serving as musical director of her parish for over twenty years. She is gay, but never hid the fact from her family, friends, church or pastors. She was also married, to another woman, naturally. This wasn’t a secret.

However, somehow the word got to the Detroit Archdiocese, where it was deemed that her same-sex marriage made her morally unfit to keep her job. On June 12  she received an email reading,  “The Archdiocese is choosing to activate its morality clause to terminate your employment.”

The blow came  just three days before the Supreme Court ruled that employers couldn’t fire workers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Whether the ruling will apply to religious organizations is the subject of other cases before the Court, which heard oral arguments last month in Our Lady of Guadalupe School vs Morrissey-Berru, a case about whether teachers at private, religious schools are subject to the exception in the Civil Rights Act.

Gonda says that her Catholic mentors and employers always modeled Pope Francis’s compassionate and tolerant attitude toward homosexuality. She was never shunned for being gay, nor after her 2011 marriage to  Kirsti Reeve, 51. (That’s Kristi on the left, Terry on the right.) Terry told an interviewer that she is certain the Church believes “they’re doing the right thing — they’re trying to protect the church.”

That’s one hell of a way to do it: fire a loyal employee and devoted Catholic for private “immorality”—this  from an institution that went to outrageous lengths not to fire pedophile priests world-wide. Firing Gonda looks  petty, cruel and hypocritical, because it is.

What Gonda finds especially maddening is that instead of just not renewing her contract when it expired on June 30, the church chose to fire her instead.

“They’re trying to send a message. This is a major shot across the bow,” she said. “They’re trying to sweep the gays out of the church,” added her spouse.  “Would they rather we live in sin?”

The firing  came after a crackdown on liberal Detroit parishes. Church leaders sent a letter to priests in metro Detroit, forbidding them to hold masses for Dignity Detroit and Fortunate Families, support groups for parishioners in the LGBTQ community. Under the last two pastors at Gonda’s parish, the church had gained a reputation as progressive and committed to the progressive agenda.

Retired parish pastor Father Brzezinski  told reporters that Gonda’s marriage was never an issue while he was pastor at St. John Fisher, saying

“There was never a time that we were proclaiming it publicly, nor we were we trying to hide it. It’s unfortunate that the church hasn’t come to a fuller understanding of human sexuality and what’s going on in our lives in terms of the person, their faith and goodness and basically seeing each person in the image and likeness of God. We’ve never seen anything except that likeness of God in Terry.”

Although other members of St. John Fisher say they will look for another place of worship now, Gonda is determined to stay and try to reform the Church from within. The job was not a full-time one, paying only about $5,000 a year  to supplement her full-time job as an engineer at the U.S. Army’s Tank Automotive and Armament Command facility in Warren, Michigan. She and Kristi no longer feel welcome at the parish, she says, but they want to to stay and change people’s hearts.

“I’m uncomfortable with having laws determine these decisions. I think the church needs to do this,”  Gonda says.

She’s obviously an impressive person, and an ethical one. Religious institutions that treat people like Gonda so unfairly are, little by little, step by step, undermining the place of organized religion in society, and it has an essential role to fill in conveying and strengthening values.

_________________________

Sources: Detroit Free Press, New York Times

7 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: The Archdiocese of Detroit

  1. The 1995 film “Spotlight” should have blown the lid off the Roman Church’s utter hypocrisy. We learned then, and we know now, that pedophile priests were and are paid off and then sent on to other parishes where a new crop of young boys were/are there for the taking.

    So now they go after a lesbian couple with stellar reputations and real commitment to the church (lower case intentional)? It is ill. The Roman Church is ill. And with any luck we’ll see its downfall.

    From “Spotlight” and other sources, we learned that 75% of all priests — who have taken a vow of celibacy — have regular sex, not all with children but with other adults. But pedophiles seem to reign, and are protected. And the Pope has the unmitigated gall to say that “priests get their power and their faith through the prayers of the parishoners,” so they need to pray more — for the priests! If priests are losing their faith, and acting accordingly, it is the parishoners fault? Really? Toss it all off on the poor suckers who provide both their emotion and their money to support this institution? The Roman church cannot be at fault, so let’s blame the “faithful.”

    Nonsense. In recent history, from the Vatican’s collusion with the Third Reich (Nazis) to today, this is a self-serving, institution-saving, evil empire.

    I couldn’t care less who believes in God and Jesus, but I do care that hundreds of millions of people take the Roman church and the Vatican as the embodiment of Christian faith, and at the same time they see Islam (as do I) as a prehistoric religion that professes peace and faith while simultaneously requiring murder and death to the non-believer. (I am not letting Protestants off the hook: but this is about a moronic, narcissitic Roman decision…)

    Interestingly, the fastest-growing religious denomination in the US is the Greek Orthodox Church — full of the mythology, incense, ceremony people love. The only difference is that Greek Orthodox priests are allowed and encouraged to marry, have families, and live within the communities they serve.

    The teachings of Jesus (son of God or not) do not, repeat do not, provide for or envision religion as a gigantic corporation, closed to the outside and only out to protect itself. It’s a business, pure and simple, and people suffer because of it.

    We need to grow up. I do believe that some type of spiritual sense and belief (religious or not) is or should be part of the human condition. But this is pure evil by the Roman church. Anyone who wants to explain to me why this is not true is welcome to make their case.

    I

    • To understand the crisis in the Church one has to study it. To understand the crisis we are facing in society-at-large one has to study and understand the break-down in understanding, believing in, the fundamental theology that informs European Catholicism. To understand the so-called Modern Church one has to study Vatican ll. Yet even with that one has to go further back and study the movement to reform the Catholic liturgy. To understand all of it — this is more or less my area of interest — and to understand decadence, social breakdown, and other signs of calamity, involves one in very difficult, and contentious, areas.

      How it came to pass that the present, modern Church was ‘infected’ (excuse the term) with homosexuals is a phenomenon that requires also study. To understand the Traditionalist Movement that seeks to reconquer the Church from modernists and modernist tendencies (this word is a different sort of *modernism* than we normally understand: it too requires study to understand) is a topic that requires study. To understand what Catholicism is, and what it is not, is a topic that is not easy. It requires a great deal of serious study. To understand Thomist Catholicism is an involved project.

      The fact of the matter is: fewer and fewer have any desire to do this (study, understand). What happens then is that people fall away from the *metaphysical cores*. They do not understand them, they do not wish to understand them, and so their will gets activated to not understand them. But when these people make up the congregation more and more, they begin to insist that the rigid doctrines change and be changed. They *interpret* Christianity in a quite novel way: to conform to their own sense of things, to their own desires, to the way they *feel* they should live. And that is what is happening, largely, within the Church, and specifically under Francis who is, on the whole, held in contempt by Traditionalists. (And for good reasons. He is incoherent as far as Catholicism goes).

      A woman cannot marry a woman in Catholicism. I guess that is the *sad truth*. In traditional Catholicism you had better select your mate very very well because you cannot divorce and start again with another. That is an example of the rigidity of the rules when they are grounded not in *whim* but in solid doctrine: there are reasons why this is so.

      Catholicism — to live as a Catholic — is intensely demanding. That is when you understand what it strives for. That demand is required in all areas, not just in sexual limitations. If it is difficult or perhaps impossible for you or you-plural to understand priestly celibacy, or even to imagine your own life without sex, or with limited sexual activity, then you will likely never be able to understand it: because you have no will-to-understand or your will-to-understand desires something different. Apparently though it can be done by those who understand why they make the commitment. And the commitment only functions within a life that revolves around an involvement in and a commitment to the liturgy. That is what a priest’s life is about. The Sixties sexual revolution definitely had powerful effects in the Church. But past-Vatican ll has also decimated the Church. These are facts. They can only be understood through study.

      The recovery of *sound Catholic doctrine* within an observant community of persons whose will are focused on liturgy (this is an axial word but to understand it — requires study!) is where Traditionalists focus their energy. It is having some effect. See Michael J. Matt to understand this traditionalist movement. It is pretty radical. But then so is the original and the *real* expression of Catholicism. There is a place for everyone, even those not up to the total task. But Traditional Catholicism is nothing (much) like the strange, empty and saccharine Catholic service of our day. They are largely unbearable.

      The conversation that touches on traditional Catholicism and European fascism . . . is a difficult one. Because traditional social and religious forms were called forth to combat, or to answer, Marxist Communism making strident advances in Europe. Again, to understand these things requires study. And since so few want to study, well, there you have it!

      I couldn’t care less who believes in God and Jesus, but I do care that hundreds of millions of people take the Roman church and the Vatican as the embodiment of Christian faith.

      This is an irrational comment. If you ‘believe in Jesus’ and if you ‘believe in God’ you will have to understand what this means and what it implies. You have to care. Otherwise any comment about it — all of it! — is meaningless. The Roman Church, its liturgical forms, and its theology, are the repository of where ‘Christianity’ is located. It is the embodiment of Christian faith. Even Protestants who are nicely educated recognize this. You can’t get around it. It is ‘logos’. It is ‘Greco-Christianity’. It is foundational to the Occident.

      We need to grow up. I do believe that some type of spiritual sense and belief (religious or not) is or should be part of the human condition. But this is pure evil by the Roman church. Anyone who wants to explain to me why this is not true is welcome to make their case.

      I am entirely capable of understanding these sentiments. I have *studied* them. I just did begin to *explain* to you that to grasp what is being referred to you will have to study. But that is not your object! Your object is to channel your resentment toward other objects. You are right that the present Church is quite corrupt and in serious difficulty. But you do not know why. To understand would require study.

      • It’s good you made it here first. Unreflective utterances of “discrimination bad” and bashing of Religion using the tools of modern, godless bureaucracy crafted explicitly to that end while hiding behind a transparent veneer of being ‘“fair’” has grown tiresome. I no longer think of people who resort to this as honestly deceived or capable at all of contrary thought. My response would be combative, because I’m sure only combat is left. I’m only just waiting for them to start shooting when the cakes to “fill their bottoms” come only at the price of my head.

        A visionary or two foretold of a time, likely coming soon, in which the consciences of everyone on Earth will be enlightened to see moral truth without confusion. After that, there will either be a great restoration to follow immediately or a great war in which both sides are completely sure of what they’re fighting for. This is usually interpreted as a miraculous event. I suspect the possibility, however, that these current circumstances will lead to further erosion of any possible middle ground. The ideological mechanisms seem to be bearing this theory out.

        We will be made to kneel before a large man in a dress as though to a god, or else die in open defense of our God-given obligation to do otherwise (I will not beg for “rights” which were once recognized as – and truly are – irrevocable), and all because we allowed those obligations to go unfulfilled for as long as we have.

        These “conservatives” will be where the progressives are now, and the progressives will be as Robespierre, desecrating the bodies of our sainted dead, probably in unspeakable ways and on broadcast television to broad public appeal. They will insist that our civic obligation is to compromise, follow the mob along, and wait for legislative decisions. To them, I have nothing left to say except that I reject their complete nihilist rejection of all moral reality. I will not compromise to their “measured” evils to save my career, my life, any number of lives. If a life is valuable, it is valuable for something. This is what it’s for! To take a life is a trifling mechanical act, but its meaning can not be forcibly removed.

        The modern aberration consists in believing that the only thing that is real is what the vulgar soul can perceive.

  2. Boy this is going to be a really hot thread I can tell! 🙂

    She’s obviously an impressive person, and an ethical one. Religious institutions that treat people like Gonda so unfairly are, little by little, step by step, undermining the place of organized religion in society, and it has an essential role to fill in conveying and strengthening values.

    She may indeed be a wonderful, impressive person. But this is not actually the issue.

    To say that organized religion has an essential role to fill is part of a way of looking at — in this case Catholic and Christian theology — as if it is a service offered, like plumbing or lawn-cutting. A religious metaphysics reduced to interior decoration.

    If the conversation turns to that of ‘values’, and if one is genuine in a desire to talk about values, one would have to confront what Christians and Catholics understand to be an attack on the family. And if one is genuinely interested in having that conversation one could, and one would have to, recognize and broach the topic of the use of homsexuality as a wedge in what are understood to be Marxist projects to undermine Christianity. And to transform Christianity into something else entirely.

    So, this impressive and ethical person — does she understand this? Is she capable of seeing a far larger issue? And can she recognize that by destruction of the family, or the undermining of its essential parts, or of radicalism’s project of redefinition based in a decades-long attack on hetero-normality, can this topic be broached in the context of a discussion about ‘values’?

    There is an absolute attack on ‘organized religion’ especially by those who have become atheist, or those who have become progressive moderates and often progressive radicals. I fully understand liberalism as it pertains to organized religion. And it is not a simple topic. Why? Because it ultimately has to do with a restructuring of essential metaphysical categories and concepts. Can someone do that? Yes, they most certainly can. But when they do that can we or anyone be certain that the values served will in the longest run turn out good? I was going to say ‘be beneficial’ but that is an incorrect way to look at it. If I reduce all considerations of ethics to questions of benefit, I can apply the desire for a ‘benefit’ to anything, and to any appetite, or to some thing that I desire in a given moment.

    Therefore, the question turns on far more demanding questions of ‘value’. Often, and increasingly, if you pay attention to Catholic traditional apologists, and many Protestant Christians of course, you will notice that they lament the destruction of values in the surrounding society. A slow but continuous destruction which tends to increase in severity, not to abate.

    It is true that some religionists have reductive and *blanket* notions of what causes decadence, yet they are in accord when they recognize that when a faith community or a community which had formerly been faithful loses its essential faith (the interior relationship to God as a metaphysical reality) then ‘religiosity’ begins to become devoid of meaning. What *role* does it them have? A silly, meaningless role. But actually when it is made meaningless it is soon seen as destructive and unnecessary . . . and should be done away with.

  3. I want to begin with a brief discussion on Catholic doctrine on sexual morality. In its essence, Catholic doctrine says that sex has two united purposes: procreation, and bonding together a husband and wife and any children they produce. To take human sexuality out of that context is harmful to both the participants who engage in disordered acts, and it is harmful to society for the precedent and scandal such activity creates. Just as eating has a specific purpose, namely fueling the body, when it is taken outside its context, it creates disorders. Enjoying the food you eat is fine; but eating solely for the enjoyment leads to bodily harm, such as obesity and diabetes. So sex, when taken beyond the context of its purposes, leads to disorders.

    The problem with sexually abusive priests, the problem with sexual harassment in practically every enterprise out there, the problem with broken families and absent fathers, all trace some, if not all, their origins to sexual disorder. Making the pleasurable aspects of sex the primary goal of sexual activity leads to the use and abuse and discarding of other people as objects to be consumed. I have experienced this myself, and part of the reason I feel so strongly on this topic is because I have introduced a great amount of dysfunction into my marriage and other relationships by years of self-serving pleasure-seeking.

    There’s yet a deeper aspect of human sexuality in the context of the Catholic faith, namely, the concept of man being created in the image and likeness of God, based in the text from Gensis which says, “So God created man in his image. In the divine image he create him. Male and female he created them.” Catholics note that both individually and as family, man images God. As an individual, every human has intellect and will, and in that each human is an image of God. But the Christian faith has revealed God as Trinity — God the Father, The Son who proceeds from the intellect of God (God knows God), and the Spirit, that proceeds from the will of God (God loves God). So an individual images God because an individual can perceive himself, and can love himself. But the family images God, as well, because (following Genesis), there is man, and the woman who proceeded from man, and the child that proceeds from the love of man and woman.

    The reason I mention this is that when sexual morality comes under assault, it isn’t just a challenge to Church moral teaching or to Church authority. It strikes at the fundamental understanding of who man is, who God is, and how man relates to God. If the relationship between God and man is fundamental to man achieving heaven, then anything that strikes at and undermines that relationship is threatening salvation.

    For example, if part of our relationship is understanding God as Father, and not simply by analogy, but in truly being Father through the adoption as sons all the faithful in Christ, then something that undermines fatherhood undermines our relationship with God. This can be seen in some portions of the black community, where some evangelists have been warned not to speak of God as father because the epidemic of absent fathers has led so many sons to see fathers as something extremely negative. Or consider the problem with the pedophile priests. It isn’t simply the sexual harm that they have caused, but they have shattered the trust people need to have with their priests, and if priests are spiritual fathers, that leads to shattering trust in God as a father.

    I wish I could take the time to say more. There is so much about this that needs to be said, because the Church’s understanding of sexuality is a tapestry that touches so much. Regarding same-sex attraction, the Church teaches that the person with the attraction is always good and deserving of the same respect accorded to every other human person. The attraction itself is disordered, but is not sinful, because a desire is merely a desire. But same-sex activities cannot be condoned because they remove the sexual act from the procreative purpose of sex. As a note, same-sex activities are far from being alone in this category.

    Terry Gonda has been a loyal member and supporter of the Catholic church for decades, serving as musical director of her parish for over twenty years. She is gay, but never hid the fact from her family, friends, church or pastors. She was also married, to another woman, naturally. This wasn’t a secret.

    The fact that this wasn’t a secret and it wasn’t addressed is called scandal. Just as not handling pedophile priests was a scandal, so is turning a blind eye to activity that is directly contrary to Catholic teaching. Similar scandals arise when a leader in the Church divorces and remarries when a the first marriage was found to be valid, or when a teacher is found teaching concepts directly contrary to Catholic doctrine. If I had to relate this to a business, I would say the comparison is a business firing an employee for selling a competitor’s products.

    That’s one hell of a way to do it: fire a loyal employee and devoted Catholic for private “immorality”—this from an institution that went to outrageous lengths not to fire pedophile priests world-wide.

    Yes, there are worse evils to which some members of the Church have turned a blind eye. But I emphasize the “some members” because the Church is not simply the Pope and the other bishops that we have right now. The Church is its entire membership and its deposit of learning and teaching for the past two thousand years. The Catholic Church has not embraced priestly pedophilia; some members acting against clear Catholic moral doctrine and against Canon Law have done so, and they need to be held accountable. The very fact that anyone can levy the insult of hypocrisy against Catholics is because the Catholic Church explicitly teaches that pedophilic acts by its priests is wrong, and that covering up the crimes committed by those priests is wrong. There is no one arguing that those priests and those covering them up represented a change in Catholic teaching, or were in any in the right.

    As regards firing an employee for “private immorality”, it is hard to make the case that they were a loyal, devoted Catholic when flaunting explicit Catholic teaching. You can argue that Catholic teaching in this regard is wrong, but that doesn’t change the fact that being an openly married homosexual couple run directly counter to that teaching.

    As a thought, Jack, I didn’t see anything in the rationalization list the encapsulates this idea: “Because we didn’t enforce the law (or rule or regulation) in the past, we can’t enforce it now.” The closest I saw was the Tortoise Excuse, “Better Late than Never”. The thought I have here is kind of the flip side of the Tortoise Excuse.

    “They’re trying to sweep the gays out of the church,” added her spouse. “Would they rather we live in sin?”

    I think this question shows the bulk of the problem. By Church teaching, they already are living in sin. The firing here is analogous to the lady who was fired from her government job for refusing to hand out marriage license to same-sex couples. If the authority you submit to says you are in the wrong, but you believe you are in the right, by all means follow your conscience. But you don’t have the right to protest you were improperly treated when the authority fires you for holding to your convictions against their authority.

    What Gonda finds especially maddening is that instead of just not renewing her contract when it expired on June 30, the church chose to fire her instead.

    This I will agree. This could have been handled with a great deal more kindness. Letting the contract expire, especially with so short a time remaining, seems like it would have been the prudent course of action. However, I would suspect there is a great deal more going on here. The Church is fighting a lot of dissidence in its ranks, especially over sexual matters, and the Church, if she is what she claims to be, cannot change its doctrines with the whims of the times. Doctrine can developed, become more nuanced, but it cannot contradict previous doctrine. Which leads to my final response:

    Religious institutions that treat people like Gonda so unfairly are, little by little, step by step, undermining the place of organized religion in society, and it has an essential role to fill in conveying and strengthening values.

    If a religious institution is going to have any role in society, it cannot cave to pressures to compromise its core beliefs. The reason I went into such lengths on Catholic teaching on sexuality was to demonstrate that sexuality does rank in the Church’s core beliefs. The world is demanding the Catholic Church to compromise on this front. It comes from everyone who wants the Church to get on board with contraception, homosexuality, divorce and remarriage, the ordination of women, and so on. It also comes from within as members of the Church constantly rebel against her moral authority. The Church has to stand firm in its defense of its doctrines.

    Religious institutes cannot convey and strengthen values if all they do is parrot what the whims of the times desire. That is actually the moment they lose relevance and fade from public influence. Why should I listen to any religion, if in a few years it will just repeat back to me what I’m already saying?

      • Thank you, Jack. I swear I looked up and down the rationalizations list looking for something like the “unenforceable dodge”, or something like it, and I didn’t find an exact match. But did I miss a rationalization of the sort I mentioned, “We failed to keep enforcing this law in the past, so we can’t enforce it now…”? I know that’s nearly a complete tangent from the discussion, but I think it also applies to illegal immigration policies, and maybe even legislative sessions that let people drone on and on well past their time…

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