A decades’ long administrative “wink and nod” in U.S. Catholic education?

 

When a local newspaper in suburban southern California—the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin—published photographs of a local Catholic high school teacher’s wedding, “Matrimonial bliss turned into an employment nightmare.”

The problem?

The teacher at St. Lucy’s Priory High School in Glenora, CA, 45-year-old Ken Bencomo, is homosexual and attempted a so-called “homosexual marriage” with his “partner” of 10 years, 32-year-old Christopher Persky.  Bencomo and Persky were among the first homosexuals who got “married” at the San Bernardino County Assessor-Recorder’s Office following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that allowed homosexuals to simulate marriage, according to the Los Angeles Times.

After the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin published the pictures, administrators at St. Lucy’s fired Bencomo, telling him on July 12 his contract would not be renewed, citing the “wedding, the photos, and the attendant publicity.”

The school’s administrators followed-up the firing with a statement, calling St. Lucy’s “a community of faith for those who wish to express, practice and adhere to values in education based on the Roman Catholic tradition.”  The statement adds that employees have a contractual obligation to abide by those values in public.  And:

While the school does not discriminate against teachers or other school employees based on their private lifestyle choices, public displays of behavior that are directly contrary to church teachings are inconsistent with these values.

Conservative Catholics might applaud the firing—Catholic moral teaching is supposed to be the keystone supporting the distinctive identity of a Catholic school—and liberal Catholics might deride it—using Catholic moral teaching as a judgmental cudgel is an affront to human rights.  Bencomo’s lawyer called the decision “crushing” and “draconian,” intimating that Bencomo may sue to get his job back.

None of that really matters.  What really matters is how this outcome is the result of a consistent failure of moral leadership on the part of St. Lucy’s administrators for at least 17 years which, according to the LA Times, is the period of time Bencomo has been teaching St. Lucy’s.  For at least the past 10 years, the school’s administrators have known about Bencomo’s sexual orientation and relationship with Persky. During that decade, Bencomo has brought Persky to school events, identifying Persky as his “partner,” according to Bencomo’s lawyer.

There was nothing “in the closet” about this homosexual relationship.

That is, until all of the “attendant publicity” resulting from the “photos” taken at the “wedding” were published in the newspaper.  Had Bencomo only kept the entire affair in the closet, administrators at St. Lucy’s must have reasoned, there would have been no attendant publicity and no firing because, at St. Lucy’s, immoral lifestyle choices kept private are “okay,” but public displays of immoral lifestyle choices are “not okay.”

It’s a Catholic school administrator’s policy equivalent of the military’s “Don’t Kiss, Don’t Tell” policy.  One doesn’t have to make a judgment or take a stand on a moral issue.  No, just ignore it…unless…

Quite likely, the administrators fired Bencomo because important constitutents and constitutent groups associated with the school or perhaps even the Archbishop of Los Angeles or his representative demanded that something be done…or else.

That’s the problem.  It’s an administrative “wink and nod,” even though the efficacy of Catholic moral teaching is being debased inside a community of faith—an “educational” one at that—whose administrators claim this community to be “for those who wish to express, practice and adhere to values in education based on the Roman Catholic tradition.”

So-called “homosexual marriage” is not part of that tradition.  Nor does presenting one’s “partner” to that educational community of faith express, practice, and adhere to the values of that tradition.

Why administrators at St. Lucy’s didn’t deal with the problem when it first emerged says a whole lot about their expression, practice, and adherence to the values of the Roman Catholic tradition…as well as all of those Catholic educational leaders who didn’t tell those administrators “or else” during those 17 years.

 

 

To read the LA Times article, click on the following link:
http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-gay-teacher-catholic-school-20130801,0,4837008.story

 

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