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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 15 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 33
As Catholic Church firings continue, Catholics are speaking out against them
Section One
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As Catholic Church firings continue, Catholics are speaking out against them

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

Last December I found myself surrounded by a tremendous number of high school students - turned activists - and they just so happened to be Catholic. I know. Crazy, right? Well, not so much anymore. The students, who attended Eastside Catholic and Holy Names (there were more) numbered in the hundreds and I led them in a chant outside of Seattle's Archdiocese' office, 'CHANGE THE CHURCH!'

The students were angry, as were a whole heck of a lot of parents and alumni, that Mark Zmuda, the school's vice principal, was forced to leave his job because the Church found out he had legally married a man earlier that summer. Allegedly, the Archbishop ordered the firing, but the nun who was in charge said that wasn't the case and, well, to this day, nobody is really sure exactly why or how it went down. The point is though, that the students - the future leadership and membership of the Church - had had enough and wanted to do something about it.

And we are starting to see this happen again and again around the rest of the country.

[NOTE: Mark Zmuda has since been hired by Mercer Island High School as associate principal effective July 1, 2014, and he is also now the school's athletic director. According to a release from the district, Zmuda was chosen from more than 60 applicants for the position.]



In an emotionally charged meeting Wednesday, parishioners of Holy Family Catholic Church in northwest suburban Inverness outside Chicago, Illinois, voiced opinions over the firing of their longtime music director, who lost his job after announcing his engagement to his male partner on social media.

Many of the roughly 700 people who attended appeared to support Colin Collette, who received a standing ovation when he entered the sanctuary.

According to media reports, Collette was terminated from the job he held for 17 years in late July, after being told that his same-sex relationship violates the tenets of the Catholic Church, he said. Collette has said that church leaders knew he was Gay long before he posted the announcement of his wedding plans on Facebook.

Collette's fiance, William Nifong, is a Latin teacher at Northside College Preparatory High School in Chicago. He proposed to Collette while the two were in Rome.

Kevin Keane of Bartlett, Illinois was just one of dozens of people addressing a panel that included representatives of the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago. According to Chicago news sources, he quit his position as cantor in protest of Collette's firing.

'He has given his entire life to the church,' Keane said, repeating a portion of his speech. 'That leads me to the conclusion if he's not fit to serve, then I am not fit to serve.'

The church pastor, the Rev. Terry Keehan, organized Wednesday's meeting 'in light of the many and varied emotions that so many of you have expressed,' he wrote in Sunday's church bulletin.

He called it a 'Town Hall Meeting for Listening and Respect' and described it as an opportunity to voice emotions about Collette's departure.

'Through the use of social media, the Archdiocese of Chicago has become aware that Colin has publicly endorsed a position in conflict with Church teachings,' Keehan wrote. 'Employees who make such choices cannot remain employed by the Archdiocese.'

Collette said this week that he has continued to attend Mass at the church and had hoped that he could be reinstated in his job as a private contractor.

In a meeting with Keehan on Tuesday, Collette said, he was told there was no way he could return to his former job.

The Archdiocese released a statement in early August when the controversy erupted, saying that it does not comment on personnel issues, but that 'Pastors hire and dismiss all parish personnel and govern according to the teachings of the church and archdiocesan policies. ... Those that serve as ministers of the church, including worship ministers, are expected to conform their lives publicly with the teachings of the church.'

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