This post was submitted by Lisbeth Melendez Rivera, HRC Foundation’s Director of Latino/a and Catholic Initiatives

Margie Winters and Andrea Vittori have been together for more than 14 years. They are lifelong practicing Catholics, and, until a few months ago, Margie was the Director of Religious Education at Waldron Mercy Academy in Merion Station, Pennsylvania.

And here’s another detail you need to know: before she was hired, Margie told officials at the Catholic elementary school that she was married to Andrea. The school community loved and accepted her as one of their own.

Well, it turns out not everyone loved and accepted the highly-praised teacher. This past summer a parent complained to the school board about Margie’s marital status, and, boom, she was fired.

“I opened the letter, and I just sobbed,” Margie said of the day she received her termination notice in the mail.

In a letter to Pope Francis, Margie’s wife, Andrea, expressed sentiments that are all too familiar to LGBT Catholics:

Your Holiness, as a lifelong dedicated, practicing and participating Catholic, I have, through the years, been frustrated by the Church’s lack of inclusion of women, angered by the elevation of the priesthood at the expense of the laity, felt abandoned by a Church which views my expression of love as sinful, and disgusted by the sinful acts of men in power in a Church that ignored those actions at the expense of our children. And yet, I cannot deny that I hold in tension those emotions against the reality of a life completely and profoundly formed and transformed by this same Church……

….As married partners we continue to listen to God’s voice challenging us to be of service, for the waters of Mercy run deep within us. A current of love that fully embraced us, freely released us and ultimately welcomed us back to proclaim Mercy to the world as a lay Associate and Companion of the Sisters of Mercy. I suppose God will be our ultimate judge, but I believe we have humbly and faithfully lived out our commitment to God, one another, our community and to our Church. It is with this sure and unwavering belief that I ask you to intervene on our behalf and countless other faithful Catholics so that we may not be condemned to live a life exiled from a Church that we so love and want to serve.

LGBT people like Margie and Andrea have devoted years, even decades, to serving Catholic communities as teachers, leaders and role models. They have made a choice to work within the Catholic Church because they strongly believe that a Catholic education prepares young people to be responsible, caring, respectful citizens devoted to the common good. Their work is far more than just a job – it is a reflection of their core Catholic values.

Polling for HRC shows that U.S. Catholics are markedly ahead of their fellow Americans on LGBT issues, including marriage equality and employment protections. Yet the Catholic leadership in the United States continues to condemn us, forcing too many of us to choose between who we are, whom we love and what we believe.

As we greet the Pope in the United States this week, LGBT Catholics and our allies are hoping and praying that the Pope will listen to his flock -- and take a stand for Christ-like love and acceptance.

According to the Catechism of the Church, every person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. In practice, this means having the basic necessities for living a good life -- employment, healthcare, housing and education. Instead, far too many Bishops in the United States are imposing “morality clauses” in their employee contracts -- putting secular employees like Margie at risk of losing their livelihoods simply because they sought the legal protections of marriage.

The right to free exercise of religion––the freedom to worship, or not, without fear of government intrusion––is a fundamental American value. This religious liberty, as enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, has allowed Catholics and other people of faith to practice our religion freely throughout the nation’s history. It is also under this freedom that faithful Catholics like Margie are losing their jobs. And while it may not be the will of the law to keep Margie in her job, it should be the will of the Church. Fairness is an American value, and love, dignity and respect are Catholic ones.

Pope Francis, we welcome you to the United States. Will you welcome us, Margie, Andrea, and your LGBT faithful to the Church?


Filed under: Religion & Faith

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